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5-1-12 Education in the News - School Testing, Graduation Rates, State Board of Education agenda
Asbury Park Press - Tougher tests for high school diplomas coming...Changes to take effect in four years

Star Ledger - Gov. Christie introduces new N.J. high school testing program

New Jersey Herald - Local Officials Favor change in School Test

NJ Spotlight - Christie, Rewriting Rules for Graduation, Will Fill in Blanks Later…To earn high school diploma, end-of-course exams are coming, but may take awhile "…new battery of so-called end-of-course exams in 9th, 10th and 11th grade in language arts and math [are planned]. Students will need to pass at least the bulk of them to graduate -- starting with the class of 2021.… [and] The state’s previous graduation rate was 95 percent, the highest in the country, but that was largely self-reported by districts. Required by the federal government, the new count tracks students who entered in 9th grade and how many graduate four years later. New Jersey still ranks in the top 10, Cerf said, but the difference is as much as 10,000 students statewide that may have dropped out…”

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: State Board of Education…State board takes center stage with graduation, charter school regulations

Asbury Park Press - Tougher tests for high school diplomas coming

Changes to take effect in four years

6:17 AM, May. 1, 2012 | Written by  Jason Method   @Press_JMethod

 

TRENTON — High school students next year will begin taking tests designed to determine whether they are truly ready for college or a career.

The new state initiative means incoming freshmen statewide will be the first class to sit for high-hurdle assessments in math and language arts. But because the program is being phased in, students won’t, for now, be required to pass in order to get a high school diploma. Parents will see the scores on their children’s report cards.

Students who will be in fifth grade next year will be the first to have to pass the tests in order to graduate from high school. The state hopes to later add tests in science and social studies.

The regimen ushers in an era whereby students will need to meet more rigorous standards. The current high school test, call the High School Proficiency Assessment, is really geared to an eighth-grade level, state officials have said.

State education officials said school districts may need to further align school district curriculum to the new guidelines. That may mean purchasing new textbooks, or instructional packages that use technology, and coming up with new lesson plans.

“We’re changing the paradigm now,” Gov. Chris Christie said during a news conference Monday in Plainsboro. “Now there will be accountability mark posts at every one of these spots. Parents will know, and others. If your child is not achieving, there’s not going to be a way to ignore this now.”

Twenty-five states require students to pass tests to obtain a diploma. The new tests will resemble the Regents tests given to students in New York State, officials said.

Christie and acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said the state’s educational standards have remained too weak even as the country faces rising global economic competition.

They lamented that, for example, 90 percent of incoming freshman at Bergen County Community College need remedial help as do a third of Rutgers students. Cerf noted that students who need extra help with basic skills only have a 25 percent chance of graduating from college.

Christie also noted that New Jersey’s new statewide graduation rate — adjusted under new federal guidelines — was 83 percent, down from a previously reported 94.7 percent. He said it means education officials are now being more truthful about what is going on in schools.

“What I’m not for is lying to (students) anymore, and maybe by not lying to them, maybe they’ll aspire to achieve and accomplish,” Christie said.

The new end-of-course tests will act as final exams in math and language arts in ninth through 11th grade. Half of the exams will consist of multiple-choice type questions and half will test critical-thinking skills.

Penny MacCormack, chief academic officer for the state Department of Education, said in an interview that a math test might ask, for example, how to most efficiently pack a ship’s cargo hold, given a certain number of boxes of varying sizes.

Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, director of an educational policy center at the Brookings Institution in Washington, praised the new effort.

“There’s good evidence nationally and internationally that having exams that are meaningful for students completing high school is a good thing,” Whitehurst said. “Teachers work smarter and harder, and so do students, if there is accountability.”

But Whitehurst warned there will be “kinks,” as the new system comes in. More students will be failing the tests, and that means schools will have to come up with ways to help them learn the material — such as summer school programs.

In some states, school districts have decided to give “completion certificates” instead of diplomas to students who otherwise attend and pass the courses but continue to fail the tests. A New Jersey task force recommends that schools help students pass the General Education Diploma (GED), considered a lower-level high school certificate.

In addition, Whitehurst added, creative and exemplary teachers will find themselves needing to conform to the new curriculum. “If you are the award-winning high school math teacher doing it your own way, it’ll pinch,” he said.

Reaction among local educators was mixed.

“Sometimes (politicians) come up with these ideas that I’m not too thrilled about,” said Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education President Harold “Heshy” Moses. “I don’t want teachers to teach to a test, but sometimes it’s almost like that’s what they force people to do. … We do a really good job in our district. I just wish they would leave us alone.”

But Denise Lowe, Asbury Park’s school superintendent, said the district has been working to prepare for the more rigorous testing.

Some steps already have been taken to align the district’s curriculum to the state’s standards, and computer infrastructure has been improved, Lowe said.

 

 

 

Star Ledger - Gov. Christie introduces new N.J. high school testing program

Updated: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 5:49 AMBy Star-Ledger StaffT    By Megan DeMarco and Jeanette Rundquist / The Star-Ledger

PLAINSBORO — New Jersey high school students will need to pass as many as 12 end-of-year tests to earn their high school diplomas, under a plan unveiled today that’s designed to ensure "a New Jersey high school diploma is a meaningful measure of college and career readiness."

The proposal calls for a multi-year phase-in of the tests, which will be given to 9th, 10th and 11th graders and start to "count" for students now in the fourth grade. The state’s current graduation tests, the High School Proficiency Assessment and Alternative High School Assessment, will be phased out.

Students will be tested in language arts, math, science and social studies. However, neither the number of tests that will be required for graduation nor the passing scores have been determined.

The proposal, unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf during a press conference at West-Windsor Plainsboro High School North, was billed as the culmination of work by the state Department of Education’s College and Career Readiness Task Force.

"We need to make sure that the students we send from New Jersey’s high schools either into the workforce or into higher education are prepared on that first day to sit in that college classroom or to perform the job that a business has asked them to perform," Christie said.

The plan came under immediate fire from some educators.

"Overall, I think it’s a plan for more tests, not for better secondary reform," said Stan Karp, director of the Secondary Reform Project at the Newark-based Education Law Center, which advocates for students in the state’s poorest cities. "Test-based reform has just not been effective in closing gaps or improving instruction."

Roxbury Interim Superintendent James O’Neill said he does not support the idea of multiple end-of-hear exams.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie touts new testing regimen for high schoolsNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unveils his administration's plan to replace the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPA) and Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA) currently taken by 12th graders with a series of tests taken at the end of 9th, 10th and 11th grades. Speaking at West Windsor-Plainsboro North High School, Christie touted the new tests as a way of boosting teacher accountability and student performance. The plan comes amid news that new federal formula has recalculated that state's previous 94 percent graduation rate to 83 percent.Watch video

"Politicians are intent on making education into a sporting event with scores available at the end of each inning," he said. "Good teachers, classrooms with access to technology and a rigorous curriculum help prepare kids to be successful in college."

Christie and Cerf said the tests are a way to make sure students are meeting state standards and are on track for success in college and the work world. Currently, students are passing the HSPA to graduate, but aren’t college ready, they said. A third of students at Rutgers University need remedial classes, and 90 percent of students attending Bergen and Essex County community colleges need remedial classes.

The new system will identify students who are lagging earlier, instead of waiting until the end of their junior year. Districts will be required to help students who don’t pass parts of the tests by offering remediation, such as tutoring or summer classes, so the students get up to speed and can retake the sections they failed.

The proposal echoes a similar plan put forth under former Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009. Known as "Secondary Education Redesign," that plan called for more rigorous high school programs and up to seven year-end tests.

A pilot program began in which tests were offered in biology and algebra, but Karp, of the Education Law Center, said the state backed away from requiring those tests after "tens of thousands" of students were unable to pass.

Justin Barra, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the algebra test was not fully implemented because of a procurement issue, not the passing rate. The bigger issue, he said, was that those tests were not closely aligned with the state’s standards.

The new tests are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, an effort in which 24 states, including New Jersey, joined forces to institute a new set of assessments to match common core standards. PARCC has a $185 million federal grant to develop tests in language arts and math for students in grades 9-11.

New Jersey now spends $32 million a year on assessments and will use that funding for the new tests, Barra said.

While students now in the eighth grade will be begin taking the tests in 2013-14, they will not begin to "count" as a requirement for graduation until current fourth-graders are in ninth grade.

State officials hope the tests will lead to higher graduation rates.

While some students may dread the prospect of a dozen year-end tests, others said they thought it was a good idea.

"I feel like it’ll be easier for us," said Sandy Melman, a ninth grader at Manalapan High School. "I think it’s going to be a lot less pressure for us, I figure four little tests throughout the year would be easier than one big test at the end of the year."

 

New Jersey Herald - Local Officials Favor change in School Test

Updated: Monday, April 30 2012 10:48 PM By STEVEN REILLY  sreilly@njherald.com M

Gov. Chris Christie's announcement to move New Jersey away from the standardized High School Proficiency Exam, or HSPA, and toward an end-of-course assessment to qualify a student for graduation, was cautiously welcomed by local school districts.

Christie announced the change in high school graduation evaluation on Monday, putting New Jersey on track with 24 other states that are moving toward end-of-course assessments for language arts literacy and math.

"Preparing students for college and career is not only a moral imperative, it is an economic necessity to keep New Jersey competitive given the demands of the 21st century," Christie said. "In too many areas of our state – often in our lowest performing districts – when students graduate high school they are not truly ready for college or a career. These new graduation requirements will better measure college and career readiness so that a high school diploma earned in New Jersey is the gold standard for the country."

The announcement followed recommendations contained in a report released Monday from the College and Career Readiness Task Force.

The recommendations are part of the state's plan to become compliant with the mandates of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, which create a common set of expectations among K-12 educators, higher education, and the business community to ensure that when students graduate from high school they are ready for the next step of their education or their career without the need for remediation.

According to Christie, these new assessments will not only measure the knowledge that students have attained, but half of the tests will also measure how well they can apply that knowledge to real-world situations through writing and the use of critical thinking skills.

The program was met with enthusiasm by local superintendents who also expressed the need to ensure the end-of-course assessments are created to best serve the needs of the students.

"The HSPA doesn't serve the needs of students and doesn't evaluate if a student is ready for college," Hopatcong Superintendent Charles Maranzano said. "Moving to a (end-of-course) test is a better predictor of student proficiency and is the kind of forward thinking that will benefit our schools. But we have to make sure the state tests are in correlation to the individual curriculum at each district or we can have a student who gets a B in a class and fails the EOC test."

Under the end-of-course assessment, New Jersey's system will be similar to New York's Regents exams. Students will have the four years of their high school career to pass a required list of courses to graduate.

"It is a positive move to get rid of the HSPA, but the state must ensure that the new standard tests are designed to accurately measure what a student knows in any one course," North Warren Superintendent Brian Fogelson said. "This can be a very positive system. If a student knows what they need to pass in order to graduate, they can get help in the subjects they struggle in and better plan out their high school career."

Christie said the reforms will ensure that graduating from high school in New Jersey means having the skills and knowledge to be ready to enter college or the

workforce, and that educators have the tools to help students get there.

Kittatinny Regional High School Superintendent Craig Hutcheson said that the move away from the HSPA test will be effective if the new end-of-course assessments are paired with a growth model in each district that measures what a student has actually learned in each course.

"The EOC tests will be more comprehensive, and that is where the growth model comes into play," Hutcheson said. "We can't simply try to fit all of our students into a category. We have to ensure that their needs are being met. Knowing what they learned in each course will help each student get the extra help they need and develop study skills to improve academically."

In order for both students and schools a chance to adapt to the new assessments, the state will transition to the new assessments over several years.

Students currently in high school will continue to take the HSPA for graduation to maintain continuity for students and schools. Students in grades 5 through 8 will pilot the new assessments but graduate based on a robust transcript while the state adapts to the new assessments.

Students currently in fourth grade will be the first cohort to graduate based on the new end-of-course assessments.

"The HSPA is not meeting the needs of our students, the faster we get rid of the it the better," High Point Superintendent John Hannum said. "The EOC tests will allow districts to focus more on the students ability to solve real world problems with innovative and creative thinking."

The Obama Administration has provided financial support and fostered the development of these new assessments through the state-driven PARCC consortium.

Christie also said Monday that New Jersey will change the way it calculates graduation rates to conform to national standards.

Under the old calculation method, New Jersey regularly ranks among the nation's highest in graduation rates.

The change in formula would make the rate lower -- 83 percent for the class of 2011 instead of the 95 percent that was reported.

Christie said the change would present a more accurate picture. The current method is based on asking schools to count how many students drop out. The new one uses more detailed data to track students if they transfer.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

 

NJ Spotlight - Christie, Rewriting Rules for Graduation, Will Fill in Blanks Later…To earn high school diploma, end-of-course exams are coming, but may take awhile …” …new battery of so-called end-of-course exams in 9th, 10th and 11th grade in language arts and math [are planned]. Students will need to pass at least the bulk of them to graduate -- starting with the class of 2021. [and] The state’s previous graduation rate was 95 percent, the highest in the country, but that was largely self-reported by districts. Required by the federal government, the new count tracks students who entered in 9th grade and how many graduate four years later. New Jersey still ranks in the top 10, Cerf said, but the difference is as much as 10,000 students statewide that may have dropped out…”

 

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: State Board of Education…State board takes center stage with graduation, charter school regulations

NJ Spotlight - Christie, Rewriting Rules for Graduation, Will Fill in Blanks Later…To earn high school diploma, end-of-course exams are coming, but may take awhile

By John Mooney, May 1, 2012 in Education|2 Comments

After much talk since taking office, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday finally released his plans -- some new, some old -- to raise the requirements for gaining a high school diploma in New Jersey.

But it will be some time for the changes to take hold, if they get that far. The first students to face the requirements will be today’s fourth graders when they reach high school in 2016.

Christie and his top education staff yesterday used a visit to West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional High School North -- one of the state’s higher performing schools -- to unveil a much-anticipated list of proposed changes to what will be required to graduate from a New Jersey high school.

Chief among them will be a new battery of so-called end-of-course exams in 9th, 10th and 11th grade in language arts and math. Students will need to pass at least the bulk of them to graduate -- starting with the class of 2021.

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Christie said they would ultimately replace the current High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), given for the past decade in 11th and 12th grades as a broader measure of language arts and math skills.

There could also be additional end-of-course tests in the sciences and social studies, although those will likely be locally developed and it is unclear if they would be required for graduation.

What will be required in even the end-of-course assessments for Grades 9-11 is yet to be fully fleshed out. Christie’s acting education commissioner, Chris Cerf, yesterday said the department would determine in the coming years both the passing scores on the individual tests and also how many of the six will be required for graduation.

“Those policy decisions lie in our future,” Cerf said.

But yesterday was less about the details and more about the politics and promises, with Christie and Cerf finally putting some flesh on their longtime claims that New Jersey’s schools don’t demand enough of their students.

“Today is about accountability,” Christie said. “We can’t go on at the level we are now, teaching to a test that is 8th grade level and telling them it is high school.”

Christie was referring to a 2004 study by a coalition of business and government leaders that said New Jersey’s HSPA -- as well as those in a half-dozen other sampled states -- was at an 8th to 9th grade level compared to international standards.

At the same time, Christie and Cerf yesterday presented a new methodology for determining how many students are graduating now, releasing what they called a more accurate graduation rate for the state of about 83 percent of students in 2011.

The state’s previous graduation rate was 95 percent, the highest in the country, but that was largely self-reported by districts. Required by the federal government, the new count tracks students who entered in 9th grade and how many graduate four years later.

New Jersey still ranks in the top 10, Cerf said, but the difference is as much as 10,000 students statewide that may have dropped out.

In some districts, officials said the rate will drop to as low as half the students graduating with their class. In Newark, for instance, just 61 percent of ninth graders in 2007 graduated in 2011 by the new count. The graduation rates for every district are expected to be released today.

Much of the Christie’s initiatives follow moves being taken across the country, with New Jersey one of more than 40 states that have signed up for a new national Common Core State Standards and new tests that will go with them. It is these tests, once developed, that will be the centerpiece of the end-of-course exams that students need to pass.

And it’s not even a new idea in New Jersey, either, as former Gov. Jon Corzine and his education commissioner, Lucille Davy, conducted their own review of the state’s graduation requirements that also called for similar end-of-course exams.

Piloted tests in biology and algebra were launched the next year to mixed results, at best, as many as half of students taking them did not pass. The biology test remains in place, but is not required for graduation. The algebra test is now optional for districts.

But some of the details in the plan are new, fleshed out in a report put together by a task force convened by Christie to review the current standards and recommend new ones. Former commissioner David Hespe, now Cerf’s chief of staff, led the task force.

For example, Cerf said the administration has struck a deal with community colleges that students passing the new tests will not be required to pass additional tests for admittance into college courses, a step that leaves many in non-credit remedial courses.

“If you pass these tests, you will no longer have to test into classes,” Cerf said.

Arcelio Aponte, the president of the State Board of Education, which will review the proposals and must act on them, called the agreement critical.

”That is probably the most powerful thing to come out of this,” he said yesterday. “Finally, some alignment from [kindergarten through college].”

Those who don’t pass will be provided “bridge courses” or remedial help on the specific areas of the tests where they fell short, Cerf said. “It will be work while you are high school to get those gaps filled,” he said.

What exactly the schools will provide remain a big question, and some critics immediately pointed out the plan comes with no new resources or tools for helping students pass.

Christie gave little indication that he would offer much more than higher expectations. He said other reforms such as revamping tenure and providing charter school choices are also part of the mix, and he decried any need for additional money in a state that provides as much as any in the country.

“It’s about changing the paradigm,” he said. “The government is setting different expectations that we ever have before.”

Yet for all the urgency that Christie and Cerf have placed on raising achievement, they are also being noticeably deliberate on this proposal.

For instance, the HSPA will continue for at least three more years, as well as its much-maligned Alternate High School Assessment (AHSA) that is given to those who fail the HSPA. Officials said the contract with Measurement Inc., which develops and administers the high school test, would be extended for that period.

“We do not want to tell 8th and 9th graders that the sands have suddenly shifted under their feet, and what they thought were the rules are no longer the rules,” Cerf said.

In the meantime, the end-of-course tests will go through their own test phase starting in 2014, beginning with students now in 5th grade once they reach high school. Still, passing the tests won’t be required for those students’ graduation, but instead they will be gauged on their course transcripts and other potential measures, such as the SAT or the ACT college entrance exams.

 

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: State Board of Education…State board takes center stage with graduation, charter school regulations

By John Mooney, May 1, 2012 in Education|1 Comment

Date: Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Time: 10 a.m.

Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.

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What they are doing: After a few quiet months, the board will discuss several major reform topics in the state, including proposed new graduation requirements and some changes to the New Jersey's charter school regulations.

Why they matter: The board for the first time in several years has a full complement of 13 members, including six appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. And it appears it may in turn get more action, as Christie sends some significant policy issues across its docket, including new graduation requirements announced yesterday. The board wants to step up its own role as well, and has asked for presentations on several key topics, including the data system that will drive many of Christie’s reforms.

Cerf report: A great deal will come in the monthly report from acting education commissioner Chris Cerf, who is scheduled to update the board on several key proposals. The graduation requirement plan is likely the headliner, two days after the administration announced its plans for additional high schools tests and a day after it released its long-awaited 2011 graduation rates for every district. Cerf will also speak on charter schools and new provisions for meeting federal accountability laws.

School choice, in charters: The board will get its first look at new charter school regulations that the administration contends will add both flexibility and accountability for charter schools. The proposed regulations would create a two-tier application process that will allow the department to focus more on applicants ready to open, but also provide more time for local districts to review applications as well. The new regulations would also provide new options for the commissioner to deal with lower-performing charters, and ease some provisions in the existing regulations that have been seen as an obstacle to online charter schools.

School choice, in district: The board will also receive a set of new regulations for interdistrict choice, the two-decade old system that allows students to leave their hometowns to attend other districts’ schools. The program has vastly expanded in the past two years, and the new regulations seek to address some of the issues that have arisen in that expansion.

 


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