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10-6-14 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight -  Ed Department's Structure Undergoes Some Fine-Tuning But No Major Overhaul…Acting Commissioner David Hespe moves to fill several vacancies and adds new position, but refrains from drastic changes

 John Mooney | October 6, 2014

 Six months on the job, acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe is moving a few key chairs in the state Department of Education to address some immediate needs, but said he will refrain from any major reorganization.

Hespe, in his second stint on the job, hasn’t made many shifts after being appointed in March, and said he was largely staying with the organizational structure created by his predecessor, former commissioner Chris Cerf.

But last week, he did move around nearly a dozen positions and personnel to address what he said were some coordination issues within the department, as well as fill new vacancies in the senior staff.

The only new position is a chief intervention officer to serve as coordinator of the four state-controlled districts, as well as a half-dozen others with significant interventions in place. Serving in the new post is Timothy Matheney, who was previously director of teacher evaluation.

“For those districts where we are directly engaged -- the four state-controlled districts plus places like Trenton and Lakewood -- I wanted better coordination of our services there,” Hespe said yesterday.

“Tim knows our schools well, he knows the department well, and he knows our initiatives well.”

In other changes, Hespe’s chief of staff, William Haldeman, was appointed also to serve as assistant commissioner in charge of administration and budget for the department.

Haldeman’s new double title came out the departure of assistant commissioner David Corso, whose functions included administration. Now, Corso’s responsibilities -- including finance, facilities, and information technology -- are to be split up among three different divisions.

Other senior staff changes announced last week include the appointment of Kimberley Harrington to be chief academic officer. Harrington had served in that capacity in an acting role for three months, since the departure of Tracey Severns.

Robert Bumpus, a former county superintendent and 30-year veteran of public education in South Jersey, was also named an assistant commissioner for field services, in charge of the department’s 13 county offices.

Other appointments include:

·         David Joye, director, Office of Budget and Administration

·         Glenn Forney, director, Office of State Monitors

·         James Palmer, director, Office of Project and Grants Management

·         Silvina Traba, director, Office of Legislative and External Affairs

·         Diana Pasculli, director, Office of Educator Policy and Outreach

·         Evan Linhardt, chief information technology officer

Patricia Morgan, a former assistant counsel in Gov. Chris Christie’s office, joined Hespe this spring as his chief of operations and legal affairs.

Hespe said yesterday he doesn’t plan any other significant changes at this time in the $83 million department, except with the possibility of departures that would be common in any administration’s second term.

Cerf’s appointments to other key assistant commissioner spots in charge of teacher quality, student performance and assessment, special services, and school innovation are all staying in place, at least for now, Hespe said.

“I’m very happy with the team,” Hespe said. “It is a good solid team that is working well together. We have the right people doing the right things.”


Star Ledger 10-3-Guest Editorial -The real education problem is the Common Core test, not the standards: Opinion….’If we want our children to be able to compete on a global level, we should challenge them.

Students may find school work more challenging under new guidelines for the controversial Common Core Standards’

Star-Ledger Guest Columnist By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist The Star-Ledger
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on October 03, 2014 at 8:01 AM, updated October 03, 2014 at 8:10 AM

By Victoria Pagonis

It seems like every other day there is an article written about the new Common Core State Standards slamming them as a terrible new policy. As an expert in standards and assessment, I could not disagree more. Yes, the Standards are challenging but isn’t that what we want for our children? Why would we adopt new standards that reflect what was, instead of what is and what will be?

The real problem isn’t the standards, it’s the tests.

When the Standards were first adopted in 2010, two consortia received hundreds of millions of dollars to construct the Next-Generation Assessments, the tests that will evaluate students’ success in mastery of the Common Core. With 47 states and territories adopting the Standards, it only made sense to administer these new tests online. The problem came to light with the first glimpses of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced sample tests. The items were unusual in their construct, and the content was far too challenging even for the most gifted students.

But while these tests need to be reconstructed, the standards that they are supposed to test are a vast improvement over anything we have had in recent memory. They are clearer than most state’s former standards, and for the vast majority of states there are fewer and more focused standards than ever before. Both of these qualities are great improvements.

The English Language Arts Standards are based upon a core set of skills, called anchors, which explains what students are expected to know and master by the time they graduate high school. For example, one anchor is to "determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development…” The grade level standards elaborate what this means for each year.

While equally impressive, the Mathematics Standards are structured differently than the English Standards. Instead of using a staircase that defines each grade level’s contribution to the anchors, they present distinct content, skills, and habits of mind to be mastered at each grade level.

Let me be very clear: these are extremely challenging standards and at first, it will be difficult for most students to meet them. However, if we want our children to be able to compete on a global level, we should challenge them. As educators and policymakers, it is our responsibility to create far-reaching instructional content that will prepare them for success in college and beyond.

When the Common Core came out, I reviewed each standard and wrote workshops for every grade in order to assist educators in implementing them. I grappled with high-level content and processes and created materials to ensure that every student could master them. In the end, I didn’t meet a standard that I didn’t like. Some standards were more challenging than others, but they all made sense.

Anyone who were to read the Standards in depth would see that they are clear, forward-thinking and a great step forward toward better educating our children. It’s time for everyone to stop using the Common Core as a scapegoat and realize that the real problem is the test, not the standards.

Victoria Pagonis is an education policy expert with more than 30 years of experience. Her education consulting company provides workshops and trainings for educators on how to implement the Common Core Standards.


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