Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Leftovers

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson, who apparently has a new first name of “embattled,” signed a new three-year contract with Newark City Public Schools.  From the Star-Ledger: “Under the terms of the contract, Anderson will receive $251,500 for the 12-month period beginning Tuesday and an increase of 1.6 percent in the two subsequent years of the contract.”

From The Record: “Governor Christie is expected to make an announcement next week that lawmakers hope will slow down the administration's rollout of controversial standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations….'The bill is on hold because we're waiting for an executive order from the governor,' said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, a sponsor of the legislation." Also see the Press of Atlantic City.

Asbury Park Press: " Saying he was 'struggling to be effective' leading Asbury Park's school system, interim superintendent Robert Mahon handed in his resignation this week to a board with whom he said he had conflicting opinions about his role. The departure is the latest blow for the district that has struggled with student success despite spending more than $30,000 per pupil on education."

The Trenton Times reports that two Trenton school board members, just appointed by acting mayor George Muschal, have resigned.  “The resignations represent continued turnover for the board, coming during a week that saw its members vote 4-1 to ask the state commissioner of education to remove current President Patrice Daley and just a month after board member James Rolle stepped down.” Muschal said he was “shocked.”

After Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard announced the lay-offs of 241 school district employees, reports the Star Ledger, “[a] controversial bill to offer teachers and other school district employees in Camden pension incentives to retire early squeaked through the Legislature today… Lawmakers previously complained that the bill would put increased strains on the state’s already underfunded pension system.”  Also see NJ Spotlight and the Philadelphia Inquirer, which describes the retirement packages as "hefty."

NJ Spotlight reports that twelve charter school applicants are finalists.

Three independent charter school leaders in New Jersey question why their schools were shut down by the D.O.E. (NJ Spotlight). The editorial garnered 52 comments from parents of charter school students grieving  their children's academic and social loss. Lesson: charter schools are "neighborhood schools" too.

The Trenton Times: "In a state where home rule is deeply valued and fiercely protected, four school districts in Hunterdon County have done the seemingly impossible. They have willingly ceded control of their three elementary schools to create a regional K-12 school district."

N.J. Senate President Steve Sweeney comments on the new state laws that mandate that school districts include children with disabilities in athletic programs. Sweeney’s daughter Lauren has Down Syndrome.
We have to reshape the way people think about those with disabilities. We have to break down the walls of intolerance that people have put up around them.
There are stigmas, and we all know them, that exist and will continue to exist for generations unless we as a community continue our hard work and expand our reach and our goals.
Individuals with disabilities are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends, co-workers and neighbors. They are people we all know.
Lauren has inspired me every single day. I have watched her grow into a beautiful young woman and I could not possibly be more proud.

QOD: LA Sup John White on Jindal's Quest to Quit the Common Core

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying mightily to pull his state from both the Common Core State Standards and one of its accountability instruments, the PARCC assessments. Louisiana State Superintendent John White explains to  Politico that,
The great benefit of Common Core...is that it sets a high bar for students all across the nation. The consortium test is designed to see who’s measuring up. When the exams are given for the first time next spring, parents in Louisiana will be able to compare their children’s performance to peers in Illinois or New Jersey — or, for that matter, Singapore, since the exams are internationally benchmarked. 
For Jindal to deny students that opportunity, White said, is unconscionable.
“When you go to school in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans … who is there to validate that the learning that’s taking place and the results you’ve gotten stack up against the rest of society?” White said. “These tests assure the civil rights especially of the most disadvantaged children.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Update on N.J. Senate Bill to Delay PARCC Testing

Yesterday NJ Spotlight published my column about the politics behind Senate bill 2154, which would establish an "Education Task Force" and delay NJ's implementation of teacher evaluations informed by student growth via the PARCC assessments, the accountability instrument aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Today John Mooney has an update on the status of this bill, which has been the subject of a variety of rumors regarding its prognosis:
The most-closely watched was a bill that would delay the use of new state testing in the evaluation of teachers and schools. Support for the bill gained momentum in the last couple of weeks, and the state Senate appeared poised to pass it yesterday and move it to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

But as the day progressed, the legislation was held at the last minute, as Christie himself offered up news of a possible compromise -- although he wouldn’t say just yet what it was.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) after the session did not rule out reviving the bill when the Senate meets again on Monday, but he said he would first wait to see what Christie would present.

“He has mentioned to us he is working out something … but if we haven’t come to agreement on some kind of executive order by Monday, then we’ll move (on the bill),” Sweeney said in an interview.
The details of the compromise are anyone's guess, but one possibility is to move forward next year with the PARCC assessments but delay for one year linking the results to teacher evaluations.

The Spotlight piece also describes the efforts of Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) to garner enough votes to pass another education bill that would extend the Urban Hope Act for one year. Singleton was successful -- by the skin of his teeth -- and this legislation that allows for hybrid charter schools in Camden, Trenton, and Newark will remain active.

New Newsworks Post: Let's Tell The Truth About N.J.'s Pension Mess

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]

Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much. [aloud]

Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!
We may not be in Casablanca, but insincerity was on full display yesterday when a Superior Court judge in New Jersey issued a ruling that Governor Christie has the authority to slash a scheduled pension payment due to a massive cash crunch. But the real news is old news: N.J.'s pension promises to state workers are a charade unless someone – from either the executive branch or the top echelon of the unions – starts telling the truth.

Christie announced his intention last month to violate state law and not make a full pension payment of $1.58 billion because the state budget office, ever the optimist, overestimated state income tax revenues by about $650 million. Hence, the inability to make the full payment, yet one more variation of a theme in a two-decade performance over the last two decades by Jersey governors, politicians, and lobbyists. (See this recent column for a history of N.J.'s pensions scams.)
In response to Christie's announcement, eight labor unions sued the Governor and the state treasurer.
Read the rest here.

Also, see Mark Magyar's piece in today's NJ Spotlight on the latest wranglings in the Statehouse and the courts over N.J.'s pension payments. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Spotlight column: the politics behind the proposed PARCC delay

It starts here:
Last Thursday, the state Senate Education Committee heard testimony from proponents and opponents of a draft bill (S-2154) that would postpone by two years the incorporation of student growth data into teacher evaluations.

A companion bill coasted through the Assembly earlier this month, and the Senate is expected to take the final bill up today, its fate uncertain.

But the politics on view last week are worth dissecting.
Lobbyists who supported the draft’s proposed delay argued that sticking to the original timeline is punitive and reckless. While the regulations attached to TEACHNJ, the state's 2012 tenure and teacher evaluation reform legislation, call for implementation next year, there’s strong sentiment that this is too much reform too soon. Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, told the Senate committee, “(T)he state is rushing into implementing a system that is just not ready.”
Continue here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Newark Sup Cami Anderson, we hear, is Signing a New Contract

Bob Braun, former Star Ledger columnist and current blogging ringleader of the anti-school reform cadre in New Jersey, reports today that Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson  is signing a new contract. Braun has predicted numerous times that Anderson, his personal nemesis, was history. He  attributes this startling (at least to him) offer of contract renewal to the NJ DOE's intention to inflict a "slap in the face" to new Newark mayor Ras Baraka, who, taking Braun's lead,  made Anderson the scapegoat of his campaign.

On May 21st Braun quoted Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso, ““It is my strong belief that based on the discussions I have had to this point, Cami Anderson will not be continuing as Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools.”

On June 18th, Braun interviewed Baraka, who said “he is still determined to remove state-imposed schools superintendent Cami Anderson—and he believes state Education Commissioner David Hespe will help him do it.”

Or not. Today Braun revealed that NJ Ed Commissioner David Hespe had, in fact, offered Anderson a new one-year contract, renewable for an additional two years. “Several sources” said she will accept the DOE’s offer.

I can’t confirm this offer, but Braun’s probably right. (One out of three would work in major league baseball; not sure about journalism.) It was always likely that Comm. Hespe would offer Anderson a new contract . (Cynics can go ahead and  attribute the offer to the scarcity of other candidates who would want the job, especially with Baraka in the catbird seat.) Not to mention that Anderson told NJTV at the end of May that “I have every intention of staying [in Newark as superintendent] and I have every intention of staying the course.”

And who knows? Anderson's a fast learner: maybe she can retune her tin year, learn the value of incrementalism, and slow down a wee bit. That’s a key part to implementing her best ideas,  including One Newark, the universal enrollment plan that allows parents to choose among charters and traditional public schools.  (Here's  my thoughts on what Newark can learn from Camden Pubic Schools' quieter evolution.)

But let's not give Braun all the lumps because  he's not the only one with egg on his face.  Anderson’s continued tenure in Newark makes both Baraka and del Grosso look a little ovular too. Here’s a letter that  NTU President del Grosso sent to  his union members last month:
It is my strong belief that based on the discussions I have had to this point, Cami Anderson will not be continuing as Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools… Cami Anderson will be leaving. It is your efforts on Fight Back Fridays, our Mayoral Election efforts, Advisory Board meetings, and other initiatives that have made this possible. I am very proud of all of our members.
In solidarity,
Joe.

Star-Ledger Gets it Right on NJ Teacher Residency Requirements

Three years ago Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) sponsored a law that requires all New Jersey state workers to live within the state.  The proposal passed and Gov. Christie signed it. The concept may be well-intentioned, but has had unintended consequences for public schools, especially those near the New York and Pennsylvania borders. From the Star Ledger Editorial Board:
Dragging state workers through the wringer for uncontrollable life circumstances that force them out of state — divorces, deaths and financial woes — isn’t the only downside of this ill-conceived policy. It also reduces the talent pool for public jobs, which is especially problematic for schools fighting to recruit the best teachers.
One simple step for expanding the pool of great teachers is repealing this law, and a new bill to do just that is circulating through the Senate. The proposal, sponsored by Peter Barnes (R-Middlesex) would do just that for a three year trial period for ten NJ counties: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, and Camden. Legislators should jump on this one. It's a no-brainer.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Leftovers

NJ Spotlight analyzes NJ’s high school graduation rates, particularly the familiar achievement gaps. While the state graduation average was 87.5% in 2013,  “some of the lowest graduation rates in the state last year were at high schools in some of the state's most disadvantaged districts. The traditional high schools with the lowest rates were: Camden High, 47 percent; Barringer High in Newark, 49 percent; and Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, 50 percent. “

This past Monday the NJ State Assembly passed A 2873, a bill that, according to NJ School Boards Association, would “undermine a public agency’s ability to privatize public services.” NJSBA explains,
If enacted, the bill would essentially eliminate any savings that could be achieved through privatization. NJSBA believes the decision to subcontract or privatize services is, and should remain, a managerial prerogative. Privatizing services such as transportation, cafeteria, custodial and maintenance allows school districts to devote more resources to the classroom. Subcontracting also helps school districts avoid tax increases and live within the constraints of the two-percent property tax levy cap and flat state aid.
In other legislative news, the State Senate State Government Committee unanimously passed a bill, S2169, that would repeal the law that bars new public employees, including teachers, from living anywhere  but NJ (Star Ledger). Also, Gov. Christie signed a bill that mandates that NJ public schools provide access to athletic programs to students with disabilities (The Record).

NJ is raising the standards for “both entry into teacher training programs and professional certification upon graduation. Students must have a minimum grade point average of a B to begin a training program, and have a minimum GPA of a B to receive certification, according to new rules adopted by the state Board of Education. Students must also pass basic skills and performance tests to be certified.” Previously aspiring teachers needed a 2.5 G.P.A. For context, see Amanda Ripley’s article in Slate regarding entrance to ed schools in Finland, where 1 in 10 students is admitted after a highly competitive process.

Oy Vey Dept: Letter writer in Star Ledger compares the Common Core State Standards to Hitler.

Asbury Park Press: “[Lakewood] Board of Education has received a subpoena from the state Comptroller's Medicaid Fraud Division requesting documents dating back to 2009.
The division wants copies of all contracts, proposals, bills and payment records between the Lakewood school district and Rainbow Therapy, Imrei Binah, Congregation Lutzk and the Jersey Association for Autistic Children, according to the subpoena."

Check out this Wall St. Journal piece that includes a map describing LIFO policies in each state in the country.


Dr. Pedro Noguera defends teacher tenure in the Wall St.Journal:
Ideally, tenure helps low-income schools to attract—and retain—good teachers. I've studied urban schools for many years, and it's clear that disparities in teacher quality contribute to unequal academic outcomes among poor students. Students in districts with large minority populations are much more likely to be taught by new, inexperienced teachers who have only a bachelor's degree and are often not certified in the subjects they teach. These teachers often earn considerably less than their counterparts in white, affluent districts, and frequently work under adverse conditions. Tenure has no bearing on how school districts chose to staff their schools.

Friday, June 20, 2014

QOD: Abbott and Vergara, Funding Equity and Instructional Equity

In 1990, Chief Justice Robert Wilentz issued the Abbott II decision, one in a series of rulings that inform NJ’s school funding structure.  The ruling was  a  resounding victory for its plaintiffs -- poor urban children stuck in crumbling, dysfunctional schools  -- and their representatives, Education Law Center. In many ways the Abbott decisions, which focus on school funding equity, foreshadow the recent ruling of Vergara v. California, which focus on instructional equity. While Abbott is about  decoupling school aid from each district’s available tax base, requiring the state to provide fiscal equity,  Vergara is focused on equalizing access to effective educators.
 
(See, for example, my overview in today’s Newsworks.)

Twenty-four  years ago, as if in some swirl of prognostication, Justice Wilentz stated clearly that money alone won’t lead to educational equity. Absent other reforms -- like those suggested in Vergara -- poor urban students will be consigned to inferior schools. Here’s a quote from Abbott II:
We note the convincing proofs in this record that funding alone will not achieve the constitutional mandate of an equal education in these poorer urban districts; that without educational reform, the money may accomplish nothing; and that in these districts, substantial, far-reaching change in education is absolutely essential to success. The proofs compellingly demonstrate that the traditional and prevailing educational programs in these poorer urban schools were not designed to meet and are not sufficiently addressing the pervasive array of problems that inhibit the education of poorer urban children. Unless a new approach is taken, these schools-even if adequately funded-will not provide a thorough and efficient education.

Re: Vergara: "LIFO Keeps NJ from True Tenure Reform"

Here's this week's WHYY Newsworks column:
Public school calendars may be winding down, but education rhetoric is heating up after a startling ruling last week in Los Angeles that, some pundits say, has national implications. In a case called Vergara v. California, nine Los Angeles public school students argued in County Superior Court that state tenure laws, which require schools to lay off teachers in order of seniority, had violated their constitutional rights by depriving them of effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the students were right.

But New Jerseyans who deplore seniority-based job security, also known as LIFO or "last in, first out," shouldn't get ahead of themselves. The Vergara ruling is important and will continue to inform discussions about improving America's teacher quality and educational equity. But Los Angeles' tenure laws are so far off the bell curve that they're hardly a test case for the rest of the nation, even in the 11 states in the country that still adhere to the practice of seniority-based lay-offs.
nj
Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

NJ School Boards Assc. Oppose Delays to PARCC

NJ School Boards Association has issued a statement supporting the New Jersey's original timeline for incorporating student growth, as measured by the PARCC assessments, into teacher evaluations. This week the Assembly overwhelmingly approved A 3801, sponsored by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), a bill that would delay implementation of this section of NJ's tenure law for up to two years.

NJSBA, according to the position statement, supports the proposed Education Review Task Board that would monitor implementation. However, it opposes the delay, in part because while "our state performs quite well in comparison to other states, "our county colleges report that 57%-92% of their first-year students require remediation" and "only 43% of students' SAT scores are high enough to be considered college and career ready."

More from the statement:
we oppose provisions of the bill that would delay the application of PARCC assessments or the use of student growth percentiles (SGPs).  We believe that moving forward with the planned PARCC testing application and the implementation of the SGPs will help inform the proposed task force as it makes recommendations to improve implementation of the various education initiatives currently underway…  
NJSBA believes that the legislation being addressed today would significantly slow down a process that began in June 2010.  We support the creation of the proposed Education Reform Review Task Force, however we urge the committee to fully consider the ramifications of delaying initiatives that will provide that same task force with the data and evidence it needs to make well-informed recommendations to the State’s policy makers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Feds to NY State: If You Delay PARCC Implementation, You Owe Us Big Bucks

If the U.S. Department of Education’s warning to New York State is an harbinger of the fed’s reaction to states that delay using student test scores for teacher evaluations, then Assembly Bill 3801, which flew through the NJ  Assembly this week, has a new wrinkle.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, “[a] federal education official warned Tuesday that if New York delays using student test scores as part of teacher evaluations this year, the state risks losing up to $292 million of a grant tied to making these reviews more rigorous.”

Today’s Spotlight analyzes Assemblywoman Mila Jasey’s (D-Essex) bill, 3801,  which would similarly delay for about two years the incorporation of student test scores into teacher evaluations. Full passage of Jasey’s bill requires a companion bill in the Senate and, then, Gov. Christie’s signature. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) has filed that companion bill, but it is currently slated for merely a discussion in the Senate Education Committee.

In Round 3 of Race to the Top, NJ won $38 million, partly to fund teacher and administrator evaluations. NJ also was granted a waiver from No Child Left Behind sanctions because of its commitment to data-driven evaluations.  If the feds are consistent in their disapprobation of states that back down from original timelines, NJ’s money and waiver are at risk.

Is the Jersey blowback to quick implementation so fierce that legislators are prepared to eat the sanctions and the money? It’s anyone’s guess. NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer told the Assembly, ““Before we go further, we must determine whether the huge investment of time and resources required to implement PARCC can be justified educationally. There is growing evidence that it cannot.”  The union leadership clearly won’t back down, but the U.S. DOE's reaction to NY State's plan to delay implementation provides easy cover for Christie and and Education Commissioner David Hespe.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Star Ledger Editorial Board Links Vegara Case To NJ's Failure to Eliminate LIFO

Good teachers are an incredibly important variable in student success. Last year, a Harvard researcher found that students taught by an incompetent teacher lose more than nine months of learning in a single year. Yet just like California, New Jersey still has a law in place that — in times of layoffs — requires a school to fire a talented teacher whom everyone agrees is superior, simply because that person has less seniority.

How is that consistent with the constitutional guarantee of a quality education?

New Jersey reformed its teacher tenure laws two years ago, but didn’t touch the practice known as "last in, first out," which protects absolute seniority rights in times of layoffs. That’s where the teachers’ union drew a red line.

This means that schools facing layoffs in the next few years will be forced to purge younger teachers — even the most gifted and hardworking ones. The main victims of this policy are poor kids. Teacher quality is much more meaningful for them, because they don’t come pre-loaded for success.

Why should a state statute protected by the union be allowed to trump children’s constitutional right to a quality education?
See here for full editorial.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Leftovers

This morning’s New York Times features a  long article on the deleterious impact of higher academic standards on a captivating nine-year-old boy. Unfortunately, the article conflates the Common Core State Standards and the new assessments – a common error, but one that you’d think the Grey Lady’s editors would catch – and, perhaps unintentionally, validates the Vergara decision by describing the boy’s fabulous teacher, who indefatigably works with each student to ensure that they remain engaged in more challenging work.  (The boy's mother is a hero too.) Judging from the pictures, this teacher is young. She’d be on the short list for lay-offs under “last in, first out,” or seniority-based lay-offs.

Speaking of the Vergara decision, specifically Jersey implications, see John Mooney at NJ Spotlight. If you’re just tuning in, go to RealClearEducation's daily reading list, which includes the best commentary.

Sen. Joe Kyrillos introduced a proposal that would end seniority-based lay-offs, a reaction to the Vergara decision. He said he’d invite Students Matter, the group that pressed the California suit, to hightail it to New Jersey.

The Star Ledger has a careful review of problems with the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program:
But as it enters its fifth year, critics say the state-financed program is falling short of its goals to diversify schools and provide low-income families with options that come at no cost to them.
For one thing, the program has not enjoyed the same success throughout the state.
This year, 14 of the 105 school districts approved by state officials enrolled almost half of the program’s students and accepted $26 million, or 53 percent, of the $49 million in state funds.
The remaining schools are situated mostly in suburban and rural areas, which means many low-income urban families are not participating.
Washington Township Board of Education signed a resolution supporting A3802, the Mila Jasey bill that would delay implementation of the PARCC tests. (Star Ledger)

The Press of Atlantic City reviews Commissioner David Hespe’s decision to let Longport end its sending relationship with Atlantic City High School and instead send its high schoolers to Ocean City.  Longport has a grand total of 24 high school students.

The Feds like how NJ is handling its Race to the Top grant.

Lots of coverage this week on the superintendent salary caps. See NJ Spotlight, the Star Ledger, and The Record.

Stephanie Simon at Politico reflects on some implications of the Vegara decision:
Yet the share of Americans who see teachers unions as a negative influence on public schools shot up to 43 percent last year, up from 31 percent in 2009, according to national polling conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. By contrast, 32 percent see unions as a positive force, up from 28 percent in 2009, the poll found.
The head of the National Education Association says the problem isn't bad teachers but bad principals:
“We have to stop wasting time on these issues that don’t help teachers do their job of educating students,” said Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country. “It doesn’t change the fundamental problem, which is who in the world is hiring these people who are not qualified? You have to change the system that allows them there in the first place. If you don’t, then the elimination of those laws won’t make sense.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

QOD: Public Education is the Only Institution that Pretends that Millennials Will Have Life-Long Careers

Mike Petrelli in the New York Times:
Tenure reform is no education game-changer. Tenure is just one part of a dysfunctional approach to human resource management in U.S. schools that needs a complete overhaul. Our public education system is among the only institutions in the land still pretending that professionals will spend their whole careers in a single job. The teacher compensation structure heavily favors lifers, what with its mix of low pay with generous, back-loaded retirement benefits. This is an unattractive package for millennials, few of whom picture staying in any position for more than five or ten years. 
In fact, these pensions are an important hidden factor in the tenure debate. It’s one thing for a teacher to lose her job; it’s quite another thing for her to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of pension wealth. Because of the way pension systems are designed, that’s exactly what can happen to a burned-out veteran who is just a few years from retirement. Thus their passion for the protection that tenure provides.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lakewood Update

I regularly follow the mishigas at Lakewood Public Schools, largely because the district is a useful caricature of the educational inequity that pockmarks New Jersey's public school system. The  school board in Lakewood is dominated by Orthodox Jewish leaders who disproportionately allocate money for non-public students, including busing costs for  about 20,000 Jewish children who attend parochial schools.  The board also pays for gender-specific buses to placate local rabbis. The tab is $20 million a year, about a fifth of this year's school budget.

Lakewood's fiscal condition is so dire that the State recently appointed a fiscal monitor to manage the district's finances, which include a $5 million deficit.  The district may also have to reimburse the state and federal governments for another $6 million for falsifying grant proposals.

Most of the 6,000 children who attend the public schools are economically-disadvantaged minority students, largely ignored by the school board. Only 6.1% of Lakewood High School students receive a score of 1550 or above on their SAT's, a measure of college and career-readiness.

Last month, according to the Asbury Park Press, the fiscal monitor, Michael Azzara, proposed a $151 million budget for next year that eliminates "courtesy busing," or school-funded transportation for students who live relatively close to their schools. This elimination affects mostly Lakewood children who attend private Jewish day schools. The school board voted it down but Azzara overruled them.

In response the Jewish Orthodox leaders have organized a protest for yesterday and today. Parents of yeshiva students have been instructed to drive their children to school in order to clog up streets and demonstrate traffic woes that will result from the elimination of courtesy busing. . Rabbi Weisberg told the Lakewood Scoop that "“Similar to a fire drill, this is no cheap stunt. Rather it is a real life simulation of what may actually happen in September on a daily basis. While we regret the inconvenience it may cause to residents and those passing through the town, it is in our opinion, the best way to prepare for the very real possibility of almost 10,000 children (both public and non-public) taking to the streets or their family cars in September.” (Nota bene: actually almost all the students are non-public.)

Also from the Lakewood Scoop:
In a letter to parents today, the Mosdos [leaders of Orthodox day schools] wrote that “the drill that took place today was truly a kiddush Hashem [a religious act that causes others to revere God] as all parents followed the directive and cooperated with the protocol of the drill it was a true show of ACHDUS [unity].”
How'd it work? According to Police Chief Robert Lawson, “Absolutely it was worse than usual but manageable. But we had no issues with emergency vehicles getting through and indeed pedestrian traffic was heavier according to the traffic guards.”

How will the board react? Will the fiscal monitor re-authorize courtesy busing? Stay tuned.

One other piece of Lakewood school news from the Asbury Park Press: "An audit by the state Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability found that during the 2011-12 school year, Lakewood spent $468,485 in federal Title I funding to buy computer equipment, including 760 iPads. But when auditors asked for documentation to justify the purchases or even for a record of where the devices are, district officials did not have answers, according to the audit."

The missing laptops are one more item in a long list of unaccounted expenditures by the district.
The Rev. Glenn Wilson, founder of UNITE Lakewood, or United Neighbors Improving Today’s Equality, said he has not heard of anyone who received an iPad from the district in 2012.

“If you’re spending someone else’s money, you should be able to account for every dime,” said Wilson, a frequent critic of how Lakewood handles its finances and makes educational decisions.




New WHYY Column: NJEA Takes the High Road in Pension Suit Against Christie

Today's WHYY Newsworks:
The New Jersey Education Association, N.J.'s primary teacher union, is suing Gov. Chris Christie for reneging on a legally-mandated $2.4 billion pension payment. Over a dozen other unions have joined the suit...

Certainly, this NJEA lawsuit is justified. In 2010 the State Legislature passed a pension reform bill that requires the state to conform to a payment schedule intended to bulk up NJ's depleted pension system. In 2011 another bill, virulently opposed by labor unions, passed through the Statehouse requiring state workers to increase their contributions to the state's pension fund and make other concessions.

Christie's stance is indefensible, especially in light of the many young teachers and other youthful state employees who can reasonably question the promise of their deferred compensation.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reactions to Vergara v. California

Playing a little catch-up today, but here's some links to some reactions to the L.A. County Superior Court ruling on Vergara v. California:

 RealClearEducation: "Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that began the desegregation of American schools, students of color and their families still find themselves in court, fighting for equal educational opportunity.
They just won another big victory."


New York Times: "In his sharply worded 16-page ruling, Judge Treu compared the Vergara case to the historic desegregation battle of Brown v. Board of Education, saying that the earlier case addressed “a student’s fundamental right to equality of the educational experience,” and that this case involved applying that principle to the “quality of the educational experience.”

Wall St. Journal: "Research has pointed to teacher quality as the biggest in-school determinant for student performance. In recent years, many states have moved to simplify dismissal procedures for ineffective teachers and to encourage districts to consider teacher performance in layoff decisions rather than relying solely on seniority...Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers called it "a sad day for public education," saying the decision focused on a small number of bad teachers, and "strips the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are doing a good job to any right to a voice."

Students First: " The journey towards this decision began in May 2012, when nine courageous public school students filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. They challenged several statutes that forced schools and districts to push out great teachers and retain ineffective ones—thus directly harming students.  For instance, state law required that, in the unfortunate case of layoffs, the last teacher hired be the first teacher fired—regardless of the teacher’s effectiveness. Known as “last-in, first-out” (LIFO), this policy guarantees that great teachers will be taken away from the students who need them."