Statements from New Jersey Department of Education and New York Department of Education

Statements from New Jersey Department of Education and New York Department of Education

News 12 Staff

Sep 29, 2021, 6:42 PM

Updated 1,025 days ago

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STATEMENT FROM THE NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT  
What actions or strategies is NYSED implementing to address the discrepancies in disciplining children of different races?
 In collaboration with districts across the State, the Department is supporting schools as they work to be responsive to the issue of equity, as underscored in our in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policy.  School discipline reform is addressed in the DEI policy as one of the areas that schools need to examine when creating their own DEI policies. 
Additionally, NYSED is actively engaged with the Safe Schools Task Force, which brings together a cross section of Education stakeholders and advocates, as well as the state Department of Health, Office of Mental Health, Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Children and Family Services to build a framework for school discipline reform in New York State. We are currently undertaking a review of existing National Frameworks and NY’s current discipline laws and regulations with technical assistance by Kristen Harper, Director for Policy Development at Child Trends and Senior Policy Advisor at the USDE under the Obama administration.
Is the underrepresentation of black and brown students in AP classes a concern? If so, what is being done to address the issue?
As supported by our DEI policy, NYSED believes that every student has the right to a rich, supportive, and engaging education. Course access is an important ingredient to success in college and career. Ensuring all young people have access to a high-quality education, including access to courses, is a top priority for the Board and Department in achieving equity in education.
STATEMENT FROM NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The NJDOE has implemented initiatives to address disparities in discipline by assisting schools with effectively utilizing research-based approaches intended to create a positive school climate where strategies, direct instruction, and interventions result in reduced incidents of disciplinary removals.  For example, the Restorative Justice in Education Pilot Program was initiated in February of 2021.  This three-year Pilot Program is designed to promote equity and innovative approaches toward school discipline. The pilot includes 15 schools equally representative of the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of the State.  Kean University will support the NJDOE in providing training, technical assistance, and resource development to support the project schools through their implementation of a Restorative Justice Model. Through the program, the NJDOE will develop resources and guidance materials to support schools in adjusting their discipline practices to align to restorative practices.   The NJDOE also continues to highlight the benefits of incorporating social and emotional learning into classroom instruction.  The Department is finalizing a set of 5 modules aligned to the nationally recognized 5 SEL competencies (Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Management Responsible Decision-Making, and Relationship Skills). Each of the modules are constructed to support the schoolwide adoption of SEL, where educators are afforded the opportunity to refine their pedagogy and curriculum to increase attention towards developing student social and emotional competence.  The NJDOE released guidance to districts in the NJDOE’s Road Forward resource encouraging districts to prioritize the well-being of staff and students to ensure all students are ready and able to learn.  The guidance is explicit in acknowledging the trauma students and staff may have experienced and encourages increased sensitivity to the needs of our students.
Another measure of equity is disproportionality in discipline. Disproportionality is the overrepresentation of a specific racial/ethnic group in the identification, placement and discipline of students eligible for special education and related services. Districts identified as disproportionate must set aside 15% of their IDEA Basic and Preschool grant award for Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CCEIS). CCEIS are activities designed to address the specific area of disproportionality for which they were identified. Each year, the NJDOE Office of Special Education provides professional development to the identified and “at-risk” districts through webinars and technical assistance. The NJDOE is committed to addressing disproportionality and is pursuing partnerships with national technical assistance centers to provide targeted training and technical assistance to identified districts.   
Additionally, the New Jersey Positive Behavior Support in Schools (NJPBSIS) is a collaboration between the NJDOE and the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. NJPBSIS provides comprehensive professional development to support schools in implementing a three-tiered model for a range of school intervention needs including conduct, behavior, and social and emotional wellness. Since 2003, NJPBSIS has enrolled an annual cohort of schools and the outcome data from these cohorts indicates that implementation of this three-tiered model results in a decrease in discipline referrals and out-of-school suspensions for all students and specifically reduces conduct referrals and out-of-school suspensions for students with disabilities. Annual data is collected from participating schools on implementation fidelity and outcomes. Currently, there are over 180 schools who consistently participate in the NJPBSIS Network and attend an annual statewide leadership conference. Resources to begin implementing NJPBSIS, professional development opportunities, information for parents (in both English and Spanish) and applications to become part of the annual cohort are all posted on the NJPBSIS website
New Jersey annually helps school districts expand AP opportunities by partnering with the College Board to offset costs for students from low-income backgrounds, which include a number of Black and Brown students. For this school year, New Jersey is spending $675,000 statewide to reduce fees for students.  Additionally, the NJDOE highlights the use of Title I, Part A, and/or Title IV, Part A funding to defray the cost of advanced course exams taken by low-income students. See the latest broadcast on this year’s program. 
Since 2017, the NJDOE has been recognizing “Lighthouse Districts” for demonstrating student growth across diverse groups of students.  In 2021, the NJDOE specifically highlighted schools demonstrating success in increasing equity in course participation. The Barack Obama Green Charter High was awarded Lighthouse status for increasing equity in Advanced Placement course enrollment.  The Lighthouse District initiative shines a light on the Department’s priorities and provides models and resources for districts looking to improve equitable practices in their schools.  
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