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NJBIA opposed legislation before an Assembly committee Monday that would eliminate the high school graduation proficiency test in New Jersey, saying such a move would weaken the state’s K-12 public education system and the workforce pipeline that businesses depend on.

While acknowledging concerns regarding the educational impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Althea D. Ford said in her testimony before the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee that the state should not reduce standards, transparency and accountability in its public schools.

“New Jersey has demonstrated investment in its K-12 education system, which is evidenced by its public schools consistently ranking among the highest in the nation,” Ford said. “From a business community’s perspective, the high performance of our schools contributes immensely to our workforce development pipeline and aids in attracting prospective businesses and employees to our state.”

Ford also said that testing is essential for collecting data and making public school districts accountable for student achievement.

“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,” Ford said. “State testing allows school districts to better diagnose and target any deficiencies in educating its students and provides valuable information about the school’s effectiveness in educating specific school population subgroups, such as limited-English students, students of color, special education students and/or low-income students.”

“Additionally, it allows parents and school communities to hold schools accountable for such,” Ford said. “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.”

High educational standards are important to employers, Ford said.

“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,” Ford said. “Employers want to know that a student has a certain adequate level of skills, and the high school graduation test helps demonstrate that.

“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,” Ford said. “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.”

The bill, A-4639, was released by the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee and now advances to the full Assembly.