Over the course of October and November, the NJDOE received input and suggestions from many educators and others across the state on the application. On Nov. 14, New Jersey was one of 11 states to apply for a waiver in the first round of applications. Since the NJDOE submitted its original application, the department worked with the US Department of Education to clarify details of the application to make sure that the state holds all schools to a high bar while targeting resources to those schools that need the most support. As part of the waiver application, the Christie administration outlined plans to act on three principles shared with the Obama administration, including: college and career ready expectations for all students; state-developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and supporting effective instruction and leadership.
In developing a new accountability system, the NJDOE will create three tiers of schools, which will be identified using both growth and absolute proficiency. The schools will be identified during the summer, and interventions will begin in the 2012-13 school year:
Priority Schools: The NJDOE will identify the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools across the state using proficiency, growth, and graduation rates. Any non-Title I school that would otherwise meet the same criteria will also be designated as a Priority School.
Focus Schools: The NJDOE will identify at least 10 percent of Title I schools as Focus Schools. The schools will be selected from Title I schools that are not categorized as Priority Schools and will be identified based upon achievement gaps between subgroups and low performance or graduation rates among particular subgroups. Any non-Title I school that would otherwise meet the same criteria will also be designated as a Focus School.
Reward Schools: The NJDOE will identify Reward Schools based on high proficiency levels or high levels of growth, including progress toward closing achievement gaps. This will allow for a range of schools from across the state to attain Reward status, regardless of their absolute starting point.
Through the development of seven new Regional Achievement Centers, the NJDOE will create customized interventions to turnaround Priority and Focus Schools, based on their individual needs. Among others, these interventions include a focus on improving instruction, using data to drive decision making, and expanding learning time. The NJDOE will also develop financial bonuses for Reward Schools as well as opportunities to share best practices across the state.
In addition, the NJDOE will completely redevelop its school Report Cards to share with schools significant information on their performance. These public reports will help schools and districts identify areas of strength and weakness, and will allow parents to see true performance levels at their child’s schools.
“This next generation accountability system finds the right balance between holding all schools responsible for high levels of performance, while providing the flexibility from bureaucratic intervention that too often prevents them from succeeding,” Cerf said. “We will now continue to work with our educators to implement this new system next year and to make sure that every child in New Jersey graduates from high school ready for college and career.”
Besides New Jersey, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Tennessee were granted waivers. The only state that applied and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.
A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have indicated that they, too, want to seek a waiver in favor of their own plans.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM