Date: Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012
Time: 10 a.m.
Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.
What they are doing: The State Board of Education hosts a busy meeting where some big policy will be up for discussion, including charter schools, teacher quality and school “turnarounds.” Little final action is on agenda, but the board will have a chance to air its support and/or reservations for some of the Christie administration’s major initiatives.
No longer ‘acting’: More than 18 months after he took the office, the board’s meeting will be the first for Chris Cerf as New Jersey’s full-fledged education commissioner. On Monday, he was finally confirmed by the state Senate after a lengthy political dispute, removing his tag as “acting” commissioner. Still, the new status doesn’t change his powers or role much, as he always had the same legislative and regulatory authority.
Charter schools: After a month off the topic and some revisions in the proposal, the state board will discuss Cerf’s plans for new department regulations regarding charter schools. The regulations have been hotly contested, in large part due to language that would open up the possibility of all-online schools, but there has been little indication so far that the state board will balk. This is only the proposal stage in the process, but the board’s preliminary vote tomorrow will make it far more difficult to make changes without starting over. Speaking only for himself, board president Arcelio Aponte yesterday said he was “inclined to have a discussion and move the item.”
Policy discussions: Also on the agenda are broad policy discussions of two of the department’s major initiatives: the teacher evaluation pilot and its award under the federal Race to the Top competition. Cerf will give updates on each one, including how the state plans to distribute $38 million allocated under the federal program to more than 300 participating districts.
Teacher evaluation code: To match the pilot program, the department is also moving ahead with regulatory changes that will go before the state board for the first time.
More Broad Foundation money: The state board will be asked to approve the department’s receipt of another $177,000 from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to fund three middle management “fellows” in the department, including one new one. The foundation has already contributed more than $400,000 to the department to help train and build staff in the area of school turnarounds and charter schools, drawing some questions to how much influence the California-based foundation is gaining in New Jersey. Cerf himself is a graduate of the foundation’s leadership program, as are two of his assistant superintendents.