When schools succeed,
What is a Regional Achievement Center (RAC)?
- The RACs represent a new approach of how the State engages with and intervenes in New Jersey schools and districts. The NJDOE is undergoing a fundamental shift from a system of oversight and monitoring to service delivery and support. The NJDOE is shifting focus to low performing schools, aligning significant resources and coordinating school improvement activities through the RACs.
- The RACs are a new system of seven field-based centers that are charged with driving improvement in New Jersey's Priority and Focus Schools. Each RAC is led by an Executive Director, a master educator who is accountable for student achievement gains in his or her region. RAC staff members partner with Priority and Focus Schools to create and execute comprehensive School Improvement Plans aligned to eight turnaround principles that are widely known to be central to school improvement:
- School Leadership: The principal has the ability to lead the turnaround effort
- School Climate and Culture: A climate conducive to learning and a culture of high expectations
- Effective Instruction: Teachers utilize research-based effective instruction to meet the needs of all students
- Curriculum, Assessment, and Intervention System: Teachers have the foundational documents and instructional materials needed to teach to the rigorous college and career ready standards that have been adopted
- Effective Staffing Practices: The skills to better recruit, retain and develop effective teachers and school leaders
- Enabling the Effective Use of Data: School-wide use of data focused on improving teaching and learning, as well as climate and culture
- Effective Use of Time: Time is designed to better meet student needs and increase teacher collaboration focused on improving teaching and learning
- Effective Family and Community Engagement: Increased academically focused family and community engagement
- School Improvement Plans incorporate the results of a Quality School Review (QSR) that is conducted in each Priority and Focus School. The QSR is also aligned to the eight turnaround principles once per academic year.
- Interventions in Priority Schools are closely monitored and continue for at least a three-year period, providing schools the time needed to implement required changes and demonstrate improvement in student achievement. Priority Schools that fail to implement the required interventions or fail to demonstrate required improvement in student academic achievement may become subject to state-ordered closure or other action.
- Focus school interventions will continue for a minimum of two years after identification, at which time a school could exit status if all relevant requirements for improvement are met.
Is a list of all Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools available to the public?
- Yes. A list of Priority, Focus and Reward Schools can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/education/reform/PFRschools/Priority-Focus-RewardSchools.pdf. The list includes the schools' classification and the rationale.
What data was used to categorize Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools?
- Proficiency rates were used to determine Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools, based on three-year averages of state assessments data, from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 school years.
- These averages consider the performance of every tested student, based on the NJASK, HSPA, and APA.
- Students coded as (enrolled) in school for less than 1 year are not included in relevant proficiency rates.
- When a student has both an APA level and NJASK/HSPA scaled score, NJDOE relies exclusively on his/her scaled score.
How are the RACs managed and staffed?
- Each RAC is led by an Executive who is held accountable for the progress of each Priority and Focus school in his or her region. In addition to driving school improvement efforts within the region, each Executive Director manages a team of specialists, relations with school districts, and coordination with other RAC regions and the NJDOE.
- The RACs are staffed with school improvement specialists: each summer.
- State Turnaround Coaches work directly with Priority School principals to ensure that interventions are cohesive and coordinated.
- State Elementary Literacy Specialists work with school level literacy coaches and teachers to continually monitor and improve PreK-5 literacy instruction and student achievement.
- State Secondary Literacy Specialists work with school level literacy coaches and teachers to continually monitor and improve grades 6-12 literacy instruction and student achievement.
- State Mathematics Specialists work with school level coaches and teachers to continually monitor and improve mathematics instruction and student achievement.
- State Instructional Specialists work with school leaders and teachers to develop a common definition of effective teaching utilizing the district-adopted teacher effectiveness rubric. Instructional Specialists will also work with school leaders to ensure they are able to accurately and reliably use the district rubric to identify and give feedback for improving teacher effectiveness.
- State ELL Specialists work with administration and teachers to continuously improve learning opportunities for all ELL students.
- State Climate and Culture Specialists work with the appropriate school staff to develop a climate for learning and culture of high expectations through the implementation of a formal and research-based program and through effective family engagement focused on student achievement as well as climate and culture issues.
- State Data Specialists provide training and on-going support to school leaders and data specialists embedded in schools in the effective presentation of school and classroom level climate, culture and achievement data in order to improve the climate/culture and increase student achievement.
- State Intervention / Special Education Specialists assist schools in implementing research-based programs to support special education students or those students two or more grade levels behind in literacy and/or mathematics.
- Project Managers monitor the progress and success of RAC interventions, assisting in the delivery of coordinated, cohesive interventions.
How do the RAC Teams assess progress in each area of the turnaround principles?
- The RAC teams work with Priority and Focus Schools to define clear goals and metrics that schools are accountable for achieving. Goals address both inputs (the high quality implementation of the intervention strategies in the SIP) and outputs (improved student achievement).
- Within Priority Schools, detailed walkthroughs and reviews are conducted every 7 weeks to assess progress against each intervention strategy. Quantitative (survey results, student and teacher attendance, student discipline data, formative assessment results) and qualitative (quality of classroom instruction, school leadership) data is used to track progress.
- Within Focus Schools, progress is tracked on a 7-week basis using data on quality of implementation and various quantitative metrics such as student attendance and benchmark assessment data.
Who is held accountable for ensuring the School Improvement Plan is implemented and student achievement improves?
- Accountability is shared among schools, districts, and RAC staff members, all of whom are held accountable for Priority and Focus School success.
- Priority and Focus Schools that do not demonstrate sufficient improvements could be subject to further State action.
- Priority Schools that fail to implement the required interventions or fail to demonstrate required improvement in student academic achievement may be subject to the appointment of high-quality turnaround providers and other advanced interventions.
How is district funding affected by the RACs?
- RAC teams work with Priority and Focus schools and their districts to align Title I and school-level expenditures with School Improvement Plans.
- RAC teams ensure that districts with Priority and Focus Schools channel appropriate levels of funding and resources to turn around their lowest performing schools.
In a district receiving Title I funds, can Title I monies be used to support interventions in Priority or Focus Schools if they are not Title I eligible?
- No. Title I is a federally funded program and has narrow requirements for funding school-wide and targeted Title I programs. Federal Title I funds may only be used to benefit staff and students at Title I funded schools.
Can a district "skip" funding a Title I eligible Priority or Focus School?
- Districts may not skip a Title I eligible Priority School. It is important to note that Title I funding is not a determining factor related to a district's requirement to implement and fund all RAC-identified interventions. If a Title I eligible Focus School is "skipped" the district must use state, local or other federal funds to implement all interventions with fidelity. The decision to "skip" a Title I eligible School is defined in federal statute (Section 1113(b)(1)(D) of ESEA) and remains under the authority of the district. Prior to "skipping" any Title I eligible school, NJDOE strongly encourages a diligent evaluation and consideration of the factors that caused the school to be categorized. With the availability of high impact support from the RACs, the district may wish to revise the list of schools it has served with Title I funds in the past.
Do Title I Priority and Focus schools creat school-wide plans in addition to SIPs?
- No, the SIP replaces the school-wide plan.
If a district receives Title I funds, but the identified Priority or Focus School is not a Title I School, must the district make the "Priority and Focus Interventions reserve"?
- No. The reserve is for interventions at Priority and Focus schools only.
How should a district evaluate the benefits of a Title I targeted assistance program versus a Title I school wide program for low performing students?
- For help in determining if a schoolwide or targeted assistance Title I program is a better option for your Focus and/or Priority Schools, please contact the Office of Title I at 609-943-4283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can Title I funds be used to support low-performing special education students?
- Irrespective of enrollment in a general or special education program, Title I schoolwide programs can support all students. In a Title I targeted assistance program, any student meeting the Title I eligibility requirements may receive Title I services. Title I services are supplemental (in addition to) special education services listed in a student's Individual Education Plan (IEP) and should not be withheld because a student receives supports from IDEA funding sources.