The State Board of Education met on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The Board conducted their annual election of Officers, voting for the 2018-2019 State Board President and Vice President. The Board unanimously voted in support of Arcelio Aponte for President (to succeed himself) and Kathy Goldenberg as Vice President (to succeed Andrew Mulvihill).
Wednesday’s meeting was also the first time the New Permanent Student Representative addressed the Board in her official capacity. A rising senior at Ocean City, Nora Faverzani spoke with enthusiasm about her excitement and eagerness to begin her role as the State Board’s liaison to the student community.
After brief Committee Reports, the Board then received a presentation from Commissioner Repollet and the Assessments team on proposed amendments to Statewide Assessments that had been announced by the Governor Murphy at a press conference a day earlier. This was the Board’s first review of the proposed changes. Included in the proposal delivered by the Board was a call to eliminate four of the six high school tests; a requirement that students to demonstrate proficiency in ELA 10 and Algebra 1 only for high school graduation; a continuation of multiple pathways for demonstrating proficiency; to allow ELLs to substitute a department-approved English language proficiency test for the State ELA 10; and to close the ‘feedback loophole’ by ensuring that educators, students and parents receive results in a timely manner (from 60 days to 45). Read the full text of the proposed amendments by clicking here.
Calling it “a pivotal day”, Assistant Commissioner of Academics and Performance Linda Eno, explained that the State Board meeting marks the transition between Phase I coming to a close and the launch of Phase II. During May and June, the NJDOE staff conducted Phase I of outreach. Phase I consisted of approximately 75 in-person sessions, three live webinars, and feedback gathered from nearly 3000 students, teachers, school and district leaders, educational advocates and community partners all over the state from Sussex to Cape May. Describing the process of the listening tour component of the Department’s Statewide Assessment Outreach, Assistant Commissioner Eno made it clear that they did not go into the listening tour with the ‘answers already decided’. Conversely, the questions were structured to be purposefully broad, in order to best identify stakeholder priorities and values, as well as changes that should be recommended or implemented. Phase I of outreach sought to reach stakeholders of every variety, from students to parents to educators to advocates. The process was centered around transparency. Every attendee of any outreach session was provided with a summary of the results of the session. During this phase of the outreach, the Assessments team discovered there was a great deal of consensus on a number of items. The Department determined that some changes could be made immediately to reduce the burden on students and administrators. The changes that were readily apparent included reducing the amount of statewide testing at the high school level; reducing the length of the test by up to 25%; getting the results out quicker; and reducing the weight of assessment test results in educator evaluations.
Likewise, there were also issues raised that were going to require a much deeper consideration, and those questions have framed “Phase II” of the Assessment Outreach. The Assistant Commissioner explained Phase II as a “deeper dive”, noting that Phase II began as soon as Wednesday’s meeting ended. The Department’s work to improve New Jersey’s system of statewide assessment will continue into the 2018-2019 school year, and the Assessments team has pledged to continue to share information in an inclusive and collaborative manner along the way.
While the presentation by the NJDOE was positive, and overall well received, several State Board members did raise concerns and expressed a need to spend more time with the material before making any decisions about the proposed amendments. The Board will meet again on August 1st, at which time they will also receive public testimony on the proposed changes.
NJPSA, an active participant in Phase I of the Assessment Outreach, is supportive of the proposed changes that were made a result of the Listening Tour and is looking forward to continuing to work with the Department to improve New Jersey’s system of statewide assessments while maintaining high academic standards for all of our students.