TRENTON — Graduation assessment tests for high school seniors will be waived this school year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday along with two other education-related changes in response to what the governor termed as “not a regular school year” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The executive order, announced during the state’s regular COVID-19 response briefing, also includes removing Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) from educator evaluations and extending the time in which certified teachers can serve as substitute teachers.
“Each of these steps is being taken given the unique challenges our students and educators are facing, we simply have to all reach the conclusion this is not a normal or regular school year,” Murphy said. “We have to be more flexible and more understanding.”
State regulations state that 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.
The executive order specifically waives the the graduation proficiency test requirement for all 12th grade students who have not yet met the requirement, however all other statutory graduation requirements remain in place.
New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan said the statewide standardized testing is scheduled to go on as planned this spring, as that is a federal requirement.
The testing was waived last spring by the Trump administration when the virus first broke out in the country.
“We are planning to continue with our scheduled administration this spring,” Allen-McMillan said. “If there is a change with the incoming administration, we will weigh all of our options at that time.”
Murphy said that instead of using student growth to evaluate teachers, the executive order directs school leaders and department supervisors to evaluate based on teacher practice.
“While student growth objectives should remain a tool, they should not impact our educators’ annual evaluations given this year,” he said.
The state said the changes to substitute rules are intended to 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; and 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.
In addition to the executive order, the state reported 5,042 new, lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests and 540 new positive antigen tests, sending the state’s positivity rate to 1.09%.
“This is what we were afraid of,” Murphy said, of the numbers which he attributed to gatherings related to the previous month’s winter holidays.
The state also reported 51 confirmed deaths and 3,653 positive COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals.
New Jersey has added a vaccination overview to its COVID-19 data hub on the state website. The data show 214,433 vaccinations have been distributed since Dec. 15.