Two Things to Know about New Jersey’s Gifted and Talented Education Act
With the news of the coronavirus pandemic dominating headlines, you may not have heard that in January of 2020, the New Jersey legislature passed the “Strengthening Gifted and Talented Education Act.” The 2020 Act retains the basic requirement that gifted and talented students receive “appropriate instructional adaptations and educational services." New for 2020 is an update requiring that gifted services be "at the instructional level of the student, not just the student's grade level." N.J.S.A. 18A:35-35. Other changes to the law include, in part, broader state oversight and data collection, increased professional development requirements and a specific provision confirming equal access to gifted programs by English Language Learners and students with disabilities. The New Jersey Department of Education issued limited guidance about the updated regulations in August, 2020.
A little background on the NJ gifted requirements:
If you are not familiar with New Jersey’s gifted regulations, The New Jersey Department of Education (NJ DOE) has a very general Frequently Asked Questions summary on its website. Note, however, that this FAQ does not cover all requirements in the new law and updated guidance may be forthcoming. Under state regulations, NJ school districts must have procedures in place to identify all gifted students; this includes students who are “twice exceptional,” that is, students who meet both the criteria for a “student with a disability” and “gifted and talented.” Our school districts must also provide a continuum of programming that enables gifted students to “benefit.” As explained by the NJ DOE: “The state does not require a particular program or model. Program models might include, but are not limited to, pull-out programs, classroom-based differentiated instruction, acceleration, flexible pacing, compacted curricula, distance learning, advanced classes, or individualized programs.”
Two things to note about the Gifted and Talented Education Act:
#1 "Detailed" Gifted Policies and Procedures must be available on District Website
By the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, school districts must post “detailed,” information about their gifted education programs on the district website - including notice of the right to file a gifted complaint with the school board.
#2 Under the Act, any individual may submit a complaint alleging that a school district is not in compliance with state gifted requirements.
Anyone who believes that a school district has not complied with the provisions of NJ's gifted law may file a complaint directly with their district’s school board. (This is not new). The Act now makes clear that, “the board shall issue a decision, in writing, to affirm, reject, or modify the district’s action in the matter.” If the person who complained is not satisfied with the school board’s decision, they can file an appeal to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education through the New Jersey Office of Controversies and Disputes.
Many say that the New Jersey gifted regulations were overly broad and poorly monitored. The enhanced 2020 Act may lead to greater oversight, stakeholder involvement and improvements for gifted students. If your child is gifted, what do you think? Were you involved in advocating for the 2020 amendments? We would love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments about this issue. Contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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