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Good morning! We are Christopher Emigholz, the Chief Government Affairs Officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), and Althea D. Ford, NJBIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs covering education. Thank you Chairwoman Lampitt and the members of the Assembly Education Committee, for considering our perspective on A-4639, and on behalf of our business community, NJBIA respectfully opposes this bill that will reduce data, accountability and standards within our education system.

From the business community’s perspective, it is fantastic that New Jersey invests so much in our K-12 education system, and it is wonderful that our state’s public schools are consistently ranked among the highest in the nation. Our K-12 schools are the largest part of our workforce development pipeline, so this is great news for our workforce and economy.

To accompany this investment and demonstrated quality, it is entirely appropriate and necessary for good education policy to promote data transparency, accountability, and higher standards within our successful education system. Our high school graduation test is an important component of that accountability and standards.

Need for Data & Accountability:

Our schools in the aggregate are excellent, but that does not mean that each and every school and/or population subgroup is achieving at equally high levels. For example, testing helps show us if a school is poorly educating their limited-English students, their students of color, their special education students and/or their low-income students. Without a state test, it would be easier for schools to inadvertently allow certain student populations to slip through the cracks. State testing allows school districts to better diagnose and target any deficiencies, and it allows parents and school communities to hold schools accountable for such. This data is even more critical after the COVID-19 learning loss, as we need to assess the impact that the pandemic had on our schools and children. Any weakening of our testing policy could weaken the accountability and quality within our K-12 education system.

Need for High Standards in Midst of Workforce Crisis:

High standards matter and, in the midst of a major workforce crisis, NJBIA would argue that high standards defining that a New Jersey high school degree means something is even more important. It is an entirely separate discussion, but like it or not, New Jersey has a lot of school districts and many different high schools. We know they are not all the same in terms of their standards and education quality. Employers want to know that a student has a certain adequate level of skills, and the high school graduation test helps demonstrate that.

There are obviously going to be some good test takers that could be terrible employees, and viceversa, bad test takers that could be excellent employees. But the current system and its tests set a statewide minimum standard for all schools while still allowing the portfolio option for some students to demonstrate proficiency. Any weakening of our high school testing policy could lead to lower standards for what it means to graduate high school. That could ultimately diminish our workforce quality, which is currently one of the strengths of our business climate  in New Jersey. With everything else going on with our unprecedented workforce situation and all the other hurdles New Jersey businesses face, do we want to jeopardize this strength?

While high school graduation tests do not automatically mean better accountability and higher standards, they are a part of the solution in schools and have been part of what makes New Jersey schools successful for a long time. NJBIA asks you to carefully reconsider any attempt to weaken our system of testing in our schools, and to focus on reforms that will lift students that have been left behind and need support to become career and college ready. NJBIA thanks you all for the consideration of our perspective on this discussion-only bill. Please free to email me at cemigholz@njbia.org if you have any questions about our position on this or any piece of legislation.

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