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Board's Higher Score Doubled Failure Rate on 2022 Field Test  

On May 3, the New Jersey State Board of Education will again vote to set passing scores on the tests high school students must pass to receive a diploma. Discussion at the Board’s April 5 meeting indicated they may be headed for disaster. Unnamed

At the State Board’s April meeting, New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) officials presented results of the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA) “field test.” Last year, the Board set the NJGPA passing score at 750, instead of the 725 recommended by the Department and the test vendor.


The field test results showed that the 750 level doubled failure rates on the English Language Arts portion of the test. Eighty percent of students would have passed if the 725 cut score had been adopted. Only 39% passed at 750. The Board’s higher cut score on the Math portion reduced passing rates from 56.5% to 50%.


The NJDOE repeated the 725 recommendation during the April meeting, but the Board appeared divided during a long, rambling discussion. All eyes will be on the Board during the May meeting when members vote on where to set the score for this year’s exam.


“The decision will have a huge impact on approximately 100,000 students in the class of 2024, who took the NJGPA in March, and who, by law, must satisfy the testing requirement to graduate” said Stan Karp, Director of Education Law Center’s Secondary Reform Project.


The Board will also vote to set cut scores for the “substitute assessments” students who don’t pass the NJGPA can use to satisfy the testing requirement. Department data showed that aligning scores on the substitute tests with the 750 NJGPA level would reduce passing rates on the alternatives by one-third to one-half.


The NJDOE also projected that if the State Board retains the 750 cut score, the class of 2024 could generate an astounding 40,000 “portfolio appeals” for English Language Arts and 22,000 for Math. Portfolio appeals are a time-consuming process requiring sustained assistance from staff for students who have yet to meet the exit test requirement. In some districts, students must give up an elective during their senior year to take a portfolio preparation course. In other districts, support for the portfolio process is not readily available causing some students to fall through the cracks.


“The push for the higher cut scores is coming from a State Board that is still dominated by Christie appointees in expired seats whom the Murphy Administration has inexplicably failed to replace,” said Mr. Karp. “Hopefully the Board will come to its senses and adopt the Department’s 725 recommendation. But the real solution is for the legislature to step in again, pass already introduced legislation to remove the graduation test mandate, and end the failed policy of exit testing that Governor Murphy promised to end when he first ran for Governor.”