N.J. begins ‘dramatic restructuring’ of education department

New Jersey is restructuring its Department of Education to focus more on performance and less on compliance.

Chris Cerf, the state’s acting education chief, calls it a dramatic reorganization.

“It essentially reaffirms that our focus is to increase dramatically the number of children who are college- and career-ready by the time they graduate, to increase access to high-quality education especially for at-risk kids,” he said Wednesday.

The changes create four main department divisions with officers in charge of talent, performance, academics, and innovation.

“We’ve proposed an organization that is keyed to the levers that we believe and research tells us makes the greatest difference whether it’s around the lever of effective educators or academics and standards or innovation,” Cerf said.

The state Board of Education also voted to relax the requirements for hiring superintendents in 57 districts with schools that fail to meet student-achievement standards.

Applicants now will not need to have worked as a professional educator but will be required to have a bachelor’s degree and a business background.

“We shouldn’t let rules and regulations get in the way of the central mission,” Cerf said. “So, if there happened to be an extraordinary candidate who happened not to meet the technical requirements, we ought to embrace that rather than resist it by being sticklers about the existing regulatory framework.”

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