TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that New Jersey will once again have to make important statewide changes to New Jersey schools as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Murphy announced during a Monday news conference that the state Department of Education will, for the second time, be waiving a graduation assessment test requirement for all New Jersey 12th graders this spring.
This is due to COVID-19 and so many students forced to learn virtually from home, he noted.
The governor also extended the time in which certified teachers can work as substitutes, as school districts across the state have struggled to find enough teachers during the COVID pandemic.
“This is not a normal or regular school year. We have to be more flexible and more understanding,” said the governor Monday afternoon. “This order waives the requirement for the class of 2021 and ensures that they are still able to graduate as expected so long as all credit, curriculum standards and attendance benchmarks are met.”
In April 2020, Murphy waived the test for all graduating seniors. Both times, Murphy waived the requirements by use of executive order, which does not require consent from the state Legislature.
This is a test all high school seniors are normally required to take to prove their proficiency in both English language arts and mathematics. Seniors will not be required to take the test this spring provided they satisfy all other graduation requirements. Murphy also removed student growth objectives from teacher evaluations, which is evaluating teachers by how far their students have progressed.
However, the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments, another group of standardized tests, are still planning to be administered this spring, according to Angelica Allen-McMillan, New Jersey’s acting Commissioner of Education.
Those are a series of federal tests administrated by the federal Department of Education; the Trump administration waived it last spring but it remains unknown if incoming President-elect Biden’s administration will waive it.
“We are the public education state, but to not make these sensible adjustments given the current situation would be a failure to properly serve our students,” said Gov. Murphy.
Murphy said remote learning has thrown “so much uncertainty into the mix” that school districts need to evaluate educators solely on “teacher practice.”
Murphy announced the executive order just as New Jersey once again had a record-high number of coronavirus cases on Saturday, reporting 6,435 new cases and 102 more deaths. The case number topped the record-high set just two days prior. Read more: NJ Coronavirus, Vaccine Updates: Here’s What You Need To Know
Effective immediately, Murphy issued an executive order will specifically direct the following:
Waive Graduation Assessment Requirement
To receive a high school diploma in New Jersey, a student must demonstrate proficiency on a state assessment and satisfy statutory requirements with respect to credits, curriculum content, and attendance.
Executive Order No. 214 will waive the graduation proficiency test requirement for all 12th grade students who have not yet met the requirement. All other statutory graduation requirements remain in place.
Remove SGOs from Teacher Evaluations
Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) are measurable and specific academic goals for groups of students set by educators in consultation with their supervisors. In light of the pandemic, Executive Order No. 214 will remove SGOs as a component of formal educator evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year.
As a result, all educators will be evaluated solely on observations conducted by supervisors, principals, or other school leaders. SGOs may still be utilized for other purposes, such as professional development.
Extend Service Time Limitations for Certain Substitutes
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Executive Order No. 214 will help districts manage the increase in temporary and permanent teacher vacancies by:
Allowing those in the process of becoming certificated teachers to fill teaching vacancies for a maximum of 60 school days instead of 20 school days
Allow fully certificated teachers who are currently employed as substitutes in an area outside of their credentials to fill teaching vacancies for a maximum of 60 school days instead of 40 school days.
“The pandemic has presented significant challenges to school districts across our state that have affected our administrators, educators, staff, and students,” said Murphy. “Today’s executive order will provide sensible adjustments to support our school districts during this unprecedented time.”
“Today’s action, which provides a meaningful step towards helping our education system adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19, is the direct result of ongoing engagement with stakeholders,” said Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “This collaboration will help ensure that districts have the flexibility needed to better address students’ and educators’ instructional and support needs while maintaining stability and continuity in classroom instruction.”
More New Jersey’s school districts, meanwhile, have switched to all-remote over the past month since new student and teacher cases and outbreaks nearly doubled over December, the Murphy administration reported.
Here are the latest numbers reported on Monday:
Here are the most recent instruction-mode numbers:
79 districts were fully open for in-person instruction
351 were offering a hybrid of in-person and remote learning
337 were offering all-remote learning
Murphy noted that more districts have switched away from remote learning since the holidays and school officials have been working closely with the state to determine what steps to take.
For substitute teachers, those in the process of becoming certified teachers can now fill in for a maximum of 60 school days instead of 20 school days, and also fully certificated teachers who are currently working as subs can teach for a maximum of 60 school days instead of 40 school days.
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This article originally appeared on the Woodbridge Patch