Monday, October 29, 2012

How Strong is NJEA?

Hot off the press: Fordham's new report, "How Strong are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-by-State Comparison." The report examines 37 variables over five realms. Here's New Jersey's profile. NJEA is rated 7th strongest in the country overall, first in "resources and membership," and  2nd in "perceived influence." Here's the discussion of the latter:
New Jersey’s teacher unions rank behind only California’s in their reputation for influence in state education policy. Indeed, stakeholders unanimously rate them as the most important shapers of such policy. They also agree that the unions are effective in protecting dollars for education (even in times of cutbacks), and strongly agree that they are effective in warding off policy proposals with which they disagree. Though they report that policies proposed by the governor during the latest legislative session were not at all in line with teacher union priorities, they counter that the session’s policy outcomes were mostly in line with union priorities—a likely example of the union’s power. Finally, they note, again unanimously, that teacher unions need not make concessions to ensure that their preferred policies are enacted.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Leftovers

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board urges Newark's teachers to approve the new merit pay contract tomorrow (which appears to be an increasingly unlikely scenario, and not just because of Frankenstorm):

This contract is a striking reform of the traditional pay structure and would put Newark in the national vanguard. Teachers would no longer be treated like factory workers, toiling in a system that ignores talent or improvement. Instead, they would be treated like professionals, able to earn rewards based on evidence of success, as in the rest of the working world. Ineffective teachers would receive no pay hikes under this contract and, with the new tenure law signed this summer, could be removed from the classroom if efforts to lift their performance fail.
The Asbury Park Press leads today with  a six-page expose on Lakewood Public Schools' financial mismanagement, including sketchy payments to former board attorney Michael Inzelbuch and "tens of millions of dollars to an educational company that provides nonpublic students with a wide variety of services without anyone in the district verifying the accuracy of the company’s bills."

Also in the Asbury Park Press, "the Ritacco era haunts the current school board election" in Toms River.

One hundred and two kindergarteners in Trenton Public Schools didn’t get placed in classes until October 10th.  The district ascribes the delay to an unprecedented increase in registrations: 115 more kids than last year (Trenton Times). Also, Trenton Board of Education members are skeptical of the district’s reported decrease in violence, vandalism, and drugs and weapons charges presented at a recent meeting:
“Wait, wait, wait..." board president the Rev. Toby Sanders said. “You mean to tell me, you’re presenting data to me, to us, that there were only three police notifications about violence in the schools last year?”
“A principal might call police, but only wrote it on one form but not the other,” [Superintendent Francisco] Duran said. “We’re not saying only three times police were called to the district, we’re saying it’s only three times police were called and coded properly on the right report. I know there were more times the police were called than three last year. I wasn’t even here last year and I know that.”
The Press of Atlantic City covers Comm. Cerf’s talk at NJ School Boards Convention, specifically his recommendations on how board members can be more effective.

NJ Spotlight has great coverage of the complaint in Camden, which charges that Camden Public Schools students are deprived of their constitutionally-mandated access to a  "thorough and efficient system of education," here and here.

From Newsworks: “New Jersey lawmakers are considering a measure that would require school districts to allow children in vocational and charter schools to participate in the districts' sports programs.”

And from Sarah Butrymowicz at Slate:
When it comes to education, the main difference between the two presidential candidates is Paul Ryan. The Ryan budget, which was presented to Congress in 2011 and which Romney originally said he would have signed, calls for a 20 percent cut to discretionary funding. Although the budget doesn’t specify how that decrease will be divvied up among departments, Obama has repeatedly claimed that Romney would cut education spending by a fifth, if not more. The Republicans contend that is not true.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Appellate Court Issues Decision Re: Superintendent Salary Caps

Does NJ Education Commissioner Cerf have the right to impose salary caps on school superintendent salaries? Yup, says the Court:
The questions presented are whether: the salary cap exceeds
the authority delegated to the Commissioner by the Legislature
in N.J.S.A. 18A:7-1 to -16 (L. 2007, c. 63, §§ 42-58) or
violates the Separation of Powers Clause, N.J. Const. art. III,
¶ 1; the cap on salary conflicts with the authority of a local
school board to fix its superintendent's salary, N.J.S.A.
18A:17-19; application of the salary cap to superintendents
whose contracts expired on June 30, 2011 is precluded by
N.J.S.A. 18A:17-20.1 or -20.2; and the Commissioner violated the
rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (the
Act), N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 to -24, by directing the ECSs to suspend
review of renegotiated contracts pending adoption of the salary
caps. Concluding that the answer to each of the foregoing
questions is "No," we uphold the agency's actions.

Three superintendents had challenged the annual salary cap – up to $125K for little districts and no more than $175K for  larger districts (with exceptions for really big districts, districts with high schools, and Abbotts) -- because it significantly reduced their salaries. At the time of the suit, Robert Holster of Passaic had a negotiated salary of $218,762, which was reduced to $177,500; James F. O’Neill of the Chathams had a salary of $217,213, which was reduced to $165,000; and Rene Rovtar of Long Hill had a salary of $155,000, which was reduced to $145,000.
Here’s more coverage from NJ Spotlight and Star-Ledger. Many commentators have noted the cognitive dissonance produced by a  Republican governor who disdains free market principles. What would Romney say?

After a few days in Atlantic City,

It’s a relief to know that public education isn’t the only system resistant to change. From Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:
"The glacial pace of presidential elections wasn't a huge issue in the late 18th and early 19th centuries--communication was slow, so results took weeks to announce anyway--but with the advent of the railroad and telegraph, Congress decided it was time to standardize a date. Monday was out, because it would require people to travel to the polls by buggy on the Sunday Sabbath. Wednesday was also not an option, because it was market day, and farmers wouldn't be able to make it to the polls. So it was decided that Tuesday would be the day that Americans would vote in elections, and in 1845, Congress passed a law that presidential elections would be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NJ School Boards: All About Teacher Evaluation Implementation

My post today at WHYY's Newsworks covers the overriding theme at this week's NJ School Boards Association Annual Convention: implementing NJ's new teacher tenure and evaluation legislation. Can districts accomplish this "seismic shift" by next September? Is the DOE up to the task?
Late October in Atlantic City? It must be time for N.J. School Boards Association's Annual Workshop and Exhibition. Picture it: school board members and administrators in grey blazers and sensible shoes roaming Atlantic City's cavernous Convention Center, attending sessions like "Energy Improvement Program (ESIP): How to Implement Energy Facilities Projects Without Spending More Money" and "Voluntary Model Curricula and Assessments Aligned with the Common Core Standards," indulging in that perennially favorite activity of snatching up free candy and pens from vendors in the Exhibition Hall. Can anyone say "PAR-TAY!"
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

From the Star-Ledger's coverage of the "barrage of criticism" from Newark's teachers in response to the district's offer and Union President's Joseph Del Grosso' endorsement of a new contract that would substitute automatic salary increases for a system of merit pay:
Del Grosso tried to tame the crowd, repeatedly reminding the teachers to "be professional," but he was frequently shouted over.
He also said the union could walk out on Tuesday if the contract is voted down, even though teacher strikes are illegal in New Jersey.
"This contract is a piece of garbage that will divide the union," one teacher said. "Wait three years until we can get something better."

Live From Atlantic City

I'm in Atlantic City at New Jersey School Board Association's annual Workshop and Convention. Many of the sessions this year focus on the looming implementation of NJ's new tenure and teacher evaluation reform bill, which has many districts in a tizzy. More on that tomorrow at WHYY Newsworks.

One popular session yesterday afternoon in the commodious Convention Center was Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf's presentation to school board members, administrators, and lobbyists on his priorities for 2012-2013. Here's a few highlights.

Enrollment trends: pretty flat, but there have been significant changes in demographics. Fewer of NJ's public school students are white and many more are Hispanic. There has been an increase in children identified as economically-disadvantaged.

Student Achievement: Many NJ students perform superbly. However, there's been almost no decrease in performance gaps among racial groups, specifically black kids and white kids. For example, in 2005 there was a 32 point gap in achievement and in 2012 there was a 31 point gap. The gap between poor kids and wealthier kids has widened over that same time period. In 2005 there was a 26 point gap and in 2012 there was a 32 point gap. The low test scores, said the Commissioner are "incredibly predictive of graduate rates and college and career-readiness," adding, "our central mission is to do something about that."

Good new and bad news on the HSPA: We're starting to close the achievement gap on NJ's High School Proficiency Assessment. However, the HSPA is considered an 8th grade level test and will be replaced by more rigorous exams through a consortium called PARCC.

School Funding: "Education spending in high-needs districts exceeds statewide averages."  The total nut of NJ's education costs (including state aid and local levies) is $25 billion per year. The Comm. noted Newark's annual cost per pupil of $21,706, Camden's $22,306, Trenton's $20,340, and Jersey City's $22,397, among others. (The state average is $17,352.) Our lowest-performing schools are already "well-resourced," with better student/teacher ratios and higher teacher salaries. "It's not how much we're spending but how we're spending." We'll have to make some "courageous choices."

What's the DOE Doing About It?: "Investing in what matters," "exchanging autonomy and empowerment for accountability," and "prioritizing resources and support to lowest-performing schools to close the achievement gap." "We are committed to taking a state that has always led in the quantity of data" to a state that presents data transparently, "without spin." And, "I think that most of our schools and districts are doing just fine without a bunch of bureaucrats telling them what to do."


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obama and Romney on U.S. Education

The debate last night, obstensibly on foreign policy,  instead featured the candidates' longest debate remarks on the state of America's schools and strategies for improving performance. Predictably, their comments represent a key difference between the major party platforms on the role of the federal government in education. (Substitute healthcare here if you like.) Here's the quotes, courtesy of Politics K12.

Gov. Romney on delegating education policy and standards to the states, including,  presumably, programs like Race to the Top, ESEA, the Common Core, and his proposed 20% slash of the federal education budget:
"It's so critical that we make America once again the most attractive place in the world to start businesses, to build jobs, to grow the economy. And that's not going to happen by -- by just hiring teachers," Romney said. "Look, I -- I love to -- I love teachers, and I'm happy to have states and communities that want to hire teachers, do that. I -- by the way, I don't like to have the federal government start pushing its way deeper and deeper into -- into our schools. Let the states and localities do that. I was a governor. The federal government didn't hire our teachers."

And here's Pres. Obama on the importance of national initiatives for maintaining American competitiveness and maintaining federal budgetary support:
If we've got math teachers who are able to provide the kind of support that they need for our kids, that's what's going to determine whether or not the new businesses are created here. Companies are going to locate here depending on whether we've got the most highly skilled workforce. And the kinds of budget proposals that you've put forward—when we don't ask either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but instead we slash support for education, that's undermining our long-term competitiveness. That is not good for America's position in the world. And the world notices.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Details on Facebook's Funding of Newark's New Contract Provisions

This morning John Mooney has an interview with Greg Taylor, the head of Foundation for Newark's Future, which is the organization responsible for distributing Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools. Mr. Taylor confirms that Facebook funds will be paying for the proposed contract with Newark Teachers Union, which should be voted on next. week. From NJ Spotlight:
The centerpiece of the new five-year contract between the state-run district and the Newark Teachers Union is the provision that directly ties teacher raises to positive evaluations each year -- with bonuses of up to $12,500 awarded to exemplary teachers working in the toughest schools and fields.

The foundation will be paying those bonuses, as well as other personnel costs. Although an exact amount has not yet been revealed, district officials say it could reach $50 million.

Quote of the Day: How is School Choice like Gay Marriage?

Andy Rotherham on the inevitable expansion of school choice:
To me this is the most future of the futures issues. More choice and a mixed model of schooling is coming, it’s just a question of how fast and what it looks like.  People can disagree about whether that’s good or bad but the choice genie is out of the bottle and in this country we like choices. As I noted today at the event, choice is like gay marriage.  The polling on gay marriage makes it pretty clear that the demographics favor it and it’s going to happen because younger people favor it.   So opponents of gay marriage can slow down its legalization now but over time they are checkmated by demographics.  The  same is true of expanding choice in education, in my view.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Camden Update

Last week the Camden School Board inexplicably rejected all four applications for several new schools authorized through the Urban Hope Act. (See my coverage at WHYY Newsworks, for instance, here and here.) The best application came from Ryan Hill's TEAM Charter Schools in Newark, modeled on KIPP,  which far outperform traditional district schools. NJ Spotlight has great coverage of TEAM's (stalled/dead) plans for Camden.

Rumor had it that the Camden Board would "re-vote" this past week. Maybe not. From the Courier-Post:
The business administrator who puts together the Board of Education’s meeting agendas said reconsideration of a controversial Hope Act school application by an alliance of two foundations and the KIPP charter chain will take place Monday evening.
Celeste Ricketts said so before Tuesday’s board meeting. 
An hour later, acting board president Martha Wilson said there was no plan for a new vote. [Business Administrator] Ricketts made a contorted face as Wilson spoke.
The Philadelphia Inquirer considers the plight of the three mothers in Camden who have petitioned the State Board of Education for access for their young children to the promised “thorough and efficient education system promised in the State Constitution, with the additional context of the Camden Board's rejection of new options. David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center, which litigates the Abbott cases, says it’s “premature” to give up on traditional schools.
Sciarra may be right, but you can't blame Sandra Vargas, Maria Roldan, and Gricelda Ruiz if they decide their children have waited long enough. Days could turn into months, and months into years while parents wait for renaissance schools to be approved and built, for bad teachers to be identified and fired, and for administrators to stop school violence 
The mothers want New Jersey to follow the court orders issued to it 32 years ago in the Abbott case - give every child a viable education. That state Supreme Court ruling was about how education tax dollars would be divided. It's clear now that more money alone isn't the answer. But figuring out the rest can't take years. Each day, the long list of victims of bad schools grows.

Newark Update

Here's an excerpt from Tom Moran's column this morning in the Star Ledger on Joseph Del Grosso, the head of Newark's teachers union. The profile is in the context of the  "ground-breaking contract that could unleash a tidal wave of reform," i.e., Newark's proposed contract that would award merit pay to great teachers and withhold increases to ineffective ones.
Joe Del Grosso is 65 years old now, slowed by Crohn’s disease, with a ring of thick silver hair circling a bald top.
He remembers his militant days as young man, when he began the climb that landed him at the top of the teachers union in Newark
“I was in jail for three months,” he says.
His crime was joining a strike in 1970. But he was never caught for shooting out the car windows of the school board president, something he did over and over to vent his rage.
“I saw him later at a bar,” Del Grosso says. “And I said, ‘You’re the son of a bitch who sent me to jail.’ And he said, ‘You’re the son of a bitch who blew my windows out.’ So we decided to have a drink, us two sons of bitches. And we became friends.”
Also see NJ Spotlight's analysis of the history of this progressive agreement.

Sunday Leftovers

Newark debuts a new all-boys school public school; questions are raised about discrimination against girls and the principal’s reputation. (Star-Ledger)

Does the implementation of the national common core standards make full-day kindergarten a necessity, wonders the Independent Press? Currently, full-day kindergarten in NJ is only required in low-income districts, although 76% districts have it anyway.

NJ Spotlight observes school district shopping trips for teacher and principal evaluation models.

New Jersey School Boards Association reports on new legislation:

A Senate panel on Monday advanced a union-backed bill that would undermine a school board's ability to subcontract services, even though NJSBA research has found subcontracting services has saved taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
S-968, which was released Monday by the Senate Labor Committee, would undermine the ability of a local board to subcontract services by imposing numerous restrictions and requirements on the process.
And The Record reports on a new bill proposed by Senators Ronald Rice and Nellie Pou that would limit state takeovers of school districts to five years. The bill is prompted by Paterson School District’s desire to escape state control. The President of the Paterson Board, Christopher Irving, says that “for the bill to pass, supporters need to persuade their colleagues in the suburbs that any district is at risk of being targeted for a state takeover An appeal also should be made to conservatives who want to limit the role of government, he said.”

Lakewood Public Schools has appointed its interim superintendent, Laura Winters, as permanent, or as permanent as it is in Lakewood; she will be the fourth superintendent since the school year 2007-2008. The Asbury Park Press says,
Winters, 47, of Brick inherits one of the more challenging educational jobs in New Jersey. She’s tasked with turning around a low-performing school district long beset with administrative turmoil, political rancor and a wide cultural divide between the predominantly Hispanic and African-American families served by Lakewood’s six public schools and the fast-growing Orthodox Jewish community, whose children attend a mushrooming network of more than 100 religious schools located within the township’s borders.

Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times says that the Obama Administration's education competition called Race to the Top is one of his two favorite initiatives and the President's "best kept secret."

Also in the NY Times, a report on NYC's elite private schools and their efforts to diversify theirs student bodies. "But schools’ efforts to attract minority students haven’t always been matched by efforts to truly make their experience one of inclusion, students and school administrators say. Pervading their experience, the students say, is the gulf between those with seemingly endless wealth and resources and those whose families are struggling, a divide often reflected by race."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Newark Update: Teachers Say "Yes" to Merit Pay

From today's Star-Ledger:
Newark's superintendent of schools and teachers union president today signed a landmark three-year contract that will offer bonuses to top teachers in the state's largest school district for the first time.

If the contract is ratified later this month by the Newark Teachers Union's 3,300 members, educators could start earning bonuses of $2,000 to $12,500 as soon as the end of this school year, union president Joseph Del Grosso said after signing the deal at the Peshine Avenue Elementary School.

"Teachers who vote in favor of this contract are heroes," Del Grosso said. "Teachers have told me countless times they were never afraid of accountability, they were never afraid of an evaluation system."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's The Real Story Behind the Abbott/Voucher-Tinged Complaint Filed By Camden Parents?

That's the subject of my post today at WHYY's Newsworks.
This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden's bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children's constitutional right to a "thorough and efficient public education system."

Are the parents' children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden's 26 schools are on the State's list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School's graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.

But the transparency of the complaint ends there. In fact, the complaint is mired in various levels of political complexities that go back more than 30 years.
Read the rest here.

Merit Pay Come to Newark

"It's bold. The teachers are really—if they vote [yes] on this—they're showing a lot of courage. And they're the heroes. I just brought it to a point. The rest is up to them"
That’s Newark Teacher Union President Joseph Del Grosso on a new proposed contract between the union and the Newark Public Schools that, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, “would overhaul teacher pay, introducing lucrative merit bonuses and giving teachers a role in grading each other.” The new contract language would also give teachers a role in evaluating each other, currently verboten.

NJ's much larger union, NJEA, does not support this proposal.

If Newark's teachers vote "yes" today, the costs of merit pay would be covered by a combination of Mark Zuckerberg’s donation and the rescinding of current contract language that gives teachers lifetime annual salary bumps for earning advanced degrees. Teachers could choose the option of going with the new system or staying with the old system.

The new arrangement, which sounds a lot like Michelle Rhee’s proposal in D.C.,  adheres to research that shows that advanced degrees don’t increase teacher effectiveness. (Teachers would, however, receive a one-time bonus of $20,000 for earning for those degrees.)

Details from the Journal:
Under the contract, teachers could receive up to a $12,500 annual bonus for qualifications such as working in a school that has traditionally struggled to attract good teachers; teaching understaffed subjects; and scoring "highly effective" on their annual evaluations.
The complex system allows teachers to stack bonuses.
Meanwhile, teachers who don't make the grade could lose a pay bump based on years of experience that traditionally has been seen as automatic. They will, however, have the chance to get some of that back if they improve, Mr. Del Grosso said.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quote of the Day

Andy Smarick, former Deputy Commissioner for NJ's Department of Education, has a new book out today called "The Urban School System of the Future." From the book:
I have equal affection for great traditional public schools, great charter public schools, and great private schools. I am equally opposed to the low performers from each sector.

For the sake of disadvantaged kids, I care about school quality, not school operator.

Bizarre NY Times Op-Ed on Teacher/Principal Accountability

Did anyone else think that Deborah Kenny’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times on teacher evaluations -- called "Want to Ruin Teaching? Give Ratings" --  a trifle bizarre?  It’s not weird that Kenney, a chief executive with the NYC charter network Harlem Village Academies, has a problem with proposals to link student test data to teacher evaluations. Lots of people have problems with that. What’s weird is her distortion of the proposals themselves. Surely she knows better.

In the op-ed, Kenney explains that she’s always been
a strong proponent of teacher accountability. I’ve advocated for ending tenure and other rules that get in the way of holding educators responsible for the achievement of their students. Indeed, the teachers in my schools —Harlem Village Academies— all work with employment-at-will contracts because we believe accountability is an underlying prerequisite to running an effective school. The problem is that, unlike charters, most schools are prohibited by law from holding teachers accountable at all.
Her problem, then, isn’t that teachers’ job security will be at the mercy of  the swings and arrows of unreliable data produced by standardized tests. It’s that “having the government evaluate individual teachers…is a terrible idea that undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers.”

So, it’s the imposition of the big bad government over the sanctity of the cloistered schoolhouse. Kenny writes,
Some of the new government proposals for evaluating teachers, with their checklists, rankings and ratings, have been described as businesslike, but that is just not true. Successful companies do not publicly rate thousands of employees from a central office database; they don’t use systems to take the place of human judgment. They trust their managers to nurture and build great teams, then hold the managers accountable for results.
Which government proposals? Can we have an example, please? Many states are proposing the use of student growth in rating teacher effectiveness. But  I don’t know of one that delegates that use of data to some matrix-like central headquarters. In New Jersey, for example, the new teacher and principal tenure reform bill is intended to empower principals (who also are subject to new, more rigorous evaluations)  by giving them more authority and its requisite corollary, accountability, which is exactly what Kenny is promoting.

In addition, Kenny presents these value-added teacher evaluations as though the whole ball of wax rests on standardized test data.  Again, I don’t know of any state that says  that teachers should be evaluated solely on student growth data. In New Jersey, Gov. Christie pushed hard for 50% of evaluations being tied to student longitudinal growth data. Not a chance.  NJ’s new compromise legislation calls for the use of “multiple measures,” and nobody is sure how that is going to work. Certainly, though, it leaves lots of room for other less quantifiable factors.

Why would Kenny distort the balanced use of data, along with other equally important measures, into “government-run teacher evaluation bureaucracy will make it impossible to attract great teachers and will diminish the motivation of the ones we have?”  I don’t get it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nine More NJ Districts Join Interdistrict Public School Choice Program

The NJ Department of Education has just approved nine new school districts in Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. This approval allows these nine districts to accept students outside of district boundaries, with home districts paying tuition and transportation (within 20 miles).

According to the Asbury Park Press, the nine approved districts (some of which offer more than one school for choice students) are Deal Elementary; Roosevelt Elementary; Allentown High School; Stone Bridge Middle School (part of Upper Freehold and just for advanced math students);, Beach Haven School; Central Regional High School and Middle School (Bayville), Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School (Seaside Heights); Ethel Jacobsen Elementary, Ronald L. Meinders Primary Learning Center, McKinley Avenue School, Stafford Intermediate School, and Ocean Acres Elementary School (Manahawkin); and Tuckerton Elementary School.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Leftovers

This Thursday, Oct. 18th at 7 pm, I'll be speaking on NJ's education reform landscape at the Westfield Memorial Library, 550 East Broad St, Westfield. Everyone is welcome.

Mildred C. Crump, a Democratic Newark councilwoman-at-large, congratulates the Camden School Board for denying all applications for new charters through the Urban Hope Act. “I understand that parents want to give their children the best education possible, but we cannot discount those who are left out of the lotteries if our mission is to educate all children.” My commentary here. The Courier-Post has an update, which begins, "Advocates for Hope Act schools stepped up the pressure on the city’s school board Monday, with Mayor Dana Redd saying board members 'missed a chance' to help local youngsters when they rejected all Hope School applicants last week."

Re: upcoming school board elections, Ray Pinney, over at the NJSBA Board Blog has a modest proposal: change the November election ballots so that local contests – school board candidates included – would be on top, instead of on the bottom.

NJ Spotlight reports that NJ will keep the old high school assessment, the HSPA, for the next two years while it gears up for big changes.

Also in NJ Spotlight,  the impact of the new principal and teacher evaluation model now being piloted across the state:
Brian Zychowski, the superintendent of North Brunswick schools, supports the state’s general direction and headed a state task force last year that recommended many of the changes for evaluating both teachers and administrators.
But with six schools and more than 6,000 students, Zychowski ponders the wisdom of putting both systems in place next year. Nor does he hide some worry that it’s too much.
“The big question is the four-letter word: 'time',” he said this week.

From the Jersey Journal:
Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop and city attorney Bill Matsikoudis got into a shouting match at Wednesday’s council meeting over proposed changes to the city’s pay-to-play ordinance.
The changes would prohibit political donors from receiving contracts with the Jersey City Board of Education.
The argument grew so heated, with the two men shouting at each other and other council members yelling at them to stop, that Council President Peter Brennan took the unusual step of banging his gavel and ordering Matsikoudis to return to his seat.
The Hunterdon County Democrat reports that South Hunterdon Regional School District, with a total enrollment of 400 kids in middle and high school, and Stockton School, which enrolls 50 students in preschool through grade 5, may consolidate to form a regional district.

From The Record: "There are two sides to being an Interdistrict Public School Choice for Pompton Lakes. On one side the borough will seek out top students who want to participate in its honors programs, and on the other side it allows students to find a school that is the right fit for them."

From the Gloucester County Times: "The Washington Township Board of Education and Washington Township Public Schools have filed a lawsuit against the teachers’ union, claiming that the 900-member education association is violating its contract by refusing to write letters of recommendation for graduating seniors."

Why do we need to get rid of seniority-based lay-offs? Check out this story from the L.A. Times.

In case you missed it, here's this week's post at WHYY's Newsworks on November school board elections.

And don't miss Steven Colbert on "meducation." Really!