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1-22-15 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight - SCHOOLS CHIEF ADMITS NJ MISHANDLED CONSTRUCTION PROCESS IN NEEDY DISTRICTS…Hespe concedes state didn’t follow legally required procedure, says it’s now complying with law


In a rare show of cooperation with one of its staunchest critics, the Christie administration has agreed with a legal challenge to the way the state Department of Education reviews and approves new school-construction projects in New Jersey’s neediest cities.

State Education Commissioner David Hespe this month sided with an administrative law judge’s recommendation that backed a challenge from the Education Law Center over the operations of Hespe’s own department.


Education Law Center v. NJ Department of Education

The complaint filed in 2012 by the ELC, which has led the landmark Abbott v. Burke school-funding litigation, accused the department of failing to ensure that districts covered under the Abbott case completed required long-range facilities plans that would drive the construction projects.

At the time, the ELC maintained that the department had not received new plans in five years, and the case has been central in the ELC’s ongoing challenge to the Christie administration’s slow pace in moving forward with court-ordered projects for these districts.

The school-construction work has since gotten underway, but the ELC has continued to maintain that the administration has still not adhered to the law requiring it to follow long-range plans set by the districts.

Hespe, in his decision on Jan. 13, conceded that his department’s Office of School Facilities had not fulfilled its requirements under the court’s edict and under the law, and said it would now comply.

Hespe, who joined the department after the initial complaint was filed, said action had already begun.

“The Commissioner recognizes that OSF has made substantial efforts toward approving amended LRFPs for the (Abbott) districts,” Hespe wrote.

“Nevertheless, after consideration of the record, the Commissioner is in accord with the ALJ’s determination – for the reasons stated in the Initial Decision – that the OSF has not yet fully complied with the (law) in this regard.”

In his ruling, Hespe did extend the deadline for the new long-range plans, from the judge’s recommendation of 60 days to 90 days.


Burlington County Times- Not everyone on board in Moorestown with new assessment tests...'Not all the parents were opposed to the assessment...'

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 7:00 pm | Updated: 9:00 am, Thu Jan 22, 2015.

By Todd McHale Staff writer

MOORESTOWN — How much is too much?

A group of parents in town believes a new computer-based student assessment test being implemented this year statewide may be putting an undue burden on students.

“It’s too much,” parent Jack Fairchild said. “It’s 10 days of testing on a 180-day school calendar year. That’s a large percentage.”

And that doesn’t count all the time spent before the tests.

“It’s not really only the 10 days of testing,” Fairchild said. “It’s also all the time in preparation.”

Serving as a spokesman for several parents opposed to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing, Fairchild voiced some of the group’s concerns to the Board of Education on Monday.

Prior to a presentation on the new Common Core standards and PARCC assessment, Superintendent Timothy Rehm addressed the dozens on hand at the meeting.

“PARCC is here to stay, as long as that is the assessment adopted by the New Jersey Department of Education,” Rehm said.

Aligned with Common Core standards developed in 2009, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a consortium of states that created a common set of assessments to measure student achievement and preparedness for college and careers.

Last year, several groups of township elementary and high school students took part in a “field test” of the PARCC assessment, which allowed the company hosting the online tests to check its systems and which gave schools an opportunity to become familiar with the testing process.

District officials said the field tests went so well that Moorestown was deemed to be a “model district.”

“We’ve been asked by the (N.J.) Department of Education to share our model and schedule with them,” Rehm said.

This year, students in third through 11th grades will be taking the PARCC assessment starting in March.

However, parents opposing the computer-based test presented the school board with a letter outlining their concern for anyone who declines to take it.

“We want them to recognize refusals from either the student or the parent,” Fairchild said. “We also want them to provide appropriate alternative educational experiences and not placed within the testing center with the others.”

The group believes the district policy for those who refuse to take the test will be to “sit and stare.

“It’s going to be very disruptive for the other students, the other test takers,” Fairchild said.

The parents asked the board to provide them with a written response by Feb. 1, acknowledge refusals, and have an appropriate location for the children to go during the testing.

Not all the parents were opposed to the assessment.

“I can tell you, I’m excited for my kids to take the PARCC tests,” said

Sandra Alberti, a former teacher, administrator and superintendent who works for the state Department of Education.

Alberti said she understands that these can be “scary times” with a new test, but urged parents to give it a chance.

“We’ve gone through this before, but we have a track record of knowing that there’s always the first year, and we look forward to our students participating in that,” Alberti said.

Meanwhile, the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey next week will conduct three regional sessions in the state to hear public testimony.

The nine-member commission will review the quality and effectiveness of K-12 student assessments administered in New Jersey and provide recommendations about the volume, frequency and impact of student testing taking place in school districts. It will also make recommendations regarding the Core Curriculum Content Standards, including the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessments.

For more information about the hearings, visit the study commission’s website,www.state.nj.us/education/studycommission.

Todd McHale: 609-871-8163; email: tmchale@calkins.com; Twitter: @toddmchale