Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Leftovers

I'm at #ewa (Education Writers Association convention) this week in Boston. Blogging will be light. Feel like chatting? Give me a holler.

The New York Times quantifies the achievement gap between rich students and poor ones and finds that children with access to the most wealthy districts are more than four grades ahead of students confined to poor ones. However, there are a few districts that beat the odds, including Union City Public Schools in N.J.'s Hudson County, where "students consistently performed about a third of a grade level above the national average on math and reading tests even though the median family income is just $37,000 and only 18 percent of parents have a bachelor’s degree. About 95 percent of the students are Hispanic, and the vast majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches."
Silvia Abbato, the district’s superintendent, said she could not pinpoint any one action that had led to the better scores. She noted that the district uses federal funds to help pay for teachers to obtain graduate certifications as literacy specialists, and it sponsors biweekly parent nights with advice on homework help for children, nutrition and immigration status. 
The district regularly revamps the curriculum and uses quick online tests to gauge where students need more help or whether teachers need to modify their approaches. 
“It’s not something you can do overnight,” Ms. Abbato said. “We have been taking incremental steps everywhere.”
In other words, they use testing data to monitor all the kids; kids who get counted count.

The Star-Ledger examines Pearson's screw-up during PARCC testing on Wednesday. See  NJ Spotlight for more coverage. State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) on Wednesday announced that she will introduce legislation  that would prevent New Jersey from using the controversial PARCC exams or any other test for the purpose of a high school exit exam until the 2020-2021 school year.

NJTV reports on Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's tirade that the state needs to give the district more money and that Cami Anderson is to blame for the Newark Public Schools'  $72 million budget gap. (Youtube video here.) Gov. Christie fired back,
“Now, this of course, comes from a school district that gets hundreds of millions of dollars from New Jersey state taxpayers every year because of a failed, and I believe, unconstitutional court requirement that we put disproportionate funds into a small number of school districts,” he said. 
Continuing the pointed point-counterpoint, Christie noted charter schools enrollment is up because families choose charters. 
“So what the mayor wants to do is freeze any new expansion of charter schools, freeze any new development of charter schools so that those families are forced back into the failed schools that drove them to want to make the choice to begin with,” the governor said.
The Record reports on a new bill sponsored by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly which would end the state's ability to take over districts. Christie said he would veto it.

The Atlantic City Special Services School District, which serves children with disabilities, is considering out-sourcing instructional aides because in order to save money: currently, the average compensation package for an aide is $48K per year. Parents and staff protested. There's a similar scenario at Woodstown-Pilesgrove School District, also in South Jersey, which faces a decrease in enrollment and an increase in expenditures from rising salaries and benefits.

Speaking of fiscal sustainability, Jeff Bennett at New Jersey Education Aid does a deep dive on Lakewood's budget "disaster," which threatens to raise class size to 40 children.

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