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Great Public Schools Criteria for New Jersey

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in New Jersey.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten:

In 1998, the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated that all children in the state's 30 highest poverty districts--known as Abbot districts --be provided with high-quality preschool education to prepare them with the skills and abilities necessary for success in elementary school. The result of this ruling is that quality preschool programs are offered to all three- and four-year-old children in districts where a least 40 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Funds from the Department of Education are used by public schools, Head Start programs, and private child care centers to provide full-day services (six hours per day). Additional money from the Department of Human Services funds extended-day services is available. The school districts are responsible for ensuring that individual programs meet the standards set out by the state Supreme Court. These standards include requirements regarding teacher certification, curriculum, class size, facilities, and comprehensive services. The Abbot program now supplies full funding for teacher salaries, providing qualified teachers in private centers with salaries comparable to the public schools.

State funds are also provided for Non-Abbott Early Childhood Program Aid (ECPA), which allow an additional 102 districts to offer half-day preschool mostly to four-year-olds. The majority of these programs are in public schools, but some operate in Head Start or private child care centers. Districts that receive ECPA funds are also required to provide full-day kindergarten.
New Jersey is working toward improving quality in the ECPA districts by aligning standards with the high-quality program standards to the Abbott districts. (NIEER)

Because of the Abbott decision, New Jersey now ranks as one of the top three states when it comes to narrowing the gap in achievement between students in the poorest schools and students in general. New Jersey's Abbott districts provide a national model for what works. In just six years, Abbott districts cut the achievement gap by more than half even as the bar was raised higher. Much of this achievement is the result of the high-quality preschools that Abbott has provided. A December 2005 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research studied the impact of early access to preschool for children in Abbott districts. The study found that attending an Abbott preschool program raised student performance in vocabulary, math and pre-reading comprehension skills. The study concluded that New Jersey's Abbott preschool program produced significant, meaningful skill development as children enter kindergarten. (Asbury Park Press, NJ)

The following resources are related to the Abbott Preschool Program:

New Jersey Office of Early Childhood Education. In 1998, New Jersey's Supreme Court mandated that three- and four-year old children in New Jersey's Abbott district--the 30 highest poverty districts in the State--receive a high-quality preschool education. The Office of Early Childhood Education works in conjunction with the Office of Special Education and with the offices of the regional assistant commissioners and county superintendents, to provide guidance and program oversight to the 30 Abbott districts. Abbott preschool programs are staffed with one teacher (who must hold a Bachelor's degree and the Pre-School through Grade 3 (P-3) endorsements) and one aide and may not exceed 15 children.

By statue, another 102 districts receive Early Childhood Program Aid (ECPA) funding due to high concentrations of low-income students equal to or greater than 20 percent and less than 40 percent of the total enrollment. In the 2003-2004 school year, the ECPA districts served 7,600 preschool children in programs at an approximate cost of 30 million dollars.
Office of Early Childhood Education

Quality Conditions

School Safety.
New Jersey's anti-bullying statute requires the state superintendent to develop a model policy to guide districts in approving their own policies and programs. The statute specifies that a school employee, student, or volunteer [may] not engage in reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against a victim, witness or one with reliable information about an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying. Every district in New Jersey must develop a process for discussing the district's harassment, intimidation, or bullying policy with students. Every district is required to have a procedure for either the principal or the principal’s designee to conduct a prompt investigation of violations and complaints related to the districts' anti-bullying policy. School districts are required to provide training on the school district's harassment, intimidation or bullying policies to school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students. In addition, districts must incorporate information regarding the school district policy against harassment, intimidation or bullying into a school's employee training program. New Jersey's comprehensive state anti-bullying policy includes the following components:

Basis: N.J. STAT. ANN. § 18A:37-13 through 18A:37-17

Qualified Staff

A qualified, caring, diverse, and stable workforce in our schools requires a pool of well prepared, highly skilled candidates for all vacancies; quality induction for new teachers with mentoring services from trained veteran teachers; opportunities for continual improvement and growth for all employees; working conditions in which they can be successful; and professional compensation and benefits.

  1. Not yet - state funded induction/mentoring for new teachers
    Teacher Mentors/Induction


  2. 17% - HS teachers teaching Math out of field 1999-2000
    Out-of-Field Teaching  (17pp)


  3. Not yet - state financial support for teacher professional development
    ECS Professional Development Database: Full State Report 


  4. Not yet - participation in professional working/teaching and learning conditions survey
    Teaching and Learning Conditions Report


NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps

The New Jersey Education Association plans to use its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to conduct focus groups with a targeted group of local association leaders to identify how NJEA can encourage local association involvement in district activities to close achievement gaps. They will also conduct focus groups with newer, younger members to identify their interest in professional learning, and use information from all of these focus groups to inform the work of NJEA's newly created Center for Teaching and Learning.