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N.J. Opt-Out Bill Gets Unanimous, Bipartisan Support in One Chamber

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New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill in the state's General Assembly Thursday that establishes test-refusal guidelines for parents and school districts.

The legislation would require parents who don't want their children to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College or Careers to notify schools in writing at least 14 days prior to the administration of the standardized test. The bill also calls for school districts and charter schools to give students who sit out assessments other activities, reading or ungraded work, for example.

While the opt-out bill sailed through the General Assembly with a 72-0 vote, NJ Advance Media reports that the Senate may be less likely to support the legislation. According to the story, the state Senate has not acted on any PARCC-related legislation passed by the Assembly.

According to a recently released report from the Education Commission of the States, New Jersey is among several states that have no specific legislation regarding test refusal. As a result, how school districts and schools handle the increasing number of student test refusals varies across the nation, within a state, and even within a school district.

As schools began administering the new Common Core State Standards-aligned assessments, New Jersey news reports surfaced that some students who opted out were allowed to read during testing time. Others, however, had to stay in the room as their classmates were tested. According to the Express-Times, an 8th grader testifying at a General Assembly Education Committee meeting last week told New Jersey lawmakers that she was forced to sit at a blank computer screen for seven hours because she refused the test.

While some opt-out proponents are also anti-testing advocates, New Jersey Advance Media reports that lawmakers wanted to support a bill that provides parents the option to refuse test. 

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