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BY STEVE ADUBATO only in new jersey
New Jersey’s new education commissioner shares
his thoughts on testing, pre-K, charters and more.
lamont repollet has a full plate.
As the state’s new commissioner of
education, Repollet, a former teacher
and principal who most recently served
as superintendent of the Asbury Park
School District, must tackle such
thorny issues as the future of standardized testing, pre-K expansion and
charter schools. I sought his opinions
on these challenges and more.
Where do we stand in the effort to
expand free pre-K in our state? The
recently signed budget for fiscal year
2019, which began July 1, provides the
largest increase in preschool funding
in more than a decade. Governor Phil
Murphy and the Legislature added
more than $30 million to sup-
port existing preschool pro-
grams, which brings that investment to
$688 million. Another $50 million has
been allocated for districts that are prepared to expand their programs. This
is the first step in the governor’s goal of
expanding access to preschool.
What is the appropriate role for
charter schools? I am supportive of
all types of schools. There is not a
one-size-fits-all model that is right
for all students, and parents should
have educational options. The charter
school law is over 20 years old, and
the NJ Department of Education is
taking time to review the statute. The
department will embark upon a charter
review similar to what we did for state-
wide assessments, during which we
intend to meet with students, parents,
educators and community members to
gather their thoughts and ideas regard-
ing the impact and future of charters in
Can you give us historical perspective
on standardized testing? From 1978
until today, New Jersey has administered statewide assessments. It began
as a method to assess minimum basic
skills. In 1996, New Jersey adopted the
first set of state academic standards.
These standards have been updated
several times, and statewide assessments have become a measure of
student progress toward their mastery
of these standards. Federal mandates
require states to monitor the progress of student subgroups to identify
schools needing additional supports.
What is the impact of the tests on
students, teachers and principals?
The NJDOE just completed a rigorous,
21-county, 75-meeting listening tour
on statewide assessments to better
understand how standardized testing
affects students, teachers and school
leaders.... Overall, many people believe
that assessments are valuable, as long
as they are relevant, aligned to the state
standards, and the data from the results
is useful and turned around quickly.
Unfortunately, many students we spoke
with do not see relevancy in the current
statewide assessments. This is something I’m committed to addressing.
Some say teachers are pressured to
teach to the test. Do you agree?
Standardized tests are designed to reflect
the NJ Student Learning Standards
around which all district curricula are
built. These standards define what a
student should be able to do at the end
of a course or grade level.... Districts
regularly assess student progress and
understanding through formal and
informal assessment. The state assessment should be one tool in determining the supports needed by individual
students, subgroups of students and
Lawson, right, swears
in Lamont Repollet as
the state’s education
commissioner, June 19
in Trenton. Holding the
ceremonial Bible is the