Sunday Leftovers

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N.J. schools ace technology requirements of PARCC, reports NJ Spotlight:

As controversial as the new PARCC tests continue to be, the technology behind the state’s new online exams passed its own test this spring.
A total of 98 percent of the students who took the tests – more than 800,000 in all – successfully completed the first round of tests using new computer platforms that essentially had never before been used for that purpose, state officials reported this week.
It was the highest success rate, in terms of using computer platforms, among the dozen states administering the PARCC exams, they said.

Today’s Star-Ledger looks at classroom disruption during this first PARCC assessment period. Ed. Comm. David Hespe said, “Now, moving forward, we want to try to work with schools now that we have a tremendous amount of information about how other schools worked to eliminate some of those problems.”

High school students, who are under no pressure to take the PARCC tests if they take PSAT’s, SAT’s, and/or ACT standardized tests, are opting-out at rates as high as 15%, “likely a record high,” says the Star Ledger,  “but it’s difficult to compare this year to prior years because the state is testing additional grades and switched to a controversial computerized testing format, Education Commissioner David Hespe said.” (Note: not sure what’s controversial about the computerized format that’s working so well. Also, in 2019 PARCC will be a graduation requirement; until then, the DOE may be hoisted on its own well-intentioned petard by responding to concerns that students in low-achieving schools might be unable to graduate because of PARCC’s higher-level questions. In response to those concerns the DOE offered those alternatives, which leads to the relatively high opt-out rates, especially in well-heeled districts where just about all students take college entrance exams.)

In Millburn, for example, Curriculum Director Michael Ryan said, “We must address the small number of students who felt like this assessment just doesn’t matter.”

In elementary schools, opt-outs were as low as 3%, says NJ Spotlight. Here’s more coverage on test refusals from The Record, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Press of Atlantic City.

For an example of union enthusiasm for test refusals: in Hillsborough, reports Central Jersey, the local NJEA unit is running showings of a film called “Standardized: How Testing is Ruining Public Education.”

Timothy White of the N.J. Charter School Association comments on Bill A 4351, sponsored by Assembly members Patrick Diegnan and Mila Jasey, that would stop all charter school expansion (#handsoffourfuture):

Recently introduced legislation placing a moratorium on expanding enrollment for New Jersey’s charter public schools is one of the most overtly special interest-motivated pieces of legislation New Jersey has ever seen. It is a tragedy that today more than 20,000 New Jersey children sit on waiting lists hoping for the chance to attend a charter public school and escape the local public schools that have failed generations of their predecessors. Bill A 4351 intends to hold these children hostage to mediocrity. We cannot allow this bill to become law.

Newark’s universal enrollment system is working much better in its second year, with 76% of families receiving one of their top three choices. However, 2,000 fewer families used the system. The district will hold a second round on Monday. Here’s good coverage from NJ Spotlight too.

Newark Public Schools announced this week that nine schools will become ‘turnaround schools’ during the next school year in an effort to curb struggling performance,” so teachers may have to work longer school days and engage in more professional development. A Newark Teachers Union official said, “Cami is going to have a little bit of chaos next year.”

Six candidates for the Newark School Board debated this week, mostly about Cami Anderson and school reform. Candidate Charles Love said, in the context of school closings, “chronic failure for 30 or 40 years? You should be shut down,” he said. “When you have a person who is sick, you quarantine them.” He is not part of the slate backed by Mayor Ras Baraka.

Jersey City teachers won a battle with Superintendent Marcia Lyles, so parent-teacher conferences will be cut back to 90 minutes, instead of the usual two hours.

School board members probably agree with former Education Commissioner Chris Cerf: QSAC (the state accountability rubric for school districts) has become a “box checking exercise.” Also, the Asbury Park Press look at “five things you wish your school board could do.”

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