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Equity and Access--Testimony--Kenyon Kummings--4-19

April 9, 2019
RE: Equity Testimony Before the Joint Committee on Public Schools


Members of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools,
My name is Kenyon Kummings and I am currently the Superintendent for Wildwood Public
Schools (WPS). WPS has a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students and is racially
and ethnically diverse. Our district is unique in that we continuously have one of the highest
percentages of students living in poverty in New Jersey (50%). We have a high special education
population (24%), as well as a large number of English Language Learners (35% Pre-K to 8th
Grade).
Recruiting minority candidates that understand the experience of our students has been a
challenge for our district. Anecdotally, we can share that the pool to hire from is small. This
testimony contains more questions than answers, but emphasizes the need for this issue to remain
a priority of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and legislature. It will also offer
examples of how we may improve the pipeline to allow more diversity within our public educator
population.
Do we have a pipeline issue, more so than a recruitment issue?
The NJDOE references the “Pipeline” in their presentation, “Diversifying the Teacher
Workforce” (https://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/rpr/Diversity%20Convening%20PPT%20Accessible_v2.pdf). Target
points identified for the “Pipeline” include Postsecondary Enrollment, Enrollment in Education
Programs, Postsecondary Completion, Entering the Workforce, and Retention. It is important to
focus on the entry point to the pipeline, and question if potential barriers exist for candidates to
qualify for Educator Preparation Programs (EPP).
The current president for New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
(NJACTE) shared that the Title 2 data from traditional route programs show trends that New Jersey
overall saw a decline in the number of completers in EPP’s. This decline was observed in 2014
when the number declined from 5,027 in 2008-2009 to 3,819 in 2013-2014, and eventually fell to
3,281 in 2015-2016. It is worth noting that in 2012, the college GPA requirement was raised to 3.00
(N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-8.2). During that time period, students were also required to pass all sections of the
Praxis Core in addition to the Praxis II for their clinical internship. Further study is needed to
determine the patterns within demographic subgroups. Could one or a combination of these
changes have resulted in a barrier to certification for minority populations? Has this decrease been
sustained with the introduction of the EdTPA requirement in 2017?
Do barriers to the pipeline exist prior to exiting high school?
Working as a district in the New Jersey Network of Superintendents (NJNS), the approach to
creating equity is predominantly focused on opportunity and access for ALL students regarding Pre
K to 12 programs. We often hear about the outcomes of leveled coursework beginning in
elementary school. Finding solutions to remove barriers for minority populations is a focus of the
group, and we learn that these barriers exist throughout the state. Often times staff
recommendations are required for students to enter higher level course work, and this potentially
biased process often loses students who could handle and benefit from the increased challenge,
because current systems do not always identify them due to the limitations of the entry measures
used.
Schools also tend to heavily weight standardized test scores in this identification process. A
great volume of research exists regarding the validity of these assessments, as well as the bias many
of their items contain. There is also plenty of data to show the difference in performance trends
when comparing demographic subgroups. These same trends can be witnessed when looking at
Praxis Core data for reading, writing and math, as well as when SAT scores are compared by
household income (scores increase with wealth). It should also be noted when discussing entry
into the pipeline, that New Jersey is one of 12 states in the country that still ties a passing score on a
standardized state assessment to graduation from high school.
What can we control?
Given the data we have, a deeper analysis of potential barriers for our students to enter an
EPP is warranted. However, we can take some initial steps toward developing an action plan.
● Determine if the outcomes of tracking and leveling prior to high school graduation prevent
students from attaining the education needed to gain entry into an EPP, and if so, address
them.
● Determine if the high school graduation assessment is an unnecessary barrier for students,
and analyze the demographic makeup of students utilizing the portfolio appeal.
● Determine if the change in college GPA and the associated assessments required to gain
certification (Praxis II, Praxis Core, and EdTPA) have negatively impacted completion of
EPP’s for minority students.
● Determine if there are additional barriers brought about by the increased number of college
assessments, including the high cost of these assessments, and if there has been value added
by their adoption.
● Compare the college GPA requirements for EPP to those of other initial certification
programs.
● Scale the work of groups such as the NJNS to help districts give opportunity and access for
students who are able to receive more challenging coursework through the development of
unbiased, multi-faceted entry criteria and innovative, scaffolded, course delivery models.
● Allow the NJDOE and the NJ Legislature to improve the pipeline by creating Career and
Technical Education (CTE) opportunities (with funding) within comprehensive high schools
to identify and prepare students who have a passion for education in an effort to recruit
students into the profession at the secondary level.
● Encourage the development of partnerships between Comprehensive High Schools and
EPPs to allow for articulation of expectations for EPP entry to ensure that minority students
have access to these programs upon high school graduation.
Several data sources exist to begin to address the questions mentioned throughout this
document. Perhaps we need to create systems that will allow us to conduct a deeper analyses of
our practices in New Jersey. The need to increase the representation of minority educators in NJ is
well documented via data sources found within the NJDOE’s Educator Preparation Provider
Performance Reports (https://eppdata.doe.state.nj.us/). In addition to teacher
preparation/certification, I would also emphasize the need to monitor the representation of
minorities within educational leadership positions as well. In addition to looking at the status of
our pipeline, we should also incorporate studies that exist regarding the experience of minority
teachers. This would inform our practice as we strengthen recruitment and retention.


Sincerely,
J. Kenyon Kummings, Superintendent


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828