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2-7-13 State Board of Education meeing - in the News
NJ Spotlight - New School Report Cards Measure More Than Just the ABCs of Student Performance...By digging deeper into data, School Performance Reports can analyze and compare grades and progress for students statewide

NJ Spotlight - Changes to Special-Ed Code Add to Tensions Between Parents, Administration…Taken singly, the proposed revisions deal with minutia, but parents argue they add up to significant amendments

NJ Spotlight - New School Report Cards Measure More Than Just the ABCs of Student Performance

By digging deeper into data, School Performance Reports can analyze and compare grades and progress for students statewide

New Jersey’s school report cards are still a month away, but planning is well along for changes in what data will be reported to the public and how it will be presented. A significant makeover is also in the works.

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Not everything about this year'sSchool Performance Reports will be new. Familiar -- and useful -- information like student performance on state tests, enrollment, and spending will still be available.

But a host of new data will make it possible to create snapshots of different levels of student performance, said state officials in an update provided the State Board of Education yesterday.

For the first time, the public will get a look at the state’s new “student growth percentile” (SGP), a statistical model that makes it possible to track a student's annual progress and evaluate state test scores against comparable students statewide.

The new reports will also include data about how students perform on the state’s fledgling high-school biology test (as well as other exams). School-by-school test results have never been reported before.

Officials also said that School Performance Report will list how many students received a C or higher in Algebra I, a lead-up to a state-administered Algebra I test that will be phased in over the next few years.

This year's reports will also feature data about how public school students fare once they leave high school, including their performance in college.

NJ Spotlight - Changes to Special-Ed Code Add to Tensions Between Parents, AdministrationTaken singly, the proposed revisions deal with minutia, but parents argue they add up to significant amendments

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By John Mooney, February 7, 2013 in Education|1 Comment

Special-education laws and regulations are nothing if not complex, and even the smallest change can spark off passionate debate from all parties involved.

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Special Education Code Presentation

Proposed Special Education Code

The latest revisions to New Jersey’s special-ed directives are no exception.

Depending on the perspective, the new proposals could make life easier for schools or for families of kids with special needs. That distinction is the crux of the arguments echoing in the Statehouse and the Department of Education.

Yesterday, the Christie administration introduced before the State Board of Education more than 200 pages of code revisions that are in keeping with its efforts to ease some of the bureaucratic burden on schools.

Assistant Education Commissioner Barbara Gantwerk, who oversees the department’s special-education programs, stressed that the measures were intended to give more flexibility to districts and families.

She said the proposal was not changing the basic tenets of the system that serves more than 210,000 students statewide, ranging from those with learning or speech impairments to those with extensive cognitive and physical disabilities.

But in a system rife with conflicts between districts and parents, easing the rules for some often means tightening them for others.

“The only places where they were trying to reduce burdens was for districts, not for parents,” said Peg Kinsell, policy director for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, who attended yesterday’s state board meeting.

Taken singly, the changes involve the minutia of special-education code, but taken together they could add up to major changes. For instance, the new code would loosen the rules about who could be the case manager for a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or who must attend the meetings that address a student's original identification and evaluation.

The tensions surfaced at the State Board meeting when a board member questioned the plans to ease the notification requirements when hiring the special education aides who often serve as a lifeline for students.

“I am really troubled by that, especially with students who are so vulnerable,” said Dorothy Strickland, a Rutgers education professor and board member from South Orange.

She cited newspaper reports about abuse of students, and said the safeguards are necessary.

“This doesn’t seem a big deal for the department,” she said. “At least set some parameters.”

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf argued the point, saying the goal is to remove bureaucratic obstacles for districts and called this a “paper-pushing exercise.”

“This implies that we don’t trust districts to make their own judgments and they need a state-directed mandate,” he said.

Strickland said maybe they do -- at least to maintain high standards. The board formally asked the administration to come back with a revised proposal.

This is just one area where special education is playing out politically. The state Legislature last month cleared the way for a new task force that would explore all special-education issues, including the increasing demand for more funding.

The measure has passed and awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.

“The question is how we spend the money, how we can provide better services, and how do we provide a better product for our kids and our parents,” said state Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth), a chief sponsor of the bill.

He acknowledged there have been plenty of special-education task forces before, but said the pressures are mounting and the state needs to address them head on. He specifically cited the state having the highest concentration of students diagnosed with autism in the country.

“A lot of these issues we can’t walk away from any more,” he said.


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Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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