The New Jersey Department of Education is launching seven Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) that will work with schools identified as Priority and Focus Schools through the state’s new school accountability system. The RACs have already begun trainings for over 500 staff from Priority and Focus Schools (the state’s lowest performing schools) and will be on-the-ground working with schools beginning in September.

Education commissioner Chris Cerf says, “Failure is not an option for our lowest-performing schools, and so we are making a huge investment in them by providing expert educators to work every day, on the ground, to implement proven school turnaround strategies. With flexibility from No Child Left Behind, we are able, for the first time, to prioritize our resources on the schools that need them most.”

Cerf’s department has already received more than 1,000 applications for the RAC staff. The interview process consists of performance tasks including presenting a professional development session, observing a teaching video and providing feedback, developing an action plan for low-performing schools based on mock reviews, and developing an analysis of student, school, and district level data.

The RACs will start working with schools in September, but work has already begun to implement turnaround strategies in Priority Schools. There were school reviews of each Priority School in the spring, which is one of many resources being used to develop customized school interventions. The Department has also reviewed principal placements and curriculum for each Priority School, requiring changes where necessary. This week, over 500 leaders and teachers from Priority and Focus Schools will undergo three intensive days of training by RAC staff before the start of school.

The RACs will be working with schools in the following two categories.  A list of individual Priority and Focus Schools can be found at the following link: http://www.nj.gov/education/news/2012/0411rac.htm.