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Interdistrict Choice--Robert Zywicki NJ BOE Testimony--11-2-16

WEEHAWKEN TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT

Dr. Robert R. Zywicki

Superintendent of Schools

53 Liberty Place Weehawken, NJ 07086 201.422.6125 | WeehawkenSchools.net | @WeehawkenTSD

 

 
   

Public Comment on N.J.A.C. 6A:12, INTERDISTRICT PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE

November 2, 2016 - New Jersey State Board of Education

 

My name is Robert R. Zywicki and I am the Superintendent of the Weehawken Township School District in Hudson County. I greatly appreciate this opportunity to comment on N.J.A.C. 6A:12 and the Interdistrict School Choice Program (Choice Program). My doctoral dissertation was an evaluation of the impact of the Choice Program relative to equity as perceived by participating school superintendents. Attached to my testimony is an executive summary of my dissertation. During my research, I measured the impact of New Jersey’s Interdistrict School Choice Program utilizing quantitative and qualitative data. The results of the study were that participating superintendents held overall positive perceptions of the impact of the Choice Program relative to equity. There were no significant differences in the perceptions of participating superintendents based on district socioeconomic status, district geographic classification and district enrollment dynamic. My study found that the cap on student enrollment in the Choice Program was an issue of contention for participating superintendents. Further, the participating superintendents perceived the Choice Program as not being fully effective because of a perceived lack of funding or funding that has not been expanded to meet enrollment demand. The Choice Program has been particularly beneficial to districts with declining enrollment.

 

I respectfully request that the Board consider the following recommendations for changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:12 that are informed by my doctoral research on the Choice Program, previous experience as a central office administrator in a Choice Program district, and as a Superintendent currently seeking to join the Choice Program:

 

  1. The current “first come, first served” distribution of seats creates an artificial cap system in which districts who joined the Choice Program in 2010 have sometimes hundreds of more seats assigned than districts new to the program. This has created an inequity among districts in the Choice Program. The regulation should be amended to provide specific guidance as to how NJDOE allocates choice seats in an equitable manner among participating districts.
  2. The regulation should be amended to provide a special expedited application process for districts who offer unique college-ready academic programs, such as International Baccalaureate or the AP Capstone Diploma Program, to join the Choice Program. Further, districts who offer special college-ready programs and are the only site in their county to do so should be able to receive Choice Program seats above the current cap system imposed by NJDOE.
  3. The regulation should contain a provision to ensure the reporting of Choice Program student performance data on the NJDOE annual school performance reports.
  4. The regulation should be amended to include a requirement for the NJDOE to host an annual Choice Program seminar to publically review Choice Program data and provide for the sharing of best practices among participating districts.

 

Lastly, NJDOE has not made an application available this year for new districts to join the Choice Program in 2017-2018. If applications are not made available before April 30, 2017, new districts will be unable to join the Choice Program until September 2019. This arbitrary closing of the Choice Progam is contrary to 6A:12-3.1 and the Choice Program’s stated purpose to “increase options and flexibility for parents and students in selecting a school that best meets the needs of each student.” I urge the Board and NJDOE to open the application process as soon as possible to allow new districts to join the program in 2017-18.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my comments regarding N.J.A.C. 6A:12 and the Interdistrict School Choice Program.


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



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