Sunday Leftovers

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How are  New Jersey’s newly-rigorous teacher evaluations working? In Clifton, reports The Record, 97% of teachers were rated either “effective” or “highly effective” this year. This extraordinary performance matches the state average during the pilot last year. “This type of evaluation” — tied to student performance on standardized tests —  explained the district’s curriculum director,”pertains to less than 20 percent of teachers and accounts for 10 percent of the evaluation overall.” (That’s the part that the opt-out lobby doesn’t want you to know.)

“A former vice principal at Eastside High School [Paterson] says he became the target of retaliation after he allegedly refused to help the principal manipulate the school’s scores on standardized tests, according to a lawsuit filed recently.” The alleged incident happened in 2011, several years before N.J. implemented PARCC testing.

Frank Argote-Freyre, a longtime Freehold Borough resident and director of the Latino Coalition of New Jersey, writes in the Star-Ledger that Ed. Comm. David Hespe should get a “F” in civil rights for failing to respond to a state judge’s ruling that Freehold students, largely Hispanic and poor, are being deprived of adequate schooling due to overcrowding and inequitable funding, about half of what richer nearby districts spend per pupil. Argote-Freyre writes,”[Hespe’s] treatment of the Freehold Borough schools violates the basic principles set forth in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education.” For more on this, see my coverage here and NPR’s here.

Speaking of funding, the Asbury Park Press reports that “Low-income schools in New Jersey are set to receive $11 million in federal funds designed to provide supports and resources aimed at boosting student achievement. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker announced last week that New Jersey schools that demonstrated the most need will receive nearly $11.1 million in School Improvement grants.”

In a Jersey Herald article on Christie’s “fairness formula,” Julia Sass Rubin inaccurately claims that N.J.’s Abbott districts “are among the highest performing in the country” among high-poverty districts. Paul Tractenberg, who founded the Educational Law Center in 1973 and “was instrumental in bringing forth the Abbott v. Burke state Supreme Court case,” begs to differ: ” the real victims [of the 2008 funding formula that Rubin et. al. lobby for] were the other, non-Abbott poor districts and the mid-wealth districts.” Also see Jeff Bennett on how N.J. districts either equally poor — or poorer — than Abbots outperform the outdated list of 31 districts, despite far less money available per pupil..

The Courier-Post looks at how technology has changed the culture of an elementary school in Haddonfield,where students — digital natives — are actually teaching teachers.

The NJ Senate hasn’t yet voted on whether or not to put a referendum on November’s ballot to increase pension payments, but NJEA is lobbying voters already, even as NJ’s troubled Transportation Trust Fund is tangling up the politics. NJ Spotlight:

The New Jersey Education Association has also determined it has no reason to hold back a public push to rally support for the amendment even though it has yet to win final passage in the Senate. The union has already launched a website and social-media campaign based on the slogan #VoteNJPension, and an ad featuring retired teachers calling for funding of the pension system has also been airing on television. “Our members expect the Senate to vote to pass the resolution on August 1,” NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said yesterday. “They have been communicating that very clearly to their senators.” He noted, “We expect that many of our members will be in Trenton that day to watch that vote be taken.”

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  • StateAidGuy, July 24, 2016 @ 7:51 pm Reply

    This is inaccurate of Rubin to say:

    “The governor has underfunded most of the districts that are Abbotts, with a few exceptions. The former Abbotts are not over-funded, they are underfunded.”

    Only 14 of the 31 Abbotts are “underfunded.” The rest of them are still overaided. (overaided and underaided are my preferred terms) In previous years, the percentage of overaided Abbotts was even higher.

    25 of the Abbotts are indeed under Adequacy, but that is because they almost always tax below their expected contribution (ie, Local Fair Share). In fact, 14 of the Abbotts tax below 50% of LFS.

  • Julia, July 24, 2016 @ 8:19 pm Reply


    As usual, your blog is not accurate.

    New Jersey's high poverty districts ARE among the highest performing in the country because school funding matters.

    Mark Weber did a great job summarizing some of the research showing New Jersey high poverty districts excel relative to their peers:

    And here's more data on just how important funding really is:

    Professor Paul Tractenberg agrees that funding matters and that New Jersey's high poverty districts have benefited from that funding.

    It's a shame that you are willing to distort what I said and what Paul said in order to support Governor Christie as he tries to destroy public schools in high poverty communities.

  • StateAidGuy, July 25, 2016 @ 4:03 pm Reply


    The Weber/Srikanth report you link to doesn't really demonstrate what you say it demonstrates. The Weber/Srikanth report is mostly about tax bases and the necessity of higher aid for poor districts, and only quotes from and links to some other reports that purport to show higher performance in the Abbotts.

    HOWEVER, if you read what these reports, they are not strong vindications of Abbott Theory.

    First, the fact that we can even debate if Abbott spending has been beneficial is an indication that it hasn’t been. The Abbotts have a clear and immense budgetary superiority over poor non-Abbotts, and yet there is no clear academic superiority and even some evidence that they do worse than non-Abbott demographic peers. How can Abbott theory be correct is a clear budgetary advantage doesn’t translate into clearly higher academic performance?

    Second, the Resch study which Weber and Srikanth link to seems to be inconclusive to me.
    Resch compares the Abbotts to some demographically similar districts in NJ. In the study, she dutifully demonstrates the budgetary advantages and claims that there are positive effects of Abbott in math, but concedes no statistically significant benefit for English Language Arts:

    “For reading, the effect of the policy, shown in column 5 for the scale score and column 9 for proficiency, is positive but statistically insignificant. On average, the policy seems to have little effect on reading performance. The results in columns 7, 8, 11 and 12, which break out the year effects, show that the effect is evolving over time. These results mirror the trends seen in figure 3.2 where the performance of the comparison group deteriorates in the later years and performance for the Abbotts increased somewhat. In contrast to the math results, the reading results do show a growing, although statistically insignificant, impact of the policy for Abbott districts.”

    For math, Resch says there is a 5 point boost:

    “Panel A presents the math results. Looking at column 1, the effect of the Abbott policy on math scores is about 5 points and statistically insignificant in this specification, but the coefficients on the covariates highlight the disparities between different groups of students”

    5 points? For a 30% spending advantage? That is not a strong vindication of Abbott to me.

    Resch’s research also ends in 2000 and the Abbott budgetary advantage, if anything, has become wider since. In 2000 the kids tested in the Abbotts hadn’t had Pre-K. Now kids tested in the Abbotts would have had that. Kids in poor non-Abbotts have also had years of flatter funding and, in many cases, years of high Latino population growth. Based on Abbott Theory, the Abbotts should be putting more distance between themselves and poor non-Abbotts.

    Third, there is a case to be made for qualitative research in studying the Abbotts. At a certain point, Abbottists will have to explain why Asbury Park continues to do so badly despite spending $30,000 per student. Why do Pemberton, Phillipsburg, and Hoboken not clearly outperform their peers either? Why do Dover, Bayonne, and even East Newark do reasonably well despite tremendous budgetary disadvantage? (East Newark is at the 20th percentile statewide, but considering it is in last place for spending and in the demographically poorest 10 of NJ districts, the 20th percentile is overperformance.)

  • StateAidGuy, July 25, 2016 @ 4:03 pm Reply

    If money for the Abbotts has been so beneficial, then why do the highest-spending Abbotts do no better than the lowest-spending non-Abbotts?

    Fourth, you yourself have condemned how the Abbotts have been flat-funded in the last few years and that they have had to made budget cuts. If Abbott Theory were correct, the Abbotts would begin to slide academically.

    And yet by grad rates at least, the Abbotts are showing a lot of progress.

    Passaic’s graduation rate is up by over 17%! Paterson’s is up by 11.87%! Trenton’s is up by 20%!

    Fifth and final, NJ cannot afford Abbott anymore. In 1990 NJ had low debt and an economy that grew at the pace of the nation or even faster. Now, since 2001, the nation's economic growth has slowed and NJ's growth is half of the national average. Now we are one of the country's most indebted states.

    Given that Abbott's success is ambiguous at best, our economic-budgetary situation is so bad, and the Abbott list has diverged more and more from being NJ's poorest, reform of Abbott is desperately needed.


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