At its April 6 monthly meeting, the State Board of Education heard a proposal to amend the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) regulations. In a presentation to the board, NJDOE officials proposed a number of changes, including some that were recommended by the state’s Anti-Bullying Task Force report.

Those proposed changes include clarifications that the definition of HIB include a statement that “bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that may involve a real or perceived power imbalance.”

The changes would also clarify that adult acts of HIB against a student are to be reported.

The proposal also includes the following changes to the HIB investigation, notification and hearing procedures:

  • The district’s policy may include a process by which the principal, or his/her designee, in consultation with the antibullying specialist, makes a preliminary determination as to whether a reported incident or complaint is a report of an act of HIB prior to initiating an investigation.
  • Prohibits the investigation of HIB complaints concerning adult conduct by an individual who is a member of the same bargaining unit as the individual who is subject to the investigation.
  • Adds a statutory requirement that parents or guardians receive the required written information about the HIB investigation “within five school days” after the results are reported to the board.
  • Establishes that parents or guardians requesting a hearing before the board of education must do so within 45 calendar days after receiving the written information about the investigation.
  • Adds a statutory requirement that the board must hold a hearing within 10 business days of the request.

The department is also proposing applying similar HIB procedures to private schools for students with disabilities. There are some differences, however. The key difference in this HIB process is that the sending board of education, not the private school for students with disabilities, would be responsible for hearing parent appeals of HIB incidents that occur at the private school for students with disabilities.

For a full explanation of all of the proposed changes, please go to: http://www.nj.gov/education/code/proposed/title6a/chap16.pdf. Local boards of education seeking to comment on this HIB regulatory proposal may go here: https://education.state.nj.us/code/index.php?chap=16&level=f

High School Graduation Requirements The State Board also heard about the education department’s Portfolio Appeal Process. This process is used by students who may not have passed the PARCC or other standardized assessments for 2016 graduation.

High school students must demonstrate competency on statewide assessments as a requirement for graduation. For 2016, the NJDOE is accepting results on a variety of assessments, including PARCC, SAT, PSAT, ACT, Accuplacer and ASVAB. If the student has not shown competency on any of those assessments, then the student may use the portfolio appeals process. This process uses a review of the student’s record, plus their answers to specified constructed response tasks to determine if the student may graduate. In an effort to provide as much flexibility as possible, the NJDOE has broadened the window to examine portfolio appeals from two weeks to 17 weeks. The department reminds all districts to ensure that students who have met all other high school graduation requirements, with the exception of the statewide assessment, complete a Portfolio Appeal as soon as possible. Districts should notify parents/guardians by the beginning of May if the district is submitting an appeal on behalf of their child.

The State Board also heard about proposed changes to the education department’s system of standards and assessment. The department proposes amendments to transition away from the comprehensive High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) to end-of-course assessments in English language arts (ELA) 10 and Algebra I as the statewide assessment graduation requirement. This transition to end-of-course assessments is based, in part, upon the recommendations of the New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee, which began reviewing the statewide graduation proficiency assessment requirement in 2006, in addition to the recommendations set forth in the final report of the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey. End-of-course assessments are designed to be taken as students are taught the course’s content, thus allowing students to move through the assessments at their own pace and permitting schools and school districts to differentiate their programs and course offerings to challenge students appropriately throughout their educational careers.

The end-of-course assessments in ELA 10 and Algebra I were selected as the appropriate assessments for students to demonstrate graduation proficiency as the tests appear to align best with the expectations of the knowledge and skills for graduation established in state law. However, the selection of ELA 10 and Algebra I is intended to ease the transition to a new assessment system and will be reassessed after a few years of implementation.

In addition, the transition of the statewide assessment graduation requirement to end-of-course assessments will need to take place gradually as some students have already completed content covered by the end-of-course assessments. As such, students graduating in 2016 through 2019 will be able to satisfy the requirement to demonstrate proficiency in English language arts and mathematics through a means other than an end-of-course PARCC assessment, including achieving a passing score on a substitute competency test or meeting the criteria of the department’s portfolio appeal process.

Students graduating in the class of 2020 will be permitted to demonstrate graduation proficiency through the same alternative means as those in the classes of 2016 through 2019, provided that students in the class of 2020 take all end-of-course PARCC assessments for which they are eligible as of the effective date of the proposed amendments. Students graduating in 2021 and thereafter who have not demonstrated proficiency in English language arts and mathematics through the end-of-course PARCC assessment by their senior year may demonstrate graduation proficiency by meeting the criteria of the portfolio appeals process.

Local boards wishing to weigh in on this standards and assessment proposal may do so here: https://education.state.nj.us/code/index.php?chap=8&level=p

Other State Board Business The State Board also continued its discussion on revisions to its English Language Arts and Mathematics standards, which will become part of the New Jersey Learning Standards. The presentation included a revision to the third grade learning standards.

The state board also heard a presentation on Blended Online Learning modules. The NJDOE, in conjunction with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), have worked together to create a suite of dynamic online blended learning modules to assist educators in their work in forming and maintaining professional learning communities (PLCs), using the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR) model. The intent behind the building of these modules is to meet the demands of instructional collaboration. The purpose of the tools is to facilitate integration of the modules in PLCs, coaching, or school-based professional development. The modules are to be part of the cycle of teaching and learning as teachers refine their practice, use data from formative, summative and PARCC assessments to inform practice and differentiate student learning.

The State Board also discussed a proposed resolution to adopt a new assessment for student teachers that would assess their abilities in lesson planning, delivery of instruction and assessment of students. The test would be administered at the end of the student teaching year.

The state board also passed a resolution in honor of school library month, adopted the annual calendar of religious holidays for the 2016-17 school year that permit a student an excused absence for the observance of those days, and adopted a resolution permitting the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission to move forward with its planned name change to the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey.

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