By Stan Karp

What will Common Core exams mean for the state’s proficiency rates?

There were more than 100,000 ninth-graders in New Jersey public schools this past year, and they all had one thing in common: None of them knows what they have to do to graduate.

While the state’s new teacher evaluation system is grabbing most of the attention, coming changes in state testing policies may have an even more dramatic impact. New and harder tests are on the way, and the bar for a high school diploma is about to become a moving target.

According to the NJ Department of Education, the state’s current high school graduation tests – the High School Proficiency Assessment and the Alternative High School Assessment – are scheduled for elimination when the class of 2015 graduates. Students who were freshmen this past school year — the graduating class of 2016 — will be the first to face new tests aligned with the Common Core standards.

These new tests are being created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a multi-state consortium that received $186 million from the federal government to develop new Common Core assessments. New Jersey is a “governing member” of PARCC, which means it has a major role in deciding how the PARCC assessments will be used. Beginning in the spring of 2015, PARCC tests in language arts and math will replace the NJASK, currently given in grades 3-8, and new PARCC tests will be given annually to 11th-graders and eventually 9th- and 10th-graders as well.


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