Busy August: The August meeting of the State Board of Education is often among the sleepiest of the year, but not this year. The board will take its final vote on new high school graduation requirements, starting with the Class of 2021, and also act on new rules for the teacher performance tests as well. In addition, it has slipped in a resolution to shift additional powers to the Newark public schools, an incremental step but significant in its own right.

Graduation requirements: The topic has been debated for years and may be for years to come, but the state board appears undaunted about moving ahead in setting new requirements for what it means to get a high school diploma in New Jersey. Under the code being voted on today, starting in 2021, when today’s seventh graders will graduate, students will need to have passed state PARCC tests in Algebra I and 10th grade reading and writing. The opposition remains strong, with more than 2,000 people signing a petition against the move, but the vote appears all but assured.

A caveat: Board president Mark Biedron acknowledged the intense opposition to setting such hard-and-fast rules — especially when barely half of graduating students now pass that measure — and he said the board would be closely watching the lead-up to 2021. “We have five years to look at this,” Biedron said yesterday. “If next year or the year after, we don’t move the needle [on passing rates], we may need to reevaluate what is proficiency.”

Teacher test: While student testing has gotten the most attention, the state board is also moving this week to set requirements for new teachers to pass as well. The board is considering a resolution that would set in place a new performance test for teacher candidates, with a passing score required. This in addition to a written test, as well as course requirements and a minimum GPA.

Newark local control, a step at a time: A year after Gov. Chris Christie vowed to move Newark schools back to local control, they are expected to take another incremental step on Wednesday. The state board will consider a resolution that would return personnel controls, the third of five main categories that would go back to the board. Still, the two big ones remain in the state’s hands: instruction and governance. Biedron said the board would be discussing how to move forward in those two areas as well.

Still waiting for charter regulations: Christie in May promised regulatory changes for charter schools, including loosening teacher certification requirements. But the details of those still have yet to be presented to the board, and once again, they are not on the agenda for this week.


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