TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf today unveiled their education reform agenda intended to (target) the public education system’s biggest challenged.
The reforms include a new accountability system and various pieces of legislation that have yet to be enacted, improving the state’s consistently lowest-performing schools, recognize and reward improvement in all New Jersey schools, and providing various tools to accomplish those goals to be in line with President Barack Obama’s national education reform agenda and the No Child Left Behind Waiver Application.
“There is no issue more important to the future of our state and country than putting the opportunity of a quality education within every child’s reach, no matter their zip code or economic circumstances. Our education reforms, contained in four specific bills sitting in the legislature today, are aggressive in meeting this challenge, bipartisan and in-line with the Obama Administration’s national agenda to raise standards, strengthen accountability systems, support effective teachers and focus more resources to the classroom,” Christie said.
“These reforms provide a comprehensive approach that recognizes there is no single solution. For a new accountability system to be effective and successful in benefitting children, we must have all of the tools that are provided for in this legislation. A piecemeal, incremental approach will not turn around our failing schools or close the achievement gap.”
The bills include:
· School Children First Act (S-2881/A-4168; Senator Kyrillos/Assemblyman Webber): The bill would create a statewide educator evaluation system consistent with the goals of the Obama Administration, ties tenure to effectiveness, ends forced placements and Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) personnel policies by using both seniority and educator effectiveness in staffing decisions, and reforms compensation systems. These changes will allow New Jersey to identify and reward the most effective teachers in a meaningful and fair way, while also better supporting those comparative few teachers who are not effective.
· Charter Reform Bill (A-4167; Assemblyman Webber): The bill provides critical updates to strengthen and improve New Jersey’s charter law. The bill increases the number of charter school authorizers, permits public schools to be converted to charter schools by local boards of education as well as the Department Of Education Commissioner, and increase charter autonomy while making them more accountable.
· Opportunity Scholarship Act (S-1872/A-2810; Senators Lesniak and Kean/Assemblymen Fuentes and DeCroce): The bill would provide tax credits to entities contributing to scholarships for low-income students.
· Urban Hope Act (S-3002/A-4264; Senator Norcross/Assemblyman Fuentes): The bill provides for the creation of as many as ten “transformation school projects” in five of the State’s worst performing districts.
“New Jersey ranks among the top states in the nation in student achievement overall, but we cannot play in the margins with half-measures and expect to finally bring real, long-term change to the children in persistently failing districts who are not getting the education they deserve,” continued Governor Christie. “It’s time for the New Jersey Legislature to step up with my Administration, President Obama, Secretary Duncan and a national, bipartisan movement to act boldly and give every child the education they deserve.”
NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said the policies the governor is pushing are the same reforms that have proven to be anything but.
“The governor wants unlimited charters, yet research shows only one in five charter schools perform better than public schools.”
Wollmer cautioned the governor to proceed carefully and push for legislation that would require voter approval before charter schools can be set up.
Wollmer also described the Opportunity Scholarship Act as a voucher program that would hurt the public education system.
“Vouchers don’t improve student achievement,” he said. “They are a drain on existing public schools.
As part of the waiver application, the Christie Administration outlined a comprehensive reform strategy built on the three principles outlined in the waiver application and accomplished through the package of reform legislation sitting before the Legislature:
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.