Agenda: Common Core, Teacher Evaluations Take Center Stage

John Mooney | June 3, 2015 | Education
State Board of Education will take up hot-button topics at monthly meeting, along with more procedural items

state seal
Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Time: 10 a.m.

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

What they are doing: The State Board of Education was thrown into the political fray when Gov. Chris Christie announced last month that his administration is looking to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards.

The board will hear first-hand from the state education commissioner about exactly what Christie’s announcement means and about the process ahead.

The board will also hear a presentation on the first year of the state’s new teacher-evaluation system. It was reported this week that 97 percent of the state’s teachers had been found to be “effective” or better.

And as if that wasn’t enough, a code proposal to revamp teacher education and preparation will take another big step forward.

Common Core comes home: A year after the state board reaffirmed its own support for the national standards, it may need to rethink that position since the governor who appointed a majority of the board is backing away from the Common Core standards.

Exactly what that means has been elusive since Christie’s announcement last Thursday, and state Education Commissioner David Hespe is slated to come before the board to explain the next steps. Board President Mark Biedron said yesterday he has not yet been told what happens next.

Quote: “I have yet to hear from the department as to what the plan is,” said Biedron, himself a Christie appointee from 2011. “We’ll certainly be having a conversation.”

Teacher training on slower track: An equally tough topic has been a vast set of new proposed code before the board dealing with how teachers are trained and supported.

Discussion of this issue began in the winter and has seen a number of iterations over the last few months. Still at issue is how teachers are trained in college or other programs before they get hired, as well as the rules for those new teachers once they are on the job. One proposal is to require a full year of clinical or student teaching before new teachers can enter the classroom full-time –a requirement that would not be an easy lift for college programs.

The process ahead: The code has now reached the formal proposal stage, a step that all but guarantees adoption, but Biedron said there may still be adjustments in the next three months.

On the discussion on teacher training and support: “I am very pleased with the collaborative process thus far,” Biedron said. “But are we complete yet? We’ll find out.”

Other business: The board is also taking up for the first time new code pertaining to bilingual education.

The meeting will also include an open session for public testimony — and with all the debate and controversy in New Jersey’s education circles these days, there’s bond to be some political protests.

Newark protests: Among those testifying will advocates from Newark, including members of the local advisory board, who are seeking the ouster of state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson.

The board appoints the superintendents of New Jersey’s four state-operated systems. While imminent change is unlikely, the board’s position in Newark – the city where state control has generated the most controversy by far — is no small matter.