The Joint Committee on Public Schools, consisting of New Jersey state legislators, held a hearing this week on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.  All New Jersey education associations were invited to speak at the hearing.  The committee asked for overview and concerns that pertained to ESSA.

Sharon Seyler, NJSBA legislative advocate, provided testimony on behalf of New Jersey School Boards Association.   Seyler sits on a stakeholder group with the N.J. Department of Education and all New Jersey education associations that meet bi-weekly to discuss the implementation of the new reauthorization on the federal level.

Her testimony focused on aspects of the law and how it affects N.J. public school districts.

The intent of ESSA pertains to local control. This will allow the state Department of Education to be able to make decisions of what works best for New Jersey. NJSBA anticipates that local board members will have a say in the interventions needed in school districts, as local stakeholder input is required.

The U.S. Department of Education still insists on minimum participation on state testing and maintains the 95 percent participation. When it comes to testing, NJSBA believes that there should be alternative testing options.

Intervention continues with the bottom 5 percent of low performing schools and in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or less. Currently, in New Jersey the regional achievement centers that are funded by Title I funds implement intervention in the lowest-performing schools, categorized as priority and focus schools.

The principle of maintenance of effort will also remain in place, requiring states to keep up their own spending at a particular level in order to tap federal money.

Seyler also emphasized in her testimony how the implementation of ESSA has opened lines of communication with the New Jersey Department of Education, as the department has asked for assistance on one of their main responsibilities, stakeholder engagement. She explained that a dialogue with all of the New Jersey education associations has also been established. “We are all part of the ESSA stakeholder engagement group and we are proud to be a part of the reauthorization and will do our best to see that boards of education understand the modifications that will be coming soon and hope that they will benefit from the new plan,” she said.