State Board of Ed Gets Overview of Common Core as Commissioner Announces Campaign to Educate Public on the Core

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In a sparsely attend September State Board Meeting, the State Board of Education received a presentation on the Common Core as Acting Commissioner announced the formation of a new statewide outreach campaign to promote and explain what the standards are (and are not) as well as how they will affect students and schools.  The Board also moved several code proposals forward, including the slimmed down changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:14, Special Education.

Getting to the Core of Common Core

Kicking off the September 3 meeting was a presentation by new Acting Assistant Commissioner and Chief Academic Officer Kimberly Harrington on what the Common Core State Standards represent, what they include and how they differ from curriculum.  Harrington also addressed how the common core is incorporated within New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards as well as how the new standards impact teaching and learning.  

Rounding out the presentation was a panel discussion including a school leader, teacher, parent and school board stake holders who discussed the benefits of the common core as well as perceived obstacles to implementation.  Each panelist zeroed in on the benefit of the ‘deeper dive’ the standards require students to master as well as the common language across grades and subjects that the standards foster.    

The presentation was followed by an announcement by Acting Commissioner Hespe of a new campaign centered on providing schools with resources, from text to video, to communicate with parents and the community on what the standards are and their value to students.  Hespe has engaged all the major education stakeholders, including NJPSA, in this task.

 “We’re going to drive it down to the school level, where we think it is the best way to communicate with families and parents and students,” he said yesterday.

Special Education

The Board also approved the revamped Special Education code proposal forward at proposal level.  The Department argued back in July that in light of the currently convened Taskforce on Special Education, they would proceed with only amendments required for purposes of alignment with current state and federal statute (Governor Names Members of Special Education Taskforce, April 23, 2014).  The revamp is significantly slimmed down from the original proposal that called for more sweeping changes – some of which NJPSA had deep concerns with (NJPSA Testimony (March 2013)).   NJPSA supports the current code proposal.

·         Powerpoint: Special Education

Education of Homeless Children and Students in State Facilities

In addition, the Board approved minor amendments to proposed changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:17, Education of Homeless Children and Students in State Facilities in light of comments received by several advocacy groups.. 

The code amendments to N.J.A.C. 6A:17 were generally precipitated by federal and state statutory changes.  According to New Jersey Department of Education (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. 

·                     Powerpoint: Education of Homeless Children and Students in State Facilities

Qualified Zone Academy Bonds

Further, the Board had a discussion at proposal level about the re-adoption with amendments of rules pertaining to school financing proposed at N.J.A.C. 6A:25, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:4-15, 18A:7G-26, and 18A:36A-18 and 26 U.S.C. § 1397E.  This chapter implements the Federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond program for New Jersey (a federal program established under the 1997 Tax Payer Relief Act which allows bonds to be sold to support rehabilitation projects at schools that serve low-income families).  Under the program, bondholders receive a tax credit (in lieu of interest payments).  Funds may not be used to construct new schools.

Since the program’s inception, Congress has authorized an annual allocation of $400 million, except for 2008-2010 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boosted this amount to $1.4 billion.  The program is subject to reauthorization and has not yet been authorized beyond 2013 (2013 allocation may be issued up to December 31, 2015).  New Jersey has been allocated roughly $7.5 million annually (except roughly $25 million annually 2008-2010).  From 1998-2001 (federal fiscal year) $30 million (approx.) funded health and safety projects in SDA districts funded out of the original $8.6 billion bond authorization in EFCFA.  In 2002, the law was amended to allow charter schools to avail themselves of the federal funds.  Between 2009-2013 (federal fiscal year) $72 million  (approx) of the bond allocation has been assigned to charter schools. 

The Department is bringing the code provision to the Board for re-adoption with minor changes.

·         Powerpoint: Qualified Zone Academy Bonds

·         Matrix of Changes: Qualified Zone Academy Bonds

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board reviewed 33 evaluations under the provisions of the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) – 18 full reviews (districts on the second round) and 15 interim reviews in districts that scored less than 80 percent in one or more of the district performance review (DPR) areas.  Five districts scored 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and were approved for certification for a period of three years.  Twenty-eight 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