April 14, 2020-- After visiting Toms River Regional Schools in February and conducting its Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) review, the New Jersey Department of Education has once again distinguished the district as “high performing.”
Now conducted every three years, QSAC is a rigorous process that assesses a district’s compliance and progress in five areas: Instruction and Programs, Fiscal Management, Personnel, Operations, and Governance. Using 69 indicators, most with detailed subsections, it is a thorough and comprehensive analysis of nearly everything a school system does to create a quality education for its children.
Based on its 2014 QSAC assessment, the district had been placed on a corrective action plan. After several years of hard work by its staff to address numerous issues, TRRS improved in every area and was named a “high-performing” district in 2017. This year it received scores of 96 or better in four of the five areas of evaluation, earning a perfect 100 in governance and a 98 in operations.
“To improve our ratings and be classified as high-performing for the second time in a row means the positive culture we’ve worked hard to establish and foster is not only working, it exists throughout every facet of our operations,” said Superintendent David Healy. “Something like this could not happen without the talent, dedication, and support of many people, and I want to wholeheartedly thank and congratulate our teachers, staff, administrative team, and community partners.”
The accomplishment is all the more impressive since new QSAC indicators raised the bar for districts in a number of areas. Test score and 4-year graduation ratings now include subgroups like special education, ethnicity, and socio-economic groupings. Curricular requirements are more detailed and stringent, including more interdisciplinary components and an emphasis on careers and technical education. Districts have to demonstrate a robust intervention program for special education, English language learners, and other students in need. And staff professional development must be diverse, ongoing, and target specific student and teaching needs. Each of these are areas the district had already been improving before the new indicators were made public, putting the schools in a strong position for the assessment.
The schools have managed to retain the high performing distinction despite a years-long battle against state aid cuts. Senate Bill S2 has cost the district millions in funding, more than 100 staff positions, and slashed services in nearly every area. Operating $37 million under adequacy, earning awards for financial prudence and transparency, and having one of the lowest costs per pupil distinguishes the district as a model for efficient operations with a world class education. The high QSAC rating shows the NJDOE concurs.
The strength of its staff and operations have been especially evident during the current COVID-19 crisis, which has forced schools throughout the state to revert to remote learning models. Toms River Regional’s transition was not only one of the smoothest and most successful among its peers, it is far more robust and comprehensive. From daily interactive virtual lessons to technology support to counseling to meal provisions, the pandemic has shown why its staff are “high performing” in every situation.
Said Healy, “To receive this wonderful news now, as our world has been turned upside down and our students, staff, and families are working their way through it, has left me with an indescribable feeling of pride and gratitude.”