FAQ - Transforming Secondary Education
- Q. Why is there a need to transform secondary education in grades 6-12?
- Q. What is New Jersey’s vision for transforming secondary education?
- Q. What are the Essential Elements of transforming secondary education?
- Q. What are the new graduation requirements?
- Q. Why is there a need for higher levels of math?
- Q. If students can be given high school credit for taking Algebra I in middle school, is there some flexibility with regard to the acceptable content for a middle school Algebra I course?
- Q. Would a second year of biology or chemistry satisfy the requirement for a third year of science in the high school?
- Q. Is there a required sequence for math or science courses?
- Q. Is the new financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy requirement intended to be based on social studies standards? If not, on what standards are they based?
- Q. How will teachers be certified to teach the new half-year of economics?
- Q. Why is the world languages requirement limited to one year, including proficiency gained in elementary studies, not in addition to it?
- Q. What world languages are included in the world languages graduation requirement?
- Q. Why is physical education required for 4 years?
- Q. Is the state planning on issuing guidelines regarding certification/qualifications for facilitators of online courses?
- Q. How will districts count and report on attendance with virtual learning?
- Q.Is there a maximum number of online courses that can be included in the 120 credits proposed to be required for graduation?
- Q. What impact will increased requirements have on the dropout rate?
- Q. What is the impact of the new requirements on the state assessment system?
- Q. Will students taking Algebra I in grade 8 be required to take this assessment in grade 8 or wait until they are in high school? Will such students be required to take the Algebra I assessment at all?
- Q. Schools are empowered to award high school credits based on competency-based assessments. How will those assessments be created and presented to teachers?
- Q. Is the Department of Education anticipating development of a statewide social studies test?
- Q. How will 21st century skills be integrated into assessments?
- Q. Will students get additional chances to pass the proposed assessments? What will happen when students don’t pass the competency assessments?
- Q. Will information be available from end-of-course assessments?
- Q. In addition to May testing, will there be winter administrations of the competency assessments to accommodate block scheduling?
- Q. Will English Language Learners be required to take the end-of-course assessments in English, even if they are in bilingual math or science programs?
- Q. What happens when a student does not pass a course but passes the statewide competency assessment? Does this count as a competency assessment on the basis of which a district may assign high school credit regardless of performance (poor grades) or seat time (poor attendance)?
- Q. Why so much assessment? Why not modify the HSPA to reflect the content of Algebra I and geometry?
- Q. How will the changes affect career and technical education?
- Q. Could a student receive credit for the proposed third year of mathematics through a Career and Technical program, given content and certification issues?
- Q. What steps will the department take to help school districts fill teacher shortages created by the new requirements?
- Q. Are the new graduation requirements moving in the direction of having all students meet the same rigorous requirements, regardless of their abilities, interests, or career plans?
- Q. Will special needs students who are reading at the fourth or fifth grade level be required to take the specified mathematics and science courses?
- Q. Will a service learning requirement be built into the regulations?
- Q. How will the 120-credit requirement affect alternative programs currently requiring only 110 credits?
- Q. What is the anticipated role of parents in the development of Personalized Student Learning Plans? Will meetings for such development include teachers, counselors, students, and parents? If so, where will the time come from? Will the process be similar to the current process for developing IEPs?
- Q. What is the financial impact of the changes?
- Q. How will the changes be communicated to parents? Are the dates set?
- Q. What is the timeline for State Board adoption of the amendments to the Administrative Code?
A. New skills are needed in a global economy. Innovative industries and firms and high-growth jobs require more educated workers with the ability to respond creatively to complex problems, communicate effectively, manage information and work in teams to produce new knowledge and innovation.
Secondary education redesign focuses on raising the bar for all students so that every child is prepared for success in this rapidly changing, technologically-driven, globally competitive world.
In order to succeed in college level courses without remediation and to enter the workforce ready to learn job-specific skills, preparation must be the same for all students.
A. New Jersey will educate all students to prepare them to lead productive, fulfilling lives. Students will gain the requisite academic knowledge and technical and critical thinking skills for life and work in the 21st century.
New Jersey is committed to preparing students for successful post secondary education experiences, life and work in a knowledge economy and for meeting the responsibilities of global citizenship.
Realizing this vision requires redesigning middle schools and high schools through action steps and supportive policies that align content standards, assessments and high school graduation requirements.
A. The Essential Elements are outcomes that assist districts in identifying strategies that support secondary transformation in order to impact the achievement gap, increase high school graduation rates and effectively prepare students for all post secondary options. The elements include:
Transformed leadership that builds a school’s capacity to create and sustain an effective school vision, culture and instructional programs;
Transformed teaching and learning that consists of multiple, flexible approaches to teach rigorous content and skills relevant to student lives and interests in the 21st century;
Transformed personalization that focuses on meaningful adult-student relationships in safe and welcoming school environments and extended learning opportunities reflecting student interests and aptitudes; and
Transformed policies informed by relevant data that support college and career readiness for ALL students.
A. Participation in a local program of study of not fewer than 120 credits, including:
Language Arts Literacy – 20 credits aligned to grade 9 to 12 standards;
Math – 15 credits including Algebra I or the content equivalent (effective with the 2008-2009 9th grade class); geometry or the content equivalent (effective with the 2010-2011 9th grade class); and a third year of math that builds upon Algebra I and geometry and prepares students for college and 21st century careers (effective with the 2012-2013 9th grade class);
Science – 15 credits including laboratory biology or the content equivalent (effective with the 2008-2009 9th grade class); one additional laboratory/inquiry-based science course either chemistry, environmental science or physics (effective with the 2010-2011 9th grade class); and an additional lab/inquiry-based science (effective with the 2012-2013 9th grade class);
Social Studies – 15 credits including 10 credits in U.S. history, five credits in world history, and integrated civics, economics, geography and global content;
Economics – 2.5 credits in financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy (effective with the 2010-2011 9th grade class); and
Health and Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts, World Languages, Technological Literacy/Technology and Career Education and Consumer, Family and Life Skills/21st Century Life and Careers – requirements remain the same.
A. Higher levels of math beyond Algebra I and geometry are a prerequisite for admission to many career training programs, for employment opportunities, and for admission to most colleges. The department supports the learning of higher math content in multiple ways (e.g., through traditional coursework, through integrated programs, through on-line learning, or imbedded in CTE programs).
A. If the intent is to meet the high school requirement, instruction must contain high school content at the middle school. It must also be aligned to the math standards and Algebra I core content.
A. Yes. Other lab courses in chemistry or biology are acceptable. A common sequence in some high schools is chemistry, followed by biology, followed by Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry. Many students following that sequence then take physics in their senior year. If such a student did not take a physics course, he or she would have met the proposed science requirement of three laboratory science courses.
A. There is no required sequence. The content of geometry may be learned before or after the content of Algebra II. The content of chemistry, physics, or environmental science may be learned before or after the content of biology.
A. The content of a course fulfilling the new 2.5-credit requirement addresses two key areas: personal finance and economics. Much of the content will undoubtedly involve applications of mathematics and Standard 9.2 (Financial Literacy). Economics is also integrated as a strand in the social studies standards for grades K-12. This provides an opportunity for students to see how economics is connected to historical content and contemporary issues and events.
A. The new 2.5-credit requirement in financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy is broader than “economics.” Therefore, districts have a great deal of flexibility in providing students with opportunities to meet this requirement. Family and Consumer Sciences educators are certified to teach financial literacy. If offered as a course in mathematics (e.g., consumer math, financial literacy, or business math), appropriately certified mathematics teachers are also `authorized to teach such a course. If offered as a business course (e.g., business math, finance, or entrepreneurship), those with appropriate business certificates are authorized to teach such courses. If offered as a somewhat traditional course in economics, then appropriately certified social studies teachers are authorized to teach such a course. It is important that departments work together to ensure that students are taught both economics and personal finance content.
A. The proficiency requirement is intended to be a floor for expectations, not a ceiling. The new N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(b)4 requires that district boards of education, in the development of Personalized Student Learning Plans, actively encourage students to include in their programs of study five credits in world languages during each year of high school enrollment, aimed at preparation for entrance into post-secondary programs or 21st century careers.
A. All languages, including American Sign Language. Online assessment is currently available for most languages commonly studied (i.e., Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese).
A. Health and physical education is one of the nine content areas included in the Core Curriculum Content Standards, which delineate what students are expected to know and be able to do. As for the specificity of the required time, this stems from a legislative mandate which originated in 1917. The requirement that all students take health, safety, and physical education during each year of enrollment is required by N.J.S.A. 18A:35-5, 7 and 8. Public school districts have the flexibility to offer physical education opportunities in a variety of forms or “choices” other than a traditional P.E. class, through extended learning opportunities.
A. The Department of Education is developing a state virtual learning policy, which includes such guidelines.
A. Online courses provide students with opportunities to spend more time on sections of the curriculum with which they are having difficulty and less time on sections with which they are having less difficulty. By the nature of the virtual learning experience, attendance and seat time differs from traditional settings. In many cases, attendance verification is built in electronically. Guidance will be provided to districts through the state virtual learning policy.
A. The department’s virtual learning policy will address this issue.
A. Based on research, states that hold all students to a college/work ready high school curriculum will see improved student outcomes provided that supportive structures are in place, such as those identified by the department in the Essential Elements.. Further, experience to date at the district level in various states across the U. S. does not bear out the claim that an increase in graduation requirements results in an increase in dropout rates.
A. New competency assessments will be used to determine student achievement of specific high school content delineated by the Core Curriculum Content Standards and replacing one or more components of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).
The new competency assessments will routinely be given upon the completion of certain courses (e.g., geometry), which has resulted in their sometimes being referred to as “end-of-course” assessments. In such a case, the school district will determine when a student has completed the content for a particular competency assessment and is ready to take the assessment.
The Biology Competency Assessment has already replaced the science component of the HSPA. As the department phases in competency assessments to replace the various components of the HSPA, there will be an alternative way for students to demonstrate competency.
A. While the Algebra I assessment is only being piloted this year with both high school students and students in grades seven and eight, the department anticipates that when it becomes fully operational, the assessment will be taken by New Jersey students whenever their district determines that they have completed the Algebra I content. That may be in grade 9, but it also may be in grade 8 or earlier. Whenever the course and assessment are taken and passed, they would fulfill the Algebra I content graduation requirement. As for assigning high school credit for courses taken in middle school, high school districts are able to do so under the provisions of the proposed N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)2ii. If the Algebra I course and competency test are passed in middle school, the student would still be required to take three higher level courses in math in high school.
A. In some areas, such as language arts literacy, mathematics, science, and world languages, assessments are available statewide. For other courses, districts will need to align assessments to state standards and district course expectations.
A. New Jersey will not have a statewide assessment in social studies. Local school districts are required by N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1(a)3 to assess and publicly report on the results of social studies testing in their schools. Note that N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1(a)3 has been modified in the new regulations to specify the inclusion of civics and financial literacy assessments at the local level.
A. Twenty-first century skills are an integral part of the content areas being assessed. Examples include communication and reasoning in mathematics; communication in language arts literacy; technology in science; and problem solving in all content areas. The department will continue to review the state assessment system to include 21st century skills as described in the 2009 standards.
A. Students who do not pass the competency assessment could retake the test within a year. If the student does not succeed in a second administration of the test, a quality alternative assessment will be available.
A. The department anticipates that cluster scores will be available for individual students or for groups of students within a district, as they are now available for the current statewide assessments.
A. The department is exploring the feasibility of providing competency assessments twice a year.
A. Yes, all course-takers will take the corresponding competency assessments. Bilingual students will be eligible for accommodations, such as additional time and the use of a translation dictionary.
A. Students who pass the competency assessment but not the course should not receive credit for the course. They should obtain credit for passing the test toward graduation, but they would need to obtain the required course credits by taking another course in the content area or by exercising Option 2 for comparable course credits towards the graduation requirement.
A. This level of testing ensures some consistency of content learning and mastery across the state in specific courses. Curriculum alignment in math and science, for example, will need to be based on standards, course descriptions and end-of-course test specifications. This will enhance the rigor of courses and better prepare students for postsecondary and career experiences. It also allows students to demonstrate their learning in a particular content area as they are completing the course.
A. The department believes that all students must be prepared for both post-secondary education and a career and that there is room to accommodate both in the high school schedule.
With the exception of 2.5 credits in financial literacy, the new graduation requirements only affect what courses are taken in each content area, not how many. The language arts literacy, mathematics, and science that students take will be expected to be grade-level appropriate, but students will not be expected to take any increased number of courses as a result of the new amendments.
In order to prepare all students for success in the 21st century, they must acquire the skills necessary for both postsecondary education and a career. The regulations include opportunities for flexibility in a revised “option 2” section. Choosing Career and Technical Education as a path to follow through high school will not preclude participation in post-secondary education opportunities.
A. Yes. The proposed requirement is that students learn the content of Algebra I, geometry, and a third year of mathematics that builds on Algebra I and geometry, but not necessarily take a course with that name. The department will provide a description of core content for this third year and curriculum will need to be aligned at the local level.
A. The department does not anticipate that the new requirements will result in any significant shortages over and above those that may already exist in some geographic areas. The new financial literacy requirement is broad enough to allow districts to consider regional availability of teachers in determining or developing applicable curricula.
The new mathematics requirements are not anticipated to significantly increase the number of mathematics teachers needed, but rather to affect what mathematics courses they teach.
The biology requirement recognizes that most public high school students in New Jersey are already taking a biology course during their high school years. Furthermore, the department issues approximately 250 new biology certificates each year. There will be a need for chemistry, physics, and environmental science teachers, but allowing districts some flexibility in the content of the second and third science courses will minimize the impact of that requirement.
The department will work closely with institutions of higher education over the next couple of years to increase the number of candidates in the chemistry/physics teacher pipeline. The department is also seeking to attract workers seeking a second career, to fill the need for qualified teachers in all areas. Students may consider online course offerings as well.
A. The requirements specify only the minimums. Individual student high school programs will look very different, based on individual strengths and interests, as reflected in their Personalized Student Learning Plans. Some will take pre-calculus and then calculus or statistics, while others may not. Some may take four years of science, while others may focus on the arts or CTE programs. Some may take three years of French and one year of dance, while others may take one year of American Sign Language and three years of art. The intention, though, is to ensure that a student who decides to pursue further learning, either academic or related to a specific career, will have the necessary preparation in all content areas covered by the graduation requirements.
A. The intent is that all students be provided with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to meet the demands of postsecondary education and the 21st century workplace. The specified content will be presented to students in varying ways, including in some cases separate courses and in other cases spiral integrated instruction. The expectation is that there will also be variations in instructional strategies based on Individualized Education Plans, commonly referred to as IEPs, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
A. Service learning is one of several options permitted under option 2 and individualized student learning opportunities. Individual districts may choose to establish such a requirement locally, since service learning is not a statewide graduation requirement.
A. While most public school districts currently require 120 or more credits for graduation, a few still require 110. Likewise, some alternative programs may currently require the minimum 110 credits. Those districts or alternative programs need to raise their requirements and provide their students with opportunities to meet the increase in requirements.
A. Guidance will be provided to districts on how to implement the Personalized Student Learning Plans after a two-year pilot project beginning in the 2009‑2010 school year is completed. The process for developing Personalized Student Learning Plans focuses on student interests, aptitudes, and goals rather than on specific accommodations and modifications that address learning disabilities.
A. The department recognizes that the changes may require some school districts to reprioritize their expenditures. All districts will have to direct federal funds, local and state funds to secondary education. In any event, the importance of quality instruction for all of New Jersey’s children, in all public school districts, must be the priority and the new reality.
A. Upon State Board of Education adoption of the new regulations, the Department of Education communicated the regulations promptly to public school districts. Based on the new regulations, it is anticipated that districts either will revise or have already revised their local graduation requirements accordingly. For some, the changes will be minimal. Many of the new state minimums had previously been adopted as graduation requirements in a significant number of public school districts. Districts have the responsibility for implementing the new requirements and for notifying both parents and students of the changes. A review of the implementation of graduation requirements is part of the state’s accountability system – NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).
A. The amendments were adopted on June 17, 2009, with July 20, 2009 being the effective date of the amendments.