The state Board of Education adopted a measure earlier this month that will require high school students to pass the infamous PARCC tests in English and math to graduate high school.
While the controversial PARCC tests have been administered for two years now, they haven’t meant much to students’ futures. Starting with the class of 2021, which will enter eighth grade this fall, passing the Algebra I and 10th-grade English part of the test will be a requirement to receive a high school diploma.
PARCC has been a highly controversial standardized test since it was first put into effect two years ago. Opponents feel, among numerous other things, that the test is too hard, that it’s too tough for kids to take entirely on a computer and that it bucks the nationwide trend of moving away from standardized testing in general.
In the last four years, the number of states that require students to pass an exit exam for graduation has been reduced almost in half — from 25 in 2012 to 15 currently. Concerns range from low passing rates preventing a large number of students from graduating to simply too much testing.
New Jersey, though, feels differently. State Education Commissioner David Hespe says the 2021 effective date of PARCC as a graduation requirement will give school districts and students enough time to adjust to the new test and improve upon their scores.
Let’s hope he’s right on that last point, as only 41 percent of test takers passed Algebra I last year and only 44 percent passed 10th-grade English.
We tend to agree with Hespe on this point, though. Many students who took the test the last two years knew it didn’t matter, so it would be no surprise if we could assume that many didn’t take the test seriously. Make the test a graduation requirement, and students will be more likely to try harder.
While we don’t necessarily like the PARCC test in all forms, we’re not so hell-bent against standardized testing as a graduation requirement, in general. Education in New Jersey has always been held to a higher standard, and it’s paid off; our students rank higher than most in other states.
Can PARCC itself be improved and better reflect a student’s learning? Of course. But there’s time to do that before 2021. Frankly, every student who graduates high school in our state should have the ability to pass a test in Algebra I and 10th-grade English. How those tests are administered, and how they align with what we teach our children in the classroom are what need to be ironed out between now and when it’s too late.