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4-11,12-12 p.m - Administration Press Release on Priority, Focus and Rewards Schools -Final list of designated schools...related news articles
(GSCS Note: 14.8% of NJ's 2500 schools fall into these 3 categories. The Priority [3% of the total of NJ's 2500 schools] and Focus schools [7.3%] will be targeted for collaborative oversight and/or intervention by the Department of Education via the DOE's 7 new Regional Assistance Centers. The Rewards schools [4.48%] are demonstrating success in student growth progress rates or performing at a high level overall. The remaining 85.2% of NJ' schools, per the Administration's press release "...will not be categorized as Priority, Focus, or Reward Schools. In these schools, districts will have autonomy over the necessary investments and supports to sustain strong performance or strengthen areas for improvement..." For complete information, including the designated schools, on this new accountability system that is replacing NCLB - via the the federal government waiver granted to the DOE - see More below. )

Politickernj - Post-NCLB: Education Dept. devises new accountability measures for schools

Governor’s Press Release 4-11-12:Christie Administration Moves Forward to Turn Around Lowest-Performing Schools in the State, Provide Targeted Support for Improvement, and to Reward Successful Schools..."Beyond these three categories, the vast majority of the 2,500 schools in New Jersey will not be categorized as Priority, Focus, or Reward Schools. In these schools, districts will have autonomy over the necessary investments and supports to sustain strong performance or strengthen areas for improvement..."

NJ Spotlight - NJ Puts New Labels on Schools for Test Scores, Graduation Rates…With No Child off the books, 370 schools are highlighted under new accountability rules

Star Ledger - In wake of No Child Left Behind Act, worst N.J. schools receive stern message…[Commissioner Cerf stated that] "Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need," he said. "When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans…"

Governor’s Press Release 4-11-12:Christie Administration Moves Forward to Turn Around Lowest-Performing Schools in the State, Provide Targeted Support for Improvement, and to Reward Successful Schools -

A full list of Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/reform/PFRschools/

An overview of the Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/rac/

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Politickernj - Post-NCLB: Education Dept. devises new accountability measures for schools

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NJ Spotlight - NJ Puts New Labels on Schools for Test Scores, Graduation RatesWith No Child off the books, 370 schools are highlighted under new accountability rules

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Star Ledger - In wake of No Child Left Behind Act, worst N.J. schools receive stern message…[Commissioner Cerf stated that] "Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need," he said. "When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans…"

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Governor’s Press Release 4-11-12:Christie Administration Moves Forward to Turn Around Lowest-Performing Schools in the State, Provide Targeted Support for Improvement, and to Reward Successful Schools

Department announces final list of Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools as part of state’s new accountability system

Trenton, NJ –The Christie Administration today announced the final list of Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools as part of its new statewide accountability system developed through flexibility from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The Department of Education will invest heavily in the state’s lowest-performing schools (Priority Schools) and provide targeted supports to schools with specific achievement concerns (Focus Schools) to ensure all students are on track for college and career readiness.  For the first time, these school designations were developed by taking into account both growth and absolute proficiency to provide a more complete picture of school performance and the needs of individual schools.

“We are entering a new age of school accountability in New Jersey, one that frees high-performing schools from state interference and defines a stronger investment from the state to turn around pockets of persistent academic failure,” said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.  “No longer can we stand on the sidelines when our schools are not preparing students in New Jersey to graduate from high school ready for college and a career.  There is a moral imperative for the state to take a stronger role in persistently failing schools and to work collaboratively with communities and districts to give all students a fair chance.”

In February, New Jersey was one of the first states in the country to receive a waiver from certain provisions of NCLB.  Most importantly through this waiver, schools are no longer subject to the antiquated NCLB accountability provisions and sanctions required for not making Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP).  Instead, the Department has developed three categories of schools based on a three year average of growth and proficiency.  In New Jersey’s waiver application submitted on November 14, 2011, the state developed a draft list of priority, focus, and reward schools using preliminary data for illustrative purposes only.  Today, the Department is releasing a final list using final test scores and graduation rates from the 2011-12 school year.

 

Priority Schools

A Priority school is a school that has been identified as among the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools in the state over the past three years, or any non-Title I school that would otherwise have met the same criteria. There are 75 Priority Schools. The types of Priority Schools are—

Lowest-Performing: schools with the lowest school-wide proficiency rates in the state.  Priority schools in this category have an overall three-year proficiency rate of 31.6% or lower.

SIG school: schools that are part of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.

 

Focus Schools

A Focus School is a school that has room for improvement in areas that are specific to the school.  As part of the process, Focus Schools will receive targeted and tailored solutions to meet the school’s unique needs.  There are 183 Focus schools. The types of Focus schools are—

Low Graduation Rates: High schools with a 2011 graduation rate lower than 75%.

Largest Within-School Gaps: schools with the largest in-school proficiency gap between the highest-performing subgroup and the combined proficiency of the two lowest-performing subgroups.  Schools in this category have a proficiency gap between these subgroups of 43.5 percentage points or higher.

Lowest Subgroup Performance: schools whose two lowest-performing subgroups rank among the lowest combined proficiency rates in the state.  Schools in this category have an overall proficiency rate for these lowest-performing subgroups of 29.2% or lower.

 

Reward Schools

A Reward School is a school with outstanding student achievement or growth over the past three years.  There are 112 Reward Schools. The types of Reward Schools are—

Highest-Performing: schools that are the highest-performing in the state, in terms of school-wide proficiency, subgroup proficiency, and graduation rates.

Highest-Progress: schools that have high levels of student growth, measured using their median Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) over time.

Beyond these three categories, the vast majority of the 2,500 schools in New Jersey will not be categorized as Priority, Focus, or Reward Schools.  In these schools, districts will have autonomy over the necessary investments and supports to sustain strong performance or strengthen areas for improvement.  Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, the Department will develop individual growth targets for each school and subgroups within that school and will report those targets in a new School Performance Report.  These new School Performance Reports will also include measures of college readiness and comparison to peer schools across the state.  School Boards will be required to have public discussions on the findings of these reports to ensure transparent communication about school performance.  Through these new School Performance Reports, district administrators and educators will have unprecedented actionable data to drive their improvement efforts.

Interventions and Supports

As part of the development of this new accountability system, the Department of Education is undergoing a fundamental shift from a system of oversight and monitoring to service delivery and support. Over the past year, the Department has been developing seven field-based RACs staffed with expert school improvement teams that will work directly with Priority and Focus Schools to improve student achievement.  These RACs will be on the ground and ready to support Priority and Focus Schools by September 2012.

The interventions necessary for Priority Schools and the supports required for Focus Schools will be different based on the individual needs of the schools.  Because Priority Schools have low school-wide achievement, interventions will address school-wide concerns.  By definition, Focus Schools have targeted areas of weakness in the school, such as specific subgroup performance.  The state’s supports in those schools will be much more targeted to the specific area of weakness.

“Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need,” said Acting Commissioner Cerf.  “When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans.”

After completing individual school reviews to identify the needs of specific schools, the RACs will work closely with district and school leadership to implement eight proven federal turnaround principles.  Those principles are:

School Climate and Culture: Establishing school environments with a climate conducive to learning and a culture of high expectations;

School Leadership: Ensuring that the principal has the ability to lead the turnaround effort;

Standards Aligned Curriculum, Assessment and Intervention System: Ensuring teachers have the foundational documents and instructional materials needed to teach to the rigorous college and career ready standards that have been adopted;

Instruction: Ensuring teachers utilize research-based effective instruction to meet the needs of all students;

Use of Time: Redesigning time to better meet student needs and increase teacher collaboration focused on improving teaching and learning;

Use of Data: Ensuring school-wide use of data focused on improving teaching and learning, as well as climate and culture;

Staffing Practices: Developing the skills to better recruit, retain and develop effective teachers; and

Family and Community Engagement: Increasing academically focused family and community engagement.

Although the RACs will focus on schools as the main unit of change, significant collaboration will take place with school districts to ensure cohesive, sustained improvement.  Interventions in Priority Schools will be closely monitored and will continue for a three-year period, providing schools the time needed to implement required changes and demonstrate improvement in student achievement. Priority Schools that fail to implement the required interventions or fail to demonstrate required improvement in student academic achievement may become subject to state-ordered closure, replacement, or other action.

“Through dedicated and focused state investment, we are hopeful that we can provide every student in the state with the same opportunities to succeed in life,” said Acting Commissioner Cerf.  “But let me be clear: we will be impatient if schools are unwilling or unable to improve, and we must be willing to close or use any other means necessary to give students assigned to those schools better options.”

Reward Schools will be recognized for either high overall performance or significant growth over the past three years through public recognition and will have the opportunity to share successful practices with educators across the state.  Reward Schools that received Title I funds may also be eligible for financial rewards through Title I funds.

A full list of Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/reform/PFRschools/  

An overview of the Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/rac/

Politickernj - Post-NCLB: Education Dept. devises new accountability measures for schools

By State Street Wire Staff | April 11th, 2012 - 4:25pm

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TRENTON - The state Education Department has come up with three new designations for hundreds of schools after it received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law in February.

The new categories will be Priority, Focus, and Reward schools, and are part of the Christie Administration’s plan to have Regional Administration Centers, or RACs. The designations are part of a plan to strengthen the accountability measures of schools, according to the department, as well as treat schools in a way that takes their individual situations and problems more into consideration that NCLB did.

“Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need,” Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said in a release. “When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans.”

The state’s 75 Priority schools are some of the consistently lowest-performing schools and would receive the greatest amount of state support.

Interventions in Priority Schools will be closely monitored and will continue for a three-year period, providing schools the time needed to implement required changes and demonstrate improvement in student achievement, the department stated.

Priority Schools that fail to implement the required interventions or fail to demonstrate required improvement in student academic achievement may become subject to state-ordered closure, replacement, or other action, according to the state.

The 183 Focus schools have some areas that are in need of improvement to help all students be on track for college or make them career-ready. The department reported that it looked at trends and test performance in coming up with the designations.

The state’s 112 Reward Schools have outstanding student achievement or growth over the past three years.

“We are entering a new age of school accountability in New Jersey, one that frees high-performing schools from state interference and defines a stronger investment from the state to turn around pockets of persistent academic failure,” Cerf said in a statement.

“No longer can we stand on the sidelines when our schools are not preparing students in New Jersey to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. There is a moral imperative for the state to take a stronger role in persistently failing schools and to work collaboratively with communities and districts to give all students a fair chance.”

The waiver from NCLB means the state will no longer be subjected to what state education officials described as “antiquated” accountability provisions and sanctions required for not making Adequate Yearly Progress.

The department said that schools or districts that aren’t in any of the three categories will have autonomy over their investments and other measures regarding performance and improvement.

Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, the department will develop individual growth targets for each school report those targets in a new School Performance Report. These new reports will also include measures of college readiness and comparison to peer schools across the state. School Boards will be required to have public discussions on the findings of these reports to ensure transparent communication about school performance.

A full list of Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/reform/PFRschools/

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NJ Spotlight - NJ Puts New Labels on Schools for Test Scores, Graduation RatesWith No Child off the books, 370 schools are highlighted under new accountability rules

By John Mooney, April 12, 2012 in Education

 

Dickinson High School in Jersey City is among the "Focus" schools for low graduation rates.

With No Child Left Behind essentially off the books, welcome to New Jersey’s new age -- and labels -- for school accountability.

The Christie administration yesterday released the final list of schools that will be highlighted under new accountability rules that put heightened attention on the very lowest and the very highest achieving schools, while giving leeway to the vast middle.

Replacing the labels of “schools in need of improvement” in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the new nomenclature will be Priority Schools, Focus Schools and Reward Schools. The lists total 370 schools in all, about a seventh of the state’s 2,500 schools.

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The Priority Schools are the lowest of the low in terms of state test scores, the Focus Schools more about specific shortcomings in things like graduation rates and achievement gaps. Both will get new state interest, if not intervention, the administration said.

The Reward Schools are the top achievers, both overall and in terms of progress. Some may get money for their efforts.

The following is a breakdown of each new category, as well as who falls into them, including a few surprises.

Priority Schools (75 schools)

These are the schools that the new rules are most meant to address, those that fall at the bottom 5 percent in overall performance over the past three years, most of them in urban districts and serving predominantly poor and minority populations.

Overall, their proficiency rates in the state’s math and language arts tests were just 31 percent, or less than a third of all students being able to read, write or do math on grade level, according to the state.

They are not new to these lists, either, many of them highlighted for low achievement on every other accountability system over the years. Twenty-three are in Camden, more than half of all schools in that district. More than a dozen are from Newark and Trenton, each.

Three are charter schools, including one the state is now seeking to close, the Emily Fisher Charter School in Trenton. Three others remain open for the time being, the subject of new state focus. They are Paul Robeson Charter School for the Humanities in Trenton, Liberty Academy Charter in Jersey City, and Freedom Academy Charter School in Camden.

For all the schools on this list, the options for the state are many, including replacing staff and leadership. New curriculum and mandated training are also on the list.

Focus Schools (183 schools)

This is the biggest group of the list, one that calls out schools for a variety of shortcomings.

Nearly 60 schools are included for having the biggest achievement gaps in the state, ones the administration said average over 40 percentage points. That means the highest achieving category of students -- typically white or Asian -- are seeing proficiency rates almost double the rate of achievement as the lowest.

And that’s where it starts to get interesting. Many of the schools on this list have big concentrations of low-income or minority students, but they are also places like Leonia Middle School in Bergen County, two schools in Montclair, and three in South Orange/Maplewood. Other suburban schools typically well regarded but making this list include those in South Brunswick, Metuchen and Westfield.

More predictable are the 37 high schools making the Focus Schools list for low graduation rates, virtually all of them urban or working class. According to the state, none of them have graduation rates higher than 75 percent under a new and long-awaited methodology the state is using to track individual students and how they graduated. The state has yet to release those numbers to the public.

The last category of Focus Schools are 88 schools with particularly low achievement levels in any one subgroup of students, be it minority or low-income or also those with special education needs. That, too, is almost entirely an urban list, sweeping up many of the schools that weren’t caught in earlier lists.

What the state will do for them is less aggressive than Focus Schools, targeting the specific shortcoming with requirements for additional training or programs.

Reward Schools (112 schools)

These are the top performers on the state’s tests, the first to get specifically called out for their high achievement levels. Those that are receiving special federal aid for serving low-income populations may get a little more as a reward, officials said, although the actual amounts are yet to be determined.

By and large, they are also the schools one would expect, either in the wealthier communities or drawing the top students in middle- or working-class districts.

They’re split into two groups, those with the highest achievement outright and those making the biggest progress. The latter is gauged by a new measure for student achievement being launched by the state called Student Growth Percentile, a controversial statistical method that compares students’ progress across their peers.

For highest achievement overall, Bergen County tops the list with 15 schools. Morris and Union counties are also well represented, although in part for the success of their countywide magnet schools run by their vocational and technical districts. Among urban schools labeled as Reward Schools, it’s also the magnet schools like McNair High School in Jersey City and Science Park High School in Newark.

Two charter schools are included: Robert Treat Academy Charter School in Newark and Classical Academy Charter School in Clifton. Ironically, Classical was recently put on probation by the state department for operational and fiscal problems.

The list of schools making the most progress is a bit more eclectic, with also a big contingent from Bergen County but also more middle-class communities like Woodbridge and Hackettstown. Two charters also made this list, Discovery Charter Schools Newark and Foundation Academy Charter School in Trenton.

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Star Ledger - In wake of No Child Left Behind Act, worst N.J. schools receive stern message…[Commissioner Cerf stated that] "Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need," he said. "When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans…"

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 11:18 AM Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 11:19 AM

By Mark Mueller/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger
The state Department of Education put New Jersey’s most troubled schools on notice Wednesday, ordering administrators and educators to cooperate with state intervention and improve student performance or face serious consequences.

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf delivered the stern message as the state reached the next phase in its rollout of a new school accountability system that replaces some elements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

New Jersey is one of 10 states granted a waiver by the federal government to deviate from the law, which many education officials consider too inflexible and imprecise in gauging school achievement.

In keeping with the new system, the education department Wednesday released a final list of 370 schools in three categories: low-performing "priority schools" in need of aggressive guidance; "focus schools," which must improve in certain areas; and "reward schools," which demonstrate continual excellence or improvement.

In a statement, Cerf made clear the stakes are highest for the 75 priority schools, many of which suffer from the lowest test scores and graduation rates in New Jersey. Failure to accept state intervention or show significant improvement could result in funding cuts, staff shuffles or closure, he said.

"Through dedicated and focused state investment, we are hopeful that we can provide every student in the state with the same opportunities to succeed in life," Cerf said. "But let me be clear: we will be impatient if schools are unwilling or unable to improve, and we must be willing to close or use any other means necessary to give students assigned to those schools better options."

Seven newly created regional achievement centers will begin working with the low-performing schools this fall. If school administrators or teachers rebuff the state’s help — or if little or no improvement is seen over three years — the consequences will kick in, Cerf said.

Most of the priority schools are in the state’s larger and poorer cities, among them Newark, Camden, Trenton and Paterson. Others on the list include Lakewood High School, Asbury Park Middle School and the Patrick F. Healey Middle School in East Orange.

The 183 focus schools identified by the state will receive less intrusive guidance but will also work with the regional centers. Some of those schools have decent test performance but low graduation rates. Others have wide gaps between the best- and worst-performing students or segments of the school population — special education, for example — that underperform.

Under No Child Left Behind, many of those schools would be designated as failing schools. The new system, Cerf said, allows New Jersey to recognize what works and what doesn’t and to react accordingly without using a broad-brush approach.

"Unlike under NCLB, where all schools received the same consequences regardless of their performance challenges, we now have the ability to target our interventions to areas of need," he said. "When schools have targeted problems we need to develop targeted solutions rather than develop one-size-fits-all improvement plans."

The Department of Education picked 112 reward schools based on either year-after-year top performance or significant, steady improvement over the past three years.

Each year, as many as 20 reward schools that already receive federal anti-poverty assistance, known as Title 1 funding, can receive an additional cash bonus of up to $100,000 to further improvement.

The full list of priority, focus and reward schools can be found at the Department of Education’s website.


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