State Board of Ed Honors School Leaders & Schools At December Meeting

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The State Board of Education, in addition to reviewing changes to the current Standards and Assessment regulations related to science and science assessment, honored a number of school leaders and schools for educational excellence and sustainability.  In addition, the Board vacated last month’s vote on the Programs to Support Student Development code due to a technical issue and readopted the provision.

Standards & Assessment (Second Discussion)

The Board received an overview from members of the Department of justification as to changes to current science standards as it relates particularly to science assessment at the elementary level.  Specifically, the Department is proposing a change that would shift the science assessment from fourth to fifth grade.  Testing changes are being proposed in light of science standards changes that were adopted in 2014.

Specifically, in 2014, New Jersey adopted new standards, which we now call the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Science (NJSLS-S).  These standards were based upon the Next Generation Science Standards and were developed collaboratively with stake-holders in science, science education, higher education, and industry.  The timeline for district implementation of these new standards by grade was as follows:

  • Grades 6-12 by 2016-17;
  • Grades K-5 by 2017-18

In concert with this standards change, the Department also did an assessment audit which found that the new changes required a corresponding change in assessment.  The new science standards have different standards progressions include a natural opportunity to assess students comprehensively at the end of grade 5, rather than in 4th grade, because the elementary science standards (K-5) are specific to each grade level.

Science educators support shifting the assessment to grade 5, as it aligns to the progression of the elementary science standards.

In addition, other states, including Maryland, Illinois, Delaware and California, have adopted the same science standards New Jersey has and assess in grade 5.

In light of this the Department introduced a code proposal that would modify New Jersey Administrative Code from a science assessment in grade 4 to grade 5. Testing in grade 5 would also ensure students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the entire elementary science standards.  The Department is also actively engaged in providing professional development:

In spring of 2018 New Jersey will be administering a field test of the new assessments, named the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment-Science.  The spring 2019 administration is expected to be a baseline year of the new assessments, and it will reflect feedback gathered in the spring 2018 field test.

The NJDOE will be supporting districts by providing:

  • 2018 field test administration guidance for grade 8, high school (typically in grade 11), and grade 5 (pending adoption by the State Board of Education);
  • Information on testing window and testing unit times, and technical and infrastructure guidance;
  • Resources (e.g. sample test questions);
  • Opportunities to participate in test development; and
  • Trainings in the winter and spring for test administrators, and with information for English Language Learners (ELLs) and special education students.

Following the field test in spring 2018, the NJDOE will be seeking feedback from districts and science educators to inform future administrations of the assessments.

Honoring School Leaders & Schools

In addition, the Board honored not only the Elementary Visionary Principal of the Year Dr. Tammy Bowling Jenkins as well as the Secondary Visionary Principal of the Year Dr. John Farinella, but also the Superintendent and Business Administrator of the Year.  Blue Ribbon and Green Ribbon Schools were additionally honored.

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Programs to Support Student Development (final adoption redux)

Finally, the Board reapproved a change to current code in light of a technical issue with last month’s vote.   Specifically, the proposal modified the Programs to Support Student Development code, N.J.A.C. 6A:16, related to implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act in response to recommendations proposed by the Anti-Bullying Task Force.

NJPSA/FEA’s Director of Legal Education Dave Nash has compiled a handy chart that encapsulates the changes:

Among the changes adopted are the following:

  • 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 N.J.A.C.6A:16-7.8(a)3viii(2).  This provision was adopted in response to concerns related to revealing student sexual orientation or gender identity/expression;
  • 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 J.S.A.18A:37-15), N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(3) and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.8(a)3ix(6);
  • Allows districts to modify the HIB Investigation process slightly.  Specifically, the new regulation  permits a district board of education to adopt a 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 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;
  • Requires board policy to include a statement that bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior that may involve a real or perceived power imbalance.  This change is meant to clarify what may constitute HIB;
  • Prohibits a member of the same bargaining unit from investigating claim against fellow member; and
  • Revises the name of the School Safety Team to School Safety/Climate Team to better reflect the work of this group.

In addition, the changes extend 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 some dramatic 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.  Specifically, requires a sending district of the alleged victim to take the lead in investigating incidents and requires PSSD staff to cooperate with sending district in the investigation.