The Christie administration’s reorganization of the state education department is moving out into the field, with plans to create seven “regional achievement centers” that will serve as satellite bureaus (Mooney, 2011). The focus will be on the 100 to 150 lowest-performing schools, the bottom 5 percent that has increasingly become the focus of reform efforts not just in New Jersey but nationwide.
The Department of Education has been undergoing a fundamental shift from a system of oversight and monitoring to service delivery and support. The Department continues to recognize high performing “Reward” schools and shift significant resources and support to “priority” and Focus” schools, those schools that are the lowest performing in the state or that have significant achievement gaps (NJDOE, 1996). Seven field-based Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) staffed with expert school turnaround teams work directly with Priority and Focus Schools to implement proven turnaround principles and dramatically improve student achievement.
The Department of Education has significantly reorganized how the public engages with schools and districts. The NJDOE launched seven field-based Regional Achievement Centers (RACs), as outlined in New Jersey’s No Child Left Behind Waiver, charged with improvement in New Jersey’s most struggling schools. The Department has shifted significant resources to directly support “Priority” and “Focus” schools, those schools that are the lowest performing in the state or that have significant achievement gaps (NJDOE, 1996).
If interventions are implemented faithfully, the Department believes that each Priority and Focus School should achieve sustained, positive growth in student achievement that dramatically narrows the achievement gap and sets schools on a trajectory for preparing all students for college and career (NJDOE, 1996).
The mission of the Regional Achievement Centers per the New Jersey Department of Education website is the following: New Jersey’s Regional Achievement Centers, struggling schools, and their districts will partner to set clear goals for student growth, put proven turnaround principles into action, and use data to drive decision-making and accountability. Working together, we will meet our shared goal of closing the achievement gap and preparing all of our students for success in college and career.
The Regional Achievement Centers are based off of the following four guiding principles:
Partnership: Regional Achievement Centers, Priority and Focus Schools, and their districts work together.
Research base: School turnaround principles proven to drive student achievement are put into action.
Support: High impact professional development is regularly provided to teachers, leaders, and Regional Achievement Center teams. Resources are targeted to support Priority and Focus Schools.
Accountability: Clear goals and data drive decision-making. RAC teams, priority and Focus Schools, and their districts are held directly accountable for results.
"What Are Regional Achievement Centers?" What Are Regional Achievement Centers?N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.
Mooney, John. "Education." Department to Set Up Seven 'Regional Achievement Centers' N.p., Oct.-Nov. 2007. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.