What’s the Link Between School Choice and Segregation?May 29, 2013
NJ State Legislature Likes Two Bills That Will Cost School Districts More MoneyMay 31, 2013
Check out NJ Spotlight’s update on New Jersey’s progress towards implementing the promises made in our (third time’s the charm) winning application to the federal government for $38 million in Race to the Top funds. Among those promises is one that assures the Feds that the NJ DOE’s data system, NJ SMART, will be brought up to snuff. (For background see this two-year old status report from Jun Choi.)
Progress on our improvement plan outlined in our RTTT application has been, well, a bit rocky. The Spotlight article links to three confirmations from the U.S. DOE that allow us to amend our application, mostly be extending timelines and shifting money around. The most substantive, at least in terms of budgeting, is the third amendment. This one allows the DOE to shift about $1.2 million from a line item called “Funding for Involved LEA’s” (or local districts) to addressing weaknesses in NJ SMART, our “Instructional Improvement System:”
The State will shift a total of $1,229,803.75 from Years 2-4 of the Funding for Involved LEAs category to fund a team of employees and contractors who will manage the development and implementation of the IIS [Instructional Improvement System]. These funds were originally intended to provide sub-grants to involved LEAs for technology upgrades and incentives to support subscription to the IIS. However, based on lessons learned from the implementation of a smaller scale version of the IIS in Year 1, as well as best practice research on other States’ IIS implementation, the State determined it required significantly more capacity to complete the approved IIS projects on time and with high quality. The approach change does not preclude any Involved LEAs from subscribing to the IIS. The State will support involved LEAs with $270,196 that remains in the budget category in Years 2-4.
It’s no secret that the NJ DOE’s data processing capabilities – the backbone of a data-driven student and teacher evaluation system – has a history of inadequacy. Here, apparently, the DOE is making a bigger-than-expected investment in “development and implementation” of our Instruction Improvement System, or our technological tools that analyze student and teacher assessments.