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Singleton Introduces Innovative Bill Package to Raise the Bar on Public Education in New Jersey

Three-Bill Package Would Boost Student & Teacher Performance & Attract Quality Educators to Critical Subject Areas

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) has introduced a package of bills to create an innovative new approach to public education in New Jersey that would boost the performance of both students and teachers and attract quality educators to critical subject areas.

“We know that we’re in an increasingly competitive global environment that begs us to step up our game,” said Singleton. “Where once we were competing against other states for jobs and commerce, we now face fierce competition from countries like China and India where a heavy educational emphasis is placed on science, math and technology. If we want to maintain our competitive advantage and prepare youngsters to succeed in the global economy we need to focus our efforts on these critical areas.”

To that end, the first bill (A-4451) would establish a loan redemption program for public school teachers who meet certain academic requirements and who teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects or special education. The program would be established in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and participants must meet the following conditions to be eligible:

  • graduated in the top 20 percent of their high school graduating class or scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT examination;
  • graduated from an institution of higher education with a grade point average of at least 3.5;
  • teach STEM subjects or special education; and
  • be a resident of New Jersey

The program would forgive up to $9,000 in student loans or the outstanding balance of the principal and interest of eligible student loan expenses, whichever is less, following the third consecutive year of full-time employment as a teacher of STEM subjects or special education in a public school. A program participant would not be required to teach at the same public school for three consecutive years.

Singleton’s second bill (A-4453) would establish a Flexible Pathways Initiative in the Department of Education to encourage and support the creativity of school districts in developing high-quality educational experiences for their students.

“In order for a student to achieve their maximum potential, their education experience must take into account their unique needs and abilities,” added Singleton. “Obviously each student has distinct interests, strengths and weaknesses and all of these factors should be taken into account when carving out an educational plan that’s best for them. That is the essence of the Flexible Pathways proposal.”

The bill would direct a school district to work with each student in kindergarten through grade 12 in an individualized planning process that culminates in the development of a personalized learning plan for each student. A personalized learning plan would: identify the student’s emerging abilities and aptitude; include the participation of teachers, parents or guardians, and the student, as age-appropriate; and guide decisions regarding the appropriate instructional approach and educational experiences for the student. Personalized learning plans would then be used by school districts to create opportunities for students to pursue flexible pathways to graduation and increase the likelihood that students will pursue postsecondary education and training.

School districts with one or more high school or middle school would be required to develop additional policies that provide its students with a diverse array of flexible pathways to graduation as well as career development and postsecondary planning resources.

The bill would also direct the Commissioner of Education to develop an Early College Program that enables high-achieving 12th grade students to complete high school while enrolled as a full-time student at a participating public institution of higher education.

Lastly, the Commissioner of Education would be responsible for providing a Flexible Pathways guidance document for use by school districts, which includes model policies and curriculum requirements, as well as the necessary technical assistance to meet the bill’s requirements.

Singleton’s third bill (A-4452) would direct the State Board of Education, in consultation with an advisory board of educational professionals, to establish standards for the improvement of teacher preparation and certification programs and raise the bar for students looking to become teachers.

“The quality of the teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor within a school related to student achievement. This fundamental point illustrates how vital our state’s teacher preparation programs are and why they must be continuously evaluated and prodded towards excellence,” added Singleton.

Under the bill, every teacher preparation program would annually report its performance on the following benchmarks to the Department of Education, and the department would make the information available to the public on its website:

  • the attrition, retention, and completion rates of candidates for teacher certification enrolled in the program;
  • the average score of candidates for teacher certification on the appropriate state test of subject matter knowledge required for each endorsement to the instructional certificate;
  • the percentage of candidates for teacher certification who complete the program who obtain a full-time or part-time teaching position; and
  • the name of the school district, nonpublic school, or other entity where the candidate obtained employment. Based on the reported information, the State board is to establish a rating system for teacher preparation programs and will also make those ratings available for public inspection on its website.

Based on the reported information, the state board would establish a rating system for teacher preparation programs and make the ratings available for public inspection on its website.

All three bills were introduced on Monday and referred to the Assembly Education Committee.