NJDOE Announces New NJQSAC Waiver Process and Enhanced Grad Rate At December Meeting, Also Approve Evaluation Regs & Religious Calendar

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The New Jersey State Board of Education had a busy December meeting, hearing a proposal to modify how high-performing districts may be monitored under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process, as well as news on New Jersey’s graduation. 


The Board received a robust overview of the NJQSAC process from Assistant Commissioner for Field Services Robert Bumpus. 

Bumpus provided background on not only the statutory authority for the monitoring process. but also provided information on the Department monitors schools.  The earth-shattering news came at the end of the presentation when Commissioner Hespe announced that the Department would be pursuing an equivalency waiver process for consistently high-performing districts. The waiver would give districts a break from mandated periodic reviews if they maintain specific standards.


Under the proposal, the Department would allow high-performing school districts – those that have satisfied 80-100 percent of the quality performance indicators in each of the five key components of school district effectiveness – to submit a Statement of Assurance documenting they remain high performing, in lieu of participating in a full QSAC review.   Rather, these  districts would undergo a more streamlined review process, as follows:

  • Eligible districts will have to provide evidence that they remain high-performing as an alternative to completing a District Performance Review, based on 24 metrics developed by the Department (such as proficiency rates, graduation rates, timely submission of administrator contracts, and compliance with the annual budget process).
  • If a district remains high performing in accordance with these metrics, the district would receive a three-year extension on its full QSAC review. This would result in the district undergoing the traditional in-depth QSAC review, including a District Performance Review, every six years instead of every three years.   

The authority for the waiver would come from the Department’s existing Equivalency and Waiver power.  According to the Department the equivalency process would:

  • Help ease compliance burdens on school districts;
  • Allow the NJDOE's county offices to focus their time and effort on helping underperforming schools; and
  • Reflect the Department's continued focus on innovation by using data to identify high- performing districts without the need for a full QSAC review.

The change will affect the cohort of school districts for the upcoming QSAC review, which includes 204 districts (the majority of which have been designated as high performing on their last two QSAC District Performance Reviews).  Instead of conducting full reviews on each of the 204 districts, the Department will limit full reviews to only those districts not meeting the designated metrics. In coming weeks, the Department will reach out to districts that qualify in order to explain the criteria they need to meet, and that effort will be followed by additional outreach to all other districts.

NJ Grad Rate

The Board also received an update on New Jersey’s graduation rate, which continued to show improvement – increasing to 88.6 percent in 2014 from 87.5 percent in 2013, the second consecutive year in which high school graduation statewide grew by a full percentage point.

In calculating the graduation rate, New Jersey uses a federally mandated methodology designed to provide a complete accounting of graduation rates by tracking cohorts of students over four years, starting from the time they enter the ninth grade.

What is most interesting is that more high school students graduated in 2014 even though coursework was more rigorous and demanding. The Class of 2014 was the first class to be required to take geometry, a second laboratory science, and a course in financial literacy. Additional course-taking requirements continue to be phased in with the Class of 2016.

While graduation rates vary among subgroups, New Jersey also continued to narrow the achievement gap. A summary of graduation rates by student subgroups is as follows:

  • 78.9% of African American students graduated this year, a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year of 76.4%.
  • Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 80.6% in 2014, an increase of 2 percent from 2013 when it was 78.6%.
  • 93.5% of white students graduated in 2014, an increase from 93.1% in 2013.
  • 96.2% of Asian students graduated this year, an increase from the previous year of 95.9%.
  • Economically disadvantaged students graduated at a rate of 79.6% in 2014, an increase of 2.5 percent from last year when it was 77.1%.
  • 71.1% of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students graduated in 2014, an increase from 70.5% in 2013.
  • 76.6% of students with disabilities graduated in 2014, an increase from 75.9% in 2013.

In addition, the Department calculated the five-year graduation rate for students that began high school in 2009. While the four year graduation rate last year was 87.5 percent for the class of 2013, the graduation rate for students who continued on for a fifth year was 89.6 percent.

PARCC & Graduation Requirements

Beyond the metrics of past graduation data, the Board additionally received an update on PARCC which included an overview of the report recently released by the PARCC consortium, of which New Jersey is part, on lessons learned from the recent field test (PARCC Releases Field Test Report, December 3, 2014).  This presentation included the expanded list of options that students in the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018 could use to satisfy the current statutory graduation requirement.  That list was released earlier in the week by the Department.  It now includes the following:

English Language Arts


Passing score on a PARCC ELA 9 or

Passing score on PARCC Algebra I or

Passing score on a PARCC ELA 10 or

Passing score on PARCC Geometry or

Passing score on a PARCC ELA 11 or

Passing score on PARCC Algebra II or

SAT >= 400 or

SAT >= 400 or

ACT >= 16 or

ACT >= 16 or

Accuplacer Write Placer >= 6 or

Accuplacer Elem Algebra >= 76 or

PSAT >= 40 or

PSAT >= 40 or

ACT Aspire >= 422 or

ACT Aspire >= 422 or

ASVAB-AFQT >= 31 or

ASVAB-AFQT >= 31 or

Meet the Criteria of the NJDOE Portfolio Appeal

Meet the Criteria of the NJDOE Portfolio Appeal




Item D Educator Effectiveness

The Board also moved for final adoption, regulations that modify the weights for the components of teacher and principal evaluation as well as the creation of a modified ‘appeals process’ related to issues with Student Growth Objectives or Administrative Goals. 

Proposed Changes to Weights for School Leaders


Proposed Changes in Weights for Teachers


Curtailing Appeals

Unlike the original proposal which included a broad appeal process that terminated with the Commissioner of Education which NJPSA robustly opposed (NJPSA Weighs in on Ed Effectiveness & Charter Schools As State Board Elects New Leadership, Re-adopts Core Curriculum Content Standards & Releases Much Revised Special Education Proposal, July 9, 2014), this proposal is significantly tailored.  Specifically, the proposal would only allow an appeal to the Executive County Superintendent if a teacher’s SGO score or principal’s Administrative Goal was the sole reason that his or her summative rating dropped from Effective to Partially Effective or from Partially Effective to Ineffective. 


Religious Holidays Calendar Resolution_Revised

In addition, the Board approved a revised Religious Holiday Calendar, adding for more holidays to the growing list of more than 120 religious holidays for which New Jersey students must be granted an excused absence from school.   The holidays approved by the state Board of Education on Wednesday are:

  • Holy Convocation, Jan. 3-10.
  • Pongal, Jan. 14.
  • Passover/Days of Unleavened Bread, April 13-20.
  • Goverdhan Puja, Oct. 24.

Programs to Support Student Development

In addition, the Board reviewed first time changes to chapter 16 of the code, Programs to Support Student Development.  Changes were generally required due to recent statutory changes related to school health and school safety and security.  Specifically the changes:

  • Specify the school district’s responsibilities in providing school health services to eligible nonpublic school students;
  • Clarify the provisions of home or out-of-school instruction;
  • Require the establishment and implementation of an emergency action plan for responding to a sudden cardiac event, including the use of an AED (as required by Janet’s Law);
  • Pursuant to the Scholastic Student-Athlete Safety Act:
    • Require the use of a new Pre-participation Physical Evaluation (PPE) form [2.2(h)1ii];
    • Require a licensed physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant who completes the PPE form to complete the Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module (PD module) [2.2(h)1ii(1)]; and
    • Permit a student-athlete’s parent to obtain a physical examination from a physician who can certify completion of the PD module or to request the school physician provides the examination if the PPE is submitted without the signed certification statement [2.2(h)1ii(1)(A)];
    • Ensure a contract between the school district and school physician include a statement of assurance that the school physician completed the PD module [2.3(a)3]; and
    • Compel the school nurse to review the Health History Update Questionnaire form and share it with the school athletic trainer, if applicable. [2.3(b)3xvi].​
  • Under the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, require school districts and nonpublic schools to distribute the sudden cardiac arrest pamphlet to the student-athlete and his or her parent or guardian [2.2h(1)vi]; and
  • Require a parent or other adult who has been designated by the parent, to be present during home instruction delivered in a student’s home [10.1(d)].

Special Education Advisory Council Resolution

Further, three individuals were reappointed to the State Special Education Advisory Council for a two-year term, effective December 3, 2014.  These include:

  • Mary Ann Comparetto, who  is employed as the director of Parent Programs at the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE) where she works with educators, legislators and parents to promote inclusive learning opportunities for students with disabilities.  Previous to that, she worked in various capacities for several chapters of the Arc in Maryland.  Ms. Comparetto is the parent of a child with autism;
  • Dr. Tekelah Sherrod who has been involved in the field of special education for 26 years as a teacher and supervisor of special education.  Since 2006, Dr. Sherrod has served as director of Student Services in the East Windsor Regional School District.  She has developed local district capacity to educate an increased number of students with disabilities in-district.  Dr. Sherrod participates in numerous professional organizations.  In addition, she mentors special education directors who are newly assigned to the position and assists them with meeting their professional goals; and
  • Dr. Dorothy Van Horn who has 41 years experience in public and private education as an educator in regular and special education.  She has been the executive director/superintendent of the Brookfield Schools in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for the past 17 years.  Previous to that, she was the director of Special Education for 17 years at the Gloucester County Special Services School District.  She currently serves as the president of New Jersey ASAH and is the past president of the National Association of Special Education Centers (NAPSEC).

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board approved eight interim reviews under NJQSAC.  Appendix A lists all of the districts and their DPR scores.  Five districts scored 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and were approved for a period of three years.  Three districts scored below 80% in one or more DPR areas and were required to develop and implement a QSAC improvement plan to address deficient indicators.