State Board Received PARCC Report, Presentation from Newark Superintendent As Board Takes Testimony On Charter School Proposal

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The New Jersey State Board of Education at their November meeting got a first glimpse at PARCC test results, heard from Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf and got an overview of recent work between the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Department of Education on avoiding the ‘school to prison pipeline.’  The Board additionally heard from the Citizens Campaign on civic engagement and took testimony on proposed changes to charter school regulation.

PARCC Data Release

Standardized test results from the second administration of th ePARCC assessment were made available for the first time to students, educators, parents and communities following receipt by the State Board November 2.  Statewide, scores improved on nearly every exam, with many schools making overall progress.  According to the data thousands more students also participated this past year, providing far more representative data of student performance.  However, some schools saw a drop in scores on certain tests or among a particular student demographic (search tool to see your school’s scores).

The presentation by Deputy Commissioner Peter Shulman and Acting Chief Academic Officer Laura Morana, also highlighted several of the administrative changes made including:

  • Condensing two testing windows into one
  • Fewer test questions and less testing time
  • Results and resources sent months earlier to schools and families

According to Shulman, student progress was evident across ALL grade levels and subject areas, as well as race/ethnicity and economic groups.

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And, students in the primary grades are benefiting considerably from higher quality standards, with students increasing by one or more levels.

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However, vast achievement gaps continue to exist between economic and race/ethnicity groupings which remain a concern.  The gap statewide in passing rates between children of low-income families versus those who are not low-income was as much as 30 points under PARCC in many grades.  Among individual schools and districts, the differences are even wider at times.

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Juvenile Justice Partnership

The Board also received a presentation on the NJDOE / JJC Partnership to support youth.  The partnership attempts to share resources and align priorities between the two agencies with a goal toward using data to understand and improve upon school-based referrals to the juvenile justice system.  The work also focuses on attempting to develop and implement solutions to address issues as they are identified.

To do this the group collected data between May of 2015 and 2016 in eight volunteer counties (Bergen, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Middlesex, and Monmouth).  The data focused on referrals to law enforcement including all new delinquency complaints filed with the Family Court provided to JJC.  The group screened complaints to determine which ones were school-based incidents (977 of the total 8857 complaints)

Of youth referred by the school to law enforcement, 2.3% were referred for very serious offenses (1st/2nd degree).    A majority of school-based delinquency complaints (51.3%) were for DP/PDP (i.e., “misdemeanors”).  Of all DP/PDP school-based complaints, criminal mischief; criminal trespass; disorderly conduct; and harassment accounted for 21%.

In light of this data, the group hopes to address discipline through schoolwide efforts, building a  positive school climate that supports all students and implementing multi-tiered system of supports.  The group also hopes to encourage using restorative approaches and provide assistance to schools in understanding the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials.

They also hope to identify the scope and nature of any system barriers faced by youth leaving detention and other juvenile justice out-of-home placements in terms of returning to/enrolling in school.


To facilitate this a new process has been developed:

  • 10 Days Prior to a Youth’s Release: Contact parent/guardian to confirm the youth’s release date and remind parent/guardian to engage the school for enrollment purposes.
  • 5 Days Prior to a Youth’s Release: Confirm that parent/guardian engaged the school and document the outcome. If the school has not been engaged, staff will schedule a date to appear at the school with parent/guardian and document both the date and the outcome of meeting with the school.
  • 1 Day After a Youth’s Release: Verify that the youth attended the school as scheduled.

Finally, the group hopes to assist districts in implementing strategies that strengthen and streamline the process for youth to return to/enroll in school after confinement.

Newark Presentation

Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf also gave a presentation to the Board on the status of the school district.   Last year’s graduation rate reached 73 percent, up from about 59 percent in 2011.  Cerf focused on the areas the district has zeroed in on in recent years to drive improvement which Cerf also outlined.  Among these are:

  • Talent Management (previously not all educators were evaluated each year and educators received very little formal feedback, recognition or support);
  • Academic Investments (fewer than 60% of High School Students graduated from the school district, and learning was not consistent or competitive. Classroom practices were considered inconsistent with no clear vision for good instruction).
  • Access to Great Schools (there was very little information about which schools were serving students best)

In the areas of talent, the district heavily invested in a new evaluation and feedback system, with nearly all Newark teachers receiving annual observations.  According to Cerf, the district retained most effective educators and exited far more ineffective teachers.  Cerf also indicated that the district is now filling vacancies sooner.

Of course, Cerf also indicated that the district still had challenges including an expired teacher contract as well as his long standing issue with seniority of ‘LIFO.’  Cerf railed against LIFO call the rules a “serious, serious problem for us” as the cash-strapped district struggles to cover the cost of ineffective teachers who have been rejected from teaching positions but remain on the payroll.  He also called the LIFO law “morally unjustified.”

Cerf also said the plan announced this year to remove Newark schools from state control continues to move forward, with another evaluation of the district scheduled for next spring. He said he remains “absolutely committed” to restoring local autonomy after more than 20 years of state control.

Tabling Charter Action But Allowing Community Input

The Board also reviewed several proposals, although it tabled the Charter School proposal which seeks to loosen requirements, in light of time constraints.  However, board members did take input from audience members during an afternoon public hearing.

The proposed rules, would, among other things, establish a five year pilot to allow ‘high performing’ charters to relax certification rules for teachers, school leaders, and business administrators. Other changes include a provision to require enhanced reciprocity between charter schools and host districts where a charter school student seeks to participate in extra-curricular activities, as well as a provision that would allow charter schools enhanced ability to obtain financing for leases of school space.  The proposal also calls for a ‘right of first refusal’ to charters in host districts of space the host district plans to mothball.  It would also allow charters to an expedited renewal process, permit multiple campuses under one charter and permit a single purpose charter school as well as a weighted lottery.  In addition, the proposal would eliminate Executive County Superintendent approval of professional development plans, among other items, instead transferring that responsibility to the Charter School Office.

Maybe the most controversial proposal item calls for establishing a five-year pilot program for individuals who have not gone through the traditional credentialing programs to obtain charter-specific teacher, administrator and school business administrator certifications.  Those who support that proposal spoke of the benefits of allowing individuals with relevant work experience to obtain teaching certificates through an alternative route.  Those that oppose the proposal, including NJPSA, argue the rules would seriously water down credentials.

Board action is not expected for several months.

The Citizens Campaign

Harry Pozycki also provided the Board with a presentation on the work they are doing with civic engagement in schools.

Fiscal Accountability for PSSDs

The Board also had a first discussion of proposed amendments to Subchapter 18 related to tuition for Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (PSSD).    The rules would govern the tuition rates that a PSSD could charge a school district and seek to promote financial responsibility with school district funds by focusing on Accounting and auditing requirements and by ensuring that non-instructional, administrative costs are appropriate and proportional to instructional costs.

Interdistrict Public School Choice

The Board also had a discussion at proposal level of code that is about to sunset related to the Interdistrict Public School Choice program.   The Board began the readoption process in October to allow additional time to make changes to the code provision.  The code is due to sunset in December.

Student Residency

Similarly, the student residency provision had an appearance at proposal to also allow time for future revision in light of impending sunset.

Fiscal Accountability

The Board additionally approved, at proposal level, technical changes to chapters 16-22 of the current Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency and Budgeting regulations.   Chapter 23A is divided into 2 major sections:

  • Commissioner has purview over sub-chapters 1-15
  • State Board has purview over sub-chapters 16-22

The current chapter is set to expire November 25, 2016.  This proposal is a re-adoption with only technical amendments.  It is the Department’s expectation that they will do a substantive review with future rulemaking of Subchapters 16-22 which include rules related to: GAAP accounting, tuition calculations, student residency, public school contracts, and charter financial operations.

It is also hoped that they will be able to move the subchapters under Commissioner review (1-15).  These sub-chapters include rules related to: definitions, ECS duties, school district fiscal accountability, travel policies, budget development & review, and state aid for charter schools.

State Board of Examiners Appointments

Further, the Board approved the reappointment of two individuals to the State Board of Examiners for terms that expire on September 14, 2017 and 2018 respectively.  Re-appointees include:

  • Dr. Richard Stepura, Acting Executive County Superintendent, Atlantic and Cape May Counties; and
  •  Ms. Kristen Ludman, Teacher, Pemberton School District

N.J.S.A. 18A:6-38 provides the State Board of Examiners with authority for issuing, revoking and suspending educational certificates under rules prescribed by the State Board of Education.  Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-34, the membership of the State Board of Examiners must include an assistant commissioner, a county superintendent, two presidents of State colleges, two district superintendents, a high school principal, an elementary school principal, a school business administrator, a librarian, and four teaching staff members other than a superintendent, principal, school business administrator or librarian.  Members of the State Board of Examiners shall be appointed by the Commissioner of Education with the approval of the State Board of Education for a term of two years.  There are 14 positions on the board whose terms expire on a staggered schedule.

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board approved 35 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) reviews (13 full and 22 interim reviews) as outlined in Appendix A (11-2-16).  Seven districts scored 80 percent or above in all five QSAC areas and was certified for a three year period.  Twenty-eight districts scored below 80% in one or more QSAC areas and is required to implement a QSAC improvement plans to address deficient indicators.