Wanted, No Education Experience Necessary: School Supervisors Serving NJ's Most At-risk Students
State Proposes an Unproven, Two-tiered System of Superintendent Qualifications
On the heels of imposing arbitrary caps on school superintendent salaries, the State Board of Education has published a new rule that would, if adopted, allow anyone with a college degree and no experience in education to serve as a chief administrator in New Jersey's most challenging school districts.
At present, State regulations set minimum qualifications for district leaders, commonly referred to as school superintendents. These qualifications include a master's degree in education leadership or management, an internship in education leadership, a passing grade on an NJDOE-approved examination in education leadership, and at least five years of experience in public or private education.
The proposed rule would eliminate these minimum requirements for a subset of NJ school districts: the three, State-operated districts and another 51 currently designated as "districts in need of improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In these districts, superintendents would need only a B.A. degree in any field and "sufficient management and executive leadership experience in a public or private organization" as determined by the Commissioner of Education.
In other words, as long as the Commissioner finds that a candidate has some prior management experience in business or some other public sector organization, even though he or she has no school leadership or any other educational experience, that candidate could serve as the chief school leader in one of the 54 targeted districts.
In formal comments on the rule, Education Law Center (ELC) strongly opposes the proposal for three reasons:
The proposal, without any supporting research, data or evidence, consigns students in districts with the greatest academic challenges to supervision by persons with no education experience.
The proposal, by eliminating all education training and experience for superintendents in underperforming districts, undermines the bedrock policies and legal mandates designed to improve teaching and learning for New Jersey's most at-risk students.
The proposal, by subjecting districts with high concentrations of Black, Latino and at-risk students to supervision by persons with no education experience, has an unjustified, disparate impact on racial minorities, in contravention of the NJ Law Against Discrimination.
The proposal also ignores mounting evidence that using non-educators to supervise challenging districts has failed to deliver any improvement in education and outcomes for students. This evidence includes the recent failed experiment in New York City, where publishing executive Cathie Black resigned after just three months as Schools Chancellor.
What is striking about the "no education experience necessary" proposal is that it targets the State's most educationally challenging, high poverty school districts. Of the over 320,00 students in these districts, 61% are "at-risk," defined as qualifying for the federal free and reduced price lunch program, with 14 districts over 70% at-risk. Almost 70% of all students in these districts are Black and Latino, more than twice the statewide average.
Meanwhile, for all other districts, including the many high performing NJ districts across the state, superintendents must continue to meet the stringent educational training and experience qualifications contained in the current rules.
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Education Law Center