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Agenda: State Board of Education

Date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time: 10 a.m.

Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.

What they are doing: While school reform and funding issues roil New Jersey’s political scene, the state Board of Education’s agenda is a relatively light one today. One policy area up for vote is a change in the competency testing required for incoming elementary school teachers.

Teacher testing: The board will take up final adoption of a resolution to adjust what incoming elementary teachers need to know to pass the national Praxis exam. The exam is already required for new teachers, testing them on their knowledge and skills. But New Jersey will be participating in a new version that sets more rigorous requirements for passing all four different subject area tests: language arts, math, science and social studies. The board will set the state’s required passing scores on the exam.

School monitoring: A month after the board adopted changes to streamline the state’s monitoring system for schools, it must certify the last remaining districts going through the old rating system. Every month, the certification is a routine vote, rarely much discussed at all. But it’s an interesting list this month, with Atlantic City and Bound Brook deemed “high-performing” and Buena Regional, Ventnor and Clark falling below the required levels to different degrees.

Student report: The 13-member board has a non-voting member who may get less attention but who is at every meeting speaking from an important perspective, that of an actual New Jersey student. For this school year, the board’s student representative has been Samantha Puja of Bayonne High School. Today, Puja will give her own report and introduce the board to its representative for the 2012-13 school year.

Misc.: The board has a short list of other procedural votes on the agenda, and few surprises expected in the commissioner and board reports as well. Ilan Plawker, the board’s vice president, said he’ll have a short report in his role as a director in the National Association of State Boards of Education. He was among a group of about 50 association leaders to recently travel to Washington, D.C. to discuss state issues with federal lawmakers. Congress, he said, showed no signs that it will agree to big education legislation anytime soon, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “They are so deadlocked that they’d be surprised if there was any action before the election,” he said.

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