Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Leftovers

The New York Times' lede on a story about Montclair Public Schools reveals the writer's misunderstanding of the word "progressive" :
Many battles have been fought in recent years between education reformers — who generally favor high-stakes testing and the data-based evaluation of teachers — and those with a more progressive approach to schooling. But nowhere, it seems, is the fight more pitched than in this liberal, diverse township of nearly 38,000 about 20 miles from New York City.
[Etymological note: "progressive" refers to new, liberal ideas. Data-based evaluations of teachers is new. Data-free evaluations is old-school, the opposite of progressive.]

Dina Smith, a guidance counselor at MetEast, one of Camden's two magnet schools, explains that "her focus really is on building relationships. We make it a point to get to know each student as well as possible.” Says the Courier Post, "MetEast counselors and faculty get to know students’ families, making home visits and even dropping students off at college."

Lead in the water (in Newark and elsewhere): see the Star-Ledger (here, here, here), NJ Spotlight, New York Times, Princeton Packet, Washington Post, A bill currently before the Legislature would require all N.J. schools to do lead testing an disclose results.

Those following this story may be interested in a Facebook comment by Jody Pittman, a Newark School Board candidate who used to serve as Assistant to the Director of Facilities Management Environmental Services. Here's an excerpt:
Parents need to know there is a Preventive Maintenance Plan that was not followed. Parents must be made aware that in 2013 when Keith Barton took on the dual role of Affirmative Action Officer/Executive Managing Director of Facilities Management, it was a monumental error. He had no experience in Facilities Management; strategically manipulated the halt to the School Business Administrator overseeing the department; no credible certification for same; allowed to surround himself with the unqualified and incompetent support staff; alienating, terminating and driving out experienced, competent and qualified Facility Managers – Steve Morlino, Milton Mathis, Carlos Edmundo, Rodney Williams and recently, Mark Davis, who was terminated for a $1700. requisition, to which services were rendered and received; refused to interview educated, qualified and long term dedicated men from my community; and deleted the Preventive Maintenance Schedule from the system used to effectuate and track work orders (SchoolDudes). So, simply put, like it’s time to make the donuts at Dunkin Donuts, missed its time to change the water filters and made a mockery of our city to the Nation. 
Superintendent Cerf, I give you credit for better engaging our community and attempting to work with city administration, so I implore you to not take the blame. 
Also, yesterday the Star-Ledger reported that in 2003 Newark Schools rejected an offer by the EPA "to partner with the agency to address lead contamination in the district."

West Milford School District had the lowest PARCC participation in Passaic County, only 68%. The Record reports that the superintendent there "pleaded with parents to try to understand the implications if their children do not participate in the testing. 'We look for people to work with us and make things better," said Riscica. "By resisting testing we are hurting ourselves and the district.'"

On the other hand, a South Jersey school board, says the Asbury Park Press, "has approved a resolution that blasts controversial PARCC testing as an unproven and expensive "distraction" that fails students, teachers and school systems."

And, of course, Education Law Center is claiming that the N.J. D.O.E.'s requirement that graduating students demonstrate proficiency on PARCC standardized tests is "illegal" because the department didn't follow proper procedure.

The Star-Ledger reports on Jersey City parents who waited on line for two days to register their three-year-olds in a well-regarded preschool. Preschool is free in Jersey City because it is technically still an Abbott district, even though it would no longer qualify as one because of its increasingly prosperous population. For more details, see Jeff Bennett.

Lauren Camera reports on how teacher pensions are bankrupting schools: "'Pensions are one of the most untold stories of why this is happening,' says Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, an education policy organization in Washington. 'These are big dollar amounts at play that people haven't conceptualized.' According to the Federal Reserve, employee pensions across state and local governments are underfunded to the tune of $1.7 billion."

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