At its most recent monthly meeting, held April 11, the State Board of Education received updates and took action on a variety of items:

School Security  Staff from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) reviewed security requirements for schools in New Jersey. The NJDOE said that since 2014, they have conducted more than 800 active shooter drill observations and over 300 professional development presentations. The laws and regulations related to school security were reviewed with the State Board. These include:

  • N.J.S.A. 18A:41-1, which requires school districts to hold one fire drill and one security drill per month
  • N.J.S.A. 18A:41-9, which requires schools and law enforcement to enter into agreements for real-time video surveillance, if the schools have such capabilities.
  • N.J.S.A. 18A:58-37.8 et seq. “Secure Schools for All Children Act”; which establishes state aid program for security services, equipment, or technology to ensure a safe and secure school environment for nonpublic school students.
  • N.J.S.A. 18A:7G-5.2, which requires certain school security measures to be incorporated in the architectural design of new school construction and certain school security measures for existing buildings.
  • N.J.S.A. 40A:14-146.10, which establishes Class III Special Law Enforcement Officers to provide security in public/nonpublic schools and county colleg

The presentation also included a discussion of the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials (MOA). The MOA has been designed to ensure cooperation between law enforcement and education officials and ultimately to protect staff and students. The MOA requires the annual review of safety and security plans as well as the designation of a school administrator(s) who can act as a liaison with law enforcement. Liaisons are required to attend special training prior to assuming their duties. The MOA also requires the training of all employees in the district to recognize and appropriately respond to safety and security concerns, including emergencies and crises, consistent with the school district’s plans, procedures and mechanisms for school safety and security.

NJDOE staff also talked about ways that school climate can be improved as another means for keeping students safe.  This includes having students and staff utilizing social and emotional learning competencies and positive behavior supports in schools.

Other Actions The State Board honored Edithe Fulton, a former State Board member, for her ten years of service on the board. The Board also adopted a resolution for School Library Month that recognized school libraries as places that foster personalized learning experiences for students by providing collaborative work spaces and an environment conducive to reading and learning, creative expression, investigation and research, professional growth, and curriculum development and enhancement.

The State Board heard an update on progress in the Paterson school district.  The district, with 28,000 students and 54 school buildings, continues to make progress. The district scored an 80 percent or above in its most recent QSAC review. The district has revised much of its curriculum so that it is in alignment with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Paterson has an 87.8 percent graduation rate; however, there are still many challenges for the district, including achievement gaps and problems with facilities.

The State Board also heard an update on the transition of Newark back to local control. The board is currently engaged in a superintendent search and will have a question on the November ballot as to whether it will be an elected or appointed board going forward. Graduation rates increased by nearly 20 percent  with 78 percent of students graduating overall. Teacher retention rates continue to improve with 97 percent of “highly effective educators” and 94 percent of “effective educators” returning. Newark also continues to fill teacher vacancies. At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, NPS had filled nearly 99 percent of all vacancies.

Seal of Biliteracy: The State Board adopted regulations concerning the State Seal of Biliteracy which is intended to do the following: encourage students to study languages; certify attainment of biliteracy; provide employers with a method of identifying people with language and biliteracy skills; provide universities with a method to recognize and award academic credit to applicants seeking admission; prepare students with 21st century skills; recognize and promote foreign language instruction in public schools; and strengthen intergroup relationships, affirm the value of diversity, and honor the multiple cultures and languages of a community.

EdTPA The State Board extended the deadline for a different cut score for this performance assessment for novice teachers. Currently, the department is in the process of collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative edTPA data for New Jersey novice teachers and does not yet have enough data on the performance of Certificate of Eligibility (alternate-route) candidates to make an accurate assessment of what an appropriate cut score would be. The State Board of Education recommended extending setting cut scores by one academic year, to expire on Aug. 31, 2020, at which point a New Jersey-specific standard setting conducted on or before June 1, 2020 will be used to determine a higher cut score.

Religious holidays—The State Board began discussion of the annual calendar of religious holidays for the 2018-2019 school year.  N.J.S.A. 18A:36-14 et seq provides that any student absent from school because of a religious holiday may not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award because of such absence. Students who miss a test or examination because of absence on a religious holiday must be given the right to take an alternate test or examination.  This list lets districts know on what dates the religious holidays fall.