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A Lesson From New Jersey Which Missouri Can Learn From

In Part I of “A Lesson Missouri Can Learn from New Jersey’s Abbott Schools”, we explained how Abbott v. Burke resulted in a total — and highly effective — reform of New Jersey’s early elementary education programs in its poorest (and some of the poorest in the nation) schools.

The Abbott model resulted in persistent test gains, lower retention rates, and a lesser need for special education services. Achievement gaps were made significantly smaller, and grade repetition was reduced by 12-19%.

So how did New Jersey do it?

Abbot v. Burke has been a long and expensive effort in school reform spanning 1985 (when the case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court) to present. During that time, New Jersey has:

· Required low-income (dubbed “Abbott”) schools to undergo “whole school reform”.
· Provided generous state support to Abbott schools to assist in reform.
· Used state support to supply previously bare-boned classrooms with an influx of support, including books, computers, and teaching assistants.
· Reduced class sizes. The new standard was 1 teacher to 15 students.
· Strengthened early childhood curriculum.
· Required that certified teachers teach all preschool classrooms.
· Funded capital improvements that ensured that all students attended safe, educationally adequate, and not overcrowded schools.

What Should Missouri Take Away?

· New Jersey didn’t shuttle Abbott School students to different districts; it invested heavily in improving all aspects of those students’ educational experience in their own schools.
· The state of New Jersey made huge financial investments in its early childhood education programs in Abbot Schools.
· In New Jersey, the state contributed heavily to school improvement. (In Missouri, the Foundation Formula was still underfunded by $621 million in 2013, and less than 32% of public school funding came from the state.)

Photo via Asbury Park Sun

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