-Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Assistant Director of Government Relations
The New Jersey State Board of Education held its monthly public business meeting on July 12, 2023. During this meeting, the State Board introduced the new Permanent Student Representative for the 2023/2024 school year, Nilanjana Ghosh from West Windsor-Plainsboro high school; heard discussion on a Resolution to Establish Performance Level Cut Scores for Dynamic Learning Maps; heard discussion on a Resolution to Establish Revised PRAXIS Tests and Qualifying Scores for PRAXIS General Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences and New Test and Qualifying Score for the Computer Science Endorsement Presentation; and voted to approve the readoption with amendments of N.J.A.C. 6A:15, Bilingual Education, which sets forth the requirements for LEAs that identify students as multilingual learners (previously called English language learners). NJPSA’s Multilingual Learners Committee worked directly with the NJPSA Government Relations department in submitting regulatory comments on the code proposal. The input provided to the NJDOE and the State Board by NJPSA and several other stakeholder groups was received favorably by the State. Our Association’s suggestions are reflected in the amendments of the final readopted code.
In written testimony, NJPSA applauded the Department’s efforts to ensure that MLs are viewed with an asset-based lens, and to ensure the inclusion of preschool MLs in the chapter. However, NJPSA continually expressed concern with how MLs may meet the world language or ELA course requirements for high school graduation. The practice of applying for ELA credits to meet the required world language or ELA graduation course credits is a common practice in many high schools throughout the State. In code comments provided to the Department, NJPSA requested that the State adopt a uniform approach for all school districts across the State to follow N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.4(k), and urged that students who are grappling with a new language (or language(s)) at the high school level, be valued and recognized for their work in ESL classes. NJPSA further stated that credits awarded by one public high school should count equally for ELA or a world language at any other public high school in New Jersey to ensure that the credits continue to be counted if a student transfers between New Jersey school districts. The State should not place MLs at a further disadvantage because one high school had a policy that allows students to apply ESL course credit toward course credits required to graduate, while the high school to which a student transfers does not allow such credits to apply.
The NJDOE and the State Board of Education agreed with NJPSA that supporting students’ pathways toward graduation and post-secondary success is important. The State also agreed that MLs must be provided clear notice about how they may meet their graduation requirements and whether they may apply credits earned in ESL courses to their world language or ELA credit requirements. Accordingly, the Department reexamined the proposed policy that would require all district boards of education to establish a process to approve individualized student learning opportunities that meet or exceed the NJSLS. The newly adopted language replaces “may develop and adopt a policy that sets forth how MLs may meet” with “shall establish a process for how MLs in high school.”
The Department also agreed with NJPSA that the proposed N.J.A.C. 6A:15-1.4(k) would not treat MLs equally throughout the State, and would therefore, be unfair and inequitable. The families of MLs are often mobile. If a ML student moves from one school district to another, ESL credits toward world language or ELA credits must be universally accounted for on a student’s transcript or report card. The Department agreed with NJPSA that the need for uniformity regarding student transcript practices for transferring MLs to be of equal importance to the uniformity in coursework policies related to individualized learning opportunities. Therefore, the Department added that the school district must verify on the student’s record that the applicable ESL credits meet or exceed the NJSLS at the high school level. This amended language ensures that ML students will not lose credit when they transfer from one high school to another.
The regulatory changes that were adopted will become effective in August 2023. The NJDOE created a brief summary of the key regulatory changes, which focus on four key areas: Definitions: (shifting to asset-based language); Identification, including preschool students; Organization: strengthening program design; and, Additions: building educator capacity.
Over the coming months the NJDOE will develop additional guidance and resources and will host professional learning opportunities to support LEAs as they implement the new requirements under Chapter 15. Look for future broadcast memos for announcements about these upcoming resources. For additional information and background on the Bilingual Education Code Readoption with Amendments, please click here.
Prior to the meeting adjourning, Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan provided an update to the State Board and the public on the NJDOE’s efforts to continue to pursue the use of ASVAB as a second pathway for high school graduation. At this time, the Department is currently unable to include ASVAB as a pathway for graduation as they have in the past. However, the Acting Commissioner shared that the Department remains in active conversations with the Department of Defense and is “working to understand how we can, over time, possibly gain access to the data so it is not a lost cause”, further explaining that the Department is aware that people are very concerned. Allen-McMillan stated that they “are optimistic that it may change” and “believe this will not thwart anyone from achieving their goals”. NJPSA will continue to keep members updated with any changes to the use of the ASVAB as a pathway to high school graduation.
The State Board of Education will meet again for a monthly public business meeting on August 2nd, 2023.
*Special thank you to the members of NJPSA’s Multilingual Learners Committee who actively worked with the NJPSA Government Relations team on the Chapter 15 code proposal.
If you would like to get more involved in advocacy and are interested in education policy, please consider joining the NJPSA Legislative Committee. We meet approximately every other month during the school year to discuss and develop positions on pending legislation and regulations. We always have lively and often entertaining discussions! For more information or to join our committee, please contact your NJPSA Government Relations team: Department Director Debbie Bradley email@example.com or Assistant Director Jennie Lamon firstname.lastname@example.org.