With eye on local control, Newark officials push to speed up state evaluation process

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 31, 2015

Hawthorne Avenue School in Newark. The city's school board is hoping to pressure legislators and the state Department of Education to speed up its annual QSAC evaluation process.

 

NEWARK — City school officials are throwing their support behind a measure aims to speed up a evaluation process that could prove critical in determining just how soon Newark's schools could emerge from two decades of state control.

Members of the city's School Advisory Board voted 8-0 last week in support of a resolution asking the state Department of Education to deliver the results of its QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum) evaluations within 90 days after the assessments are complete.

Board member Rashon Hasan, who drafted the resolution, said the action was born out of frustration with the current process, which typically keeps districts waiting over a year to receive their results.

For instance, officials received their scores for the 2013-14 year in early August, more than 13 months after the school year ended.

"I think it impedes upon our ability to implement a sound action plan, to resolve any of those issues that have been identified because there's such a delay," Hasan said.

The annual assessments carry exceptional weight in state-controlled districts such as Newark, where they can serve as a measure of whether the school systems are ready to once again govern themselves.

City schools scored over 80 percent on all five measures of the test in 2011, placing it alongside so-called "high-performing" districts as classified by the state. The state declined to relinquish control, however, and scores once again fell the following year — something Hasan said might have been prevented had officials received them earlier.

"The state Department of Education owes that to all districts, especially districts that are under state supervision," Hasan said. "We really need to have those real-time results."

The resolution passed last week will be sent on to the New Jersey School Boards Association, and presented at an upcoming delegate conference. If other districts around the state follow Newark's lead, the organization could begin lobbying legislators to impose the 90-day deadline.

Department of Education Deputy Press Secretary David Saenz said that there was no official timetable for how long the test takes, though an initial self-assessment by districts, evaluation, state review and the submission of a final report typically takes between 6 and 9 months.

Districts under state control, can often take much longer - sometimes stretching longer than a year.

"Since State Operated School Districts are larger, they often require more coordination among available evaluators across the region, not just county personnel," Saenz said.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), who chairs the Assembly's Education Committee, said he had never heard a district express concerns about the QSAC process in the past. However, he said he was generally in support of anything that might help expedite it, particularly in districts where the scores loom especially large.

"If the logistics could be addressed, I think it's a very valid concern," he said. "It makes a lot of sense."

Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka agreed earlier this year to begin the process of returning the city's schools to local control, though it is unclear exactly how or when the long-awaited transfer of power would take place.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment