At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday June 1, the State Board of Education heard a presentation on the topic of the state’s high school graduation requirements, and took testimony in the afternoon from education stakeholders and members of the public who wanted to testify about the proposed regulations that will govern graduation requirements. NJSBA was among the groups testifying.

The State Board heard a presentation about New Jersey’s graduation requirements. New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) staff said that while the state’s four-year graduation rate was 88.6 percent in 2014, remediation rates at New Jersey’s two- and four-year colleges were higher than the graduation rate would indicate. The challenge is ensuring all students leave high school with the necessary knowledge and skills while empowering schools to implement curriculum and instructional programs. According to NJDOE, other states have used various strategies to accomplish this, including ensuring that course content is consistent in schools throughout the state; ensuring through statewide retention policies that students achieve certain benchmarks early in their K-12 education; putting into place assessments in early and middle grades to identify individual student needs and close instructional gaps and requiring students to demonstrate competencies through a statewide test (with appropriate accommodations for students who need them.)

John Burns, NJSBA counsel, testified on the NJDOE’s proposed changes to the graduation requirements, communicating to the state board NJSBA’s beliefs about graduation requirements and standardized assessments.

NJSBA’s testimony was guided by the new policy adopted at the May Delegate Assembly regarding testing and graduation requirements.

The NJDOE proposal requires that students graduating in 2016 through 2019 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 test, such as the SAT or ACT, or meeting the criteria of the NJDOE’s portfolio appeal process.

In the proposal, 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 through 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.

Career and Technical Education The State Board also heard about a variety of different programs and initiatives regarding career and technical education. Staff from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) staff provided an overview of some basic facts and figures about career and technical education. There are more than 76,000 students who participate in career and technical education at either one of the county technical schools or one of 97 high schools in the state that offer career and technical education.

The State Board also heard from Dennis Bone, chair of the State Employment and Training Commission, on efforts to make sure that New Jersey’s career and technical education programs are meeting the needs of the workforce. The State Board also heard from staff and students at some high schools around the state regarding their career and technical programs including: Lower Cape May Regional,Morris County Vocational School District and the Union City School District

Educator Effectiveness The State Board continued its discussions concerning amendments to its regulations on educator effectiveness. These amendments support the education department’s comprehensive vision of preparing all students for success through the particular lens of educator effectiveness – specifically, professional development and evaluation. The proposed amendments are based on advice and input from teachers, support staff, and school and school district leaders, and are intended to better align educators’ individual professional development plans (PDPs). Additionally, the proposed amendments ensure a focus on evaluation procedures that help to increase the rigor and quality of professional feedback and professional growth, while eliminating procedures that are burdensome to administrators without directly improving practice.

In addition, the State Board made appointments to the State Special Education Advisory Council. The Council advises the department of unmet needs within the state in the education of children with disabilities; comments publicly on any rules or regulations proposed by the department regarding the education of children with disabilities; advises the department in developing evaluations and reporting on data to the Secretary of the United States Department of Education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; advises the NJDOE in developing corrective action plans to address findings identified in federal monitoring reports and advises the department in developing and implementing policies relating to the coordination of services for children with disabilities.

The State Board also heard a request from the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission to expand its scope of services.

The State Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for July 13.