Governor Christie talks education

Last week, Gov. Christie made a stop at Sharp Elementary School, along with Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, to further outline New Jersey school reform.

But before he got down to business about the standards, Christie met with 23 first-grade students from Sarah Anderson and Kathy Gilmour’s classes who had some interesting and colorful stories to share with the governor about their summer.

Christie asked the students what they did on their summer break and what books they read during vacation.

One especially adventureous student, Mason, told the governor he encountered a shark while on a surfboard and got bit by a lobster and a crab.

Christie then asked the student to come back to Trenton with him, explaining that he and Mason might share a thing or two in common.

“People are trying to bite me all the time,” Christie joked.

In a press conference that followed the vivid first-grade storytime, Christie spoke about the first round of the new Common Core State Standards, which the State Board of Education adopted for the state in June 2010.

The standards focus on math and English language arts, and were developed by a group of states led by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.

The governor’s office reports that 44 states have signed on to the standards, to date.

Cherry Hill schools are currently implementing the new standards in all kindergarten through second grade math classrooms.

The standards, which will eventually reach all K-12 classrooms, will not be rolled out all at once, Cerf said, but will be implemented over the next three years throughout New Jersey’s schools.

In 2012–13, the district will introduce the K-12 English language arts standards, third through fifth-grade math standards, and ninth through 12th-grade math standards.

In 2013–14, sixth through eighth-grade math standards will be implemented.

“We welcomed the governor’s visit and the opportunity to speak with him about implementation of the Common Core State Standards,” said Superintendent Dr. Maureen Reusche. “This is an initiative we can truly support.”

Since adopting the standards, the state Department of Education has held more than 300 presentations this year for teachers and administrators to get accustomed to the new policies.

In October, regional trainings will be held to help teachers meet the standards.

The DOE will also solicit feedback from educators and administrators in each district.

The standards, Christie said, are being implemented to ensure that students are receiving the skills they need to be ready for both college and a career.

He added that the standards would focus more on improvement and progress, not test scores.

“I’m tired of giving out fake diplomas to people who can’t qualify to sit in a college classroom,” Christie said. “If they don’t qualify, they need to know that.”

The four main components of the standards, otherwise known as the Four Building Blocks for Success, Cerf said, are accountability and performance, academics, talent and innovation.

Christie said the new standards, with the collaboration of educators and teachers, put the interests of students first.

“We continue to work closely with districts across the state to empower students,” Christie said. “We’re striving for each student to achieve. We are putting the interests of children ahead of special parochial interests. This is a collaborative effort and is profoundly important.”

Christie also spoke about other school-related changes he’d like to see, such as tenure reform, merit pay and implementing transformation schools.

“There is no silver bullet for fixing this and no one solution,” he said. “It’s an issue of how to spend the money we have better.”