NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright testified before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools (JCPS) earlier this week on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Ms. Wright was joined by a myriad of stakeholders, providing legislators information on ESSA implementation in the State.
Executive Director Wright provided the committee with background on how the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ESSA provides promise to students and schools by providing an opportunity to target support and resources, while allowing states, districts and schools the flexibility we need to decide how we can best meet our goals, serve our students and assess our success.
Ms. Wright also spoke about how ESSA retains key accountability measures to help identify schools and students in need of assistance, while allowing us to look beyond just test scores at other components of effective schools that support the growth of the whole child – measures such as school climate, social and emotional learning, student engagement.
In addition, Ms. Wright zeroed in on the need to provide school leaders with opportunities for professional learning and how ESSA makes this a reality – if New Jersey embraces flexibility under the new law. Specifically, Section 2101(c)(3)) of ESSA allows states to reserve up to 3% of district Title II allotments for statewide school leadership efforts.
Department of Education Action
According to testimony Monday, the State Department of Education currently has a team of 20-30 people working on the new school accountability plan and has actively sought input from schools, teachers and parents (including representatives from NJPSA).
One area of concern raised by legislators, including Senator Patrick Diegnan, the former Assembly Education chair, related to the timing of the plan and opportunity for meaningful stakeholder input. Diegnan inquired into when the State must submit the plan to the federal government, particularly in light of impending change in administrations planned for January of 2018. Diegnan also inquired into what entity is tasked with directing and finalizing the plan to be submitted to the federal government. Department of Education personnel indicated that the proposal is to be submitted to the federal government on March 2017 and that the agency itself, not the State Board of Education, would be taking the lead on the plan submission.
Though New Jersey won’t be required to submit a new plan for four years after the initial version, it can seek changes on an annual basis if it wants to, said Charmaine Mercer, director of the Learning Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
Representatives from Garden State Coalition of Schools, NJEA, NJSBA, NJASA, ACNJ and others additionally provided recommendations as it relates to testing, accountability/reporting, wrap around services, community schools, among other topics.
About the JCPS
The Joint Committee on the Public Schools provides an ongoing study of the system of free public schools; it’s financing, administration and operations, as well as to make recommendations for legislative action. Created by statute in 1975, this committee is comprised of 14 members of the Legislature.
Appointments are made by the Senate President and Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly.