The State Board of Education at its July 9 meeting not only elected new leadership for the coming year, but also moved several code proposals forward, including an abbreviated Special Education proposal in light of the ongoing work of the legislatively created Special Education Taskforce. During the Public Testimony session of the meeting NJPSA also had a chance to weigh in on the current Educator Effectiveness proposal as well as the Charter School code. In addition, the Board reappointed members to the State Board of Examiners and approved new PRAXIS cut-score for middle school educators.
The Board unanimously elected Board Member Marc Biedron as the body’s new president, returning Joe Fisicaro to the role of Vice President.
Biedron is founder of The Willow School in Gladstone, and the president and founder of Sustainable Growth Technologies. He holds a bachelor of arts in business administration from the University of Vermont. He also serves as the chair of the advisory board of the University of Vermont's Rubinstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and previously served as a trustee of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New York City Outward Bound, and the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. He is a member of the U. S. Green Building Council and is a LEED Accredited Professional. He has served on the State Board since 2011.
Biedron replaces Arcelio Aponte, who served as president for four years and has been on the State Board since 2005. Aponte, who declined to be considered again for the presidency due to increased career demands, will continue to serve on the State Board.
Fisicaro, a resident of Evesham Township in Burlington County, was appointed to the State Board in 2011 and became vice president in September 2013.
Fisicaro currently is a staff member in the special education unit of the Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford. Previously, he was a teacher in the Philadelphia School District from 1972 to 2005. He was a member of the Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education from 1993 until 2011, including service as president and vice president. He previously served on the Evesham Township Board of Education from 1988 to 1992, and he was a member of the New Jersey School Boards Association Board of Directors from 2009 to 2011.
Fisicaro holds a master's degree in education from Widener University in Chester, Pa.; a bachelor's in American history from Widener; certification in Italian from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, Pa.; and K-8 certification from Immaculata College, Immaculata, Pa.
Weighing In With the Board
NJPSA, weighed in on several code provisions as part of the public testimony component of the meeting.
Specifically, NJPSA voiced concern with several provisions of the current Charter School code re-adoption related to a reduction in licensure rigor for charter school employees as well as changes that would allow the Commissioner to waive regulation broadly for charter schools.
More importantly, however, NJPSA raised significant concern with several proposed changes to Educator Evaluation. These changes include:
· The creation of an internal appeals process for teachers to the superintendent and ultimately the board for procedural errors in evaluation; and
· Determining how principal’s evaluation scores are calculated in multi-building settings as well as where a child is ‘assigned’ to a building for funding purposes but does not receive instruction within the building
NJPSA does support several changes which:
· Move the date by which student growth objectives (SGO) need to be completed from October 15 to October 31 to allow school district personnel more time;
· Allow the filing of the SGOs once calculated versus once set;
· Eliminate the December 1 deadline for completion of co-observation; and
· Allow for the electronic filing of observation reports
The code was fast tracked in order to ensure passage of the regulations by the beginning of the coming school year – bypassing the second discussion stage of review by the Board. This was NJPSA’s first public opportunity to speak on the legislation. The Association called on the Board to dramatically slow the process down, particularly in light of recent legislative action (Senate Holds PARCC Delay Legislation To Allow Time For Administrative Fix, July 3, 2014). This clarion call was joined by a myriad of other stakeholders including teachers and parents.
NJPSA also asked the Board to address concerns with potential inappropriate involvement of Boards of Education in the evaluative process as well as concerns with how school leader’s scores were calculated in situations where they manage more than one building or have children assigned to their building for funding purposes that they are not responsible for.
As its first order of business, the State Board adopted the Core Curriculum Content Standards as revised including the science, social studies, comprehensive health and physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and preschool teaching and learning standards pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:8-2.1(a)5. The Board had held several public hearings on revisions to the standards which include adoption of the new Next Generation Science Standards. Chief Academic Officer Tracey Severens provided the Board an overview of the Common Core as part of the discussion. The presentation comes as Dr. Severens completes her role as Assistant Commissioner. She will be returning to the Mount Olive school district in the coming days.
The Board also had a first chance to review a revamped, slimmed down Special Education code proposal. The Department argued that in light of the currently convened Taskforce on Special Education, they would proceed with only amendments required for purposes of alignment with current state and federal statute (Governor Names Members of Special Education Taskforce, April 23, 2014). The revamp is significantly slimmed down from the original proposal that called for more sweeping changes – some of which NJPSA had deep concerns with (NJPSA Testimony (March 2013)).
In addition, the Board re-appointed a number of individuals, including NJPSA Past-President Gloria Tunstall, to the State Board of Examiners and made one new appointment of Mr. Jonathan Dauber, Principal of Lawrence Township High School.
Current law, N.J.S.A. 18A:6-38 provides the State Board of Examiners with the authority to issue, revoke and suspend educational certificates under rules prescribed by the State Board of Education. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-34, the membership of the State Board of Examiners must include an assistant commissioner, a county superintendent, two presidents of State colleges, two district superintendents, a high school principal, an elementary school principal, a school business administrator, a librarian, and four teaching staff members other than a superintendent, principal, school business administrator or librarian.
The Board additionally approved a resolution adopting revised PRAXIS II tests and corresponding qualifying scores for attainment of a certificate for middle school teachers in certain subjects. Educational Testing Service (ETS) recently established the new tests in these subjects to replace the current Praxis II Subject Assessment tests that are in use. The following qualifying scores become effective September 1, 2014:
Praxis II Test Qualifying Score
Middle School Science 150
Health and Physical Education 160
Family and Consumer Sciences 153
Speech-Language Pathology 162
Reading and Language Arts Subtest 157
Mathematics Subtest 157
Further, the Board approved the proposed changes to the School District operations code for publication the NJ Register. The changes are minor and incorporate items required by the enactment of statute in recent years. The provision was set to sunset later this year.
In addition, the Board approved changes to their current rulemaking, codified at N.J.A.C.6A:6, in light of changes to the Administrative Procedures Act enacted in January that become effective July 1. This chapter outlines State Board of Education’s and the Department’s procedures for promulgating and amending rules in Title 6A of the New Jersey Administrative Code and provides a procedure for an interested person to petition the State Board to create, amend, or repeal a rule. The changes increase the required use of electronic technologies in the rulemaking process. Other amendments are proposed to bring the Chapter’s provisions in line with current State Board and Department practices or to reflect that Title 6 of New Jersey Administrative Code no longer contains education regulations.
The Board also had a second discussion on amendments to the current Student Residency regulations, N.J.A.C. 6A:22, in light of recent legislation, P.L.2013, c.231 related to children in family crisis. That legislation permits a child who moves out of a school district due to a family crisis to remain enrolled in that district until the end of the school year. If the child remains enrolled in the district for the remainder of the school year, the district is responsible for providing transportation services to the child, provided the child lives "remote" from the school. The law defines “remote” for an elementary school pupil as living more than two miles from the school, while a secondary school pupil is considered remote if he or she lives more than 2 1 / 2 miles from the school. The state is responsible for paying the cost of the transportation services
In addition, the Board had a first discussion on the re-adoption with amendments of rules pertaining to school financing proposed at N.J.A.C. 6A:25, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:4-15, 18A:7G-26, and 18A:36A-18 and 26 U.S.C. § 1397E. This chapter implements the Federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond program for New Jersey (a federal program established under the 1997 Tax Payer Relief Act which allows bonds to be sold to support rehabilitation projects at schools that serve low-income families). Under the program, bondholders receive a tax credit (in lieu of interest payments). Funds may not be used to construct new schools.
Since the program’s inception, Congress has authorized an annual allocation of $400 million, except for 2008-2010 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boosted this amount to $1.4 billion. The program is subject to reauthorization and has not yet been authorized beyond 2013 (2013 allocation may be issued up to December 31, 2015). New Jersey has been allocated roughly $7.5 million annually (except roughly $25 million annually 2008-2010). From 1998-2001 (federal fiscal year) $30 million (approx.) funded health and safety projects in SDA districts funded out of the original $8.6 billion bond authorization in EFCFA. In 2002, the law was amended to allow charter schools to avail themselves of the federal funds. Between 2009-2013 (federal fiscal year) $72 million (approx) of the bond allocation has been assigned to charter schools.
The Department is bringing the code provision to the Board for re-adoption with minor changes.
Public Testimony for the August 6, 2014 meeting will include the following code provisions:
- Special Education
- Qualified Zone Academy Bonds