Agenda: NJ State Board of Education Gets Back to Work with Busy Agenda

John Mooney | November 12, 2013 | Education
First meeting after elections sees new regulations on the docket, along with state test scores

state seal
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013

Time: 10 a.m.

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

What they are doing: A month after the State Board of Education had a virtually empty agenda in the lead-up to the state election, the to-do list is full once again for Wednesday as the board reviews a host of regulatory changes aimed at reducing red tape for schools.

The board will also hear a presentation on the state’s 2012-13 standardized test results. This is a hot topic of late, since certain teacher evaluations and school ratings are now tied to those results.

Slight schedule change: The board is holding its monthly meeting on the second Wednesday of the month, not the usual first Wednesday, due to last week’s state elections as well as the New Jersey Education Association annual convention also held last week.

Test results: State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and his staff will present the results of the 2012-2013 NJASK and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). Schools and districts have had the scores for their individual students in hand since the start of the school year, but the presentation will give a statewide picture of how students in different racial and ethnic groups performed based on the state’s measures. The tests are being phased out in the next year, with the advent of the new PARCC assessments, which are starting in 2014-15.

Back to work: While the board took the month off for the election, its rush of new administrative code is back on track, with five different chapters of the code up for consideration. They include those for standards and assessment, student residency and school operations. Some have been contested, especially those pertaining to state licensure rules for teachers, but the board is expected to give at least preliminary approval for all of them.

The new GED: The state is moving toward new GED testing for those seeking a high school equivalency degree, opening up the exam to three separate vendors and planning to make the change at the end of this calendar year. The board will start discussions on a resolution to approve the new vendors and the required passing scores for each of the three tests. The vendors are Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw-Hill and Pearson.

Trenton Central High School: The state capital city’s high school is been held up by critics as a prime example of the Christie administration’s slow progress in rebuilding and improving New Jersey school buildings. Citing decrepit conditions, Trenton school and community leaders have been outspoken in pressing the state to make needed repairs to the building, and State Board President Arcelio Aponte said last week at the NJEA convention that he plans to bring it up with the commissioner and his staff on Wednesday. “We will address this publicly in the next meeting,” Aponte said. “This is something the board will want more information on how we can move forward.”

Hearing from the field: Just three of 11 board members attended the NJEA’s convention last week to take part in a public forum and those three faced a barrage of questions from NJEA members about administration policies and the board’s support for them. Many of the questions focused on new teacher evaluation requirements that the NJEA members said were not ready for implementation. Aponte and his vice president, Joseph Fisicaro, said the concerns are being heard and shared with the administration, but they also vowed to be more outspoken.

Fisicaro speaking up: The board’s new vice president said that he was especially concerned that the administration was moving beyond the regulations set by the board. “I hear the horror stories every day,” he said. “Where is the administration getting this? It is not from the regulations we enacted.”