Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Portfolios May Count for Grads

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Portfolios May Count for Grads

Article excerpt

High school seniors scrambling to earn their diplomas could get relief under a settlement announced Friday that for the first time gives school districts authority to approve students' work portfolios for graduation if they don't pass required exams.

It's one of several measures announced in a settlement of a lawsuit that claimed the state Department of Education failed to follow state law when it changed graduation requirements without prior notice and an opportunity for the public to comment.

"Through this settlement, we hope to remove some of the hurdles the department placed in front of students, as the window of time before graduation rapidly closes," said Ed Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which in September filed the lawsuit with the Education Law Center on behalf of several families.

The state Education Department in fall 2014 announced changes to graduation requirements for the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Under the changes, students in order to graduate had to pass new PARCC state tests, college entrance exams, the military entrance exam, or a community college placement. Those who did not pass one of the necessary tests could appeal to the state by submitting a portfolio of their work. In the past, most students graduated by taking a different state test that was easier and had pass rates of between 80 and 90 percent.

Some school districts reported a surge of students at risk of not graduating late into the school year and that students were rushing to retake tests or put together portfolios. School officials said they were overwhelmed by the process of putting together portfolios by the May 13 deadline. The state Education Department said there have been as many as 10,000 portfolios to review.

The Education Department said it so far has received about 6,000 appeals from students who did not pass one of the required tests. …

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