The Senate Education Committee took testimony on the impact of the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) on New Jersey schools March 24. Speakers included Superintendents from Jersey City and Paterson as well as a host of suburban districts. All spoke on the need to improve the process and making it more responsive to the individual needs of the district. Several speakers also spoke of the need for an elongated cycle for high performing districts.
Adopted in 2005, QSAC, or the Quality Single Accountability System, established a statewide framework to evaluate districts in five separate functional areas – governance, fiscal management, personnel, operations, and curriculum and instruction. QSAC also was designed to create a pathway for state-operated districts to regain local control by demonstrating a level of functionality in the five areas.
State-Operated District Pathway to Local Control
The discussion focused in on districts under full or partial state operation. Although QSAC provides a pathway, that path has not been clear over the last several years. The statute, and correspondingly adopted regulations, indicate that satisfactory performance (scoring above 80 on QSAC indicators) should move a district out of state takeover but the legislation allows the state education commissioner to continue the state’s oversight if he or she decides the district has not shown “sustained and substantial progress.”
The epicenter of the question resides in Newark where an ongoing fight continues over the State’s two-decade control, particularly since district hit the 80 percent threshold in four of five monitored categories over two years ago. The Christie administration nonetheless refused to give up the controls. A court challenge was rejected, although the administration agreed to at least start talks in the area of fiscal oversight.
In response, Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz introduced legislation that would require the state to return control of certain functions to a school district once it hits 80 percent of required benchmarks.
A Shout Out to Legislation
Also discussed was legislation to elongate the QSAC cycle from 3 years to 7 years. That legislation has been introduced and even saw some movement in the 214th legislative session. NJPSA supports this legislation.