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COMMISSIONERS REPORT ON STATE
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by Commissioner William L. Librera
- Governor James E. McGreevey and I recognize that our state education
systems effectiveness resides in every teachers classroom.
It is there we must start, if we are to make a difference in education.
In that process of helping teachers become more effective, I view my
role as a supporter and a collaborator with our local school districts
- Education is a dynamic field that never runs short of critical issues.
Sometimes they change slightly with the decades, but usually they center
around some very basic essentials for success in educating our students.
- Governor McGreevey and I have grouped the states critical issues
into five major themes for us to address:
-Teacher and administrator quality;
-Raising student achievement;
-Diverse and multiple paths for student success;
-Innovative and outstanding practices/programs; and
-Public engagement and communication and public accountability.
Teacher and Administrator Quality
- My vision of education is to place the Department
of Education in a leadership role to further quality teaching and
learning in this state. Successful teaching is the key to student
academic achievement, and we must work together to find ways to
improve teacher and administrative quality.
- We need to recruit teachers, develop student interest in a teaching
career, and find ways to keep the 40 percent who leave the profession
in the first five years from doing so. Research tells us that the most
important way to hold teachers in the profession is to give them adequate
support in the form of mentoring and collegial interaction.
- Teachers need common planning time, and they need time to observe
and mentor each other. Local districts need to look for more imaginative
and creative ways to give teachers time together in school-based
professional development, and the students will benefit greatly
from teaming efforts, joint planning, and collegial sharing.
- There are many things that we can do in our separate roles and also
collaboratively. The department will work with our higher education
partners to develop and implement uniform standards for teacher
- The alternate route has been successful in bringing new talent and
experience into the classrooms for over twenty years. We will develop
another support option for the alternate route that allows prospective
teachers to fulfill the requirements through a Master of Arts in
- We also will adopt professional standards for administrators
to ensure that they are prepared to assume critical leadership roles
and develop alternative preparation programs, such as an "alternate
route" for school administrators.
- We will seek assistance from our corporate partners. There
are very successful models of professional development that could be
replicated, such as the Merck Summer Professional Development Model
for Science teachers currently being adapted for literacy and mathematics.
- The department will work vigorously to extend the present 100-hour
professional development process to a more rigorous and coherent approach
to professional development for
- To meet our literacy goal of having all students learn to read
at or above grade level by the end of grade three, we must make sure
that our teachers in the early grades know how to teach reading. Therefore,
we need to strengthen state requirements to ensure that all elementary
teachers know how to teach reading.
- The rigor of a teachers preparation is important to his or her
performance in the classroom over the long-term. We need to increase
the minimum passing scores for teacher certification exams and
then require teachers to teach in their areas of certification.
- According to a report published by the Education Trust, about 17 percent
of high school classes in New Jersey are taught by teachers without
at least a college minor in the subject, the seventh lowest in the country.
We must collectively work on changing that statistic related to what
is known as out-of-field teaching.
- We will encourage teachers to pursue national certification,
which is a rigorous process that requires teachers to assemble professional
portfolios, include samples of student work and lesson plans, and submit
videos of their instruction and teaching methods. There are currently
only 48 teachers in our state who hold a national certificate. Our goal
is to have at least 2400, or one per school building.
- Governor McGreevey recognizes the importance of this critical issue,
and he has already initiated actions to begin a program to upgrade our
states teaching staff with their professional input and assistance.
He has set up a teachers advisory council, and he is currently
holding teacher town meetings in every county. We must find more ways
to reward teachers with much-deserved recognition, such as we
did in our recent Milken award events.
- One good piece of news recently was the
award of a $7.9 million state grant from the USDOE over three years
to enhance teacher quality throughout the state. The grant was
awarded to New Jersey for our proposal to redesign teacher education
programs; strengthen the alternate route; and provide mentoring support
for novice teachers.
- In addition to teachers in the classroom, No
Child Left Behind has specified that teacher aides must be
upgraded by meeting new more rigorous standards. By 2006, there are
60,000 teacher aides in New Jersey who must have an associates
degree, or have two years of higher education, or pass a proficiency
test to demonstrate that they are highly qualified.
Raising Student Achievement
- The second critical area that has taken on a new life under the new
federal education act No Child Left Behind (NCLB), along with the development
of highly qualified teachers, is the maintenance of high standards aligned
with a federally mandated state testing program for grades 3-8.
- The goals of the McGreevey administration are certainly in concert
with the main thrust of the new federal education act. We simply must
do everything in our power to raise student achievement and that requires
effort on everyones part.
- The largest thrust in our efforts to raise student achievement is
research-based. We know without a doubt that early education
is critical to later achievement. Knowing how to read by the end of
grade three is essential for success in any subject area in the subsequent
school years. Between birth and three years of age, 90 percent of a
childs mind develops. We simply cannot miss that opportunity to
help children who do not have access to people and resources that help
with that early development.
- For its part, the state is working on the quality of the preschool
programs in the Abbott
districts. Participation is way up. New staff that is hired is certified,
and those who have been in the program but are not certified are working
on obtaining their training and credentials. We have given districts
early childhood curriculum guidelines and strategies to assist them
in implementing the preschool programs.
- Many districts have been identified under Title I as needing assistance
with raising achievement in reading skills. We know that the use of
is one powerful way to help teachers who are working with non-achieving
students and may not know some of the most effective ways to reach slow
readers. Governor McGreevey has committed $10 million a year for four
years to provide the reading coaches to districts most in need of this
assistance. We currently have 30 coaches working with teachers in 80
- In the summer of 2002, we received a report from the Governors
Task Force on Improving the Quality of Early Literacy Education
in New Jersey. The task force was charged with the responsibility of
identifying best practices in teaching literacy and making sure we in
New Jersey are not leaving any child behind because he or she cannot
read. The task force report contains valuable recommendations that we
must discuss and implement in every district.
- As an added boost to assist us with our reading goal, the New Jersey
Department of Education (NJDOE) has received a six-year $120 million
grant to improve literacy from K-3. Districts with low reading
scores are eligible for this grant money, specifically for early literacy
- Governor McGreevey has gone a step beyond all of these initiatives
and recommendations by creating his Governors
Book Club as one example of a strategy to encourage students
to read. We call on all of you with young children/students to have
your children/students participate in the book club. We also encourage
you to find other innovative ways to promote reading, because in order
to read well requires lots of practice. We are competing with the visual
technological world when we try to get students to read. As important
as technology is to society, we still measure our literacy by how well
developed our verbal skills are.
- While our major thrust is early reading, all of us have the challenge
of improving performance in all areas, especially math and science.
Our newly revised Core Curriculum
Content Standards in math, science and literacy, adopted by
the State Board of Education in July 2002, are much more specific than
the original ones adopted in 1996. The other four areas of standards
are still being reviewed and discussed. We have examined the standards
not just from a strictly academic viewpoint, but we have strengthened
areas such as character development, self-esteem, and developing good
safety habits. Our technology standards are updated and very important
in giving districts guidance on preparing students for the workplace,
as well as higher education.
- When we discuss student achievement, we must address the various achievement
gaps and develop strategies to eliminate them. No Child Left Behind
says that by 2014 we must eliminate disparities among whites, blacks,
and Hispanics. We must work together on this problem. It will take persistence
at every level. National issues are being discussed, such as whether
all students should be expected to meet high standards. Yet, students
themselves tell us that low expectations simply produce lower results,
because school is dull and unchallenging.
- As we sort out and clarify the requirements under No
Child Left Behind (NCLB), the department will act as a resource
to districts rather than a monitor.
- Statistics show that about 48 percent of white students have graduated
from college by age 24 while only 7 percent of minority students have.
According to research from the National Assessment of Educational Progress,
by the end of high school, 17-year-old minority students have the same
set of reading skills as white students graduating from middle schools.
When asked why, adults blame poverty, uncaring parents, and lack of
health care. Children attribute it to teachers who dont know their
subjects well, counselors who underestimate the students potential,
and low expectations.
- According to Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, common elements
of success for student achievement are high standards for all students
and support for those who need it. Teachers matter more than anyone
- The department is in the process of creating a student-level database.
It is absolutely essential that we be able to track students individually
from year to year, especially to determine whether we are making adequate
progress in helping underachieving students. These data are necessary
for us to identify trends and patterns of achievement and pinpoint the
gaps that still exist.
- As unpleasant as the subject is, statewide
assessments are mandated. However, we must make our assessment
system fair and equitable so that it becomes our best tool in making
progress toward overcoming achievement gaps. We must get back to the
concept of making test into teaching tools for districts, as well as
students. Where there are deficiencies, we need to work to eliminate
them. Our assessments will help to identify the deficiencies.
- We are embarking on a new series of assessments that will encompass
grades 3-8 as required by NCLB. We will pay attention to the
input we have received from districts on the Elementary School Proficiency
Assessment (ESPA) especially. The department, with the assistance of
the school community, will try to find ways to develop proficiency testing
for students to demonstrate skills that are not measurable by pencil
and paper assessments.
- We intend to administer a new third grade test this spring
to ensure that New Jersey is meeting our third-grade literacy goal.
We must establish a baseline to indicate progress in our efforts to
have all students reading by the end of grade three.
Diverse and Multiple Paths for Student Achievement
- Reaching our ambitious achievement goals will require hard work, lots
of discussion and analysis, deployment of new instructional strategies,
upgrading our teaching staff, and keeping excellent teachers in the
profession. Accomplishing all of this requires some willingness to unfetter
our thinking about how districts construct programs. That leads us to
the third critical issue of devising diverse and multiple paths for
- As educators, we must take a look at our education system and what
it needs to accomplish in the 21st century. We will always
have the basic requirements of education, such as literacy in language
and mathematics. However, our economy is now global and the workplace
is changing very rapidly. As global business practices advance and create
jobs that do not even exist today, we must make sure we have a future
workforce educated to do such jobs that will require knowledge and
skills beyond the basic education we are accustomed to offering in public
- Although New Jersey is a national leader in innovation, research,
and development, we face fierce competition from other states
and countries for skilled workers.
- As our economy changes, we have new challenges and new opportunities
to work together with our business community to give our young people
the skills they need to compete for the best jobs in the global economy.
- Nationally, approximately 40% of students in college major in business
and business-related areas, yet we have almost no high school courses
that prepare for this career.
- There are tremendous advantages to career-focused programs. While
they incorporate all of the requirements of the Core
Curriculum Content Standards, including the workplace readiness
standards, these programs help students prepare in high school for a
specific career that they think they might like to follow.
- We have been encouraging districts to work with the business and corporate
world and higher education to create partnerships that develop programs
oriented toward specific careers. These career-oriented programs
have two important functions. If a student has a strong interest in
a career and has the opportunity to begin preparation at an early stage
in high school, he or she will have a tremendous advantage in picking
a college and gaining admission. If a student tries career-oriented
courses and finds that it is not what he or she expected, that is a
very valuable lesson to learn early also.
- To form a successful school/business partnership, it requires vision
and commitment on the part of the school administration and school board,
the business community, and higher education. Such vision is rare, but
we encourage educators and parents to examine this path to offering
our students programs that are challenging and useful for life.
- The job market will continue to place a premium on education and skills
as more positions are created in the technical, professional, and management
- Several major industries have realized that it is essential to build
a pipeline into their professions. Some have been aggressive like Cisco,
but it is catching on with other companies in areas of construction,
utilities, and pharmaceuticals that they need to partner with schools
to build the pipeline. Some are creating industry standards and building
career programs around them.
- I can proudly say we now have four career
academy programs operating where they did not exist last year.
Each one is different. These four do not count the many successful career
academies and programs that have been in place in some of our technical
schools such as Bergen, Monmouth, and Union to name a few. All of these
programs provide multiple paths to student success and all are important.
We will continue to explore and encourage additional partnerships that
will benefit students all over the state.
- Our standards are clear and consistent, but we must be willing to
look at new ways to help students reach the standards and at the same
time be prepared for a future characterized by change and challenge.
- Governor McGreevey and I hope that students who take advantage of
these exciting programs will ultimately consider residing in New Jersey
and pursuing business here. Wherever students choose to work, it is
our hope that career programs will be challenging enough to prepare
them to be clear thinkers, ambitious professionals, and model citizens.
- The realm of career-oriented programs is one major avenue to student
success. There are many other program approaches that we can develop
to help students be successful. For example, we need to examine the
structure of the senior year, because for many students, it is
a waste of time. Once students have passed the High School Proficiency
Assessment (HSPA), we must examine the many options we could offer them
as they complete high school, such as service projects, internships,
online courses, college-level courses, career academies, and there are
- We also need to look at facilities
as assisting us in providing multiple paths to student success. The
design of our buildings has a lot to do with how innovative or restricted
our programs can be. New construction should be an integral part of
the community and incorporate the resources of that neighborhood and
community into school life. We intend to initiate five "renaissance
schools" as a pilot program. These will be small schools designed
to improve learning, as well as improve the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Not only should school buildings be an integral part of the community,
but we must view education as integrated from pre-k to the end of college
and beyond. It is critical that we create a seamless articulation of
programming that keeps building toward complex skills and knowledge
for students as they progress through all of the grades and college
- Not only should it be personally rewarding to learn, but it is economically
rewarding, as well. Average annual earnings with no high school diploma
are $21,314 and over 40 years nets $853,000. With a high school diploma
-- $30,560 and $1.3 million over 40 years. With a two-year vocational
degree -- $36,833 and $1.47 million. With a two-year college degree
-- $38,118 and $1.52 million. With a Bachelors Degree -- $49,344
and $1.97 million. With a Masters Degree -- $57,676 and $2.30
million. And with a professional degree or doctorate -- $71,573 and
$2.86 million. (from the Employment Policy Foundation as reported in
Education Daily on March 6, 2002) We can say with certainty that
Innovative and Outstanding Practices and Programs
- The fourth critical area is the utilization of innovation and awards
for outstanding programs, performances, and efforts. If we are to improve
instructional delivery, we must identify, reward, and replicate successful
approaches and programs.
- The state will do its part in offering and encouraging others to offer
summer institutes and workshops to give teachers new ways to
teach and upgrade their skills. I would encourage all districts to give
serious thought to ways it can develop its own innovative ideas to increase
the quality and quantity of professional development opportunities.
- Districts should do more networking and sharing. This is much easier
to do with the technology resources at our disposal. You can identify
your successful programs and trade ideas with neighboring districts.
Some districts have formed consortia for these purposes.
- On the states part, we will take whatever opportunities we can
to improve our own approaches to educational improvement. One
area I am currently working on is the return of our three state-operated
districts to local control. We must do this without preconceived ideas
and without the benefit of guidance in the law. I will work with the
three districts until we solve how to accomplish the return in the best
interest of the state and the communities.
- In the future, where problems surface in districts, we will intervene
sooner and use a greater variety of strategies to solve the problem
short of taking over a district.
Public Communication, Engagement and Accountability
- Our fifth critical area centers around public engagement and communication
and public accountability. Whether we are spending federal dollars,
state aid, or local share, we cannot escape accountability for the performance
- In the department, we have set a very different course for ourselves
in regard to public communication, engagement and accountability. We
have completely reorganized the department to be more responsive to
local districts needs.
- We are shifting away from emphasis on compliance and oversight to
one of support and technical assistance. The department has undergone
a thorough reorganization
into two functional sectors central operations and field operations.
- A large part of the field operations will be delivered by our three
regional offices that have incorporated the county offices into the
regional delivery structure. Another part of the department with extensive
field operations is the new Abbott division. The staff of this division
works directly with the thirty Abbott districts.
- By having regional offices in the north, center and south of
the state, we will be better able to deliver direct services and technical
support to all districts. Some of the services that will soon be available
in your regional office are statewide planning; creation of a seamless
system of education pre-k to 14, 16, or 20; shared services; county
AVA commissions, Educational
Technology Training Centers (ETTCs), and Educational Services Commissions;
certification examiners; replication of effective programs; and technical
assistance for problem areas.
- The department will use technology to reach as many in the public
as possible to keep everyone informed about what is happening in education
in the state. Our Web site not only contains
state-level information, it connects to local districts, as well.
- We have plans for many initiatives in these five critical areas for
which we will enlist your support. Together we can make a difference.