Sunday Leftovers

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PARCC Update: “With the exception of a few districts, the majority of students are participating in the computerized test, according to early reports from schools.” (Star-Ledger)

Two exceptions to the trend of opt-outs clustering in wealthy districts (see my analysis here):At  Newton High School in Sussex County  (see here and here)  the superintendent said that “it appears the widespread public debate affected our district more than we anticipated” because only 59% of eligible high school students took the exams the first day. Therefore, students will be permitted to skip math and language arts course finals if they take the PARCC.  The superintendent added that “despite the popular perception that the PARCC tests are not mandatory, parents don’t have the right to opt out. But any student can opt not to take a test.'”

And in Clifton (Passaic County), according to the Record, “As of Wednesday, several dozen students in grades three through eight had opted-out or refused testing. At the high school level, about 200 students had either opted-out or refused. A small number of high schoolers “un-opted-out,” electing to take the test after all, according to the district.”

Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, and Reginald Lewis, executive director of the Chad School Foundation, have a great editorial in NJ Spotlight. They note that “education leaders have agreed for the past five years that simply maintaining the old NJASK and HSPA will not provide the information and results required to gauge student strengths and weaknesses.”

Yet the recent calls for a moratorium and “opting children out” of the new state test threatens to undermine progress made in narrowing the achievement gap and the pursuit of a broader agenda for educational equity and rigor for all students, particularly disadvantaged students of color… 

So what has really changed? The well-funded and organized pushback to PARCC over the past several weeks has gained momentum by creating enormous anxiety and confusion among parents and students. In the remaining precious days and hours leading to the administering of PARCC, we implore all who embrace educational rigor and equity to support concrete steps to provide families with accurate information and prepare all students to meet the higher academic standards outlined in the Common Core.

Here’s Gov. Christie, courtesy of NJ Spotlight: “Now we are going to see what the results of PARCC look like. What I concluded as governor was the (previous) NJASK was a failure, and we were not getting the kinds of information we needed,” Christie continued. “But I’m not going to kill PARCC before we take PARCC.”

The Superintendent of Paramus explains the impact of PARCC testing days on instructional time: “”I believe 90 [minutes] is the maximum,” he said. “For one day, they’re only going to be missing 90 minutes. For the rest of their time, they’ll be in their normal instructional program.” (The Record)

Tom Kean defends the implementation of PARCC assessments and higher standards because “nearly half (47 percent) of first year, full-time public college and university students in New Jersey need to retake high school math or English classes…The answer is that we cannot relax or feel comfortable. Our children deserve better. In this state and in this country we must discover our weaknesses and do what is necessary to fix them. Our future depends on it.”

Newark News:

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board says that “Christie was right to renew” Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson’s contract: “What’s truly criminal here is that for too long, school districts have been primarily designed to serve adults. Part of the reason Anderson has run into so much opposition is that she is trying to change that culture, by inviting in charters and disrupting things. That inevitably leads to layoffs and protests.”

But Sen. Ronald Rice and a bevy of supporters went to Washington to plead for federal intervention. (Unclear to me: they detest state intervention so they went the feds to take over?)

The Washington Post has a nuanced analysis of Newark’s school woes, which focuses on Christie’s original plan to make Newark the symbol of his ability to turn around failing urban districts. Robert Curvin, previously a strong supporter of Anderson, says in the article that “she’s faced a very tough situation, and she’s made it worse,” he said. She is “very, very smart,” he added, but “hasn’t produced all that she says she has, and she hasn’t brought anybody along with her.” Meanwhile, Cory Booker is MIA.

The State Department is reviewing changes to the  standards that aspiring teachers must meet before receiving certification. See the Star-Ledger and NJ Spotlight.

Camden will host this week a series of neighborhood conversations about some “hard choices” pending.From a district press release:

As the School District continues to explore ways to better support students and provide high-quality schools in every part of the City, Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard and Mayor Dana L. Redd today announced a series of neighborhood conversations focused on determining the next steps for its lowest-performing schools. The School District is working urgently to dramatically improve each of its schools, but for students who attend school each day in learning environments that are not yet making the progress the children deserve, time is especially of the essence. 

“This next round of neighborhood meetings is another opportunity to talk honestly about the hard choices we need to make to give every student the excellent education he or she deserves,” said Superintendent Rouhanifard. “Across the District, we have schools making a good deal of progress, and we have schools that still have a long way still to go. I appreciate community leaders stepping up to host these conversations, and I look forward to engaging with our families, students, and educators.”

The Press of Atlantic City reports that “public charter schools are on the rebound” in Atlantic County.

In Paterson, “city education officials plan to cut $62 million from the district budget for the coming school year to make up for a shortfall,the Paterson Press reported.
The cuts would amount to a 10 percent reduction in spending from the district’s $592 million budget for the 2014-15 school year.”

NJ Spotlight analyzes one of the recommendations of the Governor’s Study Commission on pension and health care benefits that would shift pension payments from the state to local school districts.

“The commission has proposed shifting the cost of teacher pensions from the state to the school districts, whose primary source of funding is local property taxes. It is also proposing the adoption of less-generous health coverage for teachers and other public workers, and it made the case that there would be enough savings from changing the health plans to allow the local governments to cover the cost of the pensions, which right now cost the state about $2.5 billion annually just for teachers.”

(ICYMI, here’s my commentary at NJ Spotlight on NJEA’s response to the study commission’s report)

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