NEWARK — When it comes to high-stakes testing, students in New Jersey will be off the hook this year.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday announced that the state applied for and was granted a federal waiver to cancel all standardized testing.

Murphy said Tuesday that it would "simply not be reasonable to be able to move forward with testing in any meaningful way."

"Many parents have moved into dual role of classroom educator and it would not be fair for them to now also pick up the title of test proctor as well," he said.

The testing waivers would not negatively affect graduation requirements, Murphy said, adding that an executive order would soon be issued addressing this topic.

The cancelation affects the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments, ACCESS for ELLS and the Dynamic Learning Maps assessment. The state Department of Education said that the NJSLA would be offered in the summer or fall for current high school freshman, sophomores and juniors and middle school students taking high school courses who want to use the assessment in order to meet their graduation requirements.

All schools in New Jersey have been closed since March 18 in response to the coronavirus public health emergency. Murphy on Tuesday said schools in New Jersey would remain closed "until further notice," declining to provide any timeline.

Following president Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency last week, the federal Department of Education informed states that they could apply for a waiver from federally mandated testing this year.

New Jersey's death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, jumped by 17 to a total of 44 on Tuesday. The number of positive cases increased by more than 800, to a total 3,675 — the second-highest total in the nation following New York, which has nearly 26,000 cases.

Nine deaths have been of residents of long-term care facilities, which serves the most at-risk population — the elderly. New Jersey has had at least one COVID-19 case in 19 long-term care facilities.

One such facility, St. Joseph's in Woodbridge, has been in the process of being closed since Friday after 12 employees came down with respiratory symptoms and had to stay home, leaving a limited number of nuns to take care of almost 90 residents. Three residents of that facility have tested positive for COVID-19. The remaining residents are being trasfered to other facilities, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

People wait in line, in their cars, to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
People wait in line, in their cars, to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Persichilli continued to push back against the notion that young people are not in any risk, saying Tuesday that about 35% of state residents who have tested positive have been between the ages of 30 and 49, with 24% of those cases needing to be hospitalized.

The state on Tuesday also began to report the number of negative tests. Tests by the state and private labs have shown a 27% positive rate.

Murphy said that having the negative test results will help in "predictive modeling."

"It takes time for us to see the impact of social distancing," he said. "So while we cannot wait to see the numbers plateau and eventually decrease, we do not know when that will be. We will continue to take every step possible to ensure social distancing. "

The state also said it will be opening field hospitals at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and at the convention centers in Edison and Atlantic City. Persichilli said staffing at hospitals, which she said were currently "packed," continues to be a concern.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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