CHATHAM, NJ - Perhaps obscured by the aftermath of the October snowstorm, few caught the announcement that the New Jersey Department of Education is undergoing some major changes. Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf announced the creation of seven Regional Achievement Districts (RADs) that will focus on the lowest performing 100-150 schools in the state.
Each RAD will be run by a director whose goal is to “graduate all of New Jersey’s children regardless of their birth circumstances, their zip code or their level of need.” Morris County’s RAD, which includes the Chatham and Madison School Districts, will also include districts in Warren and Sussex Counties.
“They will be headed by, I hope, some of the best educators in the country, and they will be responsible for a very specific degree of improvement in things like graduation rates, reducing dropouts, or increasing third-grade literacy,” Cerf said.
According to Chatham Interim Superintendent Dennis Fyffe, “This is a very significant shift that will impact many of the school in our area.” With the focus on the bottom 5%, high performing school districts will receive less attention and have fewer accountability requirements than in the past.
At the convention of New Jersey School Boards and Administrator Associations on Oct. 27, Fyffe said that Cerf admitted the state needed to back away from higher-performing districts. “One of the great regrets I have is we don’t differentiate between school districts,” Cerf said. “There are districts where the best thing we could do is leave them alone.”
The current county executive superintendent structure will be phased out as 14 out of the 21 executive superintendents have already been terminated with the remaining being let go when contracts expire. These county offices will remain and report into a RAD but it is unclear how that will work.