At its May meeting, the State Board of Education heard updates and took action on the following items:
- Updates to New Jersey Student Learning Standards The State Board had originally required district boards of education to implement the revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards for science, visual and performing arts, world languages, career readiness, life literacies, and key skills by September 2021. However, due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the State Board delayed implementation until September 2022.
- Standards and Assessment The board is proposing changes to its rulemaking on standards and assessment. The most significant change to this proposal concerns the portfolio appeals process. Current seniors and juniors have three avenues to meet the graduation exam requirement. For these classes, there is no requirement that a student take a particular assessment prior to participating through the portfolio appeals process. However, the classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025 will have a new graduation exam that will be a comprehensive assessment – rather than an end-of-course test – and will include geometry standards, making it more rigorous than the current graduation assessment standard of Algebra I. Under this revised rulemaking, the classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025 will also be able to use a non-standardized, portfolio appeals option or a menu of substitute competency tests. However, students will be required to take the state graduation proficiency test before accessing the substitute competency tests or portfolio appeals process.
- The Road Forward The “Road Forward” is the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) multi-pronged approach to ensure that schools are ready for opening in September 2021. The NJDOE is collaborating with members of the education community to enhance responsiveness to local district needs as they navigate reopening for the 2021-2022 school year. Four themes guide the engagement strategy: operations, insecurities, learning acceleration, and financial considerations. The result will be a Local Educational Agency Reopening Self-Assessment Checklist for 2021-2022 school year.
- Religious Holidays Religious holidays were approved for the upcoming school year. Any student absent from school because of a religious holiday may not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award because of such absence. Students who miss a test or examination because of absence on a religious holiday must be given the right to take an alternate test or examination.
- School Operations The State Board discussed proposed updates to the regulations concerning school. 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.
- Resolution in Honor of Physical Fitness and Sport Month in New Jersey The board passed a resolution recognizing May as Physical Fitness and Sport Month. The state board noted that students are required to participate in at least two and one-half hours per week in health, safety and physical education. It was also noted that physically active children are more likely to thrive academically and have improved behavior in school. Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.