At its August meeting, the New Jersey State Board of Education heard updates and acted on the following items:
Equality and equity: In a 6-5 vote that was the subject of some controversy, the State Board approved updated regulations concerning equity and equality in education. The regulations help to guarantee each student equal access to all educational programs, services and benefits of their school district regardless of the student’s race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability or socioeconomic status. The rules also provide an objective basis for evaluating a school district’s progress toward equality and equity in educational programs and provide the basis for district boards of education to identify areas in which technical assistance may be needed. The rules directly ensure school districts provide for students’ basic rights to equitable treatment and services and to a quality education. The updated regulations provide new definitions and provisions, shifting to asset-based language aligned to applicable laws and nationally recognized evidence-based practices regarding educational equity. The provisions also streamline and consolidate language throughout the regulations for clarity, alignment and accountability. The regulations also ensure that equity training is comprehensive, appropriate to all stakeholders and adequately address inequities specific to local school districts.
Districts are required to submit Comprehensive Equity Plans to the New Jersey Department of Education county offices periodically, to identify, and, if necessary, correct policies, programs and practices that may be inequitable. In a Feb. 22 broadcast memo, the New Jersey Department of Education provided all districts the opportunity to extend their current CEPs by one year, to cover the 2023-2024 school year. The deadline for that submission was June 30, 2023.
Gifted and talented program presentation: The State Board received an update on the implementation of the “Strengthening Gifted and Talented Act,” which codifies various requirements related to students in gifted and talented classes. In its presentation, the NJDOE shared various statistics with the State Board about students in gifted and talented classes in New Jersey. Black students represent 14.4% of the overall student population, but only 8.7% of the gifted and talented population; for Hispanic students those figures are 32.5% and 23% respectively. Economically disadvantaged students represent 35.8% of the overall student population, but only 24.7% of the students in gifted and talented programs. The NJDOE also reviewed the requirements for local school districts, which include qualitative data about the district’s gifted and talented policies and procedures; demographic information about gifted and talented students; professional development opportunities provided; and the number of teachers, educational service staff and schools that work to identify and provide services to gifted and talented students.
Dynamic Learning Maps: The State Board approved the cutoff scores for the Dynamic Learning Maps assessment, the alternative assessment for those special education students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The state requires all students in grades three through high school be assessed in English language arts and mathematics, and students enrolled in grade five, grade eight and high school be assessed in science. Under federal law, the state may provide for alternate assessments aligned with the challenging state academic standards and alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
Praxis qualifying scores: The State Board discussed the qualifying scores for the Praxis teacher subject matter exam. The Educational Testing Service recently revised and established new recommended qualifying scores for revised tests in the subject areas of Praxis general science, biology, chemistry, physics and Earth sciences to replace the current tests used by the NJDOE. Additionally, the State Board adopted the cutoff score for the Praxis exam for computer science.