Sunday Leftovers

The Star-Ledger derides the “desperate squirming of Marie L. Munn, president of the Elizabeth Board of Education” who illegally secured free lunch for her kids although her household income is well above the threshold. (See background here.)

Munn now says she filled out the application for the free lunches every year, but somehow didn't realize it was an application for free lunches. So we looked at the form to test out this theory. Maybe it was all in the fine print.

Not so. Across the top of the form are these giant block letters: “FREE AND REDUCED PRICE LUNCH SCHOOL MEALS HOUSEHOLD APPLICATION.”

Here's the Interim Report from Gov. Christie's Education Transformation Task Force, which calls for cutting gratuitous and redundant QSAC regulations, tweaking charter school oversight, and creating a rubric for accountability that eliminates the ability of districts to "game" the system, coordinates with NCLB, integrates student longitudinal growth models, and loosens up strictures on high-performing districts.

The Courier Post has a smart editorial on the needs for and prospects of ed reform in NJ, especially in light of both the release of last year’s SAT scores and the Interim Report from Gov. Christie’s Transition Team on education. NJEA spokesman Steve Baker’s “skepticism of some of the task force’s data” describing NJ’s achievement gap, say the editorialists, is “another example of the union’s willful blindness to reality.”

NJ is contemplating streamlining our standardized tests, says Ed Commish Chris Cerf. Among the possibilities is substituting the SAT or the ACT for the HSPA, NJ’s High School Proficiency Assessment.

Bob Braun at the Star-Ledger warns that linking student achievement to teacher evaluations will lead to lot of lawsuits: "What is certain about the new plans is that they will be challenged, starting with the first teacher who loses a job or an increment. Years of litigation have brought us the law of tenure, and years of litigation will determine the use of student scores."

Fourteen New Jersey schools — half of them private Catholic schools under the Newark Archdiocese — have been designated National Blue Ribbon Schools, reports the Star-Ledger.

This summer Trenton Public Schools laid off its in-house transportation staff; however, the School Board there balked on hiring a consultant to ease the transition to out-sourcing busing. As a result, a large group of bilingual 4th and 5th graders have been stranded at home without transportation to Wilson Elementary School, says the Trenton Times.

NJ Spotlight looks at the impact of the Common Core State Standards on curriculum and assessment in Cherry Hill.

Richard Bozza of the NJ Association of School Administrators acknowledges the U.S.’s lag in achievement and praises NJ’s participation in PARCC, a 23-state consortium tasked with developing the next generation of student assessments.

Everyone’s talking about Paul Tough's feature in today’s NY Times Magazine (which went online early in the week), called “What If the Secret to Success is Failure?” Tough looks at the issue of character education in the context of KIPP charter schools and Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, among others.

Also in today's Times, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is countering the teacher union’s aversion to a longer school day (Chicago public school students have shorter days than peers in other states) by offering schools the option to bypass union leadership and sign on for merit bonuses in exchange for more time in the classroom. Nine schools have signed on and the union has filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Check out a new paper by Cory Koedel on grade inflation for education majors. Koedel concludes that “students who take education classes at universities receive significantly higher grades than student who take classes in every other discipline.” There’s no reason for the higher grades except for “low grading standards. These low grading standards likely will negatively affect the accumulation of skills for prospective teachers during university training.” More generally they contribute to a culture of low standards for educators.”