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N.J. Students Fail at High Rates on Revised Exam

By Catherine Gewertz — April 27, 2010 1 min read
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Most of the New Jersey high school students who took the state’s new alternative graduation exam late last year failed at least one section, state officials said, putting them in jeopardy of not earning a diploma.

The Alternative High School Assessment was given for the first time in December. Of the 10,308 students who took it, 90 percent failed the English/language arts section, and 66 percent failed the math section, according to state education department spokesman Richard Vespucci. Passage of both sections is required for graduation.

The department refined the test before giving it again this month, he said. Officials would also reread completed tests that came close to the cutoff scores for passing to determine whether they were scored appropriately, he said. Students who do not pass the test in April can enroll in summer preparation sessions and take the test again in August.

The test was developed after concern mounted that the previous alternative exam was insufficiently rigorous. Like its predecessor, the new test is given to students who repeatedly fail the state’s standard exit exam, the High School Proficiency Assessment.

The Education Law Center, which represents poor urban districts, has asked state Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler to set aside the results of the December test until the education department can review the new scoring process. The group noted that the results put graduation in question for thousands of students.

A version of this article appeared in the April 28, 2010 edition of Education Week as N.J. Students Fail at High Rates on Revised Exam

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