State Board Gets Update On Achieve NJ, Has Discussion on SEL & Moves NJQSAC Proposal Forward At May Meeting

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The New Jersey State Board of Education maintained a healthy agenda at their May meeting, hearing from the Department of Education on AchieveNJ, having a second discussion on proposed NJQSAC changes, approving the Religious Holiday calendar for next year and discussing the potential adoption of Social & Emotional Learning competencies.  The Board also recognized May as Physical Education and Sport Month.

AchieveNJ: Educator Evaluation

In possibly one of the larger segments of the May meeting, the Board received a presentation from the Department of Education on progress of teacher and principal evaluation under AchieveNJ.   Members of the Office of Evaluation spoke about how better performance information coupled with the right professional development has yielded increased effectiveness, and positive results for students.  They also shared how AchieveNJ has provided a more nuanced and informative picture of educator performance.

Per the Department, teachers at all performance levels are improving, with 2/3 of teachers identified as less-than-effective improving their practice through targeted coaching, and the number of Highly Effective teachers growing annual over the last three years.  Districts are also retaining  and growing their best teachers with over 95 percent of effective and highly effective teachers staying in the profession.

As for school leaders, survey results show that over half school leaders spend a majority of their time on activities that contribute to teacher efficacy and student learning now, with principals indicating that they are having more frequent conversations around principal practice.

The presentation also highlighted the work of the Achievement Coach program which operates in 28 school districts.   Achievement Coaches are Highly Effective educators who provide high quality professional development to their peers while growing as leaders.

Evaluation of the Performance of School Districts – NJQSAC

Beyond presentations, however, the Board had a second discussion on proposed changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:30, Evaluation of the Performance of School Districts – the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).  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.

account align

The proposal includes amendments to the Instruction and Programming, Governance, Fiscal Management, Operations and Personnel DPRs as follows:


I&P2 I&P3





The state board is not expected to adopt the proposed changes until the fall, after further discussions and public comment.


NJPSA had an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal yesterday.

Any amendments are proposed to take effect in the 2018-19 school year, giving districts next year to adapt to the changes.


HIB Amendment

The State Board also took testimony from NJPSA on recently proferred amendments to the current 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.  LegalOne Director David Nash provided the testimony from the Association.

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.

Social and Emotional Learning Competencies

In addition, the Board had a second discussion on adoption of the New Jersey Social and Emotional Learning Competencies (SEL) which seek to promote positive school climates, regular attendance, and academic achievement in all subject areas and across all grade levels to prepare students for post-secondary success.   The competencies were developed in conjunction with educators from around the State.

Unfortunately not all of the current State Board membership is sold on adoption of the competencies which came up during the discussion yesterday.   Members were encouraged to visit a school district actively utilizing them as part of their program in the coming days.  NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright weighed in in support of the proposal last month.

The Department hopes to have the Board adopt the competencies at a future meeting (Proposed Resolution to Support Social and Emotional Learning Competencies).  The Department has launched a webpage that includes resources for educators.

Student Transportation (Abigail’s Law)

Further, the Board reviewed changes to a student transportation regulatory proposal released late last year that seeks to amend N.J.A.C 6A:27 in light of the enactment of Abigail’s Law.  That law required school buses manufactured on or after July 17, 2016, to be equipped with a sensor system to detect the presence of a person(s) or object(s) in the front and rear of the bus.   The sensor system is to include an audible and visual alert signal placed in the driver’s compartment to alert the driver when a person(s) or object(s) is detected within the sensor’s designated range.

Unfortunately, out of the public comment process, which ended in December, it became apparent that additional regulatory changes were required in light of technical limitations of current technology.  Public testimony is scheduled for next month on the proposed amendments to the proposal.

Regulatory Equivalency and Waiver

The Board also had a first look at proposed changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:5, Regulatory Equivalency and Waiver.  These rules provide regulatory flexibility for school districts and other institutions regulated by Titles 6 and 6A of the Administrative Code.  The chapter is scheduled to expire on October 20, 2017.

The rules govern the equivalency and waiver process and provide the opportunity for regulatory flexibility for school districts and most programs regulated by the Department:

  • An equivalency is permission to meet the requirements of a rule through an alternative means selected by the district board of education.
  • A waiver allows a district board of education to avoid compliance with the specific procedures or substantive requirements of a rule for reasons that are educationally, organizationally, and fiscally sound.

The rules require a school district’s educational community, including parents, administration, and staff members, to be informed of the proposed equivalency or waiver and provided the opportunity to comment.  Among the amendments proposed are:

  • An amendment to N.J.A.C. 6A:5-1.1(b), to affirmatively include renaissance schools, county vocational school districts, and county special services school districts;
  • A change to N.J.A.C. 6A:5-1.3(a)1, to require an equivalency or waiver demonstrate the spirit and intent of New Jersey Statutes Title 18A, applicable Federal laws and regulations, and the New Jersey Administrative Code Title 6 and 6A are served by granting the request; and
  • Changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:4, Appeals which define that an equivalency or waiver can be challenged by initiating a contested case before the Commissioner pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:3, Controversies and Disputes with additional appeal rights from a Commissioner of Education decision to the Appellate Division

Educational Facilities

Additionally, the Department had a second discussion on 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.

City of Newark – School Qualified Bonds

The Board also approved the adoption of an amended application to allow the City of Newark to issue $30,582,031 of School Qualified Bonds, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:24-88(b) for school construction purposes.

Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf

Further, the Board had a first discussion on re-adoption of N.J.A.C. 6A:21, that relates to the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf.  The Board received an overview of the school’s program from the school’s acting superintendent as well as a review of technical changes to the code provision.

The school was established in 1883, in accordance with state law.  It serves auditorily impaired (Deaf and Hard-of Hearing) students from 3 to age 21.  Approximately 80% of the students are multiply-disabled.  The school currently serves 104 students in the Early Childhood Program, Elementary School, Middle School, High School and Behavioral Support Program.  Approximately 30 of those students are residential.  Current staff include a superintendent, business administrator, building principals, counselors, social worker, audiologist, behavior consultant, speech/language pathologist, teachers, teaching assistants, personal assistants (for students who need them), residential staff, housekeepers, buildings and grounds workers, cafeteria employees.

Private Career & Technical Education Changes

The Board also got a first blush of changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:19-7 which regulate the private career schools.  What is interesting about this code provision is that, the New Jersey Department of Education’s regulations must be adopted in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s (NJDLWD) rules regarding private career schools at N.J.A.C. 12:41.  NJDLWD adopted amendments on December 19.   As such, amendments are being recommended to N.J.A.C. 6A:19-7 to align the two provisions.

Specifically the code proposal:

  • Reinforces connections between Labor Workforce Development’s code and the Department of Education’s code by inserting references to Labor Workforce Development’s code throughout the subchapter
  • Removes repealed and/or amended statutory references
  • Aligns definitions and school requirements to Labor Workforce Development’s code, including switching from an annual application for renewal to a biennial application

Additional Items

Finally, the Board had a first discussion on its State Board Calendar of Meetings, approved the Religious Holiday Calendar for the 2017-18 school year, approved a title change and appointment, recognized May as Physical Education and Sport Month, heard from Evesham Township students on their work as part of the STEAM competition (ISTEAM TEAM Presentation), and certified several school districts under NJQSAC (26 reviews (13 full and 13 interim) with 3 districts scoring 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and 23 districts scoring below 80% in one or more DPR areas – Appendix A lists all of the districts and their DPR scores).

The Board also announced the formation of their nominating committee for Board leadership for next year.  Board Member Edie Fulton will serve as chair, with Board Members Aponte and LePore serving on the committee.  The committee is expected to announce its recommend slate at the meeting in June.