Priorities in Education for New Jersey
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The New Jersey State Board of Education in its policy and leadership role has identified six critical issues in public education. They are: Quality Teachers and School Leaders, Language Arts and Mathematics Literacy, Assessment, International Education, Vocational Education, and Funding of a Thorough and Efficient Education. Each of these issues must be addressed through a collaborative process involving the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education and various members of the education community.
New Jersey leads the nation in many areas in the public education arena. These include: overall student achievement on many national tests, the number of students involved in advance placement courses, the number of students advancing to post-secondary studies, the need to address educational equity in our poorest districts and ongoing improvement for all teaching and administrative professionals. In many New Jersey schools, there are a variety of exemplary programs in such diverse areas as civic education, science, international education and the creative and fine arts. However, as advocates for quality education, we are not satisfied with isolated examples of excellence or small upward trends in overall state testing results. We believe that high standards and diverse educational opportunities must be available for all of the states students. Families, employers, institutions of higher education and the future well-being of the state demands nothing less. Understanding the complexity of the fiscal environment, the need for significant improvement in the states educational facilities and the increased role that the federal government has in K-12 education, the State Board of Education believes that these six areas in education (Quality Teachers and School Leaders, Language Arts and Mathematics Literacy, Assessment, International Education, Vocational Education and Funding) require immediate, creative and collaboratively developed solutions.
Quality Teachers and School Leaders - The New Jersey State Board of Education has undertaken to improve the requirements for teaching in the state, has policies in place for professional development for teachers and school leaders and actively encourages national certification of New Jerseys teachers. However, we face the challenge of needing to recruit additional teachers, especially in mathematics, special education, science and world languages, as well as the need for additional high quality teachers in all school districts especially in disadvantaged areas. The Quality Teaching and Learning Task Force has submitted a report to the Commissioner of Education. This report should serve as a blueprint for change in the teaching profession in New Jersey. The professional development of teachers must be targeted to the needs of the state and/or local districts and must equip teachers to address the persistent achievement gaps that exist in this state. The State Board of Education recognizes that effective school leaders (principals and superintendents) make a difference in student performance and achievement. New Jerseys leadership role in the State Action for Education Leadership Project (SAELP) must become a catalyst for transformation of the training, development and expectations of all school leaders. The New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards is a comprehensive blueprint for educational success. However, New Jersey educational leaders and policy makers, working with business leaders and others, must establish, within the core curriculum, an essential subset of knowledge and skills that should be mastered by every student.
Language Arts and Mathematics Literacy - These represent two essential areas of learning. The progress that New Jersey has made in reading literacy must be protected and expanded. All students should be expected to read and write at a high level across the curriculum, and all teachers must be trained to support this. The recommendations of the Mathematics Task Force should serve as a guide for immediate systemic change in mathematics instruction in New Jersey.
Assessment - Assessment must be viewed primarily as a tool to promote student learning and only secondarily as a means to assess district or school performance. All state-wide tests should be strictly aligned to the Core Curriculum Content Standards. Testing should not take priority over learning. Individual and class test results must be made available to teachers in order to appropriately influence teaching. Standardized assessments administered below the high school grades should be viewed solely as diagnostic with an eye towards improving the quality of teaching and learning. The nature of high school proficiency testing should be reviewed and altered as required to promote high standards and multiple opportunities for students to meet those standards.
International Education International Education is critical for New Jersey to become more competitive in the global marketplace, attuned to homeland security, and for cultivation of leadership in innovative and entrepreneurial research and development. To be globally competitive, international education must be integrated in the teaching and learning of all students. This includes the study of world languages, culture and geography.
Vocational Education - New Jerseys Vocational Schools are a rich source of opportunity and educational innovation. A new State Vocational Plan must be developed which will continue to support quality programs and allow for diverse educational opportunities for vocational and comprehensive high school students.
Funding - This is the most critical of the six priorities. The State Board of Education is committed to working with the Governors Office and the Legislature to develop a funding system that satisfies the "Thorough and Efficient" clause of the New Jersey Constitution. Any new system must address the issues of equity, provide adequate funding of Abbott districts, allow local districts the flexibility they need to provide quality education, alter our states over reliance on property taxes to fund education and aid districts in the cost of educating students with disabilities.