Report Card: NJ Ranked 21st Nationally for Its Education Reform Efforts

The national education reform advocacy organization StudentsFirst published its first-ever State Policy Report Card, a new tool for improving student achievement. Read the report here.

State-by-State Analysis Looks Solely at Education Policy Environments, Provides Road Map for Schools’ Success 

TRENTON – Today, national education reform advocacy organization StudentsFirst published its first-ever State Policy Report Card, a new tool for improving student achievement that doesn’t look at individual or school-wide test scores or teacher effectiveness, but instead gauges how well each state’s education policies are serving students and schools.  

According to the report, New Jersey’s K-12 public education system would benefit from providing parents with useful information regarding school and teacher performance, and improving the environment for creating high-quality public charter schools. 

StudentsFirst published report cards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the overall results raise serious questions about whether states’ education laws and practices are contributing to student success. Nationally, nearly 90 percent of the states received a grade of “C” or lower on the State Policy Report Card, and no state earned a grade higher than “B-”. 

New Jersey was awarded an overall grade of “D,” with a grade point average of 1.23, for its performance in three critical areas: elevating teaching, empowering parents and spending public dollars wisely. The state ranked 21st nationally, but was praised in the report for adopting meaningful evaluations for teachers and principals, and for reforming tenure. The new systems will enable districts to identify and reward effective educators, and will provide a basis for future reforms. 

"Parents and teachers are working hard every day to make sure every child in New Jersey gets a great education, and while recent tenure reform represents meaningful progress, more reforms are necessary for our students to achieve the results we want for them," said Craig Wallace, StudentsFirst's State Director for New Jersey.

"The StudentsFirst State Policy Report card assesses the degree to which the education policies states have in place create a thriving school environment, and in New Jersey, it's clear that our legislators have more work to do. New Jersey legislators must build on the momentum from last session and continue to put in place common-sense school policies that enable great schools to flourish."  

Built on StudentsFirst's experience, education research, and evidence from successful school districts, the report card evaluated New Jersey's policies based on three critical pillars: elevating and improving the teaching profession, empowering parents with information and choice, and ensuring public dollars are being spent wisely in ways that help students learn. The report is the most comprehensive state-by-state assessment of these three policy areas, which StudentsFirst selected because research shows they can have the highest impact on student achievement. 

StudentsFirst plans to update and release the State Policy Report Card annually, and aims for states to use the report as a roadmap to pass laws and policies that prioritize student interests and close achievement gaps between groups of students. Focusing on enacting common-sense laws and policies will be the singular mission of StudentsFirst New Jersey and its members in 2013 and beyond.   

"I'd like to commend StudentsFirst for doing this kind of national analysis so states can see where they are relative to one another and continue to be laboratories of innovation," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. "There has been enormous progress in New Jersey, including sweeping changes to tenure and teacher evaluation, expanded and made permanent our interdistrict public school choice program, expanded charter schools and ratified a groundbreaking teacher contract in Newark. And we did it all in a bi-partisan manner. But what's clear is that there is much more to do and we need to keep our eyes on the prize. Our kids deserve that from us." 

The top two states, Louisiana and Florida, each earned a B- for beginning to adopt the kind of student-centered policies that bring more rigor and accountability into their school systems and expand parents' access to quality school choice. 

The 2013 New Jersey State Policy Report Card can be viewed, downloaded and compared to other states on the StudentsFirst report card web site here:http://reportcard.studentsfirst.org

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