Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Time: 10 a.m.
Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.
What they are doing: The board’s agenda is full with both policy discussions and votes that ultimately could have a strong effect on schools. There will be opportunity for the public to speak as well, including on new regulations allowing advertising on the side of school buses.
School monitoring: From the day he took office, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf has said one of his first acts was to improve on the state’s complicated monitoring system for schools, called the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC). Over the better part of six months, a series of changes were proposed and modified that will make the process simpler and more focused on student achievement, Cerf said. The board is expected to give final approval to those changes today.
Urban hope: When Gov. Chris Christie signed the Urban Hope Act this winter, he set in motion a process that allows three selected districts -- Newark, Trenton and Camden -- to partner with non-profit organizations to start up new schools. Cerf is slated to give a report on the new law and its prospects in the three cities. There are no proposals as yet filed for the new schools, officials said.
Teachers face a new test: The board will begin discussion of participation in a new national entrance exam for incoming elementary school teachers. The so-called Praxis exam is already required for teachers, but the Education Testing Service that develops the national test has a new, tougher version the board is considering. With the discussion also comes the separate decision on what the state’s required passing scores would be for the exam.
Re-reorganization: Eight months after Cerf presented the board a reorganization plan for the department, he’s making some changes -- or at least adding some details. The new organization structure adds Cerf’s plans for “regional achievement centers” across the state, and some tweaking of department responsibilities, said Arcelio Aponte, the board’s president. Still, even with the changes, some key jobs remain unfilled in the department, including an assistant commissioner for innovation.
Odds and ends: The board will hold its required public hearing on proposed regulations for allowing school districts to sell advertising on the side of school buses. It’s an idea that brought some debate when the legislature enacted it into law, but discussion over its accompanying regulations have so far been relatively quiet. And the board will go through its annual ritual of approving accepted religious holidays, a long list of days from all faiths --mainstream and otherwise -- during which students of that faith can have an excused absence from school.