The state Board of Education took a number of actions at its July meeting related to the core curriculum content standards, organization of the NJDOE, and control of the state-operated district of Newark, among other actions.

Pursuant to Governor Christie’s directive in May,  the board was presented with a plan to review New Jersey’s academic standards and develop recommendations for adoption by January 2016.  The standards review  will consist of a main steering committee and three different subcommittees. There will be a Kindergarten through grade 2 subcommittee, a K-12 Math subcommittee and a K-12 English Language Arts subcommittee. The process will emphasize public input including three listening tours, focus groups and an online survey.  The NJDOE plans for the work to be completed in six months, with the State Board adopting the new standards at the January 2016 board meeting.

Because of the ambitious timeline, the NJDOE will be posting nomination forms on its website sometime this week and will have the membership of the various committees finalized by the end of July.

The State Board also approved the appointment of Christopher Cerf, former Commissioner of Education, as the new Superintendent for State-Operated District of Newark.  In comments before the 6-4 vote in favor of the appointment, Commissioner Dave Hespe said that it was his intention that Cerf would be the last state superintendent for Newark, paving the way for restoration of local control.  Board President Mark Biedron said he wants updates on progress in Newark at future meetings, including an appearance by Cerf at the August Board meeting.

The board also heard a presentation on the educator evaluation  process during this past school year. NJ DOE staff reiterated that the majority of educators in the state were rated as effective or highly effective, with 2900 teachers failing to meet those standards this year. On July 15, the NJ DOE plans on releasing more data with regard to this year’s evaluations.

The state board also continued its discussions with regard to revisions to the regulations concerning bilingual education.  The proposal contains minor amendments to the regulations including amendments throughout the chapter to replace “limited English proficient students” or “LEP students” with “English language learner” or “ELL” to reflect the term currently used for students whose native language is other than English.  Additionally, the proposed amendments will include a definition of “district board of education” that explicitly includes charter schools as recommended by commenters during the 2014 rulemaking’s comment period. The proposed amendments also will align the chapter with Federal requirements for the parental notification of students identified for bilingual, ESL, and English language services programs.

Finally, the board also held elections for its president and vice-president. President Mark Biedron and Vice President Joe Fisicaro were unanimously reelected to their leadership positions. Fisicaro is a former local school board member and NJSBA Board of Directors member. The NJ DOE also presented to the state board its plan for the reorganization of the department, including personnel changes. The following appointments were made:

  • Valerie Francois, Director, Office of Media Relations and Strategic Outreach
  • Karin Garver, Director, Office of Academic Initiatives and Fiscal Accountability
  • Vincent Costanza, Director, Office of Primary Education
  • Candice Kenyatta, Director, Office of Secondary Education
  • Takecia Saylor, Director, Office of School Innovation
  • Margaret McDonald, Executive Director, Office of Special Education Programs
  • Anne Corwell, Director, Office of Grants Management
  • James Palmer, Director, Office of Project Management
  • Marie Barry, Director, Office of Career Readiness
  • Robin Knutelsky, Director, Office of Teaching and Learning Support