Agenda: State Board of Education

Test scores, charters, graduation rates, administrative code, Newark's groundbreaking contract, and public comment will make for a hectic meeting

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012

Time: 10 a.m.

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

What they are doing: The 2011-2012 state test scores and graduation rates will be released at the State Board of Education meeting, laying out how every school and district fared last year. The board will also get a presentation on a recent, somewhat-controversial Stanford University study on the state’s charter schools. The board is also expected to move ahead on several regulatory items, including final approval of new administrative code for charter schools. Public testimony on several items is also planned.

Test scores: The release of schools’ annual test scores is always a source of discussion, with this year likely to be no exception since the Christie administration relies heavily on the numbers to determine its level of oversight for each school. The schools themselves have had the scores for more than a month, but this will be the public’s first view of them.

Graduation rates: The graduation rates for every high school are also expected to spur discussion, since this will be the first time they are using new methodology that seeks to improve the tracking of how many students entering high school ultimately get a diploma. A recent federal report using the same methods put New Jersey’s four-year rate ending in 2011 at about 83 percent, down from the 90-plus percent that is commonly cited and no longer the highest in the nation.

Charter schools, Part 1: The authors of a flattering study on New Jersey’s charter schools are expected to present their findings and take questions from the board. Overall, the report by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students attending charter schools in the state fared better than peers in district schools. But looking deeper into the report released last week, the positive numbers largely came form Newark, with charter school students in several other cities doing no better or even worse than their peers. And critics have raised a number of questions about the researchers’ methods. The president of the board, Arcelio Aponte, said yesterday that he’s sure there will be a number of questions from the board, too, both about the success stories and those not so successful.

Charter schools, Part 2: The board is expected to finalize new regulations for charter schools that have brought unprecedented public comment, most of it critical. The most contested is language in the regulations that some say would open up the state to virtual or online charter schools. Two have already been approved but are yet to open. The regulations would also allow for the easier expansion of existing charter school networks into other communities.

Other business: The board has a number of other items on its plate, including ongoing action on several regulatory proposals regarding teacher quality, bilingual education, and vocational education. In addition, Aponte said he expected the board would also want to discuss the recently ratified Newark teachers contract, a seminal pact for a district that remains under state – and the state board’s — control.

Public comment: The board will entertain testimony from the public on a number of topics, including much of the administrative code still under review. “It should be quite a long meeting,” Aponte said.