District reviews QSAC scores with BOE

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — South Orange-Maplewood interim Superintendent of Schools Thomas Ficarra and Clinton Elementary School Assistant Principal Timothy Beaumont presented the 2017-2018 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum report to the Board of Education at its Nov. 20 meeting, revealing passing scores in four of the five categories that the process evaluates.

NJQSAC monitors and evaluates New Jersey’s public schools districts based on research and evidence from the district. The five categories are: instruction and program, fiscal management, governance, operations and personnel. The only category that the SOMSD did not pass was instruction and program, in which it scored just 40 percent. The district received perfect scores of 100 percent in fiscal management and governance and passing scores of 85 percent in operations and 80 percent in personnel.

The district is evaluated every three years; standardized test results from 2014 to the present are used in the evaluation. Later this year the NJQSAC process will change due to redundant elements in the current system. The current report, for example, does not take into account the results of PARCC exams and instead includes the old standardized test, NJ ASK, which was made obsolete by PARCC and has slowly been phased out of most school districts in the state.

Under NJQSAC, the district evaluates and scores itself and then provides the evidence that leads to its score. The data is then sent to the county for re-evaluation.

The district’s presentation focused heavily on solutions to bring the instruction and program section of the evaluation to a passing score, as was explained by Beaumont. Out of the 218 courses offered in the district, 75 were in compliance and 143 were out of compliance. A timeline was presented to update or rewrite the courses before the county’s evaluation.

“What we should be doing is writing curriculum on a regular basis, but then using curriculum as our foundation for everything that we do instructionally,” Beaumont said at the meeting, adding that curriculum should guide teachers in making and following lesson plans and the district should be rewriting it more frequently.

The amount of time it will take to overhaul the out-of-compliance curriculum was outlined in the presentation. Broken down into hours, 78 of the 143 courses in need of rewriting will only take up to two hours to complete; 35 will take between three and 10 hours to rewrite, while 30 will take between 11 and 30 hours to finish. According to Ficarra, there are January and February deadlines to complete the work, and the district has a budget for it.

“We’re well within the money that is set aside to achieve compliance this year,” Ficarra said at the meeting. “There are January-February deadlines, and we’ll use the five-year cycle as a baseline.”

The five-year cycle Ficarra referred to is the curriculum cycle that used to be the norm, when curriculum was updated every five years. Now the process is ongoing, with courses being updated more often. The total district cost estimated to rewrite the curriculum is $31,654.

“This pushed the rest of our examination because if your curriculum is not compliant, then you’re not able to analyze that relationship to the weaknesses and strengths that you have,” Ficarra said about the rest of the QSAC evaluation. “My advice would be to do that in a manner that gets us to compliance and then begin a deep dive that gets us to a plan to provide a robust curriculum in each one of those areas.”

BOE member Maureen Jones expressed her confidence in the plan to bring the district’s curriculum to compliance.

“It’s fair to say that we had some holes and weaknesses in our curriculum,” she said at the meeting. “But I am confident in the plan that’s been put in place and the direction that this is going in, and what’s been laid out for us to move forward. I think this will help build stronger curriculum.”