State Board of Ed Recognizes April as School Library Month, Approves Student Residency Code & Religious Holiday Calendar & Gets First Glimpse at Ed Service Commission Expansion Proposals

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The State Board of Education at their April meeting, heard from Student Representative Russell Bauer, a Seneca High School senior, who indicated that the PARCC test administration, while viewed by the students he surveyed as generally easy to navigate and not difficult to take by the students, were viewed as nonetheless impactful on instructional time in light of exam in concert with other assessments including the SAT, AP, and school finals.  The board also recognized April as School Library month, adopted the Religious Holiday calendar for 2015, and adopted changes to current Student Residency code.  Finally, the Board heard two ‘enlargement of purpose’ proposals related to the work of two Ed Service Commissions in Middlesex and Passaic Counties

Student Perspective on PARCC

Bauer, who was selected by the New Jersey Association of Student Councils (NJASC) to serve as the non-voting student representative to the state board at the beginning of the current school year, serves as the board's liaison to the student community.

According to Bauer’s presentation, of the students he surveyed at three New Jersey high schools many called the test fair and "easy.  Bauer indicated that students are finishing PARCC with ‘ample time to spare’ and have generally found the online testing format more enjoyable than paper tests, despite a few software glitches.

What is concerning to students, however, was the impact of testing generally as students at the high school level are still grappling with the SATs, ACTs, advanced placement exams and traditional midterms and finals.  Bauer indicated that several juniors decided to leave the essay sections of the test blank because students are not required to pass PARCC for graduation.

Bauer participated in a PARCC trial last school year but did not take PARCC this year because seniors are not tested.

After Bauer's presentation, Education Commissioner David Hespe said the state will take "a hard look" at the impact of testing time and the lack of motivation among high school students.

"As always with the initial years of a new assessment, we give students a lot of time to learn the material before we make it a high-stakes test," Hespe said. "Unfortunately, that is a dual edge sword."

Hespe indicated the state is nearing 1.6 million completed PARCC exams, which means close to 800,000 students have already taken the tests in English and math. The state originally projected that 896,000 would participate.

The testing window was originally supposed to end last week, but was extended through this week because of snow days during March. High schools with block scheduling will continue testing through April, Hespe said.

Student Residency

The Board moved for final adoption, amendments to the current Student Residency regulations,  N.J.A.C.6A:22, in light of recent legislation, P.L.2013, c.231 related to children in family crisis.  That legislation permits a child who moves out of a school district due to a family crisis to remain enrolled in that district until the end of the school year.    If the child remains enrolled in the district for the remainder of the school year, the district is responsible for providing transportation services to the child, provided the child lives "remote" from the school. The law defines “remote” for an elementary school pupil as living more than two miles from the school, while a secondary school pupil is considered remote if he or she lives more than 2 1 / 2 miles from the school. The state is responsible for paying the cost of the transportation services

·         Powerpoint: Student Residency Proposal

Religious Holiday Calendar

Also approved was the Religious Holiday Calendar for the 2015/16 school year.  Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:36-14 through 16 and N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(j), the Commissioner of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, is charged with the responsibility of establishing annually the calendar of approved religious holidays for which an absence must be excused.

School Libraries Recognized

In addition, the Board received a brief presentation from the New Jersey School Library Association on the benefit of school libraries to students and schools.  The Board approved a resolution recognizing April as School Library month.

Fiscal Accountability Reg Change

Moreover, the Board had a first discussion at proposal level, changes to the current Fiscal Accountability regulations in light of litigation that made clear that regulation was not consistent with N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-12, because of statutory modification wrought by the enactment of P.L. 2000, c. 142 which repealed the part of the Charter School Act that provided the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) discretion to reduce a school district’s charter school payment below the statutory per pupil rate.

According to current law, school districts must pay a charter school an amount equal to 90 percent of the sum of the budget year equalization aid per pupil and the pre-budget year general fund tax levy per pupil inflated by the consumer price index (CPI). Prior to the amendments made to the Charter School Act in 2000, the law provided the Commissioner the authority to require a school district to pay more or less than 90 percent of the per pupil amount. Since the section authorizing the Commissioner’s discretion was removed, repealing the rule at N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-22.4(e) will align the section with current statute.

Enlargement of Purpose Proposals

Further, the Board had a first glimpse at two proposals made by the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission as well as the Passaic County Educational Services Commission to expand what the Commissions can provide in the way of educational services beyond what is currently authorized by the State Board of Education.  Currently law establishes base parameters for the services an Ed Services Commission provides but allows the State Board of Education to expand the scope of work of a Commission if it deems it appropriate.  Both the entities are seeking enlargement of purpose in light of their expanded activities in their region of New Jersey.  The Board is expected to take further testimony from both entities, as well as the public at next month’s meeting scheduled for May 6. 

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board additionally approved six full and three 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.