With only about half of the states schools meeting their goals for improving student performance last year, Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf is announcing a new plan for the coming years that will create meaningful improvements in the standards for education.

Governor's Office/Tim Larsen

Speaking Wednesday in Jackson Liberty High School for his yearly Convocation with several hundred of the state's superintendents and officials, Cerf reviewed the statistics from previous years and introduced new initiatives meant to boost student performance.

As a whole, Cerf said the NJBOE wants every school district to halve the percentage of students failing standardized tests by 2017, dramatically increase third grade reading proficiency, cut needless regulations, and re-examine the state's 25 billion dollar budget.

The plan for improving standardized test scores would involve halving the difference in scores for the achievement gap, and dividing the percentage amount by six years. Districts would be responsible for meeting the yearly goals.

Third grade reading improvements would be conducted on a similar method, with schools being responsible for a 3.1% yearly improvement in reading proficiency. Cerf pointed out there are roughly thirty four thousand third grader that aren't reading proficient. By next year, Cerf wants that number to decrease 2,035.

"When you actually stop looking at bar graphs and start looking at numbers you see things like there forty thousand kids last year, who by the third grade, can't read. Then you can actually look at how many of those particular kids graduated high school."

Many of the deregulation initiatives are being proposed through a report filed by the Education Task Force which suggests 428 possible changes. Cerf notes the issue with excessive regulation is that it stifles innovation, hampers creating effective teaching plans, and punishes school needlessly.

Cerf emphasized the importance of focusing on low performing "priority schools" , however he says the approach must be different since priority schools already have a higher student to teacher ratio, higher average teacher salary, and higher student to administration ratio than the state average.

Some superintendents expressed concern over Cerf's plan to deregulate wherever possible while still pushing for increased state standards. The Commissioner says priority schools will have much stricter oversight, however it's not fair to the rest of the state to be a slave to what he calls ineffective or redundant policies.

"It's important to remember in New Jersey there are over twenty five hundred schools and the great majority of them are doing very well by national standards and so we have a very different perspective towards those and towards the districts which they operate."

Cerf adds they think the high performing schools are the source of innovation and "should be given as much freedom and latitude as possible."

"It is entirely appropriate to hold districts accountable for results and fiscal responsibility, but let's not micro- manage."

The state was among the first in the nation to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Standards, and like other state was allowed to come up with other measures of how well students

Cerf says re-analyzing how the state spends its 25 billion dollar education budget will allow them to find better ways to reallocate the money and create the necessary funding for the initiatives.

In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, Cerf said the NJBOE also will also institute a statewide educator evaluation system, examine teacher prep programs, develop an innovation community, and launch web based platforms.