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Poll: More Tests for Public High School Students?

Governor Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf tout an idea to prove students have earned their diplomas. What do you think?

Governor Chris Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf want New Jersey to continue their educations or become productive employees.

It's pretty hard for anyone to argue with any attempt to boost the brain power of young people or ask them to prove that they have studied hard to earn their diplomas. But Christie and Cerf provided the concept, providing no specifics beyond the news that the program would begin when this year's fourth-graders start high school. The tests will be administered in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. 

"It is an interesting plan in concept and anything that would improve student achievement is a good thing," said Paul Casarico, Principal of New Providence High School. "At this time the overall plan is not specific enough in terms of expectations and timelines to fully appreciate how it will affect what we do at the high school. Hopefully, specific guidelines will be coming in the near future to give a clearer picture. We continue to be committed to providing the best possible opportunities and education for students."

Dr. Nathan Parker, Superintendent of Summit schools, was less supportive.

"Unfortunately, there's no research that all this testing increases achievement, so I'm not so sure it's the place to emphasis," he said. "However, it's something you live with in this business.

"Standardized testing is a one-shot measure," Parker added. "It doesn't, in general, help achievement. The intent is good to raise standards and raise rigor, but it hasn't always had that impact."

In Union County Patch towns, where graduation rates range from 93.11 percent in Cranford to 97.79 in Clark, the topic doesn't raise many eyebrows. But in other districting facing falling graduation rates, this will generate controversy,

Christie said the proposed exams would ultimately replace the current High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), given for the past decade in 11th and 12th grades as a broader measure of language arts and math skills. The HSPA exams will continue for at least three more years, as will the  the Alternate High School Assessment (AHSA), a controversial oral exam administered to students who didn't pass the HSPA exam. Proponents of the exam, credited by some as being a fair test for sudents with learning or language difficulties that make it impossible for them to pass written exams. Critics, however, claim the AHSA is nothing more than a social-promotion loophole that gets poor-performing students out of the district while padding graduation rates.  

This week, Christie and Cerf reported a new methodology determines that 83 percent of New Jersey's Class of 2011 will graduate. They said the numbers are more accurate than the last year's graduation rate of 95 percent graduation, which was the highest in the country. The numbers were skewed, the pair said, because the stats were primarily reported by the districts themselves.

Educational experts say that today's auto mechanics need to have the reading comprehension of a college junior to master auto-maintenance manuals that are essentially computer-diagnostics textbooks. The reality is that it takes New Jersey college students an average of six years to graduate. That stat factors in many issues, from taking time to work and pay for college, as well as students needing remedial courses to prepare for the rest of their classes.

Still, as the details need to be worked out, Clark resident Robert F. Galgano has one other question.

"What happens if the kids don't pass the tests? Do they have to take the courses over? Will we see high school students on the five- or even six-year plan?"

What do you think? Vote in the poll and share your comments about the futures of public-school education in New Jersey.

Susan Ruegamer Moraghan May 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Unfortunately, schools have evolved into a place where the kids are to be taught basic manners besides reading, writing, math, etc. Then, people wonder why countries like China and India are surpassing us educationally. Parents are the first teachers in a child's life. Parents need to be parents and not friends. You can be your child's friend when s/he is an adult.
sp resident May 04, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I am busting my tail 24/7 with my children's education. Sometimes I feel like the unpaid teacher and the teacher is not doing their job? I send my kids to school for the teachers to teach, not for them to get home so I can teach them! More tests will not solve the problem,effective teaching will.
Pete Tirri May 04, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Teaching isn't a job "just for the teachers". Parents are the primary teachers of our kids. We have the main responsibility to teach our children primary lessons including discipline. Teachers can't teach when they spend most of the time disciplining privileged young people who know Mommy and Daddy won't punish them for inappropriate behavior. Effective teaching begins at home. Those who think that as a parent they don't have to teach their kids need to be reported to DYFS!
Bob White May 04, 2012 at 07:22 AM
"This week, Christie and Cerf reported a new methodology determines that 83 percent of New Jersey's Class of 2011 will graduate." The 2011 part is wrong or the wording. HSPA in the end really doesn't mean anything. I failed my HSPA but I'm graduating in 2 years from college. All these tests are in reality bullshit. Like the comments above me you learn in your home from parents. If your parents push academics you will to in the beginning. On a side note, how did anyone vote for Christie as governor? He's overweight. If if can't handle he's own weight issue what makes him suitable to handle issues in New Jersey?
Monk May 04, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Bob, Governor Christie's weight should not be a consideration in evaluating his fitness for the governorship. There have been many great and talented portly people throughout history. The attitude today to dismiss the non-beautiful people as unfit is an attitude that would make Hitler proud.

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