Rather than have the Department of Education devise new graduation requirements that comply with state law, and with less than five months until more than 90,000 students finish high school, leaders of the Legislature’s education committees are instead moving to change state law to fit the old rules.

The new legislation, S3381/A4957, was written in response to a late December appellate ruling that overturned how New Jersey uses the controversial PARCC exams as a graduation exam. The decision goes into effect this year, though was temporarily put on hold to allow the state to appeal.

“We believe that with this piece of legislation, we are answering the court’s evaluation and determination but also looking to continue to ensure the fact that we are assessing our students when and how they need to be assessed so that understand whether or not they’re ready to move on,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden.

“Some of the highlights are removing the requirement for the assessment to be administered to a student in a specific grade but rather only requires that the student meet the state’s assessment required by the time they graduate,” she said. “That’s significant. This allows the student to take the assessment at the point in time that they’re prepared to take it.”

The bill also says multiple assessments can be used for the graduation requirement, clarifies that districts may retest students who don’t pass the exam and underlines that assessments demonstrate not just curriculum proficiency but also preparedness for college and career.

In a court filing, the Department of Education says clarity is needed for high school students who have already passed at least a portion of the PARCC to qualify for a diploma – under rules that now might be invalid.

Lampitt said there’s an urgency to act on the bill.

“There definitely is. People need know,” Lampitt said. “People need to know, school districts need to know, parents, students need to know.”

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