SECAUCUS – Gov. Chris Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf continued the administration’s push for education reform today, outlining a pilot educator effectiveness evaluation program here.
In addition, Christie and Cerf took time to tout the application submitted this week for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind act, and to push for a package of four bills on state education reform that remain unacted upon in the Legislature.
Secaucus is one of 10 districts selected to use this pilot system that will help the administration eventually implement a more meaningful and fair system throughout the state, Christie said.
He said that although New Jersey ranks among the best nationwide in student achievement, it is in the bottom four in terms of the achievement gap between the most well-off and most challenged students.
Even with high graduation rates, 90 percent of students attending Bergen and Essex community colleges need remediation classes, Christie said.
“We are not meeting our obligation to those children and their families,’’ he said.
In terms of the No Child Left Behind waiver, Christie and Cerf said one of the things they hope to achieve is more flexibility in spending federal funds.
“We’re not looking to spend any less money,” Christie said. “What we’re looking for is accountability,” he said, as well as the ability to link funds to districts to that accountabililty.
Cerf said the waiver would allow more focused intervention on schools that are failing. The state wants to identify the bottom five percent of schools in the state as measured by graduation rates and other factors.
Regarding the bills still sitting in the Legislature, Christie summarized their goals:
The School Children First Act, which would create a statewide educator evaluation system like the pilot program announced today in Secaucus; linking tenure to teacher effectiveness; ending the practice of first-in-last-out for teachers; updating the state charter school law; encouraging the nation’s most respected charter school operators to come to New Jersey and focus on the failing schools; the Urban Hope Act to set up ‘transformation’ projects in the state’s five worst-performing districts.
He also said that after two years of combativeness by the N.J. Education Association and resistance to his reforms, the NJEA is now advertising that it wants to be in the lead of change.
Christie reiterated that he does not have anything against teachers, but the union leadership that is resistant to progress and reform.
As part of the waiver application, Christie and Cert outlines three goals:
1. Implementing college and career ready expectations for all students, including a detailed implementation plan of Common Core State Standards in K-12 English Language Arts and math; development of model curriculum in corresponding grades; and rollout of assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Consortium.
2. Developing a new, unitary accountability system to identify the state’s persistently lowest-performing schools and develop a differentiated plan to support and intervene in those schools, and to identify the state’s top performing schools and a plan to reward those schools for their achievement.
3. Supporting effective instruction and leadership by developing and implementing statewide teacher and principal evaluation systems that take into account both student outcomes and effective practice.
They also emphasized the state wants to introduce new school performance reports for every school in the state to replace the School Report Card system.
Cerf said they want to do away with the one-size-fits-all approach and have efforts tailored for each school’s individual needs.