A New Jersey court has nixed the state’s requirement that students pass the PARCC exam in order to graduate.
The ruling is a key victory for civil rights groups that sued New Jersey to stop the requirement, which was adopted in 2016.
In their unanimous decision on Monday, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court’s appellate division wrote that they “do not intend to micromanage” the state’s testing system, but concluded that its 2016 rules conflict with state law on testing.
New Jersey law requires “11th grade pupils” to take a single exit exam. But New Jersey requires two, and neither is tied to 11th grade. Students take the English 10 exam at the end of 10th grade, and Algebra 1 whenever they complete that course.
The ruling doesn’t change the requirement that students take the PARCC exams, but it means they can’t be used as graduation requirements for this year’s seniors and subsequent classes, said David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center, which led a group of organizations in the lawsuit against the rules.
“Even before the regulations were enacted in 2016, we urged the (state) department of education to withdraw these rules because they clearly violate state law,” Education Law Center senior attorney Jessica Levin, who argued the case for the appellants, says in a statement. “Today’s ruling vindicates our position.”
State Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said in a statement that the department and the state attorney general’s office are figuring out what to do next, and are trying to minimize the impact on students of any change in policy.
The appellate panel’s decision takes effect in 30 days to give the state time to find a solution or appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged to replace PARCC, but hasn’t chosen a test to replace it yet.
New Jersey has a history of battling over graduation requirements. In 2016, it settled a 2015 lawsuit over 2014 graduation requirements by offering students additional options for pathways to graduation.
The Garden State is one of about a dozen that require students to pass a test in order to graduate from high school. New Jersey and New Mexico are the only two states that use the PARCC tests as “exit exams.”
Photo: Getty Images
A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.