Press Release: For Immediate Release


            • Richard Bozza, Ed.D., executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, is available to discuss “items to watch” for school districts.

    Chief Education Officers Flag Items to Watch

    As New Jersey heads back to school, districts will face key issues, says NJASA 

    TRENTON, N.J. — August 9, 2010 — As New Jersey prepares to head back to school, state legislators continue to work on key issues that will affect districts as early as 2011, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.


    “We anticipate several announcements as these issues are addressed,” said Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the NJASA. “We suggest that the public continue to follow the progress. Resolution of these issues could impact the quality of education.”


    The NJASA has identified the following items to watch for:


    1. The 2 percent cap and tool kit


    The New Jersey Legislature has approved a 2 percent “cap” on annual property tax increases. In addition, the Legislature is reviewing 33 bills known as “the tool kit” to help control costs.


    Since 1977, school districts and municipalities have been subject to various forms of budget caps. From a taxpayer’s perspective, some have worked better than others. The NJASA supports reasonable caps on school tax levies that take expenditures into account. However, a “reasonable cap” must include allowances for cost increases that are not within a local school board’s control. A balance must be struck between controlling property taxes and ensuring adequate services.


    1. Impact of the budget


    New Jersey’s schools have already taken three deep budget hits. The first cut occurred when the governor withdrew $475 million in state aid that had been promised, forcing districts to use “excess” surplus to support the 2009-2010 budget.


    The second cut happened when the governor announced how much schools could anticipate in state funding for the coming 2010-2011 school year, which was essentially nothing in wealthier districts and up to a 5 percent budget cut in poorer districts.


    The third strike against school budgets came when many taxpayers voted against the proposed reduced budgets for the 2010-2011 school year, each of which was created based on the new radically reduced state allocations to districts.


    The tough decisions continue to be made on the local level. “The governor likes to say he made the tough decision to cut state aid,” said Bozza. “But the really tough calls on how to implement a radically reduced budget while maintaining educational integrity fall on the Chief Education Officer in each district.”


    1. How do we measure teacher effectiveness? Administrator effectiveness?


    The Christie administration would like to use student learning as a yardstick to evaluate teachers and reward them with merit pay. However, as school superintendents, we know that standardized test scores are not always an accurate reflection of student progress. The way in which we evaluate teachers must be fair.


    Similarly, there needs to be a plan in place to evaluate administrators. How will the progress of all the students and the work of the teachers in a school be reflected in the evaluation of the principal?


    A new state committee will wrestle with this issue. The committee, to be made up of teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and students, will try to agree on ways to measure academic progress. The committee will begin to meet in August and will make its first recommendations in January.


    1. Students unable to pass proficiency tests


    Nearly 3,000 students in about 65 districts did not graduate from high school this year because they did not pass the state’s Alternate High School Assessment test. The New Jersey Department of Education changed how the exam is given and scored. The department has allowed schools to appeal and students to submit evidence of SAT or ACT scores. In similar news, New Jersey algebra and biology students were assessed with pilot tests that revealed large achievement gaps between poor and wealthy districts. In addition, the success rate was minimal. Barely half the students passed the biology exam and fewer than a third demonstrated proficiency in algebra. The tests are slated to become a graduation requirement in the near future.


    1. Students must demonstrate financial literacy


    A new financial literacy component is now a graduation requirement for New Jersey schools. Students will be learning about credit, debt, investing and insurance as part of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for 21st-Century Life and Careers.


    “As Chief Education Officers, school superintendents will be following each of these issues and identifying ways that schools, parents and students can take action to ensure that the quality of education remains high in New Jersey,” Bozza said.


    Education Brief Videos Explain Budget Considerations

    Due to the complexity of the school budget cuts and the effects that will be felt in schools across the state, the NJASA has released a series of videos to help parents and taxpayers better understand the issues and potential aftermath of the events and changes that may follow. Each video can be accessed on a special NJASA YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/TheNJASA or by clicking on the YouTube icon on the NJASA website, www.njasa.net.


    About NJASA

    The New Jersey Association of School Administrators is an organization of Chief Education Officers and school administrators who lead school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties. The association’s mission is to ensure a superior statewide system of education. Through ongoing professional training and education, the association shares knowledge among its members about best practices from both educational and administrative perspectives. Its goal is to move education forward by ensuring the highest quality of instruction for all New Jersey children.