New Jersey became one of 10 states to receive a waiver from President Barrack Obama exempting the education system from the laws of the No Child Left Behind Act on February 9.
This exemption means that Governor Christie will be able to continue with his plan for education reform without being at risk for losing federal aid if standardized test scores do not meet 100 percent proficiency levels by 2014.
According to Professor Gregory Bordelon in the Political Science department, constitutionally education is controlled by the respective states. By taking New Jersey out of the federal program, the state government can make its own education changes, such as attempting to make high school graduation rates stay at 75 percent or higher and filing for a corrective action plan if it falls below.
Under NCLB, if schools did not meet the standards for proficiency for six consecutive years, the state would have to either restructure the school, close it, or have the government run it directly. Now New Jersey will be able to monitor and make their own decisions about how to correct the education issues.
Governor Christie applauded the waiver during a prepared statement released later that day saying, “This is not about Demo crats or Republicans. It is about pursuing an agenda in the best interest of our children whose educational needs are not being met, and those who are getting a decent education but deserve a great one.”
The new system will still focus on the core concepts on NCLB, such as making students college-ready and rewarding schools which do well, but it hopes to even the playing field between the states different districts.
Under Christie, schools will be grouped into three sections with three different objectives. The first two classifications will be chosen from Title 1 schools. Schools with the lowest five percent performance rates which will be called Priority Schools, the Focus Schools will be picked from 10 percent of schools which are not meeting their proficiency goals.
Third will be the Reward Schools for those making progress or going above and beyond expectations. The classification of schools will take place this summer and be implemented in the 20122013 school year.
Christie has formed his new education strategy in hopes of breaking down the barriers which once separated schools by “Needs Improvement” and proficiency standards, based on standardized test scores without taking into account economic background or location.
New Jersey is also a part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, whose mission is “[To] provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” This idea of preparing students for life after grade school carries with the original goals of NCLB and Christie’s new education reform.
However, the reform initiative is not being accepted easily by all New Jersey residents and teachers who have disagreed with Christie’s proposal since it was first announced. In a statement by the teachers union in 2011 the budget cut in the reform plan is being seen by the union as an “ongoing effort to privatize public education in New Jersey.”
Yet in a recent statement about the failing state of the New Jersey education system for underprivileged children, Vincent
Giordano, vice-president of the NJEA said that “life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that.”
There is one constant in the matter, aside from political prerogative, which is that no matter which side is speaking they are both clear that New Jersey needs education reform. With the new waiver schools will be able to be judged on progress rather than test scores, making teacher and student accomplishments clearer than with the old NCLB requirements.
“The Obama Administration’s approval of our education reform agenda contained in this application confirms that our bold, common sense and bipartisan reforms are right for New Jersey and shared by the President and Secretary Duncan’s educational vision for the country,” said Christie.
Twenty-eight states have applied for the waiver but so far only Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Tennessee have been approved.