At its November meeting, the State Board of Education took action and received updates on a number of items, including:
- Non-college-bound learners — About one year ago, the New Jersey School Boards Association, under the leadership of President Dan Sinclair, created the Task Force on Educational Opportunities for the Non-College-Bound Learner. The project’s ultimate goal: Identify strategies to better equip career-focused students with the skills required in a job market that is rapidly changing due to advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics. Sinclair and NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod presented the task force’s findings and explained that there is a disconnect between the skills that are being taught in schools, and the skills required in many entry-level positions. The NJSBA Task Force made 69 recommendations to address this challenge.
- Charter Schools Program Act review update— NJDOE staffers gave a quick update on their outreach efforts concerning the Charter Schools Program Act. They have had eight school tours, five listening sessions or “collaboratives,” and one webinar so far. For board members who wish to learn more and give feedback about charter schools, please click here.
- Update to sick leave requirements for employees of Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (PSSD) — The NJDOE is proposing to amend N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-18.6(a)66 to increase the flexibility of Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (PSSD) employers to pay earned unused sick time under P.L. 2018, c. 10. To ensure efficient expenditure of public funds, N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-18.6(a)66 currently limits the amount of earned unused sick leave payments that can be treated as allowable costs by PSSDs. Under the current regulation, payments for unused sick leave, in excess of one percent of the individual employee’s contracted salary, are deemed nonallowable costs. Based on a 35-hour workweek, one percent of current salary equates to 18.2 hours of earned unused sick time, so the current rule does not provide the same level of flexibility to employers as P.L. 2018, c. 10. Therefore, NJDOE proposes to amend the amount set forth in the regulation to 2.2 percent of the individual employee’s contracted salary. This change could cause an increase in the tuition paid by school districts to PSSDs, but it will depend on the employee benefits provided by each PSSD. The State Board approved the proposal for further comment by the public and stakeholders.
- NJQSAC–The NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum monitoring and evaluation system for school districts establishes a comprehensive single accountability system. Under NJQSAC, school districts are evaluated in five key component areas of school district effectiveness. The NJDOE proposes to amend Appendix A (District Performance Review) and Appendix B (District Performance Review for County Special Services School Districts) to specify the review of a school district’s social studies curriculum and instruction must monitor whether the Amistad Commission and Holocaust Commission mandates are included. The Amistad Commission requires that curricula in kindergarten through grade 12 include the teaching of the African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in the United States, and the contributions of African Americans to the country. The Holocaust Commission requires that curricula in kindergarten through grade 12 address issues of bias, prejudice, and bigotry, including bullying, through the teaching of the Holocaust and genocide. Further, these requirements can be met in content areas other than social studies.
- Teacher-Leader Endorsement— The State Board continued discussions on a new teacher-leader endorsement. State law requires the board to authorize a teacher-leader endorsement and specifies that candidates for the endorsement must complete a program of study with an approved provider. The law also requires the board to set standards for the endorsement’s program of study and standards for the approval of providers.Teacher leadership has a positive impact on teachers’ job satisfaction, which is a major predictor of retention, contributing to a pipeline of quality educators within the profession. Moreover, teacher quality, which is the number one school-related factor impacting student learning, can be improved when teachers support, coach, and enhance the skills and practices of their colleagues. The teacher-leader endorsement will recognize that a teacher has formally gained knowledge, skills, and competencies to lead his or her colleagues and the profession. The teacher-leader endorsement will further professionalize education and give teachers the opportunity to advance their status and influence, all while remaining in the classroom with students, where research shows they have the greatest impact on student outcomes.
- Controversies and Disputes—The State Board began discussions on modifications to the procedural rules governing the filing of cases with the Commissioner of Education. The proposed amendments will reduce the procedural requirements when filing documents with the Office of Controversies and Disputes and will allow parties to submit documents to the department electronically. Other amendments are proposed to increase clarity and remove obsolete or confusing references in the rules.
- Standards and Assessment— The NJSBA submitted testimony in support of the revisions to the Department’s proposed statewide testing program. NJSBA stressed that these changes represent a first step in this process of transition toward a new vision of standardized testing for our schools. The proposal maintains New Jersey’s strong accountability system and state compliance with federal requirements set forth in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The proposal continues to focus on student growth in grades three through eight, yet tailors a more targeted approach to the diverse student learning needs at the high school level. The proposal maintains a strong focus on the use of timely, actionable data to educators, students and parents to inform each student’s learning. A clarification and streamlining of high school graduation requirements will maintain New Jersey’s high school proficiency standards, but also result in increased instructional time and increased opportunities for students to explore other areas of interest.