Garden State Coalition of Schools
Twelfth Annual Breakfast Meeting
Commissioner William L. Librera
May 27, 2003
Greetings Executive Director Strickland and members of the Garden
State Coalition of Schools. I am impressed with your longevity as an
association of suburban districts as you conduct your 12th
annual breakfast meeting on behalf of the children in your many school
districts. You are to be applauded for your advocacy and your dedication
to excellence in your schools.
I know that your major frustration is with a stalled economy that
has prevented state aid increases in amounts that you are entitled to
under the funding formula for the second year in a row. It is my observation
that your schools are weathering the drought very well because you administrate
your districts well so that you can withstand these periods of poor
economic performance that are beyond any of our control.
Governor McGreevey has done his best to fund districts with the greatest
need in this budget, but we all know that is not very satisfying from
your point of view. Everyone looks forward to the budget year that will
open up our ability to spend on important state priorities once again,
and education is at the top of the list in the McGreevey administration.
Since the beginning of this administration, the department has been
guided by some basic assumptions that will continue to influence our
education agenda. These include the belief that all children can learn
if taught well, and that there must be high expectations, as well as
multiple and diverse opportunities for children to meet the standards.
We also believe that research and analysis must be applied to teaching
and learning effectiveness, and standards and outcomes must be held
constant while we apply strategies and techniques in different ways.
It is within these guiding principles and assumptions that we proceed
as we carry out Governor James McGreeveys 21-point education reform
I can provide an update for you on the five major themes that Governor
McGreevey and I have used to group his 21 educational reform initiatives.
All of the critical issues in education fit within these five themes
-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.
In the area of teacher and administrator quality, we have begun to
work intensively on initiatives that we hope will place the most capable
teachers in the classroom and keep them there. Studies and statistics
show that while we may be training enough people to fill the teaching
ranks, the shortages are caused by an attrition rate that is much too
high within the first few years. This is a problem that affects all
of us to some degree and we must work collaboratively to improve it.
As educators, we all know research clearly shows that student achievement
of our standards depends heavily upon the capacity of educators to translate
core standards into meaningful student learning. We know the critical
role played by teachers and school leaders in promoting student success.
As we raise the expectations and support for improved student learning,
we must raise the expectations and support for high-quality teaching
and leadership that focuses on improving and enhancing the instructional
programs in our schools. We must ensure that those who work in our schools
are well prepared to help students achieve in accordance with our Core
Curriculum Content Standards.
Earlier this year, the department presented the State Board of Education
with a proposed licensing code for all who want to obtain a license
to practice in New Jersey that embeds professional standards for teachers,
school leaders and educator preparation programs.
The new rules proposed for licensure are part of a comprehensive review
of all chapters of the state administrative code to identify regulations
that were overly prescriptive, outdated, or creating high cost and low
benefit to those affected by them. The new licensing rules are linked
to the Core Curriculum Content Standards and contain the following:
the new draft professional standards; tighter certification requirements
for teacher preparation programs; a continuous path of teacher training
from college preparation to ongoing professional development; and definitions
of a highly qualified teacher required by No Child Left Behind.
Professional standards will help to ensure that New Jersey teachers
and school leaders have a clear vision of the knowledge and skills they
need to be successful in helping students achieve at high levels. Professional
standards will also help to ensure that teachers and administrators
develop mastery of the content, pedagogy and leadership skills that
are the building blocks of quality instruction and real school improvement.
Once adopted, these standards will guide college administrator preparation
programs, as well as mentoring and continuing professional development.
The move to professional standards for teachers and school leaders
moves us away from a concern with the list of courses educators take
in order to be licensed toward an emphasis on the knowledge, skills
and dispositions expected of those who are licensed to practice. The
focus is on outcomes rather than inputs. The clearer we can be about
what a responsible practitioner looks like, the better the standards
will serve in guiding and supporting efforts to prepare, license and
develop teachers and school leaders who can provide high-quality services
to New Jersey students.
New Jerseys professional development initiative for school leaders
will also be based on and driven by standards. The initiative is expected
to go into effect in September 2004 and will focus on supporting administrators
in providing instructional leadership. Each administrator will develop
an individualized professional development plan that aligns with the
proposed state standards for school leaders, personal and professional
goals and one or more specific school/district needs. Plans will ground
activities in objectives related to interests and needs in the areas
of improving teaching, learning and student achievement in accordance
with state standards. The department will bring together an advisory
group to develop the plan framework, oversee the development of resource
planning materials and provide advice on implementation and best practices.
Some areas of major change in the proposed licensing code in addition
to inclusion of the proposed professional standards for teachers and
Requiring certificate holders to obtain
any licensure or certification that may be mandated by state or federal
law or by a licensing board to hold their position.
Eliminating emergency certificates for
all instructional certificates and establishing an alternate route
for special education and bilingual/bicultural education teachers;
Providing for one year of mentoring for
Introducing a subject matter specialization
to teach in grades six through eight to assure that all teachers are
content prepared. This also aligns the state with the requirements
of the federal No Child Left Behind Act as it relates to new middle
Requiring national accreditation for
college teacher preparation programs;
Proposing requirements for a distance
Requiring a masters degree for
school business administrators;
Eliminating the assessment requirement
for principals and superintendents;
Including a masters degree in curriculum
and instruction for principal and superintendent certification
Adding a noninstructional school nurse
certificate to allow a person to perform school nursing services but
not be able to teach in areas related to health;
Renaming the pupil personnel services
certificate "School Counselor," and eliminating the teaching
Adding a new subchapter on professional
development for school leaders.
Issues that the State Board and the department are continuing to research
through focus groups, public testimony, and other valuable input include:
Preparation needed for teaching middle
No Child Left Behind and the states
high uniform standards for already certified teachers;
The vocational-technical certificates;
Technology and the teaching of technology.
As part of our efforts to address the teacher shortage, we took a
look at our highly successful alternate route to certification that
was instituted in 1983. At the May State Board meeting, we announced
two new programs in the states alternate route system to address
concerns about the lack of pre-service experiences and problems associated
with the 20-day mentoring requirement in the original alternate route
program. The first is a Master of Arts Teaching (MAT) that will be offered
at New Jersey City University in the northern region and Stockton State
in the southern. Both will provide satellite locations for increased
access and convenience.
The program will consist of a four-credit summer program that will
provide experiences related to the initial needs of new classroom teachers
to replace the 20-day initial mentoring requirements; a three-credit
experience in the fall and spring semesters; and a three-credit summer
experience following the first year of teaching. The year-long mentoring
requirement will remain in effect.
The second is the Community College Provider Plan developed in conjunction
with the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and New Jersey
Association of School Administrators. This plan will feature a uniform
curriculum at all community college sites. A major innovation will be
an "Introduction to Teaching" pre-employment course that will
begin during the summer to count for 45 of the 200 required hours for
teachers in the conventional program.
The second important area of concentration is that of raising
student achievement. This goal goes to the heart of educations
purpose and its promise. It is also the basis for the No Child Left
A year ago, we consolidated all functions of the Abbott implementation
mandates into one division. In order to assess the status of the reform
process that began five years ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted
our request for a years time-out to assess where districts are
with whole school reform efforts. In conjunction with this approved
hiatus, we have required all Abbott districts to submit to the department
by July 15, 2003 a three-year operational plan.
The plan will include an assessment of the first four years of Abbott
implementation, so that useful work will be preserved. The goal is to
simplify the budgeting process while incorporating the requirements
ofNCLB. Program staff, fiscal staff, and Local Support Teams
from the department will continue to assist schools and districts in
planning and developing their three-year operational plans and annual
One of the central initiatives of the McGreevey Administration is
the early literacy program. Research is clear that children who read
at or above grade level by the third grade are going to have much greater
success in the rest of their school years than those who cannot read
by grade three. We have made significant progress over the last year
by linking intensive Abbott early literacy programs with Reading First
and all other department literacy efforts, such as the reading coach
program. The coordination of these programs is yielding increased Abbott
The Abbott preschool program is showing great promise for helping
children to have early success in school. This program can be of critical
importance to a child, especially one who is from an environment that
puts him or her at risk of failure. Our preschool programs integrate
educational, social, and family programs so that the child and the family
can help develop the skills and self-esteem that children need in order
to be successful in school and life beyond school.
We have high hopes that our strong early childhood programs in districts
where children are at risk of failing in school from the beginning will
give those children the strong start they need to be reading on grade
level by the end of third grade.
In addition to attention to preschool programs, we have trained and
assigned 30 reading coaches to teachers in 80 schools 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 have just about completed the first year of the reading coach program,
and we have begun to assess its success. The program has proven highly
successful for the coaches, the students, and the schools. We are making
plans for the continuation of the initiative that will allow those who
are trained each year to be part of a pool of experts available to the
department as needed to expand the program. We are also offering an
extension of the program to the coaches home districts where there
is an identified need for their expertise.
The state also has begun to implement a six-year $120 million Reading
First grant to improve literacy from K-3. Districts with low reading
scores are eligible for this grant money, specifically for early literacy
In order to assist teachers even more with what children should be
taught in order to promote early literacy, we have revised the Core
Curriculum Content Standardsin math, science and language arts/literacy,
which have been adopted by the State Board and are much more specific
than the original ones adopted in 1996. They were especially strengthened
in language arts literacy from preschool to grade three.
The other areas of standards are still being reviewed and discussed
before adoption. There has been much intense discussion by the State
Board and considerable public input about whether world languages and
the arts should be required in high school. The State Board will also
have the task of responding to the new law mandating them to make technology
a Core Curriculum Content Standard and defining what that would entail.
The board recently adopted a comprehensive technology plan entitled
"Working Toward the Future with our Children" which already
has guidelines on a sound technology programs for schools.
Much of our education policy at every level must focus on the underachieving
students in our schools. The department is in the planning phase for
creating a student-level databaseso that we will 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 in all districts. Once it is
operational, we can reduce the load on the districts from multiple data
collections. A pilot project is expected this fall.
The U.S. Department of Education announced May 8 that New Jerseys
Accountability Workbook for NCLB has been approved for implementation.
We will work with districts to make sure we are meeting all of the requirements
under the law. This is a new set of requirements for all of us, and
we need to proceed in a coordinated effort. The underlying premise for
NCLB is to make sure every child in our care is achieving.
When we talk about standards and achieving them, we are required to
have instruments to measure progress. The departments new tests
NJ ASK 3 and 4 -- developed by the Educational Testing Service
were administered the week of May 20 in language arts literacy and math
for grades 3 and 4. Grade 4 science will start in spring 2004. This
contract will improve our communications on testing and test scores
to districts, teachers, parents, and students, with special emphasis
on giving teachers information they can use to shape classroom instruction.
We will not have to administer ESPA again because the federal government
has given us permission to use the new test for uninterrupted reporting
of progress to meet federal requirements.
Once the third- and fourth-grade tests are implemented, the state
will work with ETS to develop the tests for fifth and sixth grades by
2004-05 and seventh and eighth will follow.
Another important initiative related to the development of new assessments
is the one in which business and industry are partners. We have jointly
announced the nine pilot districts for a program under a targeted grant
to the Coalition for Responsible Educational Assessment, Testing and
Evaluation (CREATE) and the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence
(BCEE) consortium in the amount of $750,000, to be supplemented by $100
thousand from the Business Coalition and $400 thousand of in-kind support
from CREATE member organizations. The grant is for a pilot project to
create performance-based tests to be used in conjunction with standardized
tests. We announced the nine pilot districts at the April State Board
meeting. We have selected Willa Spicer from South Brunswick, a recognized
expert, to head the pilot project.
A third important policy area that we have identified is the
creation of diverse and multiple paths for student achievement. We must
all begin to release education from the restrictions of the past and
begin to find new paths to student success.
The department recently hosted regional meetings on the 12th-Grade
Pilot Program designed to encourage high school seniors who have finished
all graduation requirements to enroll in college-credit courses or seek
volunteer opportunities, among other things, for both personal and intellectual
growth. The 12th-Grade Pilot Program is an initiative high
on the MeGreevey administrations list of educational priorities.
The pilot program encourages districts to offer high school seniors
a variety of out-of-school options, such as online courses and community
service work. There are 85 schools participating. Today we will have
an event to launch this exciting program that will hopefully open up
new educational possibilities for our seniors.
In addition to a rigorous academic education, we also must consider
that some careers need additional preparation and alternative paths
even in high school. We have launched four different career academy
programs operating where they did not exist last year. These began with
the partnership of Pfizer and Morris School District with a $500,000
commitment from Pfizer to build a career exploration laboratory for
a medical/health program that will ultimately benefit all students at
Morristown High School. The second was PSE&G that became a partner
with the Trenton School District and Mercer County Community College
to develop an engineering program. The third was Commerce Bank partnering
with Cherry Hill, Drexel University, Rutgers University, and Camden
County Community College to develop the Cherry Hill Academy for Studies
One of the overarching issues that the department is concerned about
is the articulation of instruction from pre-K through grades 12, 14,
16, or even 20. Our students will be served best if we can reduce redundancy
and repetition in our education levels and truly build on the skills
and knowledge with each year of education. This is one area that lends
itself to increased cooperation between the department and institutions
of higher education. Our newly revised standards are much more specific
than the first set adopted in 1996. That articulation can be extended
To advance this concept, we have also announced plans for an Entrepreneurship/
Business Management Academy with Camden County College, Rutgers University,
and six Camden High Schools participating. The academy is the first
seamless pre-kindergarten through senior year of college initiative
in the state of New Jersey, and it is a model program for the 12th-grade
pilot program and senior year initiative.
We also are prepared to initiate seven "renaissance schools"
as a pilot program. These will be small schools designed to improve
learning, as well as improve the surrounding neighborhoods. These will
be pilot projects and we will observe the effects of these schools on
urban development, as well as on academic success. The first was launched
in Trenton earlier this year and the second in Neptune last week.
If we are to motivate schools and school personnel to really invest
their total talents and resources into teaching our students more effectively,
we must reward success. A fourth important element in our reform
plan is to create rewards for innovative and outstanding practices and
The department announced in May the criteria for the Governors
Schools of Excellence Program that will provide awards of $25,000 each
to schools that demonstrate significant improvement in a two-year period.
The funds can be used for educational purposes to be decided by the
school. The school will report to the Commissioner at the end of the
school year on how it used the award and it will serve as a demonstration
center for exemplary programs. A school can win once in three years.
Pepco/Conective, formerly Atlantic City Electric Company, and First
Energy Corporations, formerly Jersey Central Power & Light Co. donated
$1 million each for the three-year program.
Working with higher education, we also announced in May a Partnership
Grants program where institutions of higher education (IHEs) in New
Jersey can join with school districts in an important innovation. The
IHE must submit a proposal describing the program and demonstrate how
one-year support will assist in a multiyear partnership effort. The
proposal must identify the partner school district, as well as other
partners, and an explanation of how the effort will be sustained after
the first year.
Preferred areas for the innovative project include successful models
of learning, a continuum of professional development; parent leadership,
mentoring, literacy, math and science teacher recruitment, and programs
for second language learners. Grants are for one year, will not exceed
$85,000 and are provided through a $500,000 donation by Elizabethtown
Gas to promote partnerships of schools and higher education to improve
The department has worked with the Governors Character Education
Commission created in February 2002 to define best practices and made
recommendations to the Governor in September. The DOE has won a new
$1.9 million federal Partnerships in Character Education grant over
the next four years to measure the impact on students of best practices
in curriculum infusion and science-based programs. New Jersey is one
of only five states to receive a Partnership in Character Education
award because of the progress we have already made in establishing character
education services and programs for students. This is another programmatic
path to student success. It is difficult to be an achieving student
if negative behaviors are allowed to affect your performance in school.
The last area of our administrations program is public communication,
engagement and accountability.
We have shifted away from emphasis on compliance and oversight to
one of support and technical assistance to local districts by reorganizing
the department into two functional sectors central operations
and field operations.
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 are available in our regional
office are statewide planning; creation of a seamless system of education
pre-k to 14, 16, or 20; shared services; county AVA commissions, ETTCs,
and Educational Services Commissions; certification examiners; replication
of effective programs; and technical assistance for problem areas.
We have utilized our regional structure numerous times to present
information on important initiatives to all superintendents and other
staff from your districts. The most recent were the Amistad regional
events earlier this month where we could explain the work of the new
Amistad Commission created by statute and alert districts to their role
in curriculum development for social studies that incorporates topics
related to African-American history.
Our latest communication initiative is the network of schools. This
will create a technology-based link between school districts and the
DOE and will address three areas: the achievement imperative, special
education reform, and small schools. The department hosted a videoconference
from Trenton that included seven other sites for about 60 superintendents
and other educators. It is crucial that we use creative ways to allow
the education community to share information on practices that work.
We have plans for many more initiatives in these five critical areas
as the year progresses, as well as for working toward full implementation
of the many we have already launched. I look forward to many more opportunities
to work with your organization as we develop programs to provide the
finest possible education for all of our students.