This is a press release from the New Jersey Democrats. For background, see here, here, here and here.
Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Shirley K. Turner, which would require the Department of Education to quantify the impact remote instruction has had on students around the state, passed the Senate today. Senator Ruiz has continually raised concerns about learning loss since schools first closed in March.
“More than ever, it is abundantly clear there is a need for real-time data on where our children stand academically,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “If we are genuinely committed to closing the achievement gap we must acknowledge there was a divide pre-COVID, we must assess how it has grown throughout the pandemic, and we must invest post-COVID to ensure that it does not continue to grow.
“The New Jersey Children’s Foundation report has proven what we feared would be the case, which is that minority, low-income families are struggling the most with remote instruction. Additionally, with the postponement of the Fall block of assessments and more schools going remote every day, we cannot wait for the results of Spring standardized tests. We need data as soon as possible so we can take action and prevent further learning loss amongst our most vulnerable students.”
The bill, S3214, would require the DOE to compile a learning loss report that identifies and quantifies the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student academic outcomes. The report, which would be due to the Legislature and the Governor 60 days after enactment, would provide analysis broken down by various factors including, district size, grade and subject areas as well as students race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability or disability and English language proficiency.
“In every sense, this pandemic has hit minority and low-income communities the hardest and it is crucial that our recovery efforts take that into account,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer / Hunterdon). “Many of our students who were already struggling have been further set back due to a lack of access to technology and difficulty connecting with their teachers. We must be calculated in our attempts to bring these students back up to speed and that can only happen if we have the necessary data to identify our greatest areas of need.”
The bill would also require a complete report on schools’ operation from mid-March until the bill’s effective date outlining instruction formats, student and teacher access to technology, attendance rates and policies, and social-emotional supports provided, as well as other relevant data and information surrounding the student success.
The Department of Education announced in November that there would not be any standardized tests held in the Fall, instead, Fall assessments will be included with the Spring assessments. Also, the New Jersey Children’s Foundation recently issued a report alongside JerseyCAN and the Global Strategy Group on the impact of the coronavirus on the new school year.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 38-1.