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Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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Trenton, New Jersey 08608


9-12-11 Governor's Press Notice & Fact Sheet re: Education Transformation Task Force Report

For Immediate Release                                                              Contact:Michael Drewniak

Monday, September 12, 2011                                                 Kevin Roberts 609-777-2600

 Trenton, NJ Furthering his commitment to bold education reform, Governor Chris Christie today called the initial report of the Education Transformation Task Force a strong first step in the process to develop a new accountability system for New Jersey schools, and to reduce the regulatory burden in order to make it easier for schools and educators to focus their efforts on innovation and results for children. These recommendations, to be followed by a final report submitted by the Task Force on December 31, 2011, constitute a critical element of the Governor's focus on four Building Blocks for Success in New Jersey's Schools, including reforms to address performance and accountability, academics and standards, talent, and innovation in New Jersey's education system.

"This report confirms that we need to provide a newaccountability system that works for our educators and students, and thatsensibly moves us toward a system that values educational results overbureaucratic red tape," said Governor Christie. "Every aspect of oureducation system must be centered around ensuring that every one of ourchildren has the opportunity to get an effective education that prepares themfor a successful future.  These recommended changes to our accountabilitysystem mark a first step toward additional education reforms that we will bepursuing to modernize the fundamentals of our education system and ourschools."

The Task Force was commissioned by Governor Christie totake an unflinching and candid look at how well New Jersey's education systemwas meeting its primary goal of helping all students graduate from high schoolready for college and the workforce. Its two basic tasks were to examine waysto eliminate burdensome regulations so that New Jersey's educators will begiven the freedom they need to employ the best strategies in the classroom, andto review accountability systems, including the state's Quality SingleAccountability Continuum (QSAC) and federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

The report provided recommendations to fundamentallyreform the accountability system in state education by moving to a single,streamlined system, focusing on what matters most - student learning - andeliminating deficiencies in the two current accountability systems of QSAC andNCLB for New Jersey schools. The changes, which would be sought through afederal waiver of NCLB and statutory changes, will replace the currentaccountability scheme in New Jersey with a system more meaningful in itsmeasures and assessments and less administratively burdensome for districts.The initial report represents a first step towards this reform, withrecommendations that outline key challenges with the existing system andguidance for moving forward with the development of a new system.

The report also includes 45 specific recommendations toreduce red tape in New Jersey's public education system, changes that will helpschools to streamline their operations and focus every possible resource oncritical priorities like student learning and performance, rather thancompliance. The result will mean schools are less focused on regulatorycompliance and more focused on efforts and innovations that help all of NewJersey's children receive the great education they deserve.

"State government should be in the business ofsupporting the great work being done in the vast majority of our state'sschools, rather than just overseeing a web of rules and regulations thatmonopolize time, energy and resources from our educators," added GovernorChristie. "The 45 regulations identified for elimination in this reportare a down payment on this reform to our state's teachers and administratorsand an indication of my Administration's commitment to getting out of the wayof excellent schools and prioritizing classroom results over paperwork, whilestill ensuring that standards and accountability are high and that the safetyand fiscal integrity of our education system are uncompromised."

"Alleviating onerous regulations will give schoolleaders the flexibility they need to drive innovation in the classroom anddeliver quality educational outcomes for New Jersey's 1.4 millionstudents," said Department of Education Acting Commissioner ChristopherCerf. "To do that we must refine the partnership betweenaccountability for results and the empowerment of educators to determine theright strategies to achieve those results."

Recommendations to Create a Next GenerationAccountability System

Challenges with the Current Accountability System

New Jersey needs to develop a new accountability systemthat is transparent, fair and rigorous, and that sets high expectations for bothour students and those charged with delivering the promise of a qualityeducation to them. Our current system, consisting of two schemes that donot complement one another and that contain fundamental flaws, falls far shortof this mark.

New Jersey schools currently operate under twounconnected and often contradictory accountability systems, the federal NoChild Left Behind law and the state's Quality Single Accountability Continuum.While NCLB has played an important role in shining a light on studentachievement and reinforcing that school district failure must haveconsequences, it suffers from basic flaws including a failure to creditdistricts for progress and a one-size-fits-all approach to failing schools.

Likewise, the state's QSAC has strayed from its originalintention as a pathway to State takeover or restoration of local authority, andinstead has become a system focused on "inputs" rather than measuresof student achievement or "outputs."  Importantly, it has failedfundamentally in driving district improvement where it is most needed.

Recommendations for a More Effective AccountabilitySystem

The Task Force has recommended the development of asingle, unitary and streamlined accountability system consisting of the bestand most practically important aspects of both QSAC and NCLB - those that focuson measures of student learning and achievement - and eliminates thedeficiencies of each system. This new system would serve as the basis of awaiver request to the federal government from NCLB.

The new accountability system would focus on thefollowing principles:

        Focus on schools, more than districts, as theaccountable unit


        Emphasize "outcomes" (graduationrates, achievement gains) rather than "inputs"


        Measure success by high standards directlycorrelated to college and career readiness


        Recognize academic progress, not absoluteachievement levels, as the proper benchmark for success


        Consist of considerably less paperwork and fewerbureaucratic demands on districts, so that schools can focus on what mattersmost


        Include a clearly articulated schedule ofinterventions for schools experiencing persistent educational failure

Recommendations for Regulatory Reform to Focus Schools onPerformance Rather Than Compliance

The Overly Prescriptive and Burdensome Regulatory Systemin New Jersey Education

New Jersey's public schools are governed by anastoundingly dense and complex array of laws and regulations. Many ofthese are appropriate and worthwhile, setting standards for learning results,transparency, and health and safety requirements.  But in many instances,the host of statutes, rules and regulations has gone too far.

Embedded within 1,200 pages of statutes and 1,000 pagesof regulations is a host of rules that needlessly burden our educators. Insome cases, such as the regulation specifying how districts must store studentrecords, these policies are hard to understand and even harder tojustify. These overly prescriptive rules and regulations inhibit theinitiative of teachers, school leaders and administrators and stifle creativityin schools and central offices throughout the state.

While the review of these thousands of pages ofregulation continues to take place, the Task Force has evaluated and madeinitial recommendations for the elimination of regulations that do not directlyadvance student learning, safety or fiscal integrity, and that have served tohinder schools' flexibility and resources to operate.

45 Initial Recommendations for Regulatory Changes orElimination

The recommendations in this report range from thesimplistic to the fundamental, including such basic changes as removingrestrictions on what type of paper districts can print their report on andallowing districts to move toward electronic record keeping and storage, ratherthan hard student records.

Other recommended changes will help districts driveinnovation rather than simply comply with regulations that were perhapswell-intentioned but lack a focus on outcomes for students. For example,current code requires each teacher to log 100 hours of approved professionaldevelopment every 5 years. The Task Force recommends changes to help thisregulation drive innovation in student learning by allowing districts toexperiment with different approaches to professional development, such asProfessional Learning Communities.

A full catalogue of the initial recommendations,including all 45 regulatory recommendations, can be found in the full reportattached to this release.

These recommendations are preliminary and the Task Forcewill continue to solicit public input before the final report in issued at theend of December.

The Education Transformation Task Force is chaired byformer New Jersey Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe (Belle Mead,Somerset) and its membership includes: Community Education Resource Networkco-founder and Director Angel Cordero (Camden, Camden); Teaneck High SchoolPrincipal Angela R. Davis (New Milford, Bergen); Kearny School Superintendent FrankDigesere (Toms River, Ocean); Pittsgrove Township Middle School teacher LindaDuBois (Pittsgrove, Salem); Elizabeth Board of Education Assistant SecretaryDonald Edwards Goncalves (Elizabeth, Union); special education expert and ECLCof New Jersey Executive Director Bruce Litinger (Short Hills, Essex); and SetonHall University Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy ChairMichael J. Osnato, Ed.D. (Westwood, Bergen).

Following the release of this initial report ofrecommendations, the Task Force will submit a final report to the Governor byDecember 31, 2011. Upon the issuance of its final report, the Task Force willbe dissolved.

The Education Transformation Task Force was created byExecutive Order No. 58, issued on April 4, 2011.


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608