Don't get too excited about the $579,190 more in state education aid that Fair Lawn received this year over last. It won't be going to reduce your taxes, add jobs and programs, or prevent prospective personnel cuts.
The money will be used primarily to prepare the district for what Superintendent Bruce Watson calls additional unfunded mandates coming down from the state like Excellent Educators for New Jersey (EE4NJ) -- the state's proposed teacher evaluation system --and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) -- which designs computer-based student assessments built on the Common Core State Standards.
Eleven districts statewide are currently piloting EE4NJ, the teacher evaluation program, with the expectation that it will be rolled out in all districts next year and provide annual teacher evaluations based on standards of effective teacher practices and student achievement.
Watson said by next school year districts are expected to have purchased, installed, trained with and implemented one of four web-based evaluative packages. He said the process, which is not funded by the state, will be arduous and expensive.
"We have to begin as soon as possible, certainly no later than starting in Septmember," Watson said. "An advisory committee needs to be formed to do an investigation of the four packages."
To prepare the district for a future where paper and pencil assessments are replaced by online PARCC assessments -- which Watson said is slated for the 2013-2014 school year -- the district is moving forward with technology and infrastructure updates.
"We've got to add labs, we've got to purchase software, go through the training, get the teachers in a group to show them," Watson said. "Next year will be absolutely crazy with all that stuff."
While Watson said the aid coming from Trenton is certainly welcome, he's not pleased with the way it's been marketed as an increase by the Christie administration.
"Three years ago we lost $4.1 million in state aid, and now they’re giving it back to us in these dribs and drabs, and the marketing campaign is that they've increased state aid," he said. "Well that’s nice, but its disingenuous. We're still where we were three years ago. It's all political and it's all marketing in my opinion, but we are getting the money and I'm thankful for that. I have to use it to prepare ourselves for these unfunded mandates."