Sunday Leftovers

The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at two more “Renaissance Schools” that will serve up to 700 Camden students.  The new operators, Mastery and Uncommon Schools, will open in the Fall under the auspices of the Urban Hope Act, which allows up to 5 new charters in Camden, Trenton, and Newark. Camden is the only one of the three urban districts to open any Urban Hope schools so far.

Mastery’s plans include room for students who go to Pyne Poynt Family School in Camden, where half the building is empty and 90% of 6th graders failed NJ’s basic skills tests in math and language arts. A special education audit found that no classified students at Pyne Pynt – and 36% of the K-6 population is classified – were allowed access to general education, a violation of federal and state law.  But Education Law Center chief David Sciarra says that Mastery's plan is "illegal" because it's supposed to build its own building on its own dime. (Glad we're looking out for the kids!)

I wrote about charter school funding inequities this week at WHYY Newsworks and  a reader points out that  I missed another imbalance: something called "Additional Adjustment Aid" that applies only to traditional public schools, not charter public schools. And here's this week's column at NJ Spotlight.

Also, Education Law Center filed a motion to force the State to comply with the School Funding Reform Act and increase allocations to all schools . This week, reports the Star Ledger, “acting state Attorney General John Hoffman informed the New Jersey Supreme Court that the state would comply with the school funding law’s mandate that it provide aid notices to all districts.” David Sciarra said,  "We will wait and see. This is a good first step. We have to make sure they do them correctly. That’s the next step. And then we can move on to the really important debate, which is to increase school aid in the state budget."

The State DOE received 38 applications for new charter schools this week.

Families of Lakewood Public Schools rallied to protest feared program cuts because the district’s $150 million budget has a $5 million hole. The district has 5,500 (mostly) Hispanic children enrolled but provides bussing and special education services to over 20,000 children who attend Orthodox Jewish day schools. The Asbury Park Press reports that “[t]he budget includes $42 million for salaries, $13 million for health benefits, $26 million for special education and $17 million for transportation.” Also,
The school board also has decided to ask voters to approve spending more than $12 million over the state-mandated, 2 percent budget cap. The November referendum would seek approval to continue a variety of programs, including spending $10.6 million to continue courtesy busing for more than 12,000 students. More than 10,000 of the students who receive courtesy busing attend private schools in the township. Overall, the district now is providing transportation for more than 30,000 students attending 103 different schools, including some 5,500 public school children attending six public schools.
If you're a betting man or woman, go for passage of the referendum. The Orthodox Community leaders know how to get the vote out. See here.

At NJ Spotlight, an op-ed from a group of superintendents from North Bergen:
The truth is, there's only so much schools can do even to shrink the achievement gap -- because this gap is not and never was the sole responsibility of schools. We're just the point at which a symptom of a far greater problem becomes readily apparent. Certainly, new curriculum standards and more frequent standardized testing, along with mandated teacher and administrator evaluation systems, won't solve these complex social issues. They may, in fact, deflect focus from them.
The State DOE, reports NJ Spotlight, is not changing the proportional use of SGO’s (Student Growth Objectives) for next year, despite concerns expressed by many teachers. This measure of student outcome on teacher evaluations will remain at 30%. NJEA is “disappointed.”

Here's a counter-intuitive column by two Duke professors in today's NY Times:
Our findings also suggest that the idea that parental involvement will address one of the most salient and intractable issues in education, racial and ethnic achievement gaps, is not supported by the evidence. This is because our analyses show that most parental behavior has no benefit on academic performance. While there are some forms of parental involvement that do appear to have a positive impact on children academically, we find at least as many instances in which more frequent involvement is related to lower academic performance.
And don't miss Stephen Colbert on the Common Core.