The New Jersey School Board is learning about test results, mental health aids, and volunteer shortages

More than half of New Jersey students need strong English/Language Arts support, and nearly three-quarters need this level of help with math, according to results from the fall Start Strong assessments, which the Department of Education presented to the state Board of Education Wednesday.

Introduced Assessments, a shorter version of the New Jersey Student Education Assessments The first in 2021 After the 2020 and 2021 tryouts, NJSLA’s spring tryouts were canceled due to the pandemic. The test divides children into those who need strong support, some support and less support.

In English Language Arts statewide, 54.6% of students required some strong or supportive support, with 5th, 9th, and 10th graders testing the highest. There was a declining trend between the two years of testing – only in fourth grade did the percentage of students needing the most support drop.

In math statewide, 71.7% of students required some or strong support, but overall, they did better than the previous year. The state has not released school-by-school results, and department officials have not decided whether the test will be given again next fall.

Gaps persisted in student performance due to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, and for English language learners and students with disabilities, although disabled in several categories, showed significant progress.

The board also learned of five new years worth of $14 million School Mental Health Services Scholarship To increase the number of psychologists, counselors, and social workers in the neediest schools in the state. The state will match funds up to $1 million each year.

New Jersey will receive $3.2 million in the first year and a minimum of $2.7 million annually in the next four years, to be distributed to counties through a competitive grant process focused on high-poverty and neediest communities. The funds will also help encourage diverse professionals to provide mental health services at the school.

Wednesday’s meeting was virtual, as it has been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite calls from education advocates, the New Jersey Education Association, and bipartisan lawmakers, who submitted invoice Requires in-person and virtual opportunities to attend.

At the December meeting, board chair Cathy Goldenberg said she hoped a hybrid system would go live in January. But on Wednesday, she said, “we’re still asking management to do it for us.”

Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen Macmillan was absent from the meeting, without giving any explanation to the Board. Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy’s office denied it a report He decided to replace it. But he was not recognized by Ben Six department heads He thanked Tuesday in his state address, which mentioned education mostly in passing. When asked about the reason for the commissioner’s absence, the department’s press office did not immediately respond.

Assistant Commissioner Kathleen Ealing, who is in her place, told the board that of the 5,000 hopeful volunteers, only 330 individuals and organizations have applied to work with NJPSS as educators, student success coaches, and post-secondary counselors.

Julie Pont, the acting chief of staff, said the administration is working with National Partnership for Student Success On ways to find more volunteers.

After board member Mary Beth Berry asked how the administration would ensure the safety of students with volunteers, Ealing said it would use existing safety requirements. Some organizations that volunteer in this effort may be able to train and fingerprint volunteers, who can start working “within the next couple of months,” department officials said.

At the end of the meeting, the Board did not take a vote, at the request of Vice President Andrew Mulvihill, to change the wording of the state’s proposed education equality and equity policies.

Current policy allows districts to hold separate classes on human sexuality for “male and female students” as long as the students receive the same lessons. This can put trans or non-binary students in the potential position of outing themselves. The proposed revision would allow provinces to separate classes “on the basis of gender identity.”

Mulvihill argued that in protecting transgender and non-binary students, the revised policy would discriminate against transgender girls who did not want transgender girls in their classrooms around puberty. In his 10 years on the board, he said, he had never received so many comments from the public—nearly 1,000—on any other issue. The New Jersey Center for Family Policy, a religious advocacy group that opposes the state’s sex education standards, has issued a letter writing campaign about the proposed change that has reportedly resulted in 945 characters.

But department officials and other school board members have pointed out that under state and federal anti-discrimination laws, determining a student’s sex is a private matter.

“As a public policy-making body, we need to recognize that it is a very private conversation for moms and dads, fathers and guardians across New Jersey and around the world,” said Board member Joseph Ricca. “It’s not our business to ask. When a child comes to school, it’s a self-choosing process about gender, and that’s the end of the conversation.”

“There is so much politics in this conversation that it honestly makes my stomach hurt,” he said, addressing any trans or non-binary people in the audience. “You have to know that not all of us feel like there is something wrong with you.”

The board went into an executive session to hear legal advice from the attorney general’s office about whether the board could vote to order policy changes. Later, in the public portion of the meeting, Goldenberg said Mulvihill had withdrawn his question, and the board had not voted on the wording or on other equity policies, which he would consider at a future meeting.

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