Sunday Leftovers

Many news outlets covered this week's release of N.J. student PARCC scores. See the Star-Ledger, NJ Spotlight, the Asbury Park Press, and MyCentralJersey.  Bottom line: the scores are lower than New Jerseyans have been accustomed to because the tests are harder. NJ students still did quite well, second only to Massachusetts' students, although there were relative drop-offs in proficiency at the high school level. Some possible explanations: older students have had less exposure to Common Core Standards (adopted in 2010), algebra and geometry tests are especially challenging, and higher opt-out rates in high schools (15%, almost all in high-income districts) lowered average scores. Also, current DOE regulations permit students to use SAT, ACT, and Accuplacer scores as substitutes for PARCC as a high school graduation test.

Instead of fixing New Jersey's broken school funding formula or rewriting our twenty-year old charter school law, Trenton legislators are futzing with a bill that requires each elementary school to have a twenty-minute recess.

Speaking of our broken school funding formula, Jeff Bennett over at New Jersey Education Aid describes perhaps the most glaring case of state under-funding at Manchester Regional High School, which receives students from North Haledon, Haledon, and Prospect Park. His write-up also points to a bigger problem: that our once-revered Abbott district compensatory funding is so obsolete that districts poorer than Abbotts (like Haledon and Prospect Park) struggle by with as little as $6,670 per student while Jersey City -- once poor, now chic, but once an Abbott always an Abbott -- receives $17,859 per student per year.

Meanwhile the Education Law Center, which made its bones on the Abbott litigation back in the 1990's (see here for a great history; here's some of my commentary), continues to defend the defunct theory that the only way to improve educational outcomes for kids is to pour in more money to traditional public schools using an unsustainable school funding formula. Hence, ELC is crusading against school choice -- another avenue for improved student outcomes -- despite parental desires.  In fact, ELC is lobbying for an end to charter school expansion in Newark, which has advocates worried, particularly the Hands Off Our Future CollectiveThe group is running a bus from Newark to Trenton on Monday, December 14th, to clarify to legislators that, despite ELC, NJEA, and Save Our Schools' assertions, Newark parents and families oppose a charter school moratorium. See here for more details.

Chris Cerf was much in the news this week, writing an op-ed in the Star-Ledger yesterday and partnering with Mayor Ras Baraka on a joint program called the South Ward Community Schools Initiative  funded with the last of the Facebook money. Also, Education Post (disclosure: I'm a member of the Ed Post network) published two interviews with Cerf this past week, one on Newark's path towards school improvements and local control, and the other on Cerf's take on Dale Russakoff's The Prize,

The Christie Administration approved (count'em) one charter school during this authorization cycle, the Philip's Academy Charter School in Paterson.

Former journalist Bob Braun published a letter today from an anti-education reform group to Sec. Arne Duncan that compares Race to the Top to the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.

In case you missed them, here's my Daily News editorial on Hillary Clinton's misleading and erroneous claims about the role of charter schools, and here's my article in NJ Family Magazine that asks how well our suburban schools prepare our kids for college and careers.