After directing the parties in the Abbott v. Burke case into mediation with Appellate Judge Philip Carchman, the NJ Supreme Court issued a ruling on June 24, 2003 that accepts agreements reached by ELC and the NJ Commissioner of Education during the month-long mediation process. The June 24th ruling — “Abbott X” — reaffirms and improves implementation of whole school reform and supplemental programs, both adequacy remedies first ordered by the Court in the landmark 1998 Abbott V decision.

The key requirements in the Abbott X ruling are:

? Elementary schools must continue using their whole school reform (WSR) model.

? “Low performing” elementary schools will undergo a thorough review by a “Performance Assessment Team,” consisting of skilled educators, administrators and parents, resulting in an agreed upon strategy for improvement. The agreement will address all obstacles to improve student achievement.

? “High performing” schools may switch WSR models or use an alternate design.

? A program of whole school reform for middle and high schools will be developed for the 2004-05 school year, and an independent evaluation of WSR will be undertaken.

? All schools must provide needed supplemental programs, services and positions – as mandated by Abbott V, and as set forth in the Chart of Supplemental Programs incorporated into the Abbott X ruling.

ELC supports the reaffirmation of whole school reform in Abbott X. Since 1999, many Abbott elementary schools have made solid gains in student achievement, and Abbott X adjusts the framework for whole school reform so New Jersey can build upon that success.

Abbott X also sharply differs from the labeling of schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Abbott X ensures that New Jersey will not simply slap a “failing” label on schools, but instead give consistently low performing schools the tools necessary to improve – adequate funding, extra programs, external technical assistance and expertise. Abbott X also identifies and rewards schools already making outstanding progress, which NCLB does not.

The Abbott v. Burke rulings are widely recognized as having launched a bold and unprecedented effort to improve the education of poor and at-risk urban children. Abbott X marks yet another educational and legal milestone that other states can follow.

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Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240