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At its March meeting, the State Board of Education heard a variety of reports and presentations on topics ranging from cybersecurity to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Highlights included the following:

Passaic County Technical Institute—The PCTI gave a presentation to the State Board about the offerings of the PCTI. The PCTI has 3500 students and offers a variety of courses across ten different programs of study and four different academies. The school has a graduation rate of 99 percent. To read more about PCTI go here:

Cybersecurity – The State Board received an update on the N.J. Department of Education’s (NJDOE’s) efforts to secure all of the student and teacher data that it works with on a daily basis. The NJDOE works with the state Office of Information Technology and the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness to provide the necessary safeguards to protect education information and data from intrusion, modification, disruption and/or destruction. Read more about the presentation.

ESSA—The State Board received another update on the Every Student Succeeds Act. The state released its proposed plan for comment. All comments are due to the NJDOE by March 20, 2017. Comment on the proposed plan.

The federal government then has 120 days to approve New Jersey’s plan.

New Jersey’s plan has the following main components: rigorous standards, assessments, supports for students and educators, supports for districts and schools, accountability, equity and engagement. For local districts, the goal will be to create state-level support for schools and districts that feature more targeted efforts around remediation and collaboration – not a one-size-fits-all intervention. Also, the NJDOE hopes to engage schools and districts in a cohesive manner that aligns the efforts of NJDOE program offices, county offices and regional achievement centers.

Bilingual Teachers —The State Board adopted a new passing score for the written test for bilingual proficiency. It is hoped that by adjusting the passing score, the State Board will be able to address a critical shortage of bilingual teachers in New Jersey.

Religious Holidays—The State Board amended the religious calendar for the current school year, adding two more holidays to the calendar. The board also began its discussions of the religious holiday calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. State law requires the NJDOE to prepare a list of religious holidays on which it shall be mandatory to excuse a student. The list, however, is to be a minimum list. Boards of education, at their discretion, may add other days to the list for the schools of their districts.

Social-Emotional Learning – The State Board began its consideration of social and emotional learning competencies. Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the process through which children and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The purpose of the SEL competencies is to provide schools with guidelines for integrating SEL across grades and subject areas. The competencies will help to promote positive school climates, regular attendance, and academic achievement in all subject areas and across all grade levels to prepare students for post-secondary success.