Waives exit testing grad requirement

On Jan. 11, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 214, which waives the exit testing requirement for current 12th graders and removes student growth objectives (SGOs) as a factor in teacher evaluation for the 2020-21 school year.

Because statewide standardized tests were not administered last year, median student growth percentiles (mSGPs), which are calculated based on student performance on the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments, were already removed from teacher evaluation for the current school year.

The executive order did not address the administration of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA) this spring. The NJSLA includes the exit-test that fulfills the graduation requirement. To cancel the administration of the NJSLA would require a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. At press time, just prior to the final day of Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Education was not considering any such waivers. In a Jan. 11 press briefing, NJ Spotlight reported that neither the governor nor acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan committed to applying for a waiver should it become available as the Biden administration takes over.

NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, expressed their appreciation for the governor’s actions in a statement following the governor’s State of the State address on Jan. 12.

“Yesterday’s executive order waiving high school exit exams and eliminating student growth objectives as an element in evaluation for the current school year further demonstrate that [Gov. Murphy] understands the extraordinary nature of the challenges facing our schools,” the statement read. “That flexibility, in the face of overwhelming stress and uncertainty, demonstrates that his stated commitment to the educational, social, and emotional needs of our entire education community is sincere.”

The executive order also extended the time during which certified teachers can serve as substitutes. Murphy ordered that for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, individuals holding either a certificate of eligibility or a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing working in an area not authorized by their credentials may fill vacant teaching positions for up to 40 school days and shall not be subject to statutory time limitations. Such individuals, as well as those employed as substitutes, may serve for an additional 20 school days upon a school district’s written application to the commissioner of education.

In that application, districts must report on their efforts to hire an appropriately certified teacher and their inability to do so. Districts must also demonstrate that the substitutes are subject to periodic monitoring by a supervisor.

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