Bill authorizing early high school graduation pilot program held

TRENTON – A bill that would establish a four-year “Early High School Graduation Pilot Program” in the Department of Education was held in the Assembly Education Committee after concerns were expressed about the unintended consequences for students.

The goal of the program under A2654 is to offer high school students the opportunity to receive a state-endorsed high school diploma upon the completion of the tenth grade and enroll in a county college.

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education will select up to 20 public high schools to participate in the pilot program. To the extent feasible, the high schools will represent the northern, central, and southern regions of the state.

Any student either residing in the school district in which a selected high school is located, or residing in a school district that sends its high school students to that school district, will be eligible to participate in the pilot program.

Prior to the beginning of his eighth grade, a student who intends to participate in the pilot program must inform the principal at the selected high school using a Department of Education form signed by his parent or guardian. Along with the form, the student will be required to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher familiar with the student’s academic work.

Concerns were registered by the N.J. Education Association that students at age 16 may take advantage of this program but “crash and burn’’ once they realize how difficult college level courses are.

Several committee members expressed concern with the bill.

Joan Voss, (D-38), Fort Lee criticized the “one size fits all’’ approach that this bill would seem to adopt.

And Elease Evans, (D-35), Paterson, expressed concern about the “psychological and emotional breakdown’’ that is being risked.

The bill was held until sponsor Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, (D-15), Trenton, could be reached to discuss possible changes.

In other action:

A4044: Under State Board of Education regulations, the Department of Education issues an authorization to serve as an educational facilities manager to persons who meet the legal requirements. This bill, passed unanimously, provides specific statutory authorization for that process and also provides that a certified educational facilities manager must apply for renewal of his authorization every three years.

AR85: This Assembly resolution, which passed unanimously, urges school districts to implement a baseline cognitive testing program for student-athletes prior to the commencement of the athletic season to assist in measuring the post-injury condition of a student-athlete who has sustained a concussion.

A baseline or pre-season cognitive test is a pre-injury measurement of an athlete’s cognitive function and it provides an objective measurement of an athlete’s cognitive function post-injury.

The measure was amended to add cheerleaders to the program.

Bill authorizing early high school graduation pilot program held