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Yesterday the Education Committee of the New Jersey State Assembly unanimously approved Bill proposal 5374, sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey, and Joann Downey. The text of the bill would have the State Legislature declare that the “COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant uncertainty across nearly all aspects of society, including for students, parents and guardians, teachers, and all other members of the education community,” that “many students have not been in a school building since March 2020,” and that, while state standardized tests are required to be administered this year, “the unprecedented circumstances of the 2020-2021 school year is not likely to yield any meaningful or consistent evaluation of student academic performance.”
Therefore, the bill concludes, “[n]otwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, the New Jersey Department of Education shall submit to the Secretary of the United States Department of Education a formal request seeking a waiver of the student academic assessments required under section 1111(b)(2) of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. s.6311(b)(2)), for the 2020-2021 school year.”
Translation: School closures from the pandemic have made it too unwieldy and inequitable to administer standardized tests. While the Committee acknowledges that the Biden Administration has said it will offer flexibility but no waivers, the New Jersey Department of Education will ask for a waiver anyway.
The proposal now procedes to the full Assembly.
In other Education Committee business, members unanimously (except for one “no” vote on one bill) approved five other bills. One tasks the DOE with closing the digital divide “in certain districts,” another concerns the free speech rights of student journalists, one allows college students with 30 credits to be substitute teachers, one requires civic instruction in middle schools, and one establishes a five-year community schools pilot program.
Here is the formal Bill Statement for A 5374:
“This bill requires the New Jersey Department of Education to submit to the United States Department of Education a formal request seeking a waiver of the student academic assessments required under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). In addition to the federal requirements for submitting a waiver of ESEA statutory or regulatory provisions, the bill requires the New Jersey Department of Education to: 1) compile and report the number of schools providing each full-time in-person instruction, full-time virtual or remote instruction, and hybrid instruction; 2) compile and report the number of students participating in each full-time in-person instruction, full-time virtual or remote instruction, and hybrid instruction; and 3) detail alternative education tools used by each school district to assess student performance, after requesting that each district identify to the New Jersey Department of Education such alternative education tools.”