N.J. Panel Recommends Alternative High School Assesment

A recently- released report by the New Jersey College and Career Readiness Task Force recommends that the state's education system transition away from the traditional means of high school assessment – High School Proficiency Exam and the Alternative High School Assessment – to individual subject assessment exams. Governor Chris Christie, who has endorsed the Task Force's findings, says that the new assessment regime will allow schools to identify students who are in danger of failing earlier and target them for more assistance in order to help them graduate on time.

The new assessment system comes at the time when new Federal guidelines for calculating high school graduation rates are also going into effect, and its chief aim is to increase college or career preparedness of New Jersey's high school graduates.

The system, which is projected to go live in the 2014-15 school year, will include assessment tests in literacy, mathematics and language arts. The implementation of these tests will put New Jersey among 24 other states who are adopting similar systems in order to standardize the level of knowledge colleges and employers can expect from high school graduates. This agreement between the states, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers aims to insure that new graduates can enter the next stage of their lives, be it in the workforce, vocational training or higher education, without the need for remedial help.

"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. 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," said Governor Christie

Last year, New Jersey achieved an 83% graduation rate according to the new computational method mandated by the Federal government, and more high schoolers graduated with a diploma in 2011 than in 2010 — yet there are some questions about the value of those degrees. Community colleges in Bergen and Essex counties report that nearly 90% of new students require at least some remedial classes in order to be ready to tackle college-level work, while among those enrolling in Rutgers, more than 30% are placed in remedial courses before they can be allowed to enroll in standard Freshman classes. These numbers are especially alarming in light of the fact that only about 25% of college students who begin with remediation go on the graduate college in 8 years or less.

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