At the Dec. 2 meeting of the State Board of Education, the board heard updates on PARCC, the Camden school district and the standards review process.

PARCC Update  The State Board received an update on PARCC results.  The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) said that 99.4 percent of New Jersey student test-takers took the test online last spring. New Jersey results exceeded the average results for the PARCC consortium in most tested areas and students scored better than students in most of the other individual states involved in the consortium as well. The State Board also received a presentation from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year which reviewed previous standardized tests against the PARCC tests. It concluded in a report that, while the new consortia assessments are more rigorous and demanding, they are grade-level appropriate, and even more so than in prior state tests.

Standards Review The NJDOE  is finalizing a draft of recommendations concerning the standards review process and will present the draft to the State Board at its January 2016 meeting.

Camden The State Board heard from Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard on various improvements in the state-operated district. The graduation rate has increased to 62 percent from 56 percent in the last year.  Pre-K enrollment has risen by 20 percent over the last year. The superintendent has created “school information cards” to provide additional information to parents on what each school has to offer their students.

The district is also implementing a family-friendly enrollment system that will have one application deadline for all school types – traditional, charter and renaissance – across the district.  Further, the district aims to reduce suspensions and increase consistency in student discipline across the district with an emphasis on providing positive behavior supports and restorative justice. Rouhanifard also told the board that the state has pledged $50 million for renovations at Camden High School, and that the district hopes to increase the amount of professional development for its teachers and to update student grading policies for greater consistency in the district.

Finally, the State Board began discussions on a proposed name change for the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission. It seeks to be known as the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey to reflect the fact that it provides services to 771 municipalities and school districts statewide. A decision on the request will be made at a future meeting.