NJPSA Testifies In Opposition to Changes to Superintendent Certification At May 4 State Board Meeting

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NJPSA testified before the New Jersey State Board of Education May 4 in opposition to a proposed amendment to current certification requirements for Superintendents. The Board also received a presentation from the Chair of Governor’s Taskforce on Evaluation and an update on the national common core standards.

Superintendent Certification

NJPSA testified in opposition to a proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 6A:9 which seeks to loosen certification requirements for superintendent candidates in state operated districts as well as districts in need of improvement. The proposal initially announced by the Governor back in January went through some modification during the State Board review process (Governor Seeks to Loosen Certification Requirements for Superintendents January 4 2011).

The proposed amendment would permit individual superintendent candidates in certain districts to obtain a provisional license if they have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college and “sufficient work experience” as determined by the Commissioner of Education to lead a school district. The criteria the Commissioner must use to grant a provisional certificate pursuant to amendments made between the January and February board meeting must be “consistent with topics derived from the criteria used by mentors to evaluate candidates during the residency period.” The changes require a candidate and school district to document how the candidate’s experience is relevant to and will support success in key areas of a superintendent’s duties including staff supervision local board and community relations etc. The Board during its February discussion argued that the criteria will also make the certification decisions less vulnerable to any political pressure.

The amendments also require a candidate to pass the state test prior to standard licensure. In addition individuals would be required to participate in the existing residency program required of new superintendents. After passing three performance reviews in one year and with recommendation from the mentor the superintendent would be eligible for standard certification.

Superintendents are now required to have a master’s degree and obtain several job-specific educational leadership credentials as outlined in N.J.A.C. 6A:9-12.4. Certification is an extensive process that includes testing an internship and at least one-year of mentoring.

Under the proposed regulation state operated districts and districts in need of improvement (currently 57) are impacted. The program is restricted to a five year pilot.

NJPSA raised serious concern with the amendment’s lack of focus on educational and instructional leadership as well as its departure from the current licensure system which is based upon high-quality professional standards. NJPSA provided the Board with six (6) considerations that the Board should address within any amendment to current licensure for Superintendents:

  1. Ensuring that any licensure paradigm accepted by this Board is firmly aligned with high-quality educational and instructional leadership standards that do not significantly depart from the current professional standards;
  2. Pledging that the development of any alternative pathway be conducted by a deliberative body including stakeholders;
  3. Allowing the recent changes associated with reciprocity for out of state school leaders to take hold as a more moderate approach in the interim;
  4. Guaranteeing that the evaluation of staff be conducted by those with actual educational and instructional experience particularly given recent proposed changes in evaluation;
  5. Developing a true pilot of a very limited number of districts to allow for comprehensive monitoring of candidates and review of the program;
  6. Conducting a comprehensive and independent review of the districts involved in the pilot.

NJPSA’s Testimony

Teacher Educator Effectiveness Task Force Report

In addition the Board received a presentation from Dr. Brian Zychowski chair and Jessani Gordon department staff to the Governor’s Taskforce on Educator Effectiveness. The duo provided background and information on the taskforce findings and recommendations released back in March (Governor Releases Educator Evaluation Report March 3 2011).

The task force on evaluation recommended linking reviews to overall student performance and test scores but also included measures of teacher practice. The report and recommendations cover four areas:

  • Recommendations for a New Teacher Evaluation System;
  • Recommendations for a New Principal Evaluation System;
  • Other recommendations for the State to Set Positive Conditions For Successful Implementation Through Related Policies and Activities; and
  • Next Steps to Begin the Process of Achieving Reform.

The report identified a number of additional activities required to move forward. These included soliciting feedback from the State Board of Education and other education experts and stakeholders. The May Board meeting served as a first feedback session with the Board. The Board is expected to provide the Task force input in the near future.

NASBE Regional Meeting of the Common Core State Standards

In addition Board Member Dorothy Strickland and Director of Language Arts Literacey Mary Jane Kurabinski presented on the need goals process and current direction on moving toward national common core standards. Ms. Strickland and Ms. Kurabinski participated in the NASBE Regional Meeting of the Common Core Standards last week.

As of March 2011 43 States as well as the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands have adopted the common core standards. New Jersey’s decision to go with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) a multi-state group also led by Achieve Inc opting out of its relationship with SMARTER Balanced Assessment for purposes of developing the next generation of assessment was also discussed (Acting Commissioner Argues for Charter School Success at March 7 State Board Meeting March 8 2011).

The two consortia of states are tasked with developing new assessments which will judge students on a national set of standards for what they should learn from third grade through high school in math and language arts classes. The new tests will be designed to give teachers more frequent feedback of student progress move beyond bubble tests to more varied and challenging questions and will be aligned to the common core standards that 36 states have adopted thus far. The new tests should be ready for use in schools by the 2014-2015 academic year following four years of development. PARCC includes 26 states and the SBAC is comprised of 31 states. PARCC won $170 million to develop assessments of students’
ability to comprehend complex text conduct research projects excel at in-class speaking and listening assignments and work with digital media.

The two consortia's work will have a significant impact at many touch points in education. Themes of the conference included the need for stakeholder involvement appropriate professional development alignment of curricula and ensuring college and career ready skills are integrated. Both urged the State Board of Education to take a leadership role in ensuring successful implementation in New Jersey.

Certification of School Districts

Further twenty-one (21) of thirty-five (35) districts were recommended for certification under New Jersey’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) system. Thirty-two were full reviews (districts on the second round) and three (3) interim progress reviews. In order for a district to be designated “high performing:” they must score 80% or above in all five areas of the district performance review (instruction and program fiscal management operations personnel and governance). See Appendix A for district and scores.

Districts failing to meet the eighty (80) percent threshold must develop a QSAC improvement plan to address deficient indicators. Following approval of that plan the Executive County Superintendent conducts interim progress reviews.

Other Business

The State Board will conduct a retreat on June 1st following their June meeting and continuing on June 2 at Educational Testing Services.

The President also named the State Board Nominating Committee. Board Member Lepore will chair the committee with Board Members Strickland and Fulton assisting in developing the slate of officers to be recommended for election in July. The State Board Calendar of Meeting Dates was additionally released.

Finally the New Jersey School Business Administrator of the Year Mr. Henry Lee of the Passaic School District was honored.