Our very own Race to the Top? “The state Senate Education Committee this morning passed a bill that provides $5 million to spark innovation in the state’s schools. Introduced by Sen. Teresa Ruiz, (D-Essex), the bill would give $5 million to the Department of Education to develop and administer a competitive grant program for schools that want to try new things.” (Star-Ledger; also see NJ Spotlight, which delves more into the politics of the bill which, at present, doesn't have an Assembly version.)
NJ Spotlight reports that the DOE just released the results of the pilot study of TEACHNJ, the new teacher evaluation system that all districts will implement this year. In some other states using similar systems, almost all teachers were rated “satisfactory”; i.e, there was no additional differentiation or granularity provided by data-driven rubrics than by traditional observational ones. That leaves little incentive or useful information to help teachers improve their craft. However, reports Asst. Comm. Peter Shulman, the NJ pilot showed that, while most teachers were still rated satisfactory, “such patterns were not as prevalent. With time, greater understanding of the observation framework, and more practice, observers increased their ability to identify nuances in teacher practice, and as a result, to differentiate ratings,” Shulman wrote to districts.
Amid mixed results reported on the federal School Improvement Grants, U.S. Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan congratulated one success story, West Caldwell Tech.
From the Press of Atlantic City: “New Jersey's Department of Education on Monday launched a new website offering lessons and resources aligned to both state and national education standards.
The New Jersey Educator Resource Exchange, online at www.njcore.org, currently has about 2,000 lessons and other resources available both to educators and the general public. The items were compiled from a variety of sources, and some have been given a special "blue ribbon" status by a panel of educations trained in alignment to the Common Core standards.” Also see coverage from NJ Spotlight.
How're those superintendent salary caps working out? NJ Spotlight reports that, while there's little hard data, "what little data is available belies the common assumption that superintendents are leaving the state in droves. In fact, fewer school leaders have left their jobs since the caps were enacted than in earlier years. That finding comes courtesy of the state’s school boards association, which is starting to compile some of the first real numbers, but that early data still doesn’t answer all of the questions being raised about the law’s impact."
Highland Park Superintendent Tim Capone is in the hot seat after laying off nine non-instructional staff members. Two of them happen to be the local union’s president and vice-president.
From the Asbury Park Press: "the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed a complaint in Superior Court on behalf of the Education Law Center challenging the N.J. Schools Development Authority’s decision to withhold health and safety reports on conditions at four New Jersey schools in need of repair."
The Star Ledger editorializes about a trend in school boards approving extra fees for students to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities: “This growing reliance on mandatory fees presents a danger and must be stopped. If the Legislature fails to act, this cancer will spread in coming years.”
Here’s a new report from the Fordham Foundation called “ Larger Classes with Effective Teachers Lead to Significant Gains in Student Achievement.”Bottom line: “As the best teachers teach larger classes and the weakest teachers progressively smaller ones, the net result is improved student learning—for all students, not just those who moved.”