The Joint Committee on the Public Schools, comprised of legislators from both the NJ General Assembly and NJ State Senate, heard public testimony on December 4 on the issue of New Jersey’s accountability system for our public schools, NJQSAC (New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum). The Joint Committee was created by statute in 1975 to examine and study issues affecting our system of public schools including issues of finance, administration and operations. When the Legislature and Executive branches decided to modify our state school monitoring system, the Joint Committee was involved in the research and development of the statute that became the NJQSAC law.
The structure of the NJQSAC system provides a process to monitor district compliance with state standards, identify struggling schools, establish a tied system for NJDOE intervention, and track improvement through corrective action plans. This is an effective framework, but there have been implementation challenges in past efforts of the NJDOE’s Regional Assistance Centers to effectively support schools at risk, monitor districts uniformly across the state, and provide constructive feedback and expertise to struggling districts.
State regulations, developed by the NJ Department of Education and adopted by the State Board of Education through a public hearing process, provide the details of implementation at the local level. This regulatory process allows the system to be responsive and adaptive to the field (and the public) to meet changing educational needs and the realities of implementation in school districts. Recently, the State Board amended the process for the 2018-19 school year, with the goals of:
- clarifying the indicators in the District Performance Review in the required five statutory components of NJQSAC review (Fiscal, Operations, Instruction and Program, Personnel and Governance);
- aligning New Jersey’s multiple accountability systems (local, state, federal);
- simplifying the system; and
- eliminating redundancy so districts can focus their efforts on the instructional needs of students in the district.
On December 4, NJPSA President Heather Moran, Principal of Logan Middle School in Gloucester County and Debra Bradley, NJPSA Director of Government Relations testified on the newly-revised NJQSAC process. While noting some positive changes in the new system, Moran noted that more can be done to streamline the process and make the system more formative in nature to help all districts. Bradley commended the current Department’s efforts to establish a new approach, but noted that it is important to address past capacity issues, including the need for staff with educational field experience, the need for quality NJDOE staff training and procedures for uniform DOE monitoring approaches across the state. To read NJPSA’s full testimony, click here. For Heather Moran’s testimony, click here.
The Joint Committee plans to share its findings with the NJDOE and work toward further improvements to our monitoring system.