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Agenda: Update on State Standards and H.S. Grad Requirements Kick Off 2016

State Board of Education gets first look at standard revisions ordered by Christie and new PARCC diploma requirements

state seal

Date: Monday, January 11, 2016

Time: 9 a.m.

Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st-floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton

What’s on tap: The first meeting of 2016 brings some big issues for the state board and New Jersey schools as a whole. The meeting will start with a presentation from the Standards Review Commission that Gov. Chris Christie named in his now-famous reversal on the Common Core State Standards. Less noticed, but maybe more consequential will be the board’s first discussions of new high-school graduation requirements that would eventually demand graduates to pass at least the 10th grade language arts test and one in Algebra I.

Schedule change: Board meetings typically take place the first Wednesday of the month, but it this one was moved back to give the board and department more time on several initiatives after the holiday break, board members said. The meeting was also moved up to an early 9 a.m. start due to the heavy agenda.

Standards redux: Christie last summer tossed aside New Jersey’s adherence to the Common Core State Standards, a shift that began with his bid for the Republican nomination for president. Instead, he said the state should do its own review that would have local educators and parents decide as to what students should be required to know and do. That review is now complete, and the commission will come before the board with its recommendations.

After all that: Even with all the political backdrop, few have predicted big changes from the process to the standards in language arts and math. Instead, mostly some revisions and clarifications are expected, enough for the state to claim the standards as their own. “I think the biggest change will be the name,” said Mark Biedron, the board’s president. The board must sign off on the changes in what is likely to be its own protracted review process.

PARCC and the high-school diploma: A separate task force has been looking at the state’s testing regimen, including the use of the new PARCC tests that are aligned to the Common Core. The first results of that review will be unveiled in proposed code changes for what will be required to graduate high school. According to the proposal sent to board members, the administration is proposing graduates starting in 2021 pass at least the 10th grade language arts test and the Algebra I test. There is sure to be plenty of debate on this one in the coming months, not to mention a lawsuit pending against the administration over the current rules.

PARCC update: The board is also to get its monthly update on the status of the new testing, which is in its second year and has already taken place for certain high-school students. Still waiting is the public release of the school-by-school scores and participation rates. Department officials have said they are expected to be released this week or next, maybe as soon as today.

Name change: The board continues to hear an application by the Middlesex County Education Services Commission to become the “Middlesex Regional” commission. One of the oldest and largest of the special-needs districts, the Middlesex commission has grown to serve students from 75 communities in more than a half-dozen school districts. But the proposal has also drawn concerns as to how far the state should go in allowing county commissions to expand beyond their borders.

Public testimony: After the business meeting, a public hearing is planned on the Middlesex application. Public testimony is also be accepted on other topics as well.

Personnel change: The board will also act on finding a replacement to former assistant commissioner Bari Erlichson, who led the administration’s testing initiatives before she stepped down from the position late last year.

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