Sunday Leftovers

"The discovery of elevated levels of lead in the drinking water at 30 Newark public schools has exposed a 'blind spot' in water-quality testing requirements at schools statewide, New Jersey’s top environmental official said Friday." (Wall St. Journal) And Camden has been supplying bottled water to its students for the last 14 years because of lead found in school drinking fountains.

The Asbury Park Press considers the unintended consequences of Gov. Christie's superintendent salary cap, which include school chiefs fleeing to cap-less NY and PA and subordinates making more than their bosses.

Sparta Public Schools in Sussex County is facing a spartan budget due to decreasing enrollment. (Sorry.)

Voters approved fewer than half of the school referenda that went on the ballot last week.

New Jerseyans often associate school closures with low-income districts, especially our Abbotts (see this Star-Ledger article about Paterson), but sometimes rich districts close schools too. The Courier Post reports on a hotly-contested school closure in suburban Evesham which has a median family income of  $104,784.

From NJ Spotlight: "school officials and members of the public are drawing attention to the fact that Christie continues to underfund the mandated school-aid formula established with bipartisan support in 2008, and that needy districts, like Paterson, are truly struggling." Actually, that formula, the School Funding Reform Act, is a pipedream, premised on an economy that never materialized. It's dead. We'll never fully fund it, regardless of who is governor. Time to let it go, folks, and find a new allocation system. Legislators, looking at you.

Also from Spotlight: "the Christie administration faces a new test; an [anti-bullying law] task force of its own making has recommended a series of changes that so far have been slow to be heeded."

Eric Hibbs, the superintendent of Montville, is proactively restructuring the district's test-taking policies (with the approval of the Board, of course) in response to concerns about over-testing.  His changes include:
1. Eliminating common assessments in social studies and science for students in grades 1-4.
2. No longer counting common assessments in social studies and science for fifth-graders. The exams will still be administered and used as criteria for grade 6 honor-placement but will not count toward a student's report card.
3. A reduction in quizzes and supplemental assessments that are graded.
4. Giving teachers more autonomy to design graded projects.

West Milford, reports The Record, is committed to raising student participation in PARCC testing. The assistant superintendent explained, "This is serious. We talk about being a better school district. We talk about having our students prepared for careers in the 21st century workforce ... and going to college. We can't do this if we don't participate in the testing. This is not something for us to take lightly."