Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Leftovers

N.J. PARCC analyses continue to trickle in. The Star-Ledger reports that  Millburn and Livingston (both on the list of rich white districts with  high opt-out rates) were top scorers among traditional schools in Essex County; Newark's North Star Academy and Robert Treat Academy were the top scorers among charter schools. Newark had about a dozen traditional schools where not a single student in a particular grade achieved proficiency in either language arts or math. Also see NJ Spotlight.

In a few schools in Newark and East Orange, the D.O.E. left out data because "the numbers were so low in some categories that people within the school might be able to figure out individual students' scores."

In Clifton, reports The Record, the Director of Instruction presented PARCC scores at the recent school board meeting. "They look rather low," she explained, "but when you compare this to how NJASK was scored, in order to obtain… the minimum proficiency in NJASK, a student only had to answer correctly approximately 50 percent of the questions.This places the PARCC scoring in line with how NJASK was scored."

In East Brunswick, the superintendent said that "higher-performing students did not participate in the testing so we didn't get the benefit of their elevated scores." The teacher union president there confirmed that those students were taking SAT's and reluctant to miss A.P. and Honor's classes.

At Pascack Valley Regional, another high-achieving district with high opt-out rates, Superintendent Erik Gundersen said that high school students had skipped the PARCC tests to instead prepare for the SATs and Advanced Placement tests. “In their mind, those tests are high stakes and do have meaning,”

And, from The Record,
PARCC refusals were highest in some of the more affluent and high-achieving districts in Bergen County. But officials there don’t expect a negative impact on graduation rates because their students have strong performances on other tests. 
“You have kids who are able to take these alternative assessments, like the PSAT and the SAT and all those other assessments,” said Ridgewood Schools Superintendent Daniel Fishbein. The students, he said, tend to “do well.”
But many are concerned about what will happen after 2019 when Common Core proficiency, measured by PARCC tests, will become a high school graduation requirement. Right now prospective high school graduates can substitute SAT's,  ACT's, Accuplacer, or the military eligibility test. Students are also eligible to use alternative portfolio assessments or, for special education students, whatever is specified in their Individualized Education Plans.

MyCentralJersey quotes Ed. Comm. David Hespe: “Now that we’re entering the second year of PARCC testing, educators and parents are seeing the benefits of PARCC, They see it’s the most effective assessment tool the state has ever had, and they see how it can help improve teaching and learning in ways that our old tests never could. And that’s precisely where the focus should be: Improving the education we provide to children.”

The Star Ledger Editorial Board nails it: "the PARCC boycott movement is misguided. We need national standards for achievement, and they are meaningless without an accurate test to measure them."

In other education news,

NJ Spotlight reports that "The administration announced the state’s graduation rate had risen to its highest level since a new method of counting started five years ago, with nearly 90 percent – 89.7 percent, to be precise – of students graduating in 2015."

And,
The top graduation rates continue to be in the wealthiest school districts or at magnet schools that are either part of a county vocational system or part of larger school communities.
For example, more than 20 schools saw almost all of their students – more than 99 percent -- graduate in four years, in a list dominated by county magnet schools.
Also see the Star-Ledger, the Press of Atlantic City, and the Asbury Park Press,

Some young Newark students and their parents are piloting a new app called Bedtime Math  The grant is privately-funded. That's great news, and one of the ways in which traditional public districts use private funds.

Speaking of that false dichotomy of public/private, Millburn Public Schools hired a private P.R. firm to market its referendum.

The Star-Ledger explains how Superintendent Chris Cerf closed Newark's $65 million budget deficit.

Diane D'Amico of the Press of Atlantic City examines a looming issue that has already started to impede school board/union negotiations: the 2011 pension and health benefits reform law, which requires state workers to contribute more to health benefit premiums, officially sunsets on June 30th. The Legislature says that school boards must now hold the line, but NJEA begs to differ. At stake, D'Amico explains, is about $4 billion/year, or 18% of all state and local taxes paid for public education in N.J.

In a related story, the Press of Atlantic City OPRA'd  health insurance financials from Atlantic City Public Schools and found that last year the local district "paid 357 employees $5.2 million for opting out of its health insurance plan." Seems like a lot? Maybe not. "The annual premium cost for family coverage under the district's private plan is almost $37,000."

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