New Jersey’s Special Review Assessment: 
Lifeline or Loophole?

by Michelle Fine, Liza Pappas, Stan Karp, Alan Sadkovnik, 
Andre Keeton and Mary Bennett

Designed, implemented and published by a coalition including the CUNY Graduate Center, the NJ Education Law Center, the Institute on Law and Social Policy at Rutgers University and Project GRAD in Newark, New Jersey, SRA: Lifeline or Loophole? represents a deep collaboration among activist researchers, educators, parent advocates, immigration organizers, youth and policy makers determined to document the potential impact of eliminating the Special Review Assessment (SRA) alternative to high stakes testing in the State of New Jersey. In an exciting grassroots campaign, researchers, activists, educators and policy makers pooled resources to create a mixed method analysis of who uses the SRA and who would be affected were the SRA eliminated. The race, class and educational patterns of SRA use and the potential consequences of elimination are documented, as are the economic, health and criminal justice consequences of “diploma denial.” The effort was a most successful coalition of parents, educators, advocates and researchers.

Seven months after we published Lifeline or Loophole?, after a number of visits with Department of Education officials, the NJEA, meetings with parents, testifying at State legislative and educational sessions and discussions with members of the State Board of Education, the NJ State Board of Education, at their March 19, 2008 meeting, passed the resolution to retain and reform the SRA by an 8-0 vote. The resolution:

1.) Rescinds the Board’s 2005 resolution calling for phasing out the SRA.
2.) Keeps the existing SRA in place for the 2008-2009 school year 
3.) Directs the Commissioner & NJDOE to develop guidelines for a revised Alternative High School Assessment, modeled on the SRA, for implementation in 2009-2010.

While debates on NJ graduation and assessment policy will continue, the vote was a victory for efforts to keep multiple measures and alternative assessments as part of those policies and for the more than 10,000 NJ students who annually use the SRA to earn a high school diploma.

An Op-Ed piece by SRA project team members: 
New Jersey’s Special Assessment Review: Lifeline or Loophole?

An August 20, 2007 press release about the SRA project findings:
 New Jersey’s Special Review Assessment: Loophole or Lifeline? New report calls for reforming, not eliminating, the state’s alternative graduation test

Read the full report of the SRA project at SRA Policy Brief – Final.