A few weeks ago, when new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data was released that ranked New Jersey first in the nation in student achievement, a Christie spokesman dismissed the positive results as "irrelevant" and declared the New Jersey public school system to be "wretched." The NJEA responded by focusing solely on the good news and ignoring the Christie administration's criticism of the system's failings. On average, New Jersey public schools can indeed be considered excellent, but this should not be surprising given that the state has among the highest per-capita income (and per-pupil spending) rates in the country and that test scores are highly correlated with income. But this high average hides many truly abysmal public schools (particularly in urban areas) and the persistence of large racial and socio-economic achievement gaps. The current overheated political rhetoric precludes an honest, balanced conversation about the system's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the reforms AND resources it would take to improve it for poorly served children.The Press of Atlantic City analyzes recent teacher salary settlements that have gone to the Public Employment Relations Commission, or PERC, which happens when school boards and local bargaining units reach an impasse. The report also looks at the widely-shared criticism of state arbitrators, who “have continued to recommend annual teacher salary increases of at least 4 percent over the last two years.”
Mike Petrilli over at Fordham’s Flypaper looks at the downward in students identified as having learning disabilities (an 11% drop in 5 years) and links it to NCLB’s Reading First program, recently eliminated by Congress.
NJ’s Supreme Court doled out a loss to NJEA, which was trying to force the State to fully fund its pension obligations.
Local NJ districts are starting to charge students for summer school (The Record) and extracurricular activities (New Jersey Newsroom). Other cost-saving new trend: replacing elementary world language teachers with computer programs like Rosetta Stone. (Star-Ledger).
Supporters of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, NJ’s proposed voucher program currently gummed up in the Legislature, held a free concert in Newark yesterday. E3’s Derrell Bradford commented to the Star-Ledger, "Every other kid in Newark goes to a failing school.”
On Tuesday the Institute of Education Sciences released its final evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, the voucher program. The results are “mixed:” no increase in achievement but increased likelihood that students would graduate high school. The Quick and the Ed blog recommends that we need “longer term measures, like high school graduation and college attendance” in order to evaluate these programs more effectively.