With the school year and the state budget now wrapped up, we want to update you on some victories for students that we accomplished this past year, alongside our partners and State leaders who care deeply about addressing students’ needs. With all of the difficulties we collectively faced navigating the past 18 months, we want to acknowledge some “silver linings” and lessons learned that will guide our work looking ahead.  

Starting to address facilities health and safety needs of all students:

In the new state budget signed into law in recent days, the Governor and legislative leaders included $75 million to address the emergent health and safety projects needed across the state in traditional school districts. In addition, for the first time since the creation of charter schools, state leaders included $5 million in funding to address the health and safety and capital maintenance projects needed in charter and renaissance schools. We applaud the state leaders who recognized that all public schools across the State are faced with these needs. While significantly more facilities funding is needed for traditional district schools, charter, and renaissance schools, this was a critical step to begin to address these issues. This is an important precedent to set on the inclusion of charter and renaissance schools in state funding for facilities, particularly since additional state funding for facilities needs to be authorized in the near future. At JerseyCAN, we have advocated for years to ensure that all public schools including charter and renaissance schools gain access to state funding for facilities. This is a notable win for New Jersey students!

Building the supply of teachers, extending their reach, and supporting teachers:  

With the pandemic exacerbating the teacher shortages that we were already facing in New Jersey, across the State, some solutions are springing up — and these solutions range from policy changes to new practices arising in the field such as:

  • New teacher reciprocity law signed: For years, educators who were certified in other states had difficulty becoming certified in New Jersey because of challenges with our certification reciprocity law. In recent months, we worked with a coalition of partners and key legislators to reform the State’s reciprocity law and make it easier for teachers certified in other states – with standards similar to New Jersey – to become certified here. This will expand the pool of certified teachers in New Jersey and benefit thousands of students across our state.

  • New teacher certification pilot program pending: As a result of our coalition and the legislative leadership demonstrated by NJ Senator Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, a bill recently passed the legislature that would create a new pilot program regarding certification standards to better align the standards with the predictors of teachers’ success in the classroom.  This bill awaits the Governor’s action and will benefit thousands of students across the State, particularly those in urban areas who face teacher shortages, if signed into law.

  • New innovations around innovative supports and scheduling for teachers:  At JerseyCAN, we’ve looked closely at innovations emerging at the local level here in our state, and we’ve spotlighted these innovations in our new online hub found HERE.  These innovations include the following:

    • Extending the reach of teachers in hard-to-staff roles through the use of technology

    • Providing mental health support to teachers in addition to students

    • Using federal stimulus funds to provide one-time increases in teacher pay for summer programming

Learning from all types of public schools in our state: As a part of our case study project mentioned above, we have found evidence-based best practices emerging at both district and public charter and renaissance schools. We believe that the education recovery for our State will benefit from continuing to look at both district and charter schools to identify and adopt the best practices that will accelerate student learning. For example, district, charter, and renaissance schools provided exemplars regarding the following:

  • The use of technology to connect with parents and families in new ways including the use of Zoom to conduct multiple parent-teacher conferences throughout the year, the use of Zoom/video-conferencing to hold parent universities, and the use of new tools to text parents in multiple languages.

  • The creation of personalized approaches to student learning through the use of data analysis to identify students’ needs and map out personalized learning plans — in some districts and schools for each student!

These are just a few of the highlights that have emerged over this past year — even with all of the challenges and uncertainties that arose. We thank you for the work you do to support students and families across the State and look forward to spreading this exciting work to more schools and students as we continue with the education recovery underway here and get students back on track this summer, next school year, and in the years to come.

All the best,

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