8-1-11 Education Issues in the News - Possible relief in the offing re: the QSAC mandate

njspotlight.com -Agenda: State Board of Education
Topping the list will be a proposal to trim back and speed up the state's current program for monitoring schools


Date: Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011

Time: 10 a.m.

Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton

What they are doing: A plan to streamline the state's system for monitoring school districts will top the agenda for the midsummer meeting, including a public hearing on the proposal. The board will also carry over a couple of items from its last meeting, including a proposal to raise the bar on certification of certain teachers and a report on middle school achievement. The board will also finally swear in the first of the two new members appointed by Gov. Chris Christie this spring.

School monitoring -- for now: The stateís monitoring system -- called the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) -- has been praised and panned, depending on the speaker. It requires a checklist of more than 330 items for every district to complete every three years, from minimum marks in student achievement to having the proper internal financial controls in place. Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf is looking to revamp the system altogether, and is in the middle of a debate with Newark schools over the scores of that district. But in the meantime, he has proposed scaling back the current system to one that he said will be less onerous and more telling of school performance.

The 80 percent rule: The way the current QSAC works is that districts are judged on five categories: finance, governance, instruction, operations and personnel. Those that score 80 percent in each category pass muster. Those that donít are required to make improvements in specific areas or face possible state intervention. The proposal would retain the current structure and still require the 80 percent mark for a district to be "high performing." But it will winnow the list of items from the current 334 to 54, focusing more on student achievement measures. The district will also need to complete a Statement of Assurance to ensure certain operational structures are in place.

Still under consideration: The board will consider the QSAC changes in the "second discussion" phase of a long process that leads up to a formal proposal and then adoption. As part of that process, the board also will hold a public hearing in the afternoon, starting at 3 p.m. Those wishing to speaking must have registered with the state board beforehand.

New member: Christie has slowly but steadily filled the board with new appointees, now having named six of 13 members, with at least two more slots available for him to fill in the next year. His most recent two appointees two have yet to be sworn in, due to scheduling conflicts. On Wednesday, Mark Biedron of Hunterdon County is slated to take the oath of office.

August leftovers: The state board will take up a few matters left over from the last meeting, including a report on the effect of school configuration on test performance. The report found that the K-8 configuration adopted by many districts -- especially in urban areas -- did not make a big difference in helping raise student achievement. The board will also move for final adoption of a proposal to raise the minimum scores required by art and technology teachers on the national PRAXIS exams.