Uncertainty Over New State Graduation Test

The NJGPA may no longer be a graduation requirement according to proposed new legislation


Ben Mullins on Unsplash

According to recent proposed legislation, New Jersey juniors may not need their NJGPA score to graduate, despite already taking it.

From March 14 to March 17, high school juniors in New Jersey were the first to be administered the NJ Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA). The students were tested for their proficiency in English Language Arts and Mathematics to meet the state graduation assessment requirement. Piscataway High School juniors were told to come to school at normal time (7:15 A.M.) to take the two-hour test while the remaining grades were to arrive at school under a delayed opening. Students were told that if they did not meet the passing grade requirement, they must retake the NJGPA either in the summer or fall.

New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, made it his public duty to remove New Jersey’s high school graduation exit exam and replace it with a new test. The new test, NJGPA, was created to start with the class of 2023. However, the two-year disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has made many parents worried that their child will not be prepared for the test. The COVID-19 pandemic also created an “epidemic” of mental health issues of high school students which would affect how they do on the test.

On February 2, the State Board of Education voted to set the passing grade at 750 which is higher than the 725 cut score recommended by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). With this higher cut off score, it is predicted that the passing rates of students will fall to 60% for English Language Arts and less than 50% for Mathematics. For students that do not pass the test, they must retake the test to get a passing score in order to receive their high school diploma. Although a student has the credit, attendance, and other requirements to graduate, they will still be denied a diploma without a good score on the NJGPA since New Jersey is one to the 10 states that binds a diploma with a graduation assessment. Due to this, there has been controversy as to whether or not testing should be removed from the requirements.

An Assembly Education Panel Advances a new bill to aid the class of 2023 in graduation. The bill (A-3196) vetoes the NJGPA testing requirement to graduate for the class of 2023. Instead the test used for the class of 2023 would be used as a field test to serve in developing a state proficiency test for future classes.

According to many Piscataway juniors, the test was relatively “easy” and many even stated that they completed the test early. The main issues many students faced related not to the test itself but their technical devices to take the test. One student stated that on the first day “students were not told beforehand what they needed on their devices” which caused a delay in testing since many students did not have their devices prepared to take the test. On day two of the exam, another student stated that the wifi was not working in the Anthony building. Due to the lack of communication between the administration and students, many students were left confused. However, since this was the first time the test was given out, many expected there to be issues.

From the students questioned if they felt prepared for the test, one student stated “I think I was educationally ready for the test, [but] not mentally ready at all” which is understandable since the pandemic caused many students to struggle balancing school with their mental health. The same student also stated that “planning was last minute, and the schedule was hectic” which many students could agree on. When asked, most people stated that although they were notified by staff about the test, they were still disoriented on the day of the test. It is apparent that the testing disrupted routines for many.

Although there were many struggles for students and staff, the testing went generally well. Whether or not the state chooses to use or disuse the test scores for the Class of 2023, the NJGPA testing will be utilized in further improving the test for the next classes.