NJ Given Chance to Move Beyond No Child Left Behind
Friday, February 10, 2012
With the Obama administration Thursday waiving New Jersey from No Child Left Behind, the state was in effect given the green light for its own plan for how public schools will be monitored, assisted, and in the case of those that don’t improve, overhauled and potentially shut down.
New Jersey was one of 10 states to receive waiver from the decade-old No Child Left Behind Act and its stress on standardized testing for students and punitive labels for schools.
The state's 392-page long application, with appendices, is heavy on details to how it will steer New Jersey’s public schools in a new direction of state oversight. Test scores will still be the main determinate in New Jersey, but will be used in different ways. And there will still be plenty of consequences.
Here are some of the highlights of what will change and when:
New Rules — and Labels — for Schools
Under No Child Left Behind, all New Jersey schools were determined to have made or not made “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) targets among every subset of children. If they did not -- and last year about half of all schools did not -- the schools faced a range of sanctions as more years passed.
Under the new system, New Jersey schools will now be divided into five categories, each with their own consequences:
Priority Schools: The 5 percent lowest-performing schools in overall achievement, give or take some leeway for those showing progress. In addition, high schools with lower than 75 percent graduation rates will be included. In a preliminary analysis by the state, 74 schools in all were identified as Priority Schools based on last year’s scores, a vast majority in urban and historically low-scoring school systems. Those schools will face immediate demands to make improvements, with the state working with them to determine best strategies.
Focus Schools: The next 10 percent of schools with the widest gaps in achievement between different subsets of students. The same analysis determined another 179 in that group, bringing in a broader array of districts, including those from suburban communities such as East Brunswick, Collingswood and Midland Park. Those schools will see more targeted attention from the state, focusing required changes around specific areas where the gaps exist, such as special education or limited-English programs.
At Risk Schools: Another 5 percent of schools that are on the cusp of being Focus or Priority schools, where they failed to meet progress targets for two consecutive years. The state has yet to determine which schools might fall into this category, officials said.
Reward Schools: The schools in the top 10 percent of achievement overall or having the narrowest achievement gaps. Those schools could receive financial rewards if eligible for federal Title I aid, or other less financial accolades from the state. By the state’s preliminary count, 133 schools would be Reward Schools based on the latest scores.
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