At the State Board of Education’s monthly meeting last week, Education Commissioner David Hespe addressed the issue of New Jersey’s participation in the Common Core initiative, noting that New Jersey has had a long history of high standards, and is always looking to improve its standards.

The commissioner said he is looking forward to having PARCC data to inform the evaluation of standards. He told the board he will develop a plan for review of the Core Curriculum Content Standards, and bring that plan to the State Board at its July meeting.

In other news, the state board advanced its proposals concerning educator preparation, certification, and professional development. Among the changes would be an expansion of the clinical student teaching experience, from one semester to two semesters. Additionally, alternate route preparation programs would be strengthened. Effective in the 2017-2018 academic year, for example, alternate route teacher candidates would be required to complete at least 50 hours of pre-professional experience, rather than 24 hours. The department also proposed requiring clinical experiences to be included within the pre-professional experience.

Finally, the department proposes to allow programs to admit candidates only in cohorts so all students in a cohort start the program at the same time, instead of allowing candidates to start a program at any point during the year. The proposal will promote consistency and continuity within an educator’s preparation.

The State Board also advanced proposals on bilingual education. The proposal for readoption would maintain the focus on achieving results for limited English proficient (LEP) students, while holding school districts accountable for the results. The rules proposed for readoption, with amendments, also provide flexibility in the design of bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) services based on the needs of LEP student populations at the school district level; and require the development of bilingual and ESL curricula correlated to the state’s academic standards. The chapter also addresses the provision by school districts of developmentally appropriate instruction to eligible preschool LEP students.