The Trenton Times looks at the impact of the DOE’s decision to amend the rules surrounding the Special Review Assessment, the test given to high school seniors who fail the HSPA three times. Critics of SRA have pointed out that it is virtually impossible to fail the SRA – it’s given over and over until the student parrots back the answers – and that this “diploma backdoor” artificially inflates NJ’s high school graduation rate.
After assorted outcries from education advocates, the DOE has tightened up the SRA and it’s not such an easy pass. Instead of in-district teachers administering the test to their own students, the assessment is now given by outside proctors in “more tightly controlled ‘test-like’ conditions.’” Last year, according to DOE data, only 53.8% of kids from Trenton Central High were able to pass the HSPA; 37.7%, more than a third of high school graduates there, relied on the SRA. Principal Elizabeth Ramirez is currently administering “intensive tutoring” to 200 kids, almost half of the 12th grade class at Trenton's only traditional public high school.
The article goes on to discuss the impact of ESEA reauthorization, which will rely on growth models instead of one-shot high-stakes tests. That’s good for schools like Trenton Central that will get a shot at removing themselves from the dreaded School In Need of Improvement list by demonstrating incremental progress. It’s meaningless for the 200 kids at Trenton Central who may not get high school diplomas this year.