At its January monthly meeting, the State Board received updates on a variety of items including the Every Student Succeeds Act, charter school regulations and an annual update on the Paterson School District.
School Board Recognition Month The State Board of Education honored New Jersey’s 5,000 school board members and charter school trustees with the passage of a Resolution in Honor of New Jersey School Board Recognition Month. NJSBA President Don Webster and Executive Director Larry S. Feinsod accepted the resolution from the State Board.
ESSA The State Board also heard a brief update on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) continues its outreach to various stakeholder groups. Throughout the fall, stakeholders provided the NJDOE with input about which aspects of student’s educational experiences, besides academic performance, are most important. The department heard from stakeholders about providing students challenging and supportive opportunities for whole-child development (such as advanced and varied curricula, and early childhood and ELL supports) and safe and healthy environments (indicated by high attendance and social, emotional and physical supports.) The department hopes to submit its state plan to the federal department of education by April 3.
Paterson School District The state-operated District of Paterson gave its annual update to the State Board of Education. The district continues to improve. It continues to make facilities improvements with the opening of two new elementary schools. The board has gained local control over personnel, fiscal management and operations and is working towards gaining control of instruction and program, and governance. The graduation rate continues to improve with 78.2 percent of students graduating in 2015 and a projected 78.5 percent graduating in 2016.
Evaluation The State Board adopted amendments to its regulations on educator effectiveness and professional development. The newly-adopted regulations will simplify teacher evaluation. By simplifying the evaluation system, administrators will save an average of at least 35 hours a year through this differentiated approach and will have the flexibility to spend more time working with novice teachers and others who need extra support; engaging in collaborative team work; and having more targeted professional dialogue. The State Board also clarified that sending representatives to receiving boards of education are expected to participate in the chief school administrator’s evaluation.
Charter Schools The State Board also continued its discussion of amendments to the charter school regulations. In the original proposal, the department sought to permit charter school students to participate in extracurriculars in the home district, if the charter did not offer the activity. The department has adjusted its proposal so that it now reads: “If a secondary charter school does not offer the particular sport in which one of its full-time students wishes to participate, the student may participate in the sport at his or her school of residence upon agreement of both principals, regardless of the number of sports programs offered at the charter school.” The proposed language aligns with the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association constitution and current practice. The department also detailed its plans for a charter school pilot certification program that will provide alternative certification for teachers, principals and business administrators who work in charter schools.
Private Schools for Students with Disabilities The State Board also continued its discussion of the regulations concerning approved private schools for students with disabilities (APPSD). The amendments proposed are intended to set the rules for annual tuition rates for APSSDs by containing administrative costs, salary increases, costs associated with the use/lease or purchase of vehicles, travel, and the provision of meals to students. Moreover, many of the proposed amendments will assist in ensuring appropriate accounting and use of funds, as well as streamlining the APSSD’s interactions with the department.
The department anticipates the proposed amendments will result in cost containment, thereby reducing the financial burden placed upon sending school districts. The proposal also will require greater disclosure concerning nepotism in APPSDs and require implementation of a nepotism policy.
Bilingual teachers The State Board also discussed a new passing score for the written proficiency test for bilingual teachers. The department has determined through its research and discussions with educators in the field that there is a need to address teacher shortages in this subject area while maintaining academic rigor. The department will require that candidates for teacher of bilingual and bicultural education meet either qualifying scores on the written proficiency test of “Advanced Low” for the English language and of “Intermediate High” for the target language, or that candidates meet qualifying scores on the written proficiency test of “Intermediate High” for the English language and of “Advanced Low” for the target language.