The Senate Education Committee, at its first meeting back since the summer, moved the Vocational package championed by the Assembly Speaker as well as a bill that would require districts under state intervention to be able to regain local control by area in instances where their NJQSAC ‘score’ exceeds eighty (80%) percent. NJPSA weighed in on the vocational package supporting each of the measures. The Association also supported the NJQSAC measure.
Vocational Bill Package
Championed by the Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson, Bergen) as well as key members of both house,s the bill package looks to promote and expand New Jersey's vocational school programs.
The Assembly Speaker had indicated when he became the Speaker back in January that improving vocational education would be one of his top priorities, citing it as key to making sure all New Jersey students are ready for work in today's ever-changing economy.
"While many focus on college without thinking about a technical career, we have to make it clear that there are also many well-paying careers that can be launched with an industry credential or an associate's degree," said Prieto (D-Hudson, Bergen). "As we work to make sure our economy begins to grow again, employers will look to our county vocational-technical schools to meet this need. We need to make sure our students are ready to go."
The bills released by the Senate Education Committee include:
- S-2224 (Ruiz, Turner) / A-3334 (Prieto, Lagana) – Require New Jersey school report cards to include indicators of student career readiness;
- S-2225 (Ruiz, Turner) / A-3335 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Require preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include coursework to support improved student career readiness;
- S-2228 (Ruiz, Sweeneyr) / A-3337 (Prieto, Jimenez) – Establishes four-year county vocational school district facilities partnership grant program;
- S-2230 (Ruiz, Turner) / A-3338 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Requires all school districts and public colleges to enter into dual enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students through courses offered on the college or high school campus;
- S-2227 (Ruiz / Turner) / A-3339 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Provides that if a career and technical education program of a vocational school district is taught in an industry setting, the off-site location will be exempt from certain state regulations;
- S-2229 (Ruiz / Turner) / A-3340 (Prieto, Jasey) – Provides additional state aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10 percent; and
- S-2230 (Ruiz / Turner) / A-3341 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Provides state aid for adult education programs.
NJQSAC Local Control Return
In addition, the committee approved legislation, S-1895 (Ruiz/Pou), which provides that in the case of a school district under partial or full State intervention, the State must withdraw from intervention in an area of school district effectiveness in which the district has satisfied 80 percent or more of the quality performance indicators in that area. The bill provides further that the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education may not use any other factor in making the determination to withdraw from an area of school district effectiveness if the district meets or exceeds the 80 percent threshold.
The legislation stems from Newark where the district has the 80 percent threshold requirement in several areas but has not seen local control returned.
The New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum, NJ QSAC, is the State system for evaluating the performance of schools districts in the State. Under NJ QSAC a district is evaluated in five key components of school district effectiveness:
- instruction and program;
- fiscal management;
- operations; and
A district is placed on a performance continuum using quality performance indicators comprised of standards for each of the areas of school district effectiveness. A district which meets 80 to 100 percent of the quality performance indicators in an area of school district effectiveness is considered to be successfully performing in that area.
The Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC), was established, to “insure quality and comprehensive instructional programming in every school district.” N.J.S.A. 18A:7A-14a . That laudable goal is attained by “providing immediate and direct corrective action to insure that identified deficiencies do not persist.” Id. In recent years, the Department of Education has shifted its focus from compliance to assistance, capacity building and improvement. See N.J.A.C. 6A:30 et. seq. This sea change not only eliminated some of the substantial paperwork that districts were once required to compile, but also afforded districts some control via self-certification, via the assurances that a chief school administrator is required to submit to the State. This process also allows districts to focus on those areas where improvement may be necessary without needlessly compiling information in areas where success has been attained.
NJPSA argued in support of the legislation as consistent with recent regulatory changes the Department embarked on several years back.