The State Board of Education recognized the first school districts in the state’s new “Lighthouse Initiative,” and received other updates, at its monthly meeting on Nov. 1.

Lighthouse Initiative— This N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) initiative is a program to recognize districts that have achieved academic growth in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics across groups of student subgroups. The initiative highlights stories of student success by showcasing district efforts to:

  • Set high academic standards;
  • Use assessment data to identify student needs;
  • Provide the necessary educational supports for students; and
  • Assist educators to engage and create a sustainable support network.

The districts that were highlighted in this round of recognition include:

  • Mainland Regional High School District, Atlantic County
  • Beverly City School District, Burlington County
  • Black Horse Pike Regional School District, Camden County
  • Cape May City School District, Cape May County
  • Highlands School District, Monmouth County
  • Mine Hill Township School District, Morris County
  • Washington Township School District, Warren County

NJQSAC—The State Board of Education adopted revised NJQSAC (N.J. Quality Single Accountability Continuum) regulations. The regulations include updated requirements for county special services school districts, and regular school districts that will go into effect in July 2018. The State Board also readopted the current district performance review indicators for regular public school districts and county special services school districts. The NJQSAC monitoring and evaluation system for school districts establishes a comprehensive single accountability system. Under NJQSAC, school districts are evaluated in five key component areas of school district effectiveness—instruction and program, fiscal management, governance, personnel, and operations—to determine the extent to which a thorough and efficient education is being provided to students within the school district. The standards and criteria used to evaluate school districts assess both actual achievement and progress toward proficiency; school district capacity to operate without state intervention; and the need for state support and assistance. Once a school district is identified under NJQSAC as requiring assistance in one or more of the five areas of school district effectiveness, the DOE and the school district work collaboratively to improve school district performance in the identified targeted area(s).

The measures used to achieve this goal include department evaluations of the school district, collaborative development of a district improvement plan, close monitoring of the plan’s implementation, and the provision of technical assistance, as appropriate. If a school district fails to develop or implement an improvement plan as required, or other emergent circumstances warrant, the NJDOE may seek full or partial intervention in the school district to effect the changes necessary to build local capacity to provide a thorough and efficient education. NJQSAC provides an in-depth assessment of school district practices and capacity in each of the five areas of school district effectiveness. As a result, the NJDOE can target remedial measures, such as technical assistance or partial or full intervention, to the areas of need in a particular school district. In addition, NJQSAC provides clear guidelines for initiating and withdrawing from partial or full state intervention in a school district.

HIB regulations—As reported earlier in SBN, the State Board of Education adopted revised regulations affecting how investigations are carried out and the joint responsibilities of private schools for students with disabilities and local districts in implementing effective HIB programs.

Standards and Assessment—The State Board also began discussions on the assessment of fifth grade students in science. In spring 2018, New Jersey will be administering a field test of the new assessments, named the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment – Science. The spring 2019 administration is expected to be a baseline year of the new assessments, and it will reflect feedback gathered in the spring 2018 field test. The new science standards have different standards progressions that build upon each other and culminate with the natural opportunity to assess students comprehensively at the end of grade 5 because the elementary science standards (K-5) are specific to each grade level. Many science educators support shifting the assessment to grade 5, as it aligns to the progression of the elementary science standards. Many other states, such as Maryland, Illinois, Delaware and California, have adopted the same science standards New Jersey has, and assess in grade 5. Testing in grade 5 would also ensure students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the entire elementary science standards.