Officials Also Unveil $1.2 Billion Plan to Address Educational, Mental Health Needs of Students

TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey education officials are asking the federal government to waive standardize testing for this school year, maintaining that it is more important to focus on instructional time amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

But whether the waiver will be granted remains the question, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. “We have not yet received any indication from the Biden administration whether a waiver of assessment administration will be accepted. And we also recognize the importance of statewide assessments to gauge where our students' learning may be,” the governor said during his February 19 coronavirus press briefing. “But given the need to ensure our students' instructional time is maximized, and the levels of stress on them, our educators, our school administrators, our parents and families are minimized, we are putting forward the waiver request.”

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The state Department of Education is looking to waive federal requirements to administer statewide assessments this spring, including the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment in English language arts, mathematics and science, ACCESS for ELLs for English language proficiency assessment and the Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment for students with the most significant intellectual disabilities.

Last week, Assistant Commissioner of Education Lisa J. Gleason announced that testing would be delayed and not start before April 5, as the state now awaits a decision from the federal government and is currently seeking public comment on the waiver request (click here).

The waiver has the support of the New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

During Murphy’s February 19 press briefing, N.J. Department of Education Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan unveiled a major plan to expand efforts to address the academic and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on New Jersey students and educators. 

As part of the “The Road Forward” series of coordinated policy initiatives, $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds will be made available to districts, including grants dedicated specifically to research-based instructional and mental health interventions.

“Educators and students have endured a great deal over the past 11 months,” Allen-McMillan said. “These additional federal funds will support targeted initiatives to enhance academic enrichment and mental health interventions for all students and educators.”

While most of the $1.2 billion in Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act funding will be allocated to local school districts based on current state funding formulas, $105 million in grant opportunities will be available to support a host of research-based academic activities, including one-on-one tutoring, summer learning academies, and intervention-based mental health initiatives.

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