The New Jersey State Board of Education got a first glimpse of proposed changes to regulation related to handling harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) matters in school at their April meeting. The Board also received an overview of the current portfolio appeal process, approved for final adoption changes to the current graduation requirements and moved closer to final adoption of revised academic standards. Further, the Department outlined a new performance assessment for aspiring educators and provided an overview of Department work around data use in schools. Also considered was the 2016-2017 religious calendar.
Referencing the work of the Anti-bullying Taskforce, including the presentation that group provided to the Board last month, Assistant Commissioner Sue Martz provided the Board with an overview of proposed changes to the Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16) code, within which rules related to how schools handle matters related to HIB are housed. The presentation is the first in several steps the code proposal will take toward potential final adoption later this year.
Principal Threshold Decision
Among the more integral changes is a proposal that would allow a principal to make a preliminary or threshold decision, in concert with the Anti-Bullying Specialist, as to whether student conduct constitutes HIB. Specifically, the proposal allows a district’s policy to include a process by which the principal, or his/her designee, in consultation with the ABS, can make a preliminary determination as to whether a reported incident or complaint is a report of an act of HIB prior to initiating an investigation (amendment to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(1)).
Power Imbalance & Student Specifics
The code proposal also seeks to clarify the definition of what constitutes HIB in light of some confusion in the field around the catch all provision in the law which requires schools investigate and determine if an HIB incident has occurred in instances where ‘any other distinguishing characteristic’ is the basis for an issue. To do this, the code proposal adds a statement to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2iii that states that bullying constitutes ‘unwanted, aggressive behavior that may involve a real or perceived power imbalance.’
In addition, the proposal affirmatively notes that districts can consider a student’s disability when determining remedial action or consequence, proposing to amend N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2v and 2vi(1).
ABS Conflict of Interest
Further, the code proposal seeks to clarify that incidents committed by an adult can constitute HIB by amending N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2viii. The proposal would additionally prohibit the investigation of a complaint concerning adult conduct by an individual who is a member of the same bargaining unit as the individual who is subject to the investigation (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(2)).
The proposal additionally outlines specific dates by which schools and parents must act related to an HIB incident:
- adding the statutory requirement that parents or guardians receive the required written information about the HIB investigation “within five school days” after the results are reported to the board;
- including a provision specifying that a parent or must request hearing before the district board of education (BOE) within 45 calendar days after receiving the written information about the investigation; and
- including the statutory requirement that the BOE must hold a hearing within 10 business days of the request (Please note that the statute requires the hearing to take place within 10 calendar days, NOT school days. NJPSA will be recommending a technical revision on that point).
Moreover, the proposal clarifies that reports and/or findings of the school safety/school climate team(s) should be included in the BOE’s required annual re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its HIB policy. The proposal also recommends law enforcement should be included in the planning of programs or other responses to the annual review of the HIB policy and in the planning of programs, approaches, and initiatives designed to create school wide conditions to prevent HIB. All changes to district policy must be submitted to the Executive County Superintendent.
School Climate/Safety Team
Additionally, the code proposal modifies the name of the ‘school safety team’ to ‘school climate/safety team’ to better reflect the work of the group. The proposal further specifies who the school safety/school climate team should consist of, as well as who should chair the team (the ABS). The proposal also adds a rule to specify that if a parent or other member of the school safety/school climate team is not authorized to access student records, the individual’s role is limited to general school climate issues.
Finally, the code proposal seeks to affirmatively include private schools for students with disabilities (PSSD) within the auspices of the law, creating a new sub-chapter. It is important to note that although the investigatory rules are generally the same in the PSSD environment, the code modifies the investigatory appeal process to include the sending board of education where an incident occurs in such a school.
- NJDOE Presentation on Proposed Changes to Programs to Support Student Development Code
- Programs to Support Student Development Code Proposal
- Presentation of Anti-Bullying Taskfore
- Final Report of Anti-Bullying Taskforce
The Board also received a presentation from Jeff Hauger, the Director of Assessment, Samantha Skabla, Deputy Chief, Legal & External Affairs Office and Kim Harrington, Chief Academic Officer on the current portfolio appeals process. Hauger provided the Board with an overview of the appeals process, including what information must be provided by a district to the Department to effectuate an appeal, as well as a history of the process which was initially created in the 2009-2010 school year.
He also gave the board an overview of the current graduation requirements, which include, by statute, the requirement that a student demonstrate competency on a statewide assessment or through an alternative assessment process, in hopes of providing the Board with some context to the appeal.
Hauger ended with information on the accommodations the Department has made to address any potential increases in appeals, extending the window to submit an appeal from two weeks to 17 weeks (January 11, 2016 through May 13, 2016) and ramping up NJDOE dedicated staff focused on reviews.
Beyond the specifics of the portfolio appeal, however, the Board additionally approved for publication in the New Jersey Register changes to the current Standards & Assessment code, related to graduation requirements. Publishing the proposed amendments will trigger a 60-day public comment period, after which time the board can take a final vote to adopt them.
Unfortunately the action met with some disruption from the audience with PARCC critics, who also rallied outside the Department of Education building shortly before the meeting, holding signs and chanting “2-4-6-8! No PARCC to graduate!”
Changes include update of the definition of the statewide assessment system to incorporate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments and the establishment of a three-phase transition for PARCC as a graduation requirement, replacing the comprehensive High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) to end-of-course assessments in English language arts (ELA) 10 and Algebra I as the Statewide assessment graduation requirement as follows:
The phase in does NOT eliminate the portfolio appeal process for students for the foreseeable future. The Department has used the process as an alternative means to demonstrate graduation proficiency since 2010. Beginning this month, portfolio submissions will occur on rolling basis through May 13, 2016. This extended timeframe is meant to ease the transition to the new graduation requirements and the anticipated number of appeals.
Among the specific regulatory changes are the following items:
The recommendations in the proposal were first proposed by the Study Commission on the Use of Assessments, who issued their report January 11 as well (Study Commission on Use of Assessments Releases Final Report, January 11, 2016).
NJPSA supports the proposal, although the Association raised the need to articulate the definition of the portfolio assessment more affirmatively.
The Board had a first discussion on a resolution to adopt New Jersey’s changes to the ‘Core Curriculum Content Standards,’ rebranded as the ‘New Jersey Student Learning Standards.’ The original proposal which the Board had a chance to review earlier this year, contained over 230 items which were mostly minor in nature.
A majority of changes focused on coherence, age appropriateness and elimination of narrowing of curriculum. Today’s discussion merely continued that vein, noting only 1 minor change.
Notably, however, Chief Academic Officer Harrington also provided an overview of supports that will be launched with the standards revision. It is expected that the final adoption will occur at the May meeting. The timeline was built to allow district curriculum realignment in Fall 2017, with the Department providing guidance documents, materials, resources, and training.
- Matrix of Changes
- Standards Review Powerpoint (February 2016 meeting)
- Standards Review Powerpoint (2nd discussion) (April 2016 Meeting)
- Resolution to Discuss the Revised English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards & Rename Them As Student Learning Standards
- Resolution to Discuss the Revised English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards
Further, the Board received an overview on work the Department has conducted with the field to further prepare educators in data use, including PARCC data. Although advertised as a presentation on newly launched blended online learning modules, the conversation was far broader, digging into what the Department has been doing, in coordination with educators and other stakeholders, to address PARCC data use and educator knowledge on how to use the host of new data available to educators to drive instruction.
The presentation also delved into how integral professional learning communities can be to the process and important PLCs are in effective schools. The presentation, which was spearheaded by Chief Academic Officer Kim Harrington, included members of the Education Leaders Cadre, including NJPSA’s own Emil Carafa, as well as Robin Knutelsky, the current Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning Support at the Department.
In essence, the modules themselves are the culmination of ground work the Department has done related to PARCC and data use. Specifically, NJDOE has developed, in conjunction with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and NJPSA/FEA, a suite of dynamic online blended learning modules to assist educators in their work in forming and maintaining efficient and active professional learning communities (PLC’S), using the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR) model. Harrington gave a particular shout out to NJPSA’s Executive Director Pat Wright and her groundbreaking foundational work in developing CAR during the presentation.
The intent behind the building of these modules is to meet the demands of instructional collaboration. The modules are accessible to and useful in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). The purpose of the tools is to facilitate integration of the modules in PLC’s, coaching, or school-based professional development. The modules are to be part of the cycle of teaching and learning as teachers refine their practice, use data from formative, summative and PARCC assessments to inform practice and differentiate student learning.
The discussion comes on the heels of proposed additional aid to schools at $10 per pupil in Professional Learning Communities for use in how to use data to inform instruction. NJPSA supports the inclusion of this aid, testifying in support of the provision before the Senate and Assembly budget committees two weeks ago (NJPSA Testifies Before Assembly & Senate Budget Committees On FY2017 Budget, March 22, 2016)
Moreover, the Board had a first glimpse at the potential introduction of a new performance assessment for aspiring teachers. The State Board’s adoption of new certification regulations back in 2015 included a provision requiring traditional and alternate route teachers to pass a Commissioner approved performance based assessment. Under the code change, traditional route candidates would be required to pass the assessment during the student teaching year; alternate route candidates would have 2 years to complete the requirement while on the job in school.
The Department has now selected an assessment to satisfy the new requirement. That provider is Stanford University Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity(SCALE)/American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE)/ Pearson. SCALE/AACTE. The assessment requirement, edTPA, would go live in the 2017-2018 academic year, assuming Board approval, with a preliminary cut score one standard deviation below the norm. The one year approval will allow the Department to make recommendations as to changes to the assessment cut score where necessary.
In addition, the Board approved the Religious Holiday calendar for the 2016-2017 school year.
Finally, the Board decreed April 2016 as ‘School Library Month,’ providing special recognition to school library programs and the role of certified school librarians in education throughout the state of New Jersey . The month has designated nationally as School Library Month by the American Association of School Librarians.