Almost 3,000 high school seniors statewide did not graduate this June because they failed to pass a required state test or win their appeal to the state Department of Education.
Information supplied by the state DOE on Thursday shows that 1,357 students did graduate through one of the special appeals processes announced in June. But 2,904 seniors have still not met the state testing requirement for graduation. They will get one more chance this summer through an online review process provided by the state and a final testing at the end of July.
DOE spokesman Alan Guenther said about 1,500 students have already registered for the summer program. Students must make the arrangements through their local high school, and 65 high schools are participating. The summer program begins July 6.
According to DOE data, of the 1,357 approved appeals, 150 came from students who had qualifying scores on the SAT, ACT, Accuplacer or military ASVAB or AFQT tests. Another 557 students who needed to pass just one more item on the math test did pass a special single-item retest.
Districts were also allowed to submit portfolios of student work to show they had mastered the materials. On those appeals, 239 math appeals were granted, and 245 were rejected. In language arts, 411 appeals were approved and 200 were rejected.
Locally, 17 of 22 high schools had at least one student who did not pass a state test, but some did report success in the appeals process.
Lower Cape May Regional Superintendent Jack Pfizenmayer said they filed appeals on behalf of two students, but both were also able to pass the single-item math retest, so the appeals were not needed.
Stan Karp of the Education Law Center's Secondary Reform Project said the entire process should be reviewed before next year's testing process begins. He said they are very concerned that there were a disproportionate number of non-native English speakers among those failing the state tests, and also a large number of students from urban districts.
"We are glad the appeals process allowed more students to get through, but that was done only in response to the concerns about the testing process this year," Karp said. "We still really don't know what the standard was for granting the appeals."
Karp and others began publicly criticizing the scoring process on the state alternate high school test after it was revealed in April that more than 10,000 students had failed. Students get three chances to take the standard High School Proficiency Test, or HSPA, and another two tries through the Alternate High School Assessment, or AHSA in January and April of their senior year.
Karp said he is also concerned that this year's summer review is available only to seniors when in past years juniors who had failed their first attempt at the HSPA were able to get extra help in the summer before taking the test again in the fall. Some districts, including Millville, are using federal funds to offer a summer tutoring program.
But Karp said there is one possible bright side to the problems this year in that the appeals process could lead to more discussion of allowing students who struggle with standardized tests to instead submit a portfolio of work, similar to the appeals process.
"Some good could could actually come of this, and we would like to explore moving away from just the commercially produced test," he said.