The Assembly Education Committee December 14 moved several measures forward including a bill, A-4562 / S-2844 (Diegnan / Gill / Turner), that would require schools to report PARCC refusal, a measure A-4328 (Diegnan), that encourages schools to introduce a ‘Response to Intervention’ approach, and legislation, A-4693 (Vainieri Huttle), that highlights issues of chronic absenteeism in schools.
A-4328 (Diegnan) – Establishes Response to Intervention initiative in DOE to support and encourage school districts in implementation of Response to Intervention framework.
Specifically, the bill directs the Commissioner of Education to develop and establish an initiative to support and encourage the use of a Response to Intervention (RTI) framework by school districts. The Department initiative must include the dissemination of information and guidance to school districts regarding the development and effective implementation of an RTI framework as a methodology to identify struggling learners, maximize student achievement, and reduce behavioral problems. The initiative also must include the dissemination of information and guidance to school districts regarding the effective use of an RTI framework as a methodology to identify students with specific learning disabilities in accordance with the federal “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. s.1400 et seq.
In addition, the bill requires the commissioner to ensure that an RTI framework developed and implemented by a school district includes, at a minimum, certain elements that are commonly recognized as core components of any RTI model. These elements include:
- high quality research-based instruction in the general education setting;
- universal screening procedures to identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes or behavioral challenges;
- multiple levels of evidence-based interventions that are progressively more intense, based on the student’s responsiveness; and
- continuous monitoring of student progress.
Finally, the bill requires the commissioner to make technical assistance and training available to assist school districts in implementing an RTI framework.
NJPSA supports the legislation, as do the other major education stakeholders. The bill was released unanimously by the Committee. Its Senate companion was approved by the Senate Education Committee back in November. The Senate version of the bill was referred to Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee.
A-4562 / S-2844 (Diegnan / Gill / Turner) – Requires school districts and DOE to post on their websites information regarding student participation in certain assessments.
In addition, the Committee approved legislation which requires school districts and DOE to post on their websites information regarding student participation in the PARCC assessment. Under the bill, a school district would be required to make publicly available on its website and upon request, information regarding the number of students in each grade level who participated in the administration of a PARCC assessment and the number of students who did not participate in the assessment. The information would need to include the subject area of the PARCC assessment, the grade levels covered by the assessment, and the dates on which the assessment was administered. The information would need to be posted on the school website and released to the Department of Education within ten days after the district completes its administration of any PARCC assessment to any grade level.
In addition, the bill requires the Department of Education to post on its website data regarding the total number of students in each grade level Statewide who participated in the administration of a PARCC assessment and the total number of students in each grade level Statewide who did not participate in the administration of a PARCC assessment.
NJPSA expressed deep concern with the legislation, indicating that data accuracy and consistency across districts could be a serious concern under the bill. In addition, the Association argued that the State’s data collection system, NJSMART already collects this information and, as such, should remain the data collector. Similar concerns were expressed by the NJ School Board Associaton. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate back in late June by a vote of 39-0.
A-4693 (Vainieri Huttle) – Requires Commissioner of Education to include data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions on School Report Card and requires public schools to make certain efforts to combat chronic absenteeism.
The bill requires that, in the event that ten percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school are chronically absent, the school must convene a Chronic Absenteeism Coalition. The coalition must include at least one parent and one teacher from the school community, and such other members as determined appropriate by the principal. The purpose of the coalition will be to regularly review and monitor school chronic absenteeism and develop a corrective action plan to improve absenteeism rates. The coalition must annually present its findings and recommendations to the board of education until the percentage of the student body that is chronically absent falls below ten percent.
The legislation also requires the Commissioner of Education to include on School Report Cards data on the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent and the number and percentage of students who received a disciplinary suspension. The commissioner must annually review the chronic absenteeism rates of each school and school district and report on the rates to the State Board of Education.
As used in the bill, “chronically absent” means a student’s attendance record includes a total number of absences, including excused absences, unexcused absences, and absences due to disciplinary actions, that meets or exceeds 10 percent of the total number of school days in the school year, or in the case of a student who enrolls in the school after the beginning of the school year, 10 percent of the total number of school days from the date of enrollment until the end of the school year.
NJPSA, joined by the NJ Superintendent’s Association (NJASA), expressed deep concern with legislation as drafted. Arguing that school I&RS teams already address chronic absenteeism, the Association implored the Committee to consider utilizing the existing school structure in comparison to creating a new entity to address a school based issue. In addition, NJPSA raised issues related to student privacy as the legislation requires a parent to serve on the Coalition. The committee urged the various advocates to meet with the bill sponsor in an attempt to resolve issues with the bill. Stay tuned as the issue develops.
A-4653 / S-3067 (Diegnan / Oliver / Barnes, III / Turner) – Requires teachers of health and physical education in grades kindergarten through six in public schools to possess appropriate endorsement to instructional certificate.
Under State Board of Education regulations, in order to teach health and physical education, physical education, or health in grades kindergarten through six in a public school, a teacher is not required to have a specific endorsement to the instructional certificate. A teacher with an elementary school endorsement, pursuant to certain regulations, is currently permitted to teach these courses.
The legislation would require that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. However, the bill exempts from the bill’s certification requirements persons who teach former Abbott district kindergarten students under a contract between the former Abbott district and a licensed child care center or other provider. In addition, the bill “grandfathers” any teacher who currently holds an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date, to continue to be permitted to teach health and physical education, physical education, or health at these grade levels.
NJPSA supports the legislation in light of the liberal grandfather provision. The legislation has been a major initiative of the NJ Association of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance this legislative session. The Senate version of the legislation was approved by the Senate on December 7 by a 36-0 vote.
A-4878 / S-3240 (Spencer / Sumter / Holley / Lesniak / Allen) – Authorizes establishment of recovery high school alternative education programs.
Assembly bill A-4878 would permit a school district to establish alternative education programs, including recovery high school alternative education programs, upon the approval of the board of education.
The bill defines a ‘recovery high school alternative education program’ as an alternative education program that serves students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency as defined by the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and that provides a comprehensive four-year high school education in an alternative public school setting and a structured plan of recovery that is aligned with the national framework of evidence-based practices for recovery high schools.
Under the bill’s provisions, a sending district may enter into an agreement with a school district that has established a recovery high school alternative education program for the provision of services to a student who is currently enrolled in the sending district. If the student is admitted to the recovery high school alternative education program, the sending district will pay tuition to that district.
The legislation, which may sound somewhat familiar, reached the Governor’s desk earlier this session only to be conditionally vetoed to broaden the program to include not just county vocational programs within its reach, but also school districts.
NJPSA, in addition to the fellow stakeholder groups, including NJEA, NJSBA and NJASA, support the legislation. The Senate version was approved by the full Senate earlier this month.
A-4753 (Garcia) – Requires employees of nonpublic schools to undergo criminal history record checks and requires certain types of formerly-exempt child care centers to obtain license from DCF.
Finally, A-4753 (Garcia), would make it mandatory that a final candidate for employment in a nonpublic school or for service under contract with the school, who will have regular contact with students, undergo a criminal history record check. Under current law, a non-public school has the discretion to require such employees to have the check. The applicant will continue to bear the cost of the check, which is now the practice. The requirement for the criminal history record check would first apply to persons who are final candidates for employment on and after the bill’s effective date.
The legislation also provides that the staff members of a child care center that is an integral part of a private educational institution or system offering elementary education in grades kindergarten through sixth, seventh, or eighth will be required to undergo a criminal history record check and a child abuse record information check.
NJPSA, in addition to its fellow education stakeholders, support this measure.