The State Board of Education heard a variety of updates related to PARCC, graduation requirements, the School Ethics Commission and state-operated districts.

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) announced that PARCC item analyses will be released to districts the week of Feb. 22. The State Board also heard from its staff about how districts will be able to use the PARCC results to strengthen their academic programs by working with the information that will be released in the item analyses. In its presentation, NJDOE staff took the board members through some sample items to demonstrate how districts can use the data. The department also said that results for this year’s administration of the PARCC should be available this summer.

Graduation Requirements

The State Board also discussed new graduation proficiency requirements. The end-of-course assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) 10 and Algebra I were selected as the appropriate assessments for students to demonstrate graduation proficiency as the tests appear to align best with the expectations of the knowledge and skills for graduation established in state law.  However, the selection of ELA 10 and Algebra I is being made to ease the transition to a new assessment system and will be reassessed after a few years of implementation.

In addition, the transition of the statewide assessment graduation requirement to end-of-course assessments will need to take place gradually, as some students have already completed content covered by the end-of-course assessments. As such, students graduating in 2016 through 2019 will be able to satisfy the requirement to demonstrate proficiency in English language arts and mathematics through a means other than an end-of-course PARCC assessment, including achieving a passing score on a substitute competency test or meeting the criteria of the department’s portfolio appeal process. Students graduating in the class of 2020 will be permitted to demonstrate graduation proficiency through the same alternative means as those in the classes of 2016 through 2019, provided that students in the class of 2020 take all end-of-course PARCC assessments for which they are eligible as of the effective date of the proposed amendments. Students graduating in 2021 and thereafter who have not demonstrated proficiency on English language arts and mathematics though the end-of-course PARCC assessment by their senior year may demonstrate graduation proficiency by meeting the criteria of the portfolio appeals process.

To assist school districts and students in making a smooth transition to the new assessment system and graduation requirements, the criteria used in the department’s portfolio appeals process for the class of 2016 and thereafter will be similar to the criteria used for the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA) appeals process.

School Ethics Commission

The State Board also heard a proposal to re-adopt the regulations that govern the School Ethics Commission.  These regulations cover how the commission operates and the complaint process, should a board member have a claim filed against them. If local boards of education wish to provide comment on either the proposed graduation requirements or the School Ethics Commission regulations, they may do so here.

State-Operated School Districts

At the meeting, the State Board heard from officials from the Jersey City School District.  The district is the second-largest district in New Jersey with a total enrollment of more than 28,000 students. The district also contains 13 charter schools that educate 5400 students. Jersey City reported that it has also improved its graduation rate from 67 percent in 2014 to 73 percent in 2015.

The State Board also heard from officials in the Paterson School district. Officials there reported that the district has a 78 percent graduation rate. Paterson has a variety of programs designed to enhance the achievement of the students in the district including an intra-district high school choice program and a school breakfast program that has seen expanded participation. The district has also established five community schools.  The State Board, in a related matter, passed a resolution moving the district closer to full local control by giving the school board control over fiscal management and personnel. In 2014, the district gained control over operations from the State Board. Paterson has been under state control since 1991.

Bilingual Education

Finally, the State Board approved new regulations concerning bilingual education. The requirement for school districts to provide bilingual education services is established in state law, which mandates that school districts establish bilingual education programs when the enrollment of limited English proficient (LEP) students in any single language group reaches or exceeds 20 students. Bilingual education programs are required to prepare students to transition into mainstream programs and meet the standards of the regular public school curriculum to “ensure educational opportunity to every child” at the beginning of the school year.

The rules proposed for readoption maintain the focus on achieving results for LEP students, while holding school districts accountable for the results. The rules proposed for readoption with amendments also provide flexibility in the design of bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) services based on the needs of LEP student populations at the school district level and require the development of bilingual and ESL curricula correlated to the State’s academic standards. The chapter also addresses the provision by school districts of developmentally appropriate instruction to eligible preschool LEP students.