Promises, Promises: Does New Jersey’s Education Commissioner Care?

Every year school administrators and central office staff wig out right before October 15th. Why? That’s the date when districts must submit detailed files on student enrollment data to the New Jersey Department of Education through a platform called NJSMART. So much, including state aid, rides on this count (this file is the first submission of the funding process) and so there’s always a mad scramble to make sure numbers accurately reflect the number of students who attend each district school. And it’s not just flat numbers: The state requires breakdowns of class rosters, enrollment summaries, special education classification lists, and the “NJ Application For State School Aid (ASSA) Enrollment.”

Here’s a form that Newark Public Schools used one year to compile all the data, all 14 pages, just to give you a sense of the work involved to submit accurate information to the DOE by the close of business on October 15th.

This school year is, well, different. No surprises there, right? Simply another example of a DOE in crisis. Because, unlike every other year in recent memory, the data provided by districts hasn’t been posted yet by the DOE.

Is this what Commissioner Lamont Repollet meant by his promise to produce a “DOE 2.0″ that reflects his “responsive, progressive” oversight of “every NJ student and educator?” In fact, this claim is undermined by his disdain for data, exemplified by his disinterest in accurately assessing student academic growth and teacher effectiveness; at his “64 Floor” scheme that forces teachers to give every student a passing grade; at his disregard for regulations that govern allocations of federal school aid (alsob see here and here),  

Well, you get the idea. Transparency is not a pillar of “DOE 2.0”.

This laboriously-provided data on enrollment is a vital tool not only for district administrators but also researchers and analysts who count on enrollment trends, special education classifications, and other information to measure school quality, equity, financing, and a plethora of other issues.

Let’s look back to previous years. (I’m not sure about 2015, except that the DOE posted enrollment data on time.)

In 2014 the data was posted on April 25th.

In 2016 the data was posted on April 30th.

In 2017 the data was posted on May 19th.

In 2018 the data was posted on May 9th.

And here we are on June 10th, 2019, and the data isn’t posted yet. (When it is, you’ll find it here.) What’s up with that? Districts submitted their numbers eight months ago. Does the DOE’s lethargy stem from disorganization? Lack of effective data management? Lack of qualified personnel?

Or is it that our Commissioner doesn’t really care?

Here’s the thing: Districts care. Superintendents care. Business Administrators care. Researchers care. Anyone who thinks goverment departments should produce data in a timely matter cares.

Meanwhile, we wait.

What do you think?

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