The Assembly Education Committee on Jan. 25 heard testimony and took action on the following bills: 

Assessing COVID-Related Learning Loss  A-5126/S-3214 would require the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to prepare two reports on the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on public schooling.  The first report would be a learning loss report that identifies and quantifies the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on student academic outcomes. The second would be a report on the continuation of school services during the same period.   

In its testimony, the NJSBA supported the intent of A-5126, which would set a framework for the assessment of student learning during the pandemic. The required study and report would be an important step toward developing a funded strategic plan to help address remediation. However, the NJSBA also recognizes the strain that the current emergency has placed on staff and resources.  Therefore, the Association cautioned against the imposition of any additional responsibilities on staff that would take away from districts’ top priority – advancing student learning and achievement while protecting the health and safety of both students and staff. The bill was released by the committee and awaits further action by the Assembly.  

Alleviating Learning Loss Grant Program  A-5147 would establish the “Alleviating Learning Loss in New Jersey Grant Program” in the NJDOE to assist public schools in establishing or expanding certain educational programs to address learning loss in students. The purpose of the grant program would be to provide funds to school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools for the creation or expansion of summer learning programs during the summer of 2021 and other student support programs during the 2021-2022 school year, which seek to mitigate student learning loss resulting from COVID-19-related school closures or the use of virtual or remote instruction.  NJSBA supports the bill which now heads to the full Assembly for approval. 

Pilot Program for SEL in Early Elementary Years A-4264/S-2486 would establish the Clayton Model Pilot Program in NJDOE to provide school-based social-emotional learning (SEL) to students from  kindergarten through fifth grade at certain public schools. The Clayton Model was developed in the Clayton School District in Gloucester County and is a responsive, trauma-informed intervention program used to promote student development and success. The Clayton Model has been shown to improve significantly students’ social and emotional health, academic performance, and caregivers’ supports. This bill would create a five-year pilot program in the NJDOE to expand the Clayton Model to 10 public schools in each of three counties. This bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now heads to the full Assembly for approval. Its Senate counterpart, S-2486 was previously approved by the Senate. NJSBA supports the bill. 

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Teaching Certificates A-4783 would grant reciprocity to teachers with certain out-of-state certificates. In order to qualify, a candidate must have: 

  • Obtained the equivalent of a certificate of eligibility, provisional certificate or emergency certificate from another state in a subject or grade level also offered in New Jersey; 
  • Passed a subject-matter test to receive the out-of-state endorsement or passed the appropriate New Jersey subject-matter test; 
  • Passed a performance assessment approved by the state where the certificate was issued, or the candidate must pass a New Jersey–approved performance assessment; and obtained a one–year minimum of documented effective teaching experience. 

Candidates who have not completed an approved educator preparation program can enroll in a state- approved educator preparation program and complete any remaining college credits or coursework prior to the issuance of a standard instructional certificate. NJSBA supports the bill. Its Senate counterpart, S-2831, has also received committee approval. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines A-4856 would require the internet website and web services of every public school to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, or the most up-to-date version of the guidelines.  The WCAG guidelines provide standards through which digital content may be accessible for persons with disabilities. Under the bill, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education would be required to establish a procedure for determining whether an internet website or web service complies with the WCAG guidelines.  The Office of Information Technology in the NJDOE would be responsible for issuing certifications of compliance to attest that an internet website or web service complies with these requirements. NJSBA supported the intent of the bill while raising several concerns concerning implementation, particularly the cost of compliance. The NJSBA sought funding for the bill. The bill was approved by the committee and now heads to the full Assembly.