At its monthly meeting, the State Board of Education took action and heard updates on the following items:
- Interim Data Assessment The State Board heard an update on the achievement of students over the last year. The update provides a snapshot of mid-year student learning in English language arts, math and science. The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) determined the percentage of students in each grade level/content area that are below grade level, on grade level, or above grade level. With this data, targeted interventions can be developed to meet the needs of all students, especially vulnerable student groups.
According to the preliminary data released by the NJDOE, Black and Hispanic students were struggling academically after a year of remote, or partially remote, instruction caused by the pandemic. The data showed that 56% of Black students who participated in the assessment were doing mathematics “below grade level,” while 52% of the Hispanic students were not doing work at grade level. The number of white students below grade level was 28%. The numbers for English language arts were similar. Fifty-one percent of Black students were below grade level, as were 52% of Hispanics and 27% of white students.
The assessment of what was “at grade level” was new, the NJDOE cautioned. A June 2 broadcast memo from the NJDOE told districts not to overreact.
“The Department would discourage comparisons between the interim assessment data described above and data regarding student performance on previous administrations of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment or other statewide assessments,” said Dr. Lisa Gleason, assistant commissioner of academics and performance. “Statewide assessments serve a different purpose, and are administered under different conditions than local interim assessments,” she added in the broadcast memo. “Comparisons between these data sets would not yield meaningful takeaways regarding trends in student learning over time.”
- Programs to Support Student Development The State Board readopted with minimal amendments the rules concerning student development programs to ensure the existing rules do not expire and to avoid additional stress on schools and school districts during the 2020-2021 school year. These rules detail the requirements for programs to support student development, including school health services; physical examinations; intervention and referral services; programs of substance abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment referral; school safety and security; student discipline; reporting of potentially missing, abused, or neglected child situations, and home instruction and approved alternative education programs. The amendments include corrections to New Jersey Administrative Code cross-references and the names of state or federal statutes, rules, or regulations, where necessary, and updates to language and terms for consistency.
- School District Operations Proposed updates to the regulations concerning school operations were also discussed. The NJDOE is proposing to amend these regulations so that they are aligned with the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The proposed amendments will also align school district reporting requirements with the chronic absenteeism indicator in New Jersey’s ESSA State Plan. ESSA requires states to ensure that all students have equitable access to high-quality educational resources and opportunities, and that all schools are improving overall student performance and closing persistent achievement gaps. To receive federal funding, most of which goes directly to school districts, each state is required every few years to submit a state plan to the U.S. Department of Education detailing how the state will comply with ESSA. The proposal also provides code of ethics requirements for district, charter and renaissance school administrators and board of education/advisory board members; requirements for employment of teaching staff, the minimum assessments for school employee physical or psychiatric examinations, employee seniority and requirements for student recordkeeping, among other provisions.
- Officers Nominated and Calendar Approved The State Board nominated Kathy Goldenberg and Andrew Mulvihill to an additional year as president and vice-president, respectively, and will hold officer elections at its July meeting. The board also approved its annual calendar of meetings for the upcoming year.