NJDOE has informed Education Law Center and others that not all teachers in Abbott preschools will meet the September 2004 certification. As a result, NJDOE will formally ask the NJ Supreme Court to extend the September 2004 deadline within the next few months.
In the March 2000 Abbott VI ruling, the Supreme Court clarified that all Abbott preschool teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and obtain preschool through 3rd grade (P-3) certification from NJDOE. This standard applied immediately to teachers in district-run classrooms, but the Court gave teachers in community provider programs until September 2004 to become P-3 certified.
The number of existing teachers who cannot comply with the deadline is unclear. Data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, cited recently in a Position Paper issued by the Early Care and Education Coalition, estimates that 320 teachers will not meet the Court deadline. ELC will be seeking more accurate data from the NJDOE Office of Early Childhood Education.
The Coalition’s Position Paper attributes the certification delay to several problems, including difficulties in accessing required college coursework, the slow pace of processing paperwork at NJDOE, and delays in obtaining tuition assistance.
Citing these barriers, the Coalition is supporting a “limited” extension of the 2004 deadline, subject to the following:
- Only preschool teachers making “diligent progress” toward the P-3 certification should be granted an extension
- An individual “progress assessment and plan” must be developed for each teacher not meeting the 2004 deadline
- The NJDOE must address any “systems issues” that impede individual progress, including access to required college courses.
The Coalition also recommends Head Start teachers be given additional time to obtain the P-3 certification. Individualized teacher plans should take into account the fact that many Head Start programs only recently entered into contracts to provide preschool under Abbott standards.
The Coalition, led by the Association for Children of New Jersey, consists of organizations and individuals involved in the care and education of young children, including community providers of Abbott preschool programs. ELC is a member of the Coalition.
ELC will ask NJDOE to address the issues raised by the Coalition before the agency files its request for an extension with the Supreme Court.
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications