The State Board of Education got a first glimpse of proposed changes to NJQSAC and set a calendar for approval of changes to current code as it relates to investigation of harassment intimidation and bullying (HIB) incidents at their April board meeting. The board also approved NJPSA member Fidelia Sturdivant to the State Board of Examiners, approved a significant payment to EIRC and moved several additional code proposals related to Student Residency, Interdistrict Public School Choice and Educational Facilities forward.
The Board received a presentation from the Department on their submission of the state accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act as well as implementation plans the Department plans to work toward (NJDOE Submits ESSA Plan to Feds, April 6, 2017).
The Department argues that the plan allows the State to examine:
- How the data we collect reflect state policies which are meant to identify and address academic gaps where specific student groups are not progressing toward meeting and excelling beyond college and career readiness at the same rate as their peers;
- While help ensuring that all accountability systems (state, local, federal), include common language and complement one another to create achievable and aligned goals for students, educators and districts and to provide a cohesive set of supports from districts and NJDOE program offices, county offices and regional achievement centers; and
- Where possible, streamline and simplify existing accountability systems and related improvement plans (school- and district-level) that are at times duplicative and/or overly time intensive
Current accountability in New Jersey is defined through three primary accountability systems, each with a unique set of indicators and/or requirements.
New Jersey is using the shift from NCLB to ESSA and the re-adoption of NJQSAC regulations as an opportunity to align its accountability and support systems to more accurately and fairly measure student, school and district performance. This includes changes to New Jersey’s performance reports.
Dovetailing out of the discussion on state accountability generally, the Board had a first discussion on proposed changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:30, Evaluation of the Performance of School Districts. The meeting kicked off a months-long discussion on revising New Jersey’s evaluation system for school districts, known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) review. QSAC regulations, first adopted in 2007 and renewed in 2012, are up for re-adoption this year.
Proposed changes are part of a broader effort to clarify, align and simplify New Jersey’s accountability systems, as well as accurately reflect key state initiatives such as the adoption of New Jersey Student Learning Standards, PARCC assessments, ESSA school accountability and AchieveNJ educator evaluation system. The proposal includes amendments to the Instruction and Programming, Governance, Fiscal Management, Operations and Personnel DPRs as follows:
The state board is not expected to adopt the proposed changes until the fall, after further discussions and public comment. Any amendments are proposed to take effect in the 2018-19 school year, giving districts next year to adapt to the changes.
- Appendix A
- Appendix B
- Appendix C
- Current: Appendix C
The Department also proposed changes to clarify existing rules within the Programs to Support Student Development code, N.J.A.C. 6A:16, related to implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act and in response to recommendations proposed by the Anti-Bullying Task Force. The changes will take a unique procedural pathway to lead to eventual adoption tentatively scheduled for October 2017.
Among the changes are those related to:
A.Sensitivity to LGBTQ Youth:
- Requires school district official take into account the circumstances of the incident when providing notification to parents and guardians of all students involved in the reported HIB incidents and when conveying the nature of the incident, including the actual or perceived protected category motivating the alleged offense. N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2viii(2) and 6A:16-7.8(a)3viii(2)
- Protects the victim by taking into account the circumstances of the incident when communicating with parents (and for public school districts, when following the provisions of N.J.S.A. 18A:37-15). N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(3) and 6A:16-7.8(a)3ix(6)
B. The investigatory process:
- The proposal also changes the HIB Investigation process slightly. The procedure permits the district board of education policy to include, as part of the investigation, a process prior to initiating an investigation by which the principal, or his or her designee, in consultation with the anti-bullying specialist, makes a preliminary determination as to whether a reported incident or complaint, assuming all facts presented are true, is a report.
- If a preliminary determination finds the incident or complaint is a report outside the scope of N.J.S.A. 18A:37-14, the determination may be appealed to the district board of education, pursuant to district board of education policies and procedures governing pupil grievances, and thereafter to the Commissioner in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:3.
In addition, the amendment extends the timeline from 45 to 60 days for parents or guardians to request a hearing before the district board of education concerning the written information they receive about a HIB investigation.
Finally, the proposal makes changes to the process a Private School for Students With Disabilities (PSSD) and a sending district board(s) of education must use when a student attending a PSSD is involved in an HIB incident occurring on a sending district board of education school bus, or at a sending district board of education school-sponsored functions and off school grounds.
A specialized timetable for review of the amendments was also proferred.
The Board additionally approved the appointment of Ms. Fidelia Sturdivant, Principal of Mildred Barry Garvin Elementary School East Orange School District and NJPSA member to the State Board of Education.
N.J.S.A. 18A:6-38 provides the State Board of Examiners with authority for issuing, revoking and suspending educational certificates under rules prescribed by the State Board of Education. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-34, the membership of the State Board of Examiners must include an assistant commissioner, a county superintendent, two presidents of State colleges, two district superintendents, a high school principal, an elementary school principal, a school business administrator, a librarian, and four teaching staff members other than a superintendent, principal, school business administrator or librarian. Ms. Sturdivant’s appointment satisfies the elementary school principal requirement.
The Board also took testimony on the Department’s Social & Emotional Learning Competencies (SEL) developed in conjunction with educators from around the State. NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright weighed in on the proposal.
The Department hopes to have the Board adopt the competencies at a future meeting (Proposed Resolution to Support Social and Emotional Learning Competencies). Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps students develop the understanding, strategies and skills to:
- Support a positive sense of self
- Promote respectful relationships
- Recognize and manage their own emotions
- Make responsible decisions
These competencies promote positive school climates and prepare students for post-secondary success. SEL programs are shown to reduce student high-risk behaviors. Students in SEL programs are more likely to attend school, less likely to have conduct problems and receive better grades. Students with explicit SEL instruction: Gain self-discipline and initiative; Improve their communication skills and ability to advocate; Are better able to work with others, understand differing viewpoints and collaborate; and Have an understanding of social responsibility and their role as citizens.
The competencies were developed in concert with stakeholders, including principals, teachers, and other school leaders, as well as the Association over the last two years. The work group went in the direction of ‘competencies’ rather than ‘standards’ to allow for better developmental progression and to also support educators with strategies and resources for each competency.
The competencies are meant to be implemented across the curriculum at all grade levels. They include five (5) core competencies (Self Management, Self Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making) as well as several sub-competencies as follows:
The Department has launched a webpage that includes resources for educators.
The Board also took testimony on changes to the Charter School proposal. The State Board of Education took the uncharacteristic step last month to reject a portion of a proposal pushed by the Christie administration that would have weakened certification requirements for principals, business administrators and teachers. The proposal was sold as a means to provide more flexibility to charter schools. The board voted, 5-2-1, with one abstention, to remove the pilot certification program from the overall package of proposed regulatory changes. It then voted, 6-2, to publish the rest of the proposals in the New Jersey Register. NJPSA weighed in the amended proposal, saying thanks to the Board for their leadership.
The Board additionally approved an emergency appropriation for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) in the amount of $1,118,600 to allow the organization to continue to provide support to districts, including broad-band coverage. Current law, N.J.S.A. 18A:58-11, permits school districts to receive emergency aid to meet unforeseeable conditions. The organization is currently unable to meet its financial obligations to provide contracted essential services and the disruption is expected to have a negative impact on students and districts. EIRC announced it was ceasing operations at the end of March, with officials saying the agency lost more than $3.7 million in the last three years.
The EIRC is a state-created local education agency formed to serve school districts and municipalities in New Jersey with various services, including training and purchasing. The center, based at Camden County College, employed about 42 full-time staff members as well as several grant-funded positions. It’s not clear how many remain following Wednesday’s funding announcement. The bailout comes after news that a company doing business with EIRC has sued the agency claiming it is owned $480,000.
The resolution caps the amount of aid at no more than $3,323,817. Disbursements will be meted out monthly from now till the end of the fiscal year.
Further, the Board voted to readopt N.J.A.C. 6A:12, Interdistrict Public School Choice, without amendments. The chapter is designed to assist school districts interested in applying to and implementing the Interdistrict Public School Choice program (choice program).
Similarly, the Board approved at adoption level, the re-adoption of N.J.A.C. 6A:23A, Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency, and Budgeting Procedures, Subchapters 16 through 22 with minor, predominantly grammatical amendments.
In addition, in January 2016, P.L. 2016, c. 269 was enacted to permit certain children of military members to remain in their school district of residence when their parent or guardian is ordered into active duty (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-3.1). The proposed regulation adopted today references the new law wherever applicable existing law is referenced.
The Department also proposed minor amendments to emergency regulations adopted back in July of last year related to testing for lead in the drinking water of school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, jointure commissions, educational services commissions, approved private schools for students with disabilities, State-funded early childcare facilities pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:13A, and receiving schools as defined by N.J.A.C. 6A:14-7.1(a).
The Department worked in consultation with the NJDEP to develop guidance documents for districts. The emergency adoption of the regulations was authorized by the Fiscal Year 2017 State budget (P.L. 2016, c. 10), which also appropriated $10 million to reimburse district boards of education for costs associated with the required testing. The regulations expire June 30, 2017. As of this date, 62 percent of districts and 52 percent of charters have completed testing, of which 47 districts were eligible for reimbursement. Over 75 districts had results above action levels.
Among the changes proposed are the following:
- Addressing testing in ‘Twenty-four-hour school facilities” which are facilities that host residents on-site year round, which require the availability of water at all hours, employ staff on site 24 hours a day, and/or are care facilities such as hospitals with educational programs provided at the facilities;
- Outlining rules for district boards of education granted an extension of time to conduct initial testing beyond the July 13, 2017, deadline to complete the initial testing no later than July 13, 2018. District boards of education that completed initial testing prior to July 13, 2017, must perform follow-up testing in accordance with a schedule;
Moreover, the Board honored Assistant Commissioner Sue Martz on her 29 years of service to the students of New Jersey.
Finally, the Board designated April 2017 as School Library Month by resolution and approved 13 interim and 8 full reviews under NJQSAC. Appendix A lists all of the districts and their DPR scores. Four districts scored 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and were approved for a period of three years. Seventeen 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.