At its April 5 meeting, the New Jersey State Board of Education heard updates and acted on a number of items related to K-12 education.
- Month of the Military Child in New Jersey — The State Board recognized April as the “Month of the Military Child.” The State Board believes that all students should be challenged to maximize their potential and to excel academically, socially, emotionally and physically for college, career and throughout life. The New Jersey Department of Education encourages school districts to provide support to children of service members as they transition between schools to address their distinct needs and to prepare them to graduate as well-rounded citizens. The physical, social and emotional well-being of children in military families is essential to their success and has a direct impact on the resiliency of military families serving our country.
- Resolution in Recognition of School Library Month in New Jersey — The State Board recognized the value of school libraries in contributing to the individual growth and development of all students, while fostering both excellence and equity in education. Certified school library media specialists are key educators in helping school districts to meet New Jersey Student Learning Standards and helping students to be successful in future postsecondary endeavors.
- New Jersey Amistad Commission Presentation — The State Board heard a presentation about the Amistad Commission. The commission distributes to educators, administrators and school districts information and other materials on the African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in this country and the contributions of African Americans to our society. The commission also conducts teacher workshops annually on the African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in this country and the accomplishments, experiences, and contributions of African Americans to society. The commission ensures the inclusion of such materials and curricula in the state’s educational system and surveys, catalogs and recommends to the New Jersey State Board of Education the expansion and inclusion of content about the slave trade, American slavery education and African American history for incorporation into the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and also carries out other duties.
- Early Childhood Education Landscape in New Jersey — The State Board heard a presentation about early childhood programs in the state. Early childhood programs consist of services for students from birth to grade three. The Office of Preschool Education, for instance, currently assists over 250 districts with technical assistance, professional development, budget planning and review related to their early childhood programs and the 67,000 students that these districts serve. For K-3, the NJDOE is ensuring that there is robust professional development and is focused on updating the guidelines, which take a close look at the major components of successful kindergarten programming. Applied systematically and comprehensively, these components can yield high-quality programming for classrooms throughout the state.
- 2021-2022 School Performance Reports and Graduation Data Presentation – The 2021-2022 School Performance Reports include nearly all data that was previously reported prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as assessment results and accountability data. While the reports do not currently include student growth data for 2021-2022 due to the cancellation of the statewide assessments in the 2019- 2020 and 2021-2022 school years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJDOE plans to resume reporting growth data for the 2022-2023 school year. In addition to assessment and accountability results, the reports contain a wide variety of information on factors such as student demographics; participation and performance on the SAT, PSAT, and ACT tests; participation in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment courses that allow students to earn college credit while still in high school; chronic absenteeism; discipline data; staff information; graduation and postsecondary rates. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states are required to assess students each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. This requirement is met by students taking either the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment or the Dynamic Learning Maps assessment. States are required to test at least 95% of all students and report on the performance of at least 95% of all students. The School Performance Reports include overall participation and proficiency rates that combine data across all grades and both the NJSLA and DLM assessments to meet ESSA reporting requirements.
- Professional Licensure and Standards — The State Board adopted the regulations concerning licensure for educators at J.A.C. 6A:9, 6A:9A,6A:9B, and 6A:9C in separate, simultaneous rulemakings that are intended to provide options to certain candidates for an instructional certificate. The amendments also will implement a number of recently enacted state laws that created new endorsements for instructional certificates or altered the requirements for existing endorsements. The amendments to all four chapters will encourage more individuals to apply for an instructional certificate, while maintaining the high quality of teachers. The proposed amendments to the state’s system of educator preparation, certification, mentoring and professional development will also help alleviate existing teacher shortages that have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and will further the NJDOE’s efforts to increase diversity in the education workforce. The proposed amendments at N.J.A.C. 6A:9 include a new definition for “military spouse” and amendments to existing definitions for clarity and alignment to statute. Additionally, the proposed amendments at N.J.A.C. 6A:9 will expand the purpose of professional standards for teachers and leaders to include the NJDOE’s commitment to equity and culturally responsive teaching.
- New Jersey Student Learning Standards — The State Board discussed a resolution concerning the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The 2023 NJSLS-ELA revisions prioritize the Language Domain to underscore the critical importance of developing foundational reading skills in grades K-5, including decoding and encoding words, analyzing word parts, reinforcing awareness of segments of sounds in speech and how they link to letters, developing reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension and highlighting broad oral language skills. In mathematics, various standards are being revised throughout the grade levels. The public may send comments about the ELA and math standards to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Special Education —The State Board postponed its discussion of revisions to the special education regulations until its May 2023 meeting.
- New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment — The State Board had a discussion about the proficiency cut score for the NJGPA, which is the state graduation proficiency test administered to all 11th grade pupils and to any 11th or 12th grade pupil who has previously failed to demonstrate mastery. Previously, the cut score was set at 750, however the NJDOE is recommending a cut score of 725 for future administrations of the assessment because a 750-cut score lowered passing rates on the alternative assessments and increased the probability that significantly more students will graduate through the portfolio appeal process. Additionally, the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency impacted mental health and wellness. Setting the graduation requirements at the 725-cut score is appropriate. The State Board will adopt a cut-off score at its next meeting.