However, instead of using NJDOE’s “more complete and accurate way “ of measuring grad rates, the Governor made up his own numbers. Christie has apparently decided that any student who meets state standards by passing the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA) instead of the regular High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) should not be counted as a graduate. Although these students must meet the same course credit and other requirements as all students who receive a NJ diploma, they “disappeared” from the Governor’s “graduation” totals. (The Governor has been using the same bogus data for months to misstate Newark’s graduation rate, a practicePolitifact.NJ debunked, noting, “Consistently repeating a proven falsehood isn’t just wrong, governor, it’s ridiculous. Pants on Fire!”)
Both the AHSA and the HSPA are aligned to the same state standards and are developed and scored by the same commercial test vendor, Measurement, Inc. The AHSA is given to seniors who have not passed one or more parts of the HSPA. It allows for extra time and some translation support for non-native, English learners. The alternative assessment helps keep struggling students in school and on track to graduate when they might otherwise drop out.
Some kind of alternative assessment is also required by the State statute that authorizes the HSPA. The statute says, “Any twelfth grade student who does not meet said requirements [ie, pass the State exam] but who has met all the credit, curriculum and attendance requirements shall be eligible for a comprehensive assessment of said proficienciesutilizing techniques and instruments other than standardized tests…” [18A:7C-3]
Christie is apparently unfamiliar with both the content of and laws governing NJ high school graduation tests.
In 2011, approximately 13,600 students earned their diplomas by passing AHSA. The Christie Administration and Acting Commissioner Cerf have announced plans to eliminate the alternative test as they phase in up to a dozen required end-of-course high school exams. This will not only likely push thousands of AHSA students out of school, but could dramatically lower graduation rates and increase drop outs.
Christie has been misstating graduation rates in an effort to justify cutting school aid to urban districts and to support his proposals for private tuition vouchers and more charter schools.
Below are the inaccurate “graduation rates” reportedly cited by the Governor at Tuesday’s Town Hall in Monmouth County meeting followed, in parentheses, by the “more complete and accurate” rates reported by his Education Department last week:
Newark 32% (61%) Asbury Pk. 24% (59%) Trenton 22% (48%) Camden 21% (57%) Jersey City 41% (70%) Paterson 31% (64%)