Assembly Moves Testing Parental Notification & Course Weight Legislation Forward

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The Assembly Education Committee moved several bills forward October 9, including a measure that would require schools to notify parents on testing requirements, legislation which would require equal course weight be given to visual and performing art courses.  A measure to deter steroid use among students which was pocket vetoed by the Governor at the end of the last session was also approved.  In addition, a four-year grant program to fund non-traditional STEM programs in schools was also approved.  NJPSA weighed in all the measures, seeking and garnering amendments on several.

The Bills

A-311 (Bramnick / Diegnan) – Requires public schools to weight courses in visual and performing arts equally with other courses worth same number of credits in calculating grade point average.  NJPSA successfully sought amendments that maintains local discretion around the weight of courses generally although the bill creates consistency between similarly situated types of courses (e.g. AP, honors or regular).  NJPSA supports this legislation as amended.

A-3077 (Jasey / Vainieri Huttle / Mainor) – Requires school districts and charter schools to annually provide to parents or guardians of enrolled students information on certain tests to be administered during the school year.  This legislation, as drafted, would require school districts to report to parents by October 1 of every year an standardized assessment either required by the State, federal government or district.  NJPSA has deep concern with the bill’s over-inclusiveness of diagnostic tools that schools may use and actually incorporate at different touch points during the year.  NJPSA’s proposed amendments would have curtailed this reporting to only State required assessments as a stepping stone to a bigger conversation.  Parent advocates in particular were concerned about pre/post testing that may or may not be created by a commercial-test provider, that has been instituted in light of the new evaluation system.  In light of this, amendments proposed by the Association were held and the bill moved in its original form.  NJPSA, her sister stakeholders, parent advocates and sponsor hope to work through a compromise in the coming days to balance these concerns.  The sponsor, Assemblywoman Jasey, is committed to developing a comprehensive and balanced proposal.

A-940 / S-225 (Singleton / Wimberly / Riley / Allen / Ruiz) – Establishes the four-year "New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in DOE to fund non-traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.  ill establishes the four-year “New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in the Department of Education.  The pilot program will award six grants of up to $150,000 each to school districts (two in each region of the State) to support non-traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching methods for students in grades 4 through 12, support the participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, foster innovation and broaden interest in careers in STEM fields, and encourage collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors.  NJPSA supports this legislation.

A-2699 / S-1857 (Vainieri Huttle / Codey / Turner) – Establishes measures to deter steroid use among students.  The bill implements the recommendations of the December 2005 report of the Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention.   Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to work jointly to develop and implement, by the 2014-2015 school year, a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the association.  In addition, the bill requires coaches to incorporate into the team’s training activities a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements, alcohol, and drugs, and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise.   The legislation was pocket vetoed by the Governor at the end of the last legislative session.  NJPSA supports this legislation.