New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently approved a law that waives a requirement that incoming high school seniors must pass the state’s new standardized test in order to graduate.
This past school year, 11th graders were the first to take the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment.
Students in the Class of 2023 would have needed to pass the exam to obtain a high school diploma. However, lawmakers sponsored legislation that would instead administer the exam as a field test, citing the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students and their educational experiences.
“From mental health concerns to learning delays, our students have been through a lot and what they need now is our support, not the anxiety and stress that comes with taking a new high-stakes assessment test,” said the law’s sponsors, Asm. Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Asw. Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), Asw. Mila Jasey (D-Essex), and Asw. Sadaf Jaffer (D-Mercer), in a joint statement.
“Counting the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment this year will create barriers to graduation for many students who have faced challenges over the last two years. It is unfair and unconscionable to spring a new test on rising seniors and raise the stakes as they are so close to graduation,” they said.
Lawmakers said the exam results will be used to “assist in developing State graduation proficiency tests for future graduating classes.”
Some incoming high school seniors said they were relieved to find out the test they took last spring won’t be counted as a prerequisite for graduation.
They said the pandemic made learning difficult.
“When we took the test, a lot of the stuff in it, were things we didn’t learn, especially in the math section,” said Sarai Brewington, a student at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon.
Miracle Primus, a student at Paterson Arts and Science Charter School, said initially some students had trouble taking learning seriously when schools shifted to virtual classes in the spring of 2020.
“We didn’t really have Zoom classes. They were just [giving us] assignments, and then telling us to finish them by the end of the day,” Primus said. “Going into sophomore year, we started having Zoom classes, which were at first weird, because we were always used to being at school … we weren’t taking things as seriously.”
Brewington and Primus were both freshmen when the pandemic forced schools to close for in-person learning.
“My school had a lot of technical difficulties,” Brewington said.
“All my motivation for school went out of the window,” she added.
Due to the coronavirus, Gov. Murphy had already waived graduation tests for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
New Jersey is one of only two dozen states in the U.S. to require exams to graduate.