Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, in an editorial in the Courier Post, describes the state of district schools upon his arrival almost two years ago:
“Transform” is a term thrown around a lot by people in leadership positions like mine. To me, it means to fundamentally change for the better.
Tomorrow the N.J. Senate Education Committee will consider a package of PARCC opt-out bills. One bill would set guidelines for districts on test refusals, another would mandate that districts publish opt-out numbers, and another would disallow the state from withholding funds for high opt-out numbers. One bill not on the docket, much to the dismay of NJEA and Save Our Schools-NJ: setting a three-year moratorium on using test scores for teacher evaluations. See NJ Spotlight.
That’s what I’ve been working toward since being named superintendent of the Camden City School District nearly two years ago. When I arrived, I found many good people working in a very bad system, a school district where I was the 13th superintendent in two decades, a school district that was reeling from consecutive and compounding challenges of chronic absenteeism, grade-fixing allegations and improper payment of bonuses among the district leadership. Not surprisingly, the school district had grown dysfunctional, with crumbling school buildings over 100 years old and a student body where half of the kids graduated and 14 percent of youngsters could read on grade level.
The Essex News Daily has lengthy coverage of a PARCC debate between NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer and former D.O.E. official and PARCC designer Sandra Alberti. Here's a sample:
Steinhauer: “Are you saying that if a teacher just teaches the way they did before they would be ready for this new online test?” he asked.
“That’s exactly what I mean,” Alberti responded, pointing out “the assessment is designed to support what is going on in the classroom."
"New Jersey has abandoned its proposal to require future substitute teachers to hold a bachelor's degree and revised other parts of its plan to revamp standards for aspiring teachers," says the Star-Ledger. NJ Spotlight digs deeper into an easing-up of proposed higher standards for teacher training and licensure.
NJ Spotlight: "The Treasury is projecting a $200M windfall tax revenue, which will be funneled right into the pending pension payment."
"America's teachers," reports the Star Ledger, " feel over-stressed and under-appreciated, and only about half of them identify as enthusiastic about their jobs, according to a new poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers." For counterpoint, see Mike Antonucci, who explains that, in fact, data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that "teacher turnover is much lower than you think."
The Star Ledger explains that N.J.'s top high schools aren't neighborhood schools. Also see here.
"Swastikas are scrawled on the walls, and racial slurs are used freely at Pasack Valley Regional High School, according to a letter written by students this week." Also see here.
Paterson Public Schools will lay off 175 teachers, 116 aides and other staff while more than 200 vacant positions will remain unfilled next fiscal year, says The Record.
Camden Public Schools, which originally projected large lay-offs also, will only have to lay off two dozen teachers. (NJ Spotlight and the Philadelphia Inquirer.)
The Atlantic City School Board rejected a $147 million budget proposed by its state fiscal monitor (Star Ledger) but then the monitor said that "he's reversing a decision to reject a proposed budget that includes 226 layoffs" (Press of Atlantic City).
The Assembly Education Committee passed a bill that will permit students to learn American Sign Language for their world languages requirement.
Trenton Public Schools, reports the Trenton Times, has a new gifted and talented program.
The Highland Park Board of Education is trying to stop expansion of Hatikvah Charter School.
The Press of Atlantic City reports on a national decrease in school bullying.
ICYMI, here's my Newsworks column on how N.J.'s inability to fully fund necessary preschool programs reflects its inability to fund K-12 programs.