The State Legislative Update panel at the NJSBA convention might have been standing-room-only because of Corzine’s last-minute appearance (see here), but the crowd, mainly comprising school board members, was all ears for Assemblymen Joseph Cryan and David W. Wolfe, and State Senator Jim Whelan. What was on everyone’s minds? The DOE’s voluminous regulatory output, funding, new initiatives, and overuse of testing.
Here’s a few tidbits.
Question: Any chance that the State would step in to assist local school boards in negotiations with the strongest union in NJ, NJEA? Or, even better, would the State negotiate for the districts?
Whelan: It’s “politically impossible.”
Wolfe: The “political reality” is that all changes have to be negotiated.
Cryan: It’s “foolish to negotiate 600 different contracts.” I support “county-wide contracts” or “DFG-wide contracts” (District Factor Groups, or the method by which NJ school districts are divided up based on socio-economic factors).
Question: We graduate 20% of our kids using the SRA, or the alternative assessment designed by the DOE after a kids has failed the 11th grade HSPA three times. But the State is working on a bill that eliminates the SRA and raises graduation requirements so that every kid has to take biology, chemistry, physics, Algebra 2, etc. What’s the deal?
Wolfe: I’m “anti- social promotion.”
Cryan: The overuse of the SRA is “ridiculous,” “an abuse,” “absurd.” It should be reserved for ELL (English Language Learners) and special education. “I’m not sure that everyone has to take Algebra 2.” “The DOE has fallen off a cliff.”
Brief pause while the audience breaks out into applause and semi-dignified hooting.
We need a “rational approach to upgrade standards.” And, “the hidden cancer in New Jersey is the drop-out rate… One in four New Jersey adults don’t have a high school diploma.”
Whelan: “I don’t agree” with Cryan on the SRA. Legislators shouldn’t micromanage districts.
Question: Does standardized testing drive education in New Jersey?
Wolfe: Yes. It’s part of the accountability. We spend $21 – 23 million on education.
Whelan: Tells a story that ends “you can’t fatten a hog by weighing it.”
Cryan: “We are one of the most segregated school systems in the country.”