• The Evolving Political Climate for New Jersey’s Public Schools

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 3/19/2015
    stop The political debate rages on. From PARCC to pensions, there are several pivotal issues under debate that will affect the future of New Jersey’s public schools. New Jersey’s chief education officers are keeping a watchful eye on these issues, even as we’re building our vision for education in 2020. Vision 2020 will transform our educational culture, environment and approach to learning to allow our students to become globally competitive. It’s a very different approach than historically used in teaching and learning. Change is never easy, and we anticipated some bumps on the way as we transitioned to this interactive, personalized 21st century approach to learning.

    There’s much positive discussion about the changes taking place in New Jersey’s schools. Importantly, we don’t want politics in the driver’s seat of educational policy. Here are the issues we’re watching, and how they might impact our students. We encourage you to form your own opinions and weigh in on the debate with your local school district.

    Plans Under Way for More Rigorous Teacher Preparation.
    The Christie administration announced plans to improve how New Jersey’s future teachers will be trained.
    ·    Student teachers would be required to double their classroom time from a semester to a full year in class.
    ·    Alternate route teachers would need two full years of training and substitutes would be required to have bachelor degrees.
    ·    In theory, better prepared teachers will yield improved student results, which we applaud. In practice, there are concerns by some that this could turn teacher education into a five-year college program.
    ·    In addition, if tenured teachers are being evaluated on test results of students taught by a student teacher, there could be a disconnect.

    We feel confident that a compromise position may be met, perhaps with more classroom time early on in the college education process, and a mentoring program during the first two years of employment. This ties perfectly into our vision.

    NJASA Vision2020: We must redesign teacher preparation programs to reflect an even-handed participation of all professional stakeholders—higher education, NJASA, teachers and teacher educators.

    Lack of Funding for New Jersey’s Pensions Could Be a Problem for Taxpayers.
    ·    For years, New Jersey’s educators paid into a pension fund toward their retirement. Unfortunately, for a full decade, their state government did not.
    ·    That brings us to the precarious place where the state pension fund is underfunded.
    ·    A recent court ruling requires that pensions be fully funded.
    ·    A state commission convened by Governor Chris Christie proposed that pensions be shifted onto local school districts.
    That has the potential to burden local taxpayers or reduce already strained school budgets. It is our belief that local school districts should not have to support a state obligation.

    NJASA Vision2020: There is a never-ending tide of legislative mandates that divert both fiscal and human resources from the primary mission of educating children.

    Like Them or Not, PARCC Assessments Are the Wave of the Future.
    ·    We are required by federal law to assess our students using standardized tests.
    ·    The state worked with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to develop and field test new assessments in English Language Arts and Math (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II).
    ·    The PARCC tests more closely measure competency of the Common Core State Standards now in place.
    ·    PARCC has generated its share of controversy among parents, teachers and students due to its dramatically different approach—including potential problems from the technology used in testing.

    At NJASA, we applaud high standards in assessments and the effort to use 21st learning techniques in testing student understanding. We know that New Jersey students typically perform better on national assessments when compared to their peers. We’ll delve further into PARCC once the initial phase is complete. Stay tuned.

    NJASA Vision2020: We must continually review and revise leader, teacher and student performance evaluation systems and assessments to properly address the perpetual changes in education, including a revision of tenure and seniority.

    We Need a Consistent, Predictable Amount of Funding
    Imagine trying to build a business with inconsistent, unpredictable funding. Unfortunately, that’s the precarious position that New Jersey’s public school districts often encounter. Most challenging is being asked to do more, with less. New Jersey’s chief education officers are ready to meet the challenge, but ask for a consistent, predictable budget so that we may plan accordingly.

    Good public education systems begin with strong leadership and we are committed to spearheading the development of Vision 2020, and to ensuring its success.To view the in-depth Vision 2020 video and a brochure on this topic, visit njasa.net.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 


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  • A Vision for New Jersey’s Public Schools in 2020

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 3/11/2015

    What will New Jersey’s public schools look like in the year 2020? New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers have a vision that will keep its public schools on top and enable students to effectively compete on a global employment stage.

    The NJASA Vision 2020 plan is designed to create learning-enriched opportunities and the finest educational environments within the New Jersey public education system. It’s a working plan to be used by school leaders to steer their districts in the right direction.

    Why do we need a Vision 2020 plan?
    Here’s why such a plan is needed. New Jersey consistently ranks as one of the best public education systems in the country. Even so, it’s rare that we find educators, politicians and parents in agreement on how to move forward. This lack of agreement can put our students at risk and jeopardize everything we’ve achieved.
     
    Children are our future.
    Here’s where we all agree: The children are our future and every child in the state deserves the best education, regardless of their geographic or socioeconomic status. 
     
    What are the key challenges in fulfilling the Vision 2020 plan?
    But Chief Education Officers face key challenges: a lack of sufficient school funding, growing family income disparities that negatively impact learning opportunities, never-ending legislative mandates, inadequate support of the state legislated funding formula, political rhetoric and actions that detract from a collaborative effort of bipartisan support for public education, a negative portrayal of public education, and a shrinking pool of highly qualified and certified leaders positioned to effectively replace the diminishing ranks of current school leaders. These are substantial challenges that must be circumvented in order to reach Vision 2020.
     
    Key factors for success
    Here are eight key factors to focus on for success:

    1.      Recognition of many different paths to academic achievement

    2.      Predictable and sufficient funding

    3.      Continuous professional development for educators

    4.      Multiple learning opportunities for students with learning rates and styles 

    5.      Investments in early childhood education

    6.      Appropriately designed and adequately maintained school facilities

    7.      Services to maximize the achievement of special needs youngsters;

    8.      Governance policies and practices that enhance trust and foster collaboration, communication and coordination.

     

    Vision 2020 plan for creating a world-class educational experience
    Schools of the future will look very different than our schools of today. Technologies will be seamlessly integrated to provide a broad range of tools that can be used for teaching and learning within the walls of school and beyond. Success will be realized through strong leadership and continued transformation in our classrooms, assessment standards, culture, and learning environment. Our 12-step plan for creating a world-class educational experience for every child in New Jersey, includes:
     

    1.      Safe and secure learning environment

    2.      Early childhood education, including universal Pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

    3.      Year-round academic intervention services

    4.      Digital learning opportunities

    5.      On-going student progression evaluations

    6.      Design assessments that help teachers analyze student growth.

    7.      Learner-centered instruction

    8.      Emphasis on life-long learning

    9.      Partnerships that connect learning and life

    10.  Recruiting highly qualified teachers

    11.  Professional development for all educators

    12.  Revised educator evaluation systems

    Good public education systems begin with strong leadership and we are committed to spearheading the development of Vision 2020, and to ensuring its success. To view the in-depth Vision 2020 video and a brochure on this topic, visit njasa.net.

     

    Vision 2020
     

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. 

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  • What Parents, Educators and Students Need to Know About New Jersey’s PARCC Testing

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 2/12/2015

    In March of 2015, New Jersey’s public schools will significantly change how we conduct standardized state testing. Instead of paper-and-pencil standardized tests, the state will be implementing the next generation of assessments, computer-based testing (CBT), known as PARCC. PARCC is an acronym for the assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

    There’s been a lot of discussion about PARCC, prompting questions and concerns among the entire community. Here’s what you need to know.

    You may recall the NJASK test given in grades three to eight and the HSPA in high school. The PARCC assessment will replace both of these tests. We’ve been conducting state educational assessments for decades, and PARCC is the latest version. PARCC uses a 21st century approach, testing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that colleges and employers require. It is one of many tests that students take, due to mandates by the federal government through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and requirements of our own State Board of Education.

    Parent, Educator and Student Input on PARCC Wanted

    PARCC was researched, developed and field tested over several years to measure students’ mastery of math and English language arts. The change from paper-and-pencil to computer-based testing has prompted some questions from parents. What is the length of the test? Will there be loss of instructional time? How dependable are the technology tools? How will we use the results? How will we protect the privacy of student information? What is the cost? Finally, are we doing too much testing? See Parent PARCC Questions Answered for some of the more basic questions and answers. Because PARCC is so new, many of the answers will be revealed during the first year of use. But I can share some important information so you can put the PARCC assessment in context—and also have a voice in its future.

    PARCC is aligned with the Common Core, the material that schools are teaching for the 21st century to prepare students for college and careers. Its content will be similar to new SAT test. Because PARCC is new, its results will be carefully monitored and reviewed for future years.

    What is the state’s response to parents’ concerns about teaching to the test?

    In FAQs the NJDOE addressed the common question “Are teachers teaching to the test?”

    PARCC is designed for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, not simply choosing a multiple choice or a true/false answer or reciting facts from memorization, as was common under previous assessments. As such, teachers really can’t “teach to the test.” If students understand the concepts, they should do well on the test.

    What do students have to say about PARCC?

    In a letter released by the NJDOE in December 2014, RE: PARCC Field Test: Lessons Learned, they noted highlights of responses from the student surveys administered at the end of the field testing including:

    • 94% of students either finished the CBT ELA field test very early or on time and 87% did so for mathematics.
    • Approximately 90% of the students in the PARCC CBT understood the directions read by test administrators.
    • Students found the mathematics assessment more challenging than the ELA assessments overall regardless of whether the student took the field test via computer or paper.
    • Approximately 90% of students who participated in the ELA CBT and 65% of students who participated in the mathematics CBT reported that it was easy to type their answers. 

    NJASA members are leading the discussion about assessment as an essential component of the teaching-learning process. We are speaking candidly and directly about the planned PARCC assessments, for example:

    • NJASA leaders are speaking with community members at school and board of education meetings and at focused “town hall” gatherings around the state.
    • NJASA is working with the NJ Department of Education and other state education organizations to examine these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the value of these new technology-based assessments for students.
    • NJASA has organized two additional Commissioner Convocations with school superintendents focusing on the PARCC assessments as a learning tool, examining the vision for the use of data, reviewing teacher and parent reports, and sharing best practices in communicating with stakeholders. 
    • Chief Education Officers will have the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions exploring legal issues and community communications with those who have successfully addressed them in their districts.

    Your opinion about PARCC counts.

    We believe that parents and educators need to know how our students fare in achieving higher standards.  We believe that we must work together to prepare students for the world that awaits them outside our doors. Together we shall work through the challenges, learn from our experiences, and elevate student achievement. Parents and educators can voice their opinion on PARCC and other testing in New Jersey by commenting online about the state’s assessment practices at the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.  

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  • PARCC - The Challenge Ahead

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 1/23/2015

    New Jersey has had state standards since the 1990s in nine subject areas, known as the Core Curriculum Content Standards and is one of forty-six states and the District of Columbia that voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and 2011. NJASA supports the establishment of these standards which focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.

    NJASA joined with NJDOE and other major state education organizations to inform parents about New Jersey’s history of setting academic standards for student achievement and the value that these new standards bring for our students. We see a growing understanding and acceptance of these standards as our members address the issues raised in our communities about their use to guide curriculum development and instruction. 

    As we turn the corner in developing understanding of and support for the Common Core, we see another speed bump in the road: parent apprehension about the new assessments to be used by New Jersey, eleven Article Image 2 other states and the District of Columbia to assess students’ command of the Common Core State Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a consortium of states which worked together to develop K-12 assessments in English and math, commonly called PARCC assessments. Parents are questioning much about the use of the PARCC assessments which are beginning soon for students in high schools with block schedules and for all students beginning in March.  Among their concerns are the length of tests, the loss of instructional time, the dependability of technology tools and systems, the use of results, and the privacy of student information. These are all issues that must be addressed as we speak with our community members. NJASA is once again joining with the NJ Department of Education and other state education organizations to speak to these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the value of these new technology-based assessments for students.

    PARCC released a document titled: “PARCC Field Test, Lessons Learned” which reports key findings learned from the field testing conducted last spring as well as planned improvements for this year’s assessments. Dr. Bari Erlichson, Assistant Commissioner, wrote to Chief Education Officers on December 2nd highlighting a few topics from the report:

    For those of you who have expressed interest in how a test question becomes a test question, please read through the life cycle of a test item, page 6. At every step of the process, educators from across the PARCC states are participating in reviewing items, reviewing data from the field testing, and making decisions about next steps. Approximately 89% of the math items and 78% of the English language arts (ELA) items were approved from our field tests to be made part of the operational assessment this spring.

    Responses from the student surveys administered at the end of the field test begin on page 8. Highlights include:

    · 94% of students either finished the CBT ELA field test very early or on time and 87% did so for mathematics (p. 9).

    · Approximately 90% of the students in the PARCC CBT understood the directions read by test administrators (p. 10).

    · Students found the mathematics assessment more challenging than the ELA assessments overall regardless of whether the student took the field test via computer or paper (p. 11).

    · Approximately 90% of students who participated in the ELA CBT and 65% of students who participated in the mathematics CBT reported that it was easy to type their answers (p. 15).

     In terms of technology preparation, only 60% of test coordinators and administrators used proctor caching during the field test. Based on New Jersey’s field test experience and the ability for proctor caching to reduce or even eliminate difficulties related to bandwidth, it is highly recommended that all schools utilize proctor-caching software (p. 17).

    Dr. Erlichson also noted that the PARCC consortium was implementing actions addressing issues identified in the field testing and that the NJDOE will host regional training sessions for test and tech coordinators this month. 

    Educators understand that there is an ongoing need for information and conversation with community residents about PARCC.  We believe that parents and educators need to know how our students fare in achieving higher standards.  We believe that we must work together to prepare students for the world that awaits them outside our doors.  NJASA members will lead the discussion about assessment as an essential component of the teaching-learning process and speak candidly and directly about the planned PARCC assessments. Together we shall work through the challenges, learn from our experiences, and elevate student achievement.

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  • New Math and English Graduation Requirements for NJ High School Students

    Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 1/9/2015

    january As we make adjustments to our curriculum to prepare students for college and careers in the 21st Century, it just makes sense that we would need to change how we assess mastery of these skills. That’s the idea behind new statewide assessments to measure student achievement in high school math and English, recently announced by the New Jersey Department of Education.

    The new graduation requirements for New Jersey high school students take effect starting with the class of 2016. This means schools will be begin making the transition immediately, in 2015, to put the new assessments in place. See our video on new graduation requirements and read on to learn what parents, students and teachers can expect.

    Graduation Requirement Assessments Then and Now  
    Historically, New Jersey’s public school students were required to take the High School Proficiency Assessment or HSPA. In 2008, a state taskforce recommended that New Jersey transition away from the HSPA to assessments that more closely mirrored the changing curriculum for the way students need to learn today.  

    The state worked with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to develop and field test new assessments in English Language Arts and Math (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II). The new assessments more closely measure competency of the Common Core State Standards now in place. Testing starts this spring.

    Transitioning to the New Graduation Requirement Tests
    Students will take the new performance-based assessments in English and math in March 2015. They will take the new end-of-year assessments near the conclusion of this school year. This will be an important transition period for administrators, as we determine how well the tests assess student understanding and competency.

    Importantly, the state is giving districts the flexibility to meet the proficiency requirement during the transition period. That means that students graduating in 2016, 2017 and 2018 will have the option of demonstrating proficiency by an alternate test or method. The state has approved the following measures of competency:

    ·   PARCC English Language Arts

    ·   PARCC Algebra I or Geometry or Algebra II

    Alternative Assessments

    ·    SAT Critical Reading or Math

    ·    ACT Reading or Math

    ·     ASVAB-AFQT Score

    ·     Accuplacer – Write Placer

    ·     Accuplacer – Math – Elementary Algebra

    ·     NJDOE portfolio appeal

    Schools and districts will continue to differentiate their course offerings so that students are appropriately challenged.

    Flexibility is the Key to Success
    The NJASA applauds the state for being flexible with the new PARCC testing requirement to take the time to see how accurately it will measure student achievement. We’re working with new curriculum and new assessments that may not showcase the abilities of all of our students. Having more choices helps provide a complete picture. This transition period will help everyone determine next steps.

    New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers will continue to work with the New Jersey Department of Education and our school educators as we navigate this change. Parents are encouraged to learn more about these changes and talk to their principal or superintendent about any questions or concerns.

    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net and this blog for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down.  

     
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