Friday, August 30, 2013

Follow-Up: Is it a Public Good to Send Your Kids to Lousy Public Schools?

Yesterday I wondered if Allison Benedikt’s article, “If You Send Your Child to Private School You are a Bad Person,” was intended as some sort of satire along the lines of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Or a bit of inflammatory fluff dreamed up by Slate editors to increase traffic in these slow dog day weeks. But everyone’s reading it straight.

Examples:
Megan McArdle argues,
Benedikt’s dictum makes sense only if parents can’t move. If they can -- and bid up the value of real estate in good school districts -- then making parents send their kids to the local schools probably doesn’t mean that all the parents in mixed-income neighborhoods will put their children, and their effort, into the local school. It probably means that they’ll leave the mixed-income neighborhood, taking their tax dollars with them. 
This is nominally public schooling, but in fact, as I once remarked, parents who think that they are supporting public schooling by moving to a pricey district with good schools are actually supporting private schooling. They’re just confused because the tuition payment comes bundled with hardwood floors and granite countertops.
And James Taranto questions Denekidt’s logic in the Wall St. Journal:
The assumption behind treating education as a public good is that in general, educating children makes them more successful adults, and successful people are more valuable to society than unsuccessful ones. If that is true, then consigning your child to a mediocre education is harmful to the common good, because it reduces his likelihood of success--which can mean everything from becoming a gainfully employed taxpayer to discovering a cure for cancer. 
Benedikt's view of what constitutes "the common good" seems to be limited to the institutions of government. It's the flip side of the Dewey-Konczal theory that any "public" action--any action that affects anyone else--justifies government intervention. And like the Dewey-Konczal theory, the Benedikt argument leads in directions that liberals ought to find discomfiting.
Anyway, I still think it's complicated, or at least it's complicated to divine Benedikt's intent. She runs the "Double X," woman-centered Slate page; yet, in regards to another anti-Israel article she wrote for  Awl, she submissively told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that "my husband ordered me to retweet this." Her husband is John Cook of Gawker, by the way, whom she's referred to to as my "Jew-hating fiancee." Like I said, it's complicated.

Is Camden's New Superintendent too Young and Inexperienced?

That's the views of luminaries such as Diane Ravitch and Bob Braun. In my column today at WHYY's Newsworks I consider the question.
Last week Gov. Christie nominated Paymon Rouhanifard as Camden City's new school superintendent. On Monday the State Board of Education confirmed Christie's choice, and now Rouhanifard will embark on his efforts to turn around N.J.'s lowest-performing school district.

While Rouhanifard has many admirers in the world of public education, he has attracted critics who charge that he's inexperienced and too closely associated with charter schools and other elements of education reform.

But the loudest rebukes focus on one specific data point on Rouhanifard's resume: he's only 32 years old.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Delay for Aspiring Interdistrict Public School Choice Families and Schools

There’s a problem in paradise. Okay, maybe not, but there’s at least an inconvenient delay at  the NJ’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which allows students to cross district boundaries and attend neighboring schools. The DOE was supposed to release a list of new Choice Schools early in August so both schools and parents could make plans for the 2014-2015 school year.  After all, parents who want their children to enroll are required to submit a Notice of Intent to Participate by December 2nd, a mere two months from now, and they're waiting for a complete list of participating schools.

In addition, aspiring choice schools are waiting to hear whether or not they've received DOE approval.

Currently, 107 schools in New Jersey accept 3,356 students from outside traditional district boundaries.

Instead, this is up on the IPSCP website:

INFORMATION FOR 2014-2015 CHOICE DISTRICTS IS COMING SOON. CURRENT INFORMATION ON CHOICE DISTRICTS IS FOR THE 2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR AND HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED YET.
And last week this email went out to public school administrators who oversee the program in the and  those who hope to join that list:
From: pschoice
Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 11:34 AM
To: pschoice
Subject: Choice 2013-14 information session to be rescheduled

Dear Interdistrict School Choice Administrators,
Due to a delay in the approvals of the new 2014-15 choice districts, we must reschedule the technical assistance/information session scheduled for Aug. 23. As soon we have a new date, we will send out an email announcement.
Regarding the revised student application process, we have done our best to simplify it for families and districts. However, the statute and administrative code have specific requirements with which participants must comply. Parents are required to notify their resident districts if they intend to apply to a choice district. Therefore, those who are registered with their resident district must submit an Intent to Participate form as NOTIFICATION. No confirmation/verification is required. Please note this change on the revised timeline (see attachment).
We appreciate your patience as we prepare for the upcoming application cycle.
Best regards,
Jessani

Jessani Gordon
New Jersey Department of Education
Innovation Office
100 River View Plaza

The reasons for the delay are unclear. Maybe it’s the usual bureaucratic bumps. Maybe it’s budgetary. Maybe it’s political. Parents probably don’t care: they’d just like the list of newly-approved schools.

QOD: as "biggest revamps of public education in a decade work their way into classrooms"

From the Wall Street Journal:
"This is the huge fulcrum moment for many of the reforms," said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. "It's a lot messier than some might have thought." 
If a significant number of suburban, middle-class parents start pushing back, Mr. Hess said, "the whole reform agenda could blow a gasket." 
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union, predicted more turmoil as many states plan to roll out tougher standardized exams in 2015. Already, she said, the country has a "dispirited and demoralized teaching force at the very moment you need them to be at the top of their game."

Puzzle of the Day

Is Allison Benedikt’s new piece in Slate, “If You Send Your Child to Private School You are a Bad Person,” intended as a tongue-in-cheek send-up of liberal guilt or serious commentary?

My sense is that it’s the former, but you decide. Sample:
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

190 Newark Teachers Receive Merit Bonuses

Lisa Fleisher in the Wall Street Journal:
Newark, in a first for a large New Jersey public-school system, has given out bonuses of up to $12,500 to its highest-rated teachers, inaugurating a controversial merit-pay program being watched across the nation.  
A group of 190 Newark teachers learned last week they would receive bonuses, paid for through the foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. About $1.4 million in bonuses were given out to teachers: $5,000 for being rated highly effective, another $5,000 for working at a poorly performing school and another $2,500 for teaching a hard-to-staff subject. Those included certain math, science and language subjects. 
About 5% of the 3,200-member teaching force got the money, one of the more contentious parts of the contract approved in November by the Newark Teachers Union. Eleven teachers received the top bonus of $12,500.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Leftovers



In case you missed it, here’s my WHYY post this week on the reignited fireworks between Christie and NJEA.

NJ School Boards Association is thrilled with Christie’s veto of Senate Bill 1191, which “would have prohibited subcontracting during the term of a collective bargaining agreement and would have required that school boards negotiate over the impact of subcontracting services. These provisions would have effectively restricted school districts from using subcontracting of non-instructional services as a financial strategy in emergency situations and as a tool in financial planning for the district.”

In Hamilton Township (Mercer County) board members missed the deadline to deny tenure to Business Administrator Joseph Tramontana  after learning that he was “a personal confidante of its former insurance broker — who had admitted to bribing the mayor and paying for political influence around town.” Now, according to today’s Trenton Times, the Board has filed tenure charges based on the premise that Tramontana “failed spectacularly” in his duties, coding parts of the budget incorrectly, maintaining unapproved petty cash funds and not following state guidelines for purchase orders.” Tramontana is fighting back, and the story elicits views on whether business administrators should get tenure at all.

According to the Asbury Park Press, "school supplies for K-12 students will cost an average of 7.3 percent more than last year, according to the eighth annual Backpack Index by Huntington National Bank, which surveys online retailers for supply costs."

The Star-Ledger graded all of NJ’s public high schools on a scale of A-D based on trends in student achievement as measured by state tests and SAT scores.

Trenton Central High School is falling down.

Today's Courier Post solicits opinions on whether the newly-named Superintendent of Camden Public Schools, Paymon Rouhanifard, is “ready for this thankless task.” Also see this Philadelphia Inquirer piece for info on Rouhanifard's background.

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times on the evolution of race-related controversies in America:

Likewise in education policy, another longstanding racial flash point. There the older battles over integration and busing have mostly given way to a debate about competition and teacher standards in which conservative states are often laboratories for reform. From Chris Christie’s New Jersey to Perry’s Texas (which does a better job educating minority students than many liberal states), the politics of education increasingly produces cross-racial alliances and intraparty debates that look nothing like the civil-rights era divides.


Also in today’s NY Times, the Editorial Board endorses Christine Quinn for mayor. While  Bill Thompson has run a “thoughtful campaign” and argues that “he is the best candidate to fix the city’s schools… his close ties to the United Federation of Teachers, not always a friend of needed reforms, give us pause.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chris Christie and NJ's Teacher Union Re-Engage; Why?

My new post today at WHYY's Newsworks looks at the reemergence this past week of enmity between Chris Christie and NJEA, NJ's primary teacher union. What's up with that?
For Chris Christie and NJEA, N.J.'s primary teacher union, it's deja vu all over again. After several years of a relatively decorous detente, we're back to the rude fisticuffs and catcalls of 2010 and 2011, and all within a matter of days. What's behind this political and behavioral regression?

Christie's strategy is clear. In order to secure the 2016 Republican nomination for president, he has to confirm his conservative bona fides. Thus, this week he vetoed a gun control bill that he supported last year and endorsed Tea Party nut Steve Lonegan for U.S. Senate.

Christie's attack on N.J.'s primary teacher union NJEA last week in Boston, then, was just one more genuflection to the Ron Pauls and Rick Santorums of the GOP. During a speech to the Republican National Committee (supposedly closed to the press but leaked to a Politico reporter) Christie described NJEA's resistance...
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Camden Superintendent: Paymon Rouhanifard

At a press conference today Gov. Christie announced his pick for the new superintendent of Camden Public Schools, Paymon Rouhanifard. After the State Board of Education approves the nomination, Rouhanifard will oversee a 14,000 student district, now under State control, that Christie has called a “human catastrophe."

Last year Newark superintendent Cami Anderson appointed Rouhanifard, 32 years old, as her chief strategy and innovation office. Previously he served as  Deputy Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Education and, before that, taught in Harlem through Teach for America.

NJ’s branch of Democrats for Education Reform applauded Rouhanifard’s nomination. From State Director Kathleen Nugent:
He is a leader who is deeply committed to revitalizing Camden’s public schools, with on the ground experience leading the reform of school systems from New York City, NY to Newark, NJ. His nomination is a significant win for the students, families, educators, and stakeholders of the city.

Instead of dwelling on the failure of the public school system to date, let us now unite around the momentum created today to focus on what great schools can and will do for Camden’s families under strong leadership. Rouhanifard is the right leader at the right time to restore the promise of quality public school options for Camden's children.

Newsflash

TRENTON (The Borowitz Report)—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from consideration as a Presidential candidate today after becoming embroiled in what a leading Republican strategist called “a career-ending empathy scandal.”

After signing a law barring licensed therapists from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy, Mr. Christie stunned his fellow Republicans by seemingly expressing compassion for gay children, thus disqualifying himself from any further role in the G.O.P.

“Showing empathy for gays or children would have been bad enough,” says Republican strategist Harland Dorrinson, one of many party leaders who called for Mr. Christie to withdraw. “But empathy for gay children is a flat-out betrayal.”

Philly Public Schools Eliminates LIFO

StudentsFirst's Ashley DeMauro in Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook reflects on the School Reform Commission’s recent decision to eliminate seniority-based lay-offs in the cash-starved districts. Instead, necessary teacher lay-offs (Philly’s schools lost 10,000 kids from 2011-2012) will be decided by classroom effectiveness.
The School Reform Commission’s decision to suspend seniority requirements for rehiring laid-off teachers – a power granted years ago by bipartisan legislation – moves in that direction. Allowing the District to call back teachers based on effectiveness instead of seniority will keep our best teachers in the classroom. Considering that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor in student achievement, this is a clear win for kids. Hopefully state-level policymakers will work to allow all districts to staff schools based on student need instead of union rules. 
We should also begin paying teachers based on impact in the classroom. Currently, teacher salaries are determined by a series of “steps” based on seniority and academic credentials. This system is based on the assumption that teachers are equal, interchangeable widgets – an assumption that every teacher, parent, student, and administrator knows to be false. By paying teachers more for being effective, we can reward and encourage excellent teaching instead of mere longevity.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NJEA and The Eagle Forum? (New $1 Million Anti-Christie Ad Buy)

From today's  NJEA press release, announcing the beginning of a $1 million anti-Christie TV ad campaign that will start running in Philadelphia and  New York markets:
“’Our public schools are still at or near the top in the nation, but not all is well right now,” said [former NJEA President Barbara] Keshishian.  Our schools continue to do a great job against tall odds, but teachers and parents are becoming increasingly distressed about the impact of deep budget cuts and an impending explosion of standardized testing’…Equally troubling is mounting student anxiety about test-taking, and parents are concerned that the focus on tested subjects is narrowing the curriculum, while forcing teachers to ‘teach to the test.’”
From today’s Star-Ledger story about a poll just released by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago:
 “Most parents interviewed believe their kids take the right amount of standardized tests.”
In fact, according to the poll,  only 26% of parents believe that their children take too many tests.

So it's up in the air as to whether NJ families are opposed to either current levels of testing or even more testing. Certainly, some parents believe that their children are overburdened and that the (pending, pending) implementation of the Common Core State Standards will further distort the careful balance of instruction and assessment. NJEA successfully takes that meme and creates a whole marketing campaign. Good for them.

It's worth noting here the fascinating composition of the anti-testing cohort that, typical of anti-education reform, attracts both union stalwarts and Tea Party activists.

See, for example, the New Jersey branch of United Opt Out National, which bills itself as “The Movement to End Corporate Education Reform”  Fans include union mamelah Diane Ravitch, who wrote yesterday for her audience of suburban parents,
When suburban parents have the visionary leadership...they will not fall for the lie that three-quarters of their children are failures. They will catch on: the kids did not fail. The tests were designed to label them as failures. Suburban parents will see this, rightly, as an assault on their children, not “reform.” And they will tell their elected officials to stop these crazy policies that hurt children.
And now see a recent story from the Cape May Herald featuring Carolee Adams, fierce opponent of the Common Core and its attendant testing and, also,  NJ State President of the Eagle Forum:
WILDWOOD – Concerned Citizens of Southern N.J. will host a meeting to explore Common Core, what it is and how to stop it Mon. May 20, at the Carpenter’s Shop, 4505 Park Blvd. Doors open 6:30 p.m.

Special guest speaker will be State President Carolee Adams, New Jersey Eagle Forum- a national organization which has led a national pro-family movement since 1972.
NJEA and the Eagle Forum. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Monday, August 19, 2013

NJ Voters "Heart Education Reform"

New Jersey’s branch of Democrats for Education Reform has released results of a poll that shows that “[e]ight out of ten New Jersey Democrats say that Cory Booker’s support for pragmatic education reforms as Mayor of Newark make him a good choice for the United States Senate.”

The poll was conducted by Education Reform Now Advocacy and confirms that Booker’s outspoken views on expanding school choice and improving teacher quality are popular with Garden State Democrats. 49% of voters surveyed said Booker’s education platform was “very convincing” and another 29% called it “convincing.”

Here’s Joe Williams, National Director of DFER:
“The conventional wisdom used to be that Democrats shouldn’t touch public education reform with a 10-foot . Smart progressive leaders like Cory Booker and Barack Obama have shattered that myth. Education reform has become a winning issue for some of our nation’s most popular Dems.”

Career Opportunities

Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher-led advocacy organization, has two openings: an Executive Director based in Connecticut and a Vice President of Communications based in NY, LA, or Chicago. Follow the links for more information.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Leftovers

I'm taking a week off, so here's a few items for you:

In today’s New York Times, Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the NY State Board of Regents, reflects on the panic in the Big Apple after the State released the new student  scores on assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards:
“Whenever the issue is test scores, that’s not a conversation about education,” Dr. Tisch said. “That’s a conversation about the politics of education. If you want to talk about education, let’s talk about curriculum and professional development.”
John Mooney notes the one-year anniversary of the passage of TEACHNJ, NJ’s revision of its 100-year-old tenure law. Sen. Teresa Ruiz, the architect of the law, reflects  on next steps as the legislation goes statewide next month: “New Jersey should be very proud of what it accomplished,” Ruiz said yesterday. “But we can’t stop there. It is one small step, and there are other things we need to talk about, so many other things that are needed to ensure a child’s academic success.”

Also in NJ Spotlight, the DOE is toughening up regulations regarding teacher mentoring, when experienced teachers oversee new teachers. For example, “only teachers who themselves are judged as “effective” or “highly effective” under the new teacher evaluations would be eligible to serve as mentors, and training will need to cover specific areas.”

The Courier Post analyzes the onerous process of charter school authorization which, in the case of Hope Community Charter School in Camden, took three years.
The misconception that charter schools in New Jersey receive no regulation from the state could not be farther from the truth.
The New Jersey Department of Education is involved in just about every step of the planning process.
It can even close down a school found not to be in compliance with certain academic or financial guidelines.
Carlos Perez, president and CEO of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, said the six charter schools opening this fall will give 1,200 students in New Jersey the opportunity to choose an alternate form of education, a number he said will double over the next four years.
Perez adds that currently 30,000 Jersey kids are in charter schools and another 20,000 are on waiting lists.

From Central Jersey: “A lawsuit filed last week in state Superior Court in Somerville accuses the [Franklin] school district of violating a special-education teacher’s rights under the state Law Against Discrimination because administrators fired her for having breast cancer…Halloran’s complaint says the administration’s decision ostensibly was based on a single classroom review in April, a day before she was scheduled to go under the knife to have 11 cancerous lymph nodes and part of her breast removed.”

Princeton public school students who play team soccer, lacrosse and field hockey will now be required to wear helmets to protect against concussions.

In case you missed it, here's my WHYY Newsworks column on the role of school vouchers in the dynamics among U.S. Senate candidates Cory Booker, Rush Holt, Frank Pallone, and Sheila Oliver.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cory Booker and School Vouchers: What's the Impact on the NJ U.S. Senate Race?

Check out my new column at WHYY's Newsworks:
Politico, the widely-read political journalism site, poses this question: "Do any of Cory Booker's Democratic opponents lay a glove on him before next week's New Jersey Senate primary?" If the tenor of Monday night's debate at Monmouth Community College is any indicator, the answer is "no." That's not particularly surprising, given that the new Quinnipiac University poll shows Newark Mayor Booker with a strong lead over Frank Pallone, Sheila Oliver and Rush Holt.

Booker's dominance says more about the leader's media acuity, charisma, and funding than it does about any weaknesses among the other candidates; after all, on many issues these candidates are politically interchangeable.

Except for one issue: school vouchers, which allow parents to apply a government certificate to a private or parochial school. On Monday night the the Democratic U.S. Senate candidates pounded Booker for his pro-voucher stance, igniting what The Record called "the debate's only fireworks."
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Feds Grant 8 California Districts an NCLB Waiver

Michele McNeil at Edweek has the goods on U.S. Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan’s surprising decision to give eight California school districts a one-year waiver on No Child Left Behind.  The eight districts are Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana.

California was ineligible for a waiver (unlike 32 other states, including New Jersey) because it has not implemented required elements like linking teacher evaluations to student outcomes. These eight districts got together and formed a consortium called CORE (California Office to Reform Education). CORE applied for a waiver independent of the California State Department of Education and yesterday the waiver was granted by Duncan.

McNeil quotes Deputy Ed. Comm. Andrew Smarick (who now works with Bellwether): "I'm shocked. For the secretary to unilaterally dispense with 30-plus years of state-led accountability is incredible."

Another partner at Bellwether, Andy Rotherham has a more measured response:  “I’m not in the camp of ‘any district waiver is a lousy idea.’  If a district or group of districts came forward with something really innovative and rigorous then why not? District waivers are part of the law (as with other waivers reasonable people, and lawyers, can disagree about how far that authority goes) and have been used before under NCLB with a lot less grumbling on process and authority than you’re hearing now…politics anyone? It’s sure hard to argue that the current approach is working well – especially in light of the last set of waivers so we shouldn’t reflexively fear a new approach.”

From the article:
Granting such a waiver is a risky move for a federal department that is already trying to manage an enormous portfolio of grants and programs—from billions of dollars in Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation grants to a hodgepodge of new accountability systems that are emerging in the 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have waivers. 
What's more, this waiver could open the door for other districts that want their own tailor-made waiver. At a minimum, the department might have to deal with the administrative burden of fielding inquiries and even applications from other districts. Right now, however, Duncan said he doesn't foresee any other districts applying.

NJ Republicans Predict that Christie's Coattails Will "Change the Legislature"

PolitickerNJ is reporting that the Republican Assembly caucus is increasingly confident that Gov. Christie has coattails.  At a Statehouse press conference today,  Jon Bramnick, the NJ Assembly Minority Leader, announced that “[s]tarting today, the war is on and the war is to change this Legislature.” 

All 120 seats in the Legislature are up. Right now the Senate tilts Democratic by a margin of 24-16 and the Assembly tilts Democratic by a margin of 48-32.  Bramnick believes that the GOP can pick up 9 seats in the Assembly; at the press conference he predicted that Christie would be campaigning for Republican candidates in tight races.

See my take here.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Common Core Testing in NJ et.al.: What's the Prognosis?

Whiteboard Advisors has a monthly “Education Insider” series that solicits opinions from leaders in the field. Its new one looks at leaders’ views on the prospects of ESEA/NCLB reauthorization (dim); whether the recent NCLB federal waivers have diluted the impact of school accountability (yes); and whether the Student Success Act, the Republican House education bill that slashes education funding, is an improvement over NCLB (not at all; see Daily Kos for a good description).

One other item in Whiteboard's survey of “Insiders” is the prospects for the PARCC assessment consortium, which is one of two groups designing Common Core-aligned tests. (The other one is  called Smarter Balanced.)  States that had committed to PARCC, however, are fleeing, driven by dismay at the cost of implementation ($29 per student) and the prospects of politically unpalatable lower scores because the new tests will be harder than  the old state tests.

Matthew Chingos did a paper for the Brookings Institute last November and estimated each state's additional cost or savings once it switched to PARCC.  Half will save money. Half will have to spend more. NJ is part of the latter; it will cost us an additional $5.6 million to implement PARCC testing.

Twenty states are still enrolled in PARCC. Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Alabama have dropped out.  Florida is considering dropping out too, and State Education Commissioner Tony Bennett’s abrupt resignation last week is an additional complication.

New Jersey is part of the PARCC consortium and, at least judging by Gov. Christie and Ed. Comm. Cerf's allegiance to the process, is in for the duration, or at least as long as PARCC remains viable. John Mooney at NJ Spotlight has a great piece today on NJ’s pick last week as one of 14 states to field-test the assessments this year in anticipation of their roll-out in 2014-2015.

We had been conducting our own PARCC practice anyway, and Mooney interviews administrators from some of the participating schools, who found that the students adapted surprising well to the computer-based tests (perhaps more easily than the adults).  One principal noted that “the new age of testing will help drive more critical thinking in instruction and learning, and the use of online tools will press schools to integrate laptops and other devices into their earliest grades.”

But Whiteboard's Insiders are concerned about PARCC's vital signs. Here’s some of the WhiteBoard experts’ comments on PARCC and its prospects:
• Almost all Insiders think that if Florida were to withdraw from the PARCC assessment consortium, it would have a somewhat or very significant impact on the future of the consortium.
• “PARCC continues to struggle with basic management issues.
• “Sticker shock on the assessments gives states the out some were looking for.”
• “Too expensive for many states; too few schools will be technologically ready.”
• “Prototype questions are a big hit with teachers.”
• “The consortia seem to be on the right track, but they can’t afford to keep losing states.”

New Jersey appears to be in it for the long haul. A bigger question, however, is whether PARCC will be there to provide the ride.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Leftovers

In The Lobby wonders if the NJ State Legislature is in play, given Buono's weakness and the incentive to Christie to turn over the Senate so he can appoint friendly judges. I wondered the same thing earlier this week in NJ Spotlight.

Carl Golden says that Buono's choice of union leader Milly Silva as a running mate has "the appearance of a last-ditch effort to inject a dash of drama and, by bucking conventional wisdom, attract media attention, which has been lacking so far."  Alfred Doblin of The Record says Silva was a "poor choice" because her "qualifications to assume the Governorship are slight." Here's my take on how the choice of Silva undermines Buono's education platform.

Silva’s qualifications to assume the governorship are slight - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/columnists/doblin/doblin_080213.html?page=all#sthash.ar0MdMvr.dp " Here's my take on Milly Silva.
Silva’s qualifications to assume the governorship are slight - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/columnists/doblin/doblin_080213.html?page=all#sthash.ar0MdMvr.dpuf
The Trenton Times reports on the sorry state of Trenton Central High School where "roofs are still leaking, the paint is still peeling, and the floors are still buckling, and the state still has not funded comprehensive repairs." The Times Editorial Board urges the School Development Authority to "accelerate the process" of necessary repairs. Here's the Trentonian's take.

The Walton Foundation has donated $2 million to the Newark arm of Teach for America.

The Star-Ledger reports that Plainfield Public Schools has been "chastised" by a state comptroller for excessive legal expenses and inadequate vetting of law firms. According to DOE district budget data, Plainfield has $1.5 million reserved for legal expenses, which seems like a lot.

Brian Osbourne, the superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood who was offered the helm at Ann Arbor Public Schools at a considerably higher pay grade, has decided to stay in New Jersey, salary cap and all. The Alternative Press has the letter Osbourne sent to Michigan saying, "thanks, but no thanks."

The Asbury Park Press reports that parents of special needs students in Brick Township are protesting the district's decision to move 60 kids with disabilities into one elementary school.  In other special education news, Jackson Township is looking for ways to cut its current budget of $1 million to transport students with disabilities to out-of-district placements.

More districts in Hunterdon County are outsourcing teachers' aides in order to save money.

Rutgers has had good success with a program designed to help students from Camden, Newark, Piscataway, and New Brunswick. Rutgers Future Schools takes seventh-graders from those cities who, in the past, were never able to meet admissions standards, and supplies them with with round-the-year tutoring and summer enrichment programs. (Star Ledger)

The Press of Atlantic City filed an Open Record Request with the DOE for the number of high school students who failed both the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and the alternative test given to students who fail the HSPA three times. The DOE denied the request.

This week the NJ Department of Education was supposed to release the list of newly-approved Interdistrict Public School Choice schools. It didn't. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Jersey, the Common Core, and the PARCC Tests: Will "Tens of Thousands" of Kids Fail?

Today at WHYY's Newsworks I look at concerns that the new standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards will lead to an increase in the number of Jersey kids who fail to graduate high school.
Stan Karp, Director of Secondary Education Reform for New Jersey's Education Law Center (ELC), is worried about the new national standardized tests in language arts and math that New Jersey students will take in 2015.

These tests, produced for N.J. and 19 other states by a consortium called Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are tied to the new K-12 curriculum called the Common Core State Standards. Both the curriculum and the tests will be more rigorous those currently in place in every state in the country (except Massachusetts, where the state curriculum already sets ambitious benchmarks for students).
Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Milly Silva's Mother Exercised School Choice

Milly Silva, Barbara Buono’s pick for Lieutenant Governor, is being hailed as a “warrior” for low-income families and communities, as well as labor union members. In other words, as Patrick Murray at PolitickerNJ puts it, Buono has chosen someone “just like her. Not just in gender, but in ideology and policy priorities – liberal on social issues, strong labor supporter, wary of education reform policies, etc.”

One of those education reform policies that Buono is “wary of” is offering options to kids trapped in failing districts. She told The Record today that, for instance, charter schools “were never meant to replace public schools. People are trying to use simplistic solutions to complex problems, and charter schools are not the answer."

Buono might want to more closely study her running mate’s resume. When Milly Silva was an elementary school student in a lousy Bronx district, her mother, no doubt a powerful school choice advocate, managed to get her daughter a scholarship to The Spence School, an exclusive private all-girls school just off Fifth Avenue on 91st Street in Manhattan.

The Spence School, by the way,  charges an annual tuition of $40,975 for all grades K-12. After graduation Silva went on to attend  Columbia University.

Now she’s running for Lieutenant Governor.

Perhaps Buono ought to look more closely at her running mate and reconsider her education reform positions.