New Jersey has agreed to allow high school students to choose one of three pathways for graduation, at least for current juniors and seniors, after a state Supreme Court ruling found that the PARCC testing requirements were against state law.

In an agreement with the Education Law Center, the New Jersey Department of Education agreed to allow juniors and seniors — the Classes of 2019 and 2020 — to graduate using the old testing requirements prior to PARCC, resolving the question of what this year’s students would need to have on record in order to graduate.

In December, Montclair required 200 students to take makeup PARCC exams. Those students did not already have PARCC test scores on file in the required tests. But later that month, the state Supreme Court ruled that requiring high school juniors to take two tests in order to graduate was a violation of state law. The law only requires students to take one test in their junior year.

In Montclair, standardized testing has been a controversial topic, with nearly half of students opting out of the end-of-year PARCC test in 2015, the first year PARCC was administered in classrooms.

Regina Tuma is the head of Montclair Cares About Schools, which has campaigned against the use of PARCC as a graduation requirement. The announcement about the graduation pathways was very good news, she said. “The consent agreement also means that there is no need for legislative action… to preserve those students' graduation rights.”

She said that the state needed to finish the job of eliminating PARCC as an exit exam for subsequent classes. “Exit exams have fallen out of favor in the 40 years since NJ first imposed one. Research now shows that exit exams provide no additional benefits to students. Instead, those tests keep students who otherwise have completed all graduation requirements from pursuing further education, and lock them into low paying jobs.”

First Pathway

In order to be eligible for graduation on the first pathway, students must sit at least one PARCC test each in language and math, and achieve a passing grade on those tests.

In mathematics, a student must achieve one of the following:

  • A score of 750 or better on the Algebra I test.
  • A score of 725 or better on the geometry test.
  • A score of 725 or better on the Algebra II test.

On the English language arts/literacy component, a student must achieve one of the following:

  • A score of 750 or better on either the Grade 9 or Grade 10 ELA test.
  • A score of 725 or better on the Grade 11 ELA test.

Second Pathway

The second pathway allows the student to graduate if they take tests other than PARCC, and achieve passing grades on those tests. The eligible tests include the SAT, ACT and PSAT, as well as certain versions of ACCUPLACER: a series of assessments offered by the College Board.

If a student took the SAT critical reading and math tests before March 1, 2016, scores of 400 or better on those tests are accepted for graduation requirements. For students who have taken the SAT after March 1, 2016, they must have a score of 450 or better on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section and a score of 440 or better on the SAT math section.

For the ACT tests, a student must have a score of 16 or better on the reading and math sections of the test.

Third Pathway

For the third pathway, a student may be eligible for graduation if they present a portfolio of graded work in the required subject areas. For the ELA portfolio, the student is required to read two texts—one literary, one informative—and submit writing samples written to prompts. For the math portfolio, the student must complete a series of algebra and geometry problems. All of this work is graded on a rubric, and the student must attain a certain score on the portfolio in order to be eligible to graduate.