Tom Moran at the Star-Ledger nails the pro-public charter zeitgeist in Newark:
The failure of urban schools, we are often told, can be traced to the apathy of urban parents when it comes to their children's success in the classroom.
It seems that in Newark, no one got that memo.
Because about 400 parents and their children crammed into the city council's hearing room Monday night, filling the seats and balconies, and overflowing into hallways where they strained to hear.
What drove that kind of passion? A bid by North Star charter schools to build a new K-12 building on an old parking lot in the Central Ward.
"We outnumbered the teachers union by 10-1, and that tells you where the mood of this city is," says Barbara Martinez, a spokeswoman for North Star.
Moran also quotes Mayor Ras Baraka, who falsely claims (along with the Newark Teachers Union whose members will hold a "WALK-IN" tomorrow at the district Board meeting to protest charter expansion) that the district's fiscal woes are due to charter schools.
Again from Moran:
But are charters really driving [budget cuts to traditional schools]?
Trenton has frozen aid to schools across the state, despite built-in cost increases for things like health care and teacher salaries. And the state' makes no allowance for the growing number of students in Newark, which has mushroomed by 10 percent in the last three years.
"That is the core challenge, and it is independent of charter schools," says Superintendent Chris Cerf, who opposes Baraka's freeze on charter expansion. "There is some truth to it, but the fundamental problem in our budget has nothing to do with charters.
The big national news, of course, is that yesterday the Obama Administration called for a 2% cap on the amount of time that a child spends taking tests: not just PARCC-like assessments but also midterms, finals, quizzes, etc. See the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Politico.
N.J. released overall PARCC scores this week and, to no one's surprise, they showed a lower level of proficiency compared to N.J.'s old tests, the ASK's and HSPA's. Drew Gitomer, an expert in assessment and evaluation at Rutgers University. told the Star-Ledger that "what New Jersey is experiencing is something that other states are experiencing as well, and it's not surprising. The purpose of the Common Core was to raise the standards in terms of the kind of things students were being asked to do." Here's my overview and here's my commentary.
What is one of the results of lack of readiness for college and careers? From the Press of Atlantic City (although the story has a different lede):
"Completion is a national issue for community colleges. Only 60 percent of new full-time students who entered in 2010 returned for a second year. Just 20 percent of public two-year college students graduated within three years, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.
At Atlantic Cape, just 3.4 percent of full-time students who entered in 2010 graduated in 2012. Only 16 percent graduated in 2013, and another 20 percent transferred to another college.
This lack of sufficient preparation is not just an urban problem. ICYMI, here's a column I wrote for NJ Spotlight on suburban lack of college/career readiness. One quote:
Raritan Valley Community College President Casey Crabill described his incoming class: "They are ill-prepared, and they don't know it," Crabill said. "You spend about six months in remedial education trying to convince them that this really will help. For many of them, it is discouraging. They come to us because they want to study automotive tech, but they don't have the skills to read the textbook.”
Senate President and gubernatorial hopeful Steve Sweeney told Freehold residents that he shared their pain about the lack of fair school funding in NJ: "There's going to be other discussions about school funding as we go forward to try to be more fair. We gotta make sure ... money is getting put in places in districts that are growing that don't receive additional funding and you have districts that are decreasing and are receiving the same." (Asbury Park Press) Legislators might want to look to this new school finance blog for information about the screwed-up state of N.J.'s school funding allocations, the obsolescence of Abbott designations, and how fully funding the 2008 pre-recession School Funding Reform Act is a pipedream.
Why Board members drink: Hamilton teachers are picketing to protest the lack of contract resolution even though, according to the Trenton Times, it is "not clear to them what the actual negotiation differences are because their negotiating team is not allowed to not divulge a lot of information publicly."