New Jersey Department of Education

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The Road Forward

Engage, Recover, and Reimagine Education in New Jersey

The Road Forward features a series of initiatives that paves the way forward for our education community by investing heavily in identifying and addressing the academic and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on our students and educators. 

On March 15, the DOE released applications for $1.2 billion in federal ESSER II funds (Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund). 

As required by legislation, a minimum of 90 percent of New Jersey’s ESSER II funds will be allocated to local education agencies (LEAs) in the same proportion as those funds received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in school year 2020-2021. 

Two grant opportunities will provide a total of $105 million to support districts in providing additional academic and mental health supports.

$75 million Learning Acceleration Grant: 75 percent of a district’s allocation will be used to support research-based academic enrichment activities, such as one-on-one intensive tutoring and summer learning academies, and 25 percent will be used for strategies to support the broader learning ecosystem.

$30 million Mental Health Grant: Funds will be used to assist districts in implementing school-based mental health supports for all students and educators. These grants will assist school districts in building a tiered, sustainable intervention model of comprehensive mental health supports and services.

The DOE will use ESSER II State set-aside funds to provide assistance to non-Title I LEAs, County Special Services School Districts, Education Services Commissions, Jointure Commissions, Division of Children and Families, Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice Commission, and the Juvenile Detention Centers. 

For additional information, including district allocations, please see the DOE’s February 19, 2021 broadcast memo.

To assist districts in leveraging these federal funds effectively, the DOE has posted to its website a clearinghouse of successful practices that New Jersey school districts have identified as notable achievements in mitigating the challenges posed by COVID-19. These district-reported successes are categorized by county, district size, and topic area to facilitate meaningful collaboration and learning opportunities between similarly-situated districts.

Requesting a Statewide Assessment Waiver 

The Administration recognizes that amid the severe disruptions caused by COVID-19, statewide assessments will detract from schools’ efforts to focus on students’ social-emotional health, wellness, and individualized academic and behavioral supports. Therefore, the DOE is making a request to the USED to waive federal requirements to administer statewide assessments this spring, including the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, ACCESS for ELLs, and the Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment for students with the most significant intellectual disabilities. The waiver request also addresses federal requirements regarding the use of statewide assessments in federal accountability systems. If USED approves this waiver request, the spring 2021 administration of the statewide assessments will be canceled. 

For additional information on this waiver request, please see the DOE’s February 19, 2021 broadcast memo and the NJDOE’s ESSA State Plan webpage.

Evaluating and Ensuring Student Readiness 

To fill data gaps caused by interrupted statewide assessment administration and to ensure that students are making meaningful growth toward grade-level standards, the DOE will collect data from locally administered assessments that provide a snapshot of student learning during this school year. The DOE will provide additional guidance regarding this data collection later this month. 

In Fall 2021, the DOE will provide all districts with the formative assessment known as Start Strong. Using the lessons learned from the initial administration this past fall, the upcoming and improved Start Strong assessments will better enable districts to collect timely, actionable, standards-based student performance data at the beginning of the school year.  

The DOE will also pilot the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) this fall. The KRA is designed to be administered to incoming kindergarteners, measuring school readiness in the domains of social foundations, language and literacy, mathematics, and physical well-being. Administration of the KRA will provide participating districts with data depicting how prepared their students are for kindergarten. The tool will give educators and families the information needed to adjust, improve, and target teaching and related resources to the needs of their students.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions and experiences as we collectively navigate this unique time in education. To connect with us, please email DOERoadForward@doe.nj.gov

Engagement Campaign 

As part of the Road Forward initiative, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) is partnering with The Governance Lab (GovLab) from April 5 - April 30 to launch a national online citizen engagement. REinventED: Your Education, Your Voice is an online initiative to engage students, parents and caregivers, and educators in identifying challenges with today’s education system. This project aims to amplify the voices and views of everyone within the education community, especially Black, Latinx, and other underserved communities who have historically been excluded and underserved by our institutions of learning.


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