On Wednesday, the New Jersey Board of Education passed a new graduation requirement for high school students: the controversial Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. Students will be required to pass two tests: Algebra I and a tenth grade English test. The requirements kick in for students entering eighth grade this fall and graduating high school in 2021.

It goes without saying that the PARCC hasn’t been particularly popular among teachers, parents and local school boards. It has even sparked  protests in parts of the state. In April there was a protest led by parents against making the test a graduation requirement outside the state Board of Education building. The Common Core standards the tests are aligned with have also been widely criticized.

In 2015, thousands of families refused to participate in the test, which is given to students in grades three to 11. Participation was higher in 2016, with 66,000 more students taking the math exam and 57,000 more taking the English test.

Save Our Schools New Jersey, a grassroots advocacy group,  released a statement on Wednesday opposing the board’s decision to “endorse a graduation requirement so inappropriately difficult, it fails nearly 60 percent of all students.” Only about 40 percent of students would have passed each test if this requirement was put  in place last year.

Students who don’t pass the tests after the requirement is put into effect will have the option of presenting a portfolio of work for approval.

The state’s previous graduation exam, in place until 2014, reportedly passed students who weren’t prepared for the academic rigor of college courses. Requiring students to pass a standardized test to graduate high school isn’t new in the Garden State. New Jersey has been using graduation tests since the early 1980s. What do you think of the new requirements? Let us know in the comments.

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