The State Board of Education, expected to have met last week when the meeting was impacted by the inclement weather like most New Jerseyans, conducted a makeup meeting February 12, rife with goodbyes for Commissioner Chris Cerf who announced his resignation effective February 28. The Board also received an update on the core curriculum content standards, the State's new Performance Reports and median student growth percentiles. They also approved several appointments and adopted for final publication in the New Jersey register two code provisions.
Changes at the NJDOE
Changes continue at the Department, beyond the recent announcement of Cerf’s departure which was met with sadness by many on the Board who viewed Cerf as a catalyst for many of the educational reforms which New Jersey embraced over the last year
The Board made several appointments official, as personnel had been serving in an “acting” capacity for some time at today’s meeting. Appointments included:
- Ms. Sue Martz who will now serve as the Assistant Commissioner of Student Services;
- Ms. Paula White who is now permanent as the Director of School Improvement; and
- Ms. Nancy Curry who steps up to take Ms. Martz’s old position as Director of Office of Student Support Services
The Board also received a few presentations from key NJDOE personnel on the common core content standards (including the common core state standards) and PARCC, student growth objectives and the School Performance Reports.
Common Core, PARCC & College & Career Readiness
Included was a repeat performance by Chief Performance Officer Bari Erlichson of her presentation before the Assembly Higher Education Committee last week that examined the intersect between the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and college/career readiness. Dr. Erlichson provided the Board a brief history of the CCSS as well as how it intersects with the new assessment system developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
The Board also passed a Resolution in Support of the Common Core. The resolution,
calls on boards to comply and align to CCSS. It arose from situations, particularly out of southern New Jersey where local boards were asked to ‘opt out’ of the common core. In essence, it reinforces that local boards do not have the authority to not implement the CCSS.
This was followed by Chief Academic Officer Tracey Severens who apprised the Board of their responsibilities to review the current Core Curriculum Content Standards, including the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Math, every five years. That process will begin next month, culminating in a final re-adoption in the July time frame.
School Performance Reports
The Board additionally received a presentation on the revised School Performance Reports. These reports replace the School Report Card. Ms. Erlichson provided background on their development as well as additional items that have informed the new report including: data on the arts, the number of students taking International Baccalaureate course work. The reports are meant to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in schools.
In addition, Tim Matheney, Director of Evaluation, provided the Board an update on the release of median Student Growth Percentile (mSGP) data based on last year’s NJASK results. The report also included background on the history and use of mSGPs by New Jersey.
Disability Rights of New Jersey Settlement Agreement
Beyond presentations, the Board approved several items including a settlement with Disability Rights New Jersey. That settlement, which stemmed from a seven-year-old federal lawsuit, Disability Rights New Jersey et al. v. New Jersey Department of Education, et al, challenging the state Department of Education’s oversight of special education in New Jersey came to close with the Board’s approval. Once signed by the board and approved by the federal District Court Judge Mary Little Cooper, the agreement would bring to a close a suit filed in 2007 by the state’s top disability advocates over the state’s failure to adequately ensure special education students were being served in the “least restrictive environment,” as required by law.
The state at the time the suit was first filed had less than half of special education students taught predominantly in the general education classroom, a rate that hasn’t much changed. Further, more than 10 percent of students were in outside schools, by far the highest rate in the country. That percentage has dropped to 7.2 percent in 2012, the latest available data. The settlement details are still not public but include specific targets for the state to meet in terms of placement rates.
The Board additional approved several code provisions that had been in limbo since late last year and evolved from recommendations in the Education Transformation Taskforce Report initially. These code provisions will now move the regulatory adoption process. These include:
Note: Due to advocacy efforts of several stakeholders the Department decided to NOT adopt an amendment that would have allowed school districts to submit a bilingual education plan to the Department for review and approval once every three years. NJPSA weighed in on the proposal in December 2012 when we expressed concern about this and several issues within the proposal.
Note: The Department agreed to reincorporate regulatory language associated with Adult Education programs. Other changes recommended by the Association around school security and Harassment Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) training were dubbed premature or not necessary.
- Programs to Support Student Development (March 2013)
- Programs to Support Student Development (June 2013)
Further, the Board had a first discussion on amendments to regulations pertaining to educational services for students who are homeless or in State facilities pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7B; N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1.d and 19. The changes, Department initiated, were generally precipitated by federal and state statutory changes. According to NJDOE statistics in 2012/13 approximately 8,660 students were homeless in New Jersey with another 1,457 assigned to some form of state facility. These students encompass 250 districts from around the State.
Certification of School Districts
Finally, the Board reviewed 27 evaluations under the provisions of the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) – 5 full reviews (districts on the second round) and 22 interim reviews in districts that scored less than 80 percent in one or more of the district performance review (DPR) areas. Twelve districts scored 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and were approved for certification for a period of three years. Fifteen districts scored below 80% in one or more DPR areas and will develop and implement a QSAC improvement plan to address deficient indicators. Following approval of the plan, the executive county superintendent will conduct an interim progress review. Appendix A lists all of the districts and their DPR scores
Upcoming Public Testimony
The Board will return to taking public testimony at their March 5 meeting. Subjects include: