New chief's new plans
New Jersey's new state schools chief is backing away from some of the most heavily criticized facets of a package of standards-related regulations proposed by his predecessor last year.
Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe, a former longtime aide to Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, billed his recommended revisions as an attempt to respond to educators' complaints about proposed new rules governing state standards and assessments.
During the tenure of former Commissioner Leo F. Klagholz, the Whitman administration was often lambasted by school leaders as impervious to their opinions.
For starters, Mr. Hespe wants to drop the idea of no longer issuing high school diplomas to students who pass the General Educational Development test. Mr. Klagholz had proposed recognizing passage of the GED with a certificate. ("N.J. Ponders Drawing Line Between Diplomas, GED," April 22, 1998.)
Mr. Hespe said those passing the national high-school-equivalency exam deserve a full diploma. "We must not turn our backs on these individuals," he said.
The state chief, who took the helm April 1 upon Mr. Klagholz's departure, also called on the state board of education to discard a plan advanced by his predecessor to require that 11th and 12th graders take part one day per week in school-to-work activities--such as jobs, internships, or community-service projects--that would be linked to their chosen "career majors."
Responding to arguments that the plan would take away from time in the classroom, Mr. Hespe said he wants it left up to students whether to participate in such "structured learning experiences."
On the testing front, the new chief wants to slow down by one year the phase-in of new state exams for 4th, 8th, and 11th graders. His revised plan, presented to the state board this month, calls for all three tests to be fully phased in by 2005-06 instead of a year earlier.
Mr. Hespe said that officials had received "an overwhelming message from the field" in public hearings held since Mr. Klagholz unveiled the proposed regulations last spring. The board is not expected to vote on the regulatory package until next year.
--Caroline Hendrie email@example.com
Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 14