On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed A311 (Public Law 2015, CHAPTER 262), the Arts Education Grade Weighting Bill, into law!
The law’s enactment is the culmination of nearly nine years of work. The issue of unequal grade weighting was first illuminated in the 2007 Census report Within Our Power. The report showed more than 20% of high schools reported unequal grade weighting of arts courses. The arbitrary and unequal grade weighting between similar courses creates an artificial barrier to students who have a desire to participate in the arts. When a school district applies unequal weighting for equal courses students are forced to choose between their passion and their grade point average and class rank. This is not only unfair… but it flies in the face of our own educational expectations. We are now at the final step of removing this barrier once and for all.
The final step is action by local school districts! For implementation for the 2016/2017 school year it is important to START NOW!
Here are some suggestions:
– Review the current course offerings
– Determine which courses may qualify for advanced, honors or AP weighting. This could include advanced courses with prerequisites (AP Art, Advanced design, AP Music Theory), audition only ensembles (like Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Advanced Chorus)
– Meet with your curriculum supervisor. Share with them the new law and the list of courses suggested for additional weighting.
– Determine the local process to have the weighting changed
– Check with the arts education faculty if there are courses that may qualify for increased weighting – Email the head of curriculum and copy the superintendent a copy of the new law and ask for them to outline the process for review of arts courses for proper weighting
– Share the information with other parents and hold the administration accountable for following through with the review process
– To be clear, this is not a complicated process. However, you must start now. The administration has the legal authority to change the weighting to come into alignment with the law. They may make these changes all the way up to the start of the new school year on July 1, 2016.
The text of new law is as follows:
P.L.2015, CHAPTER 262
AN ACT concerning the calculation of pupil grade point averages and supplementing chapter 35 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.
BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
- a. A school district shall weight courses in the visual and performing arts equally with other courses of the same level of academic rigor and worth the same number of credits in calculating a pupil’s grade point average.
- As used in this section, “academic rigor” means a course’s classification as a general education course, an honors course, or an advanced placement course.
This act shall take effect immediately and shall first apply to the first full school year following the date of enactment.