Sunday Leftovers

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The Star-Ledger compares New Jersey’s graduation requirements with six other states, including the top-ranked public education system in Massachusetts. There, like N.J. (ranked #2), high school diplomas require proficiency in Common Core-aligned course content. N.J. requires math and reading; Massachusetts requires math, reading, and science.

No surprise here: “A multibillion-dollar plan to repair the state pension system fizzled out after Democratic lawmakers missed Monday’s deadline to get a required constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.” (The Record)

Gov. Christie signed legislation that will require the state to pay a private consortium $7.2 million over the next three years (i.e., indefinitely) to pay for transporting 16,0000 Lakewood Orthodox Jewish students to private Jewish day schools in sex-segregated buses. Here’s my take.

Department of Unintended Consequences via the Asbury Park Press: “A group of [Brick Township] private school parents say children are in danger from new bus routes, which force students to cross busy roads and walk long distances in order to reach their stops. The bus routes, if left unchanged, will cause some Brick students who attend Donovan Catholic and St. Joseph’s Grade School in Toms River to walk nearly two miles or cross thoroughfares like Brick Boulevard to reach their stops.”

New Jersey, reports the Star Ledger, has three schools that rank in the top ten, according to Newsweek. The Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering in Rockaway ranked second in the country, Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains placed fourth and the Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison ranked 10th. These are all exclusive magnet schools that admit students based on stringent criteria; student demographics are overwhelming white, Asian, rich, non ELL and non-disabled. No complaints, however, from NJEA, Save Our Schools-NJ, and Education Law Center, who base their anti-charter lobbying on charges of exclusivity and segregation. Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that N.J.  magnet school teachers pay union dues, right?

N.J. Ed. Commissioner David Hespe ordered a $32 million facilities expansion project in the over-crowded and under-funded district of Freehold Borough. See my commentary here.

Everyone points to Asbury Park School District as a model of inefficiency at annual per pupil costs of over $30,000. But the Press of Atlantic City profiles a new report by Mark Weber and Bruce Baker that says that the inefficiency winner is actually tiny Jersey shore district Avalon, which spends $57,000 per student per year.

Many outlets (including NJLB) reported this week that the State Board of Education took another step towards returning local control to Newark by delegating personnel decisions to the local Board.  From NJ Spotlight:

Less noticed, and maybe more notable, was the administration’s actions on the two remaining — and most critical — categories: instruction and governance. In what may be an unprecedented move, the administration agreed to use a whole new metric for determining academic achievement in the district, approving the its request for an equivalency waiver from the existing state-monitoring regulations known as Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) .

Instead of meeting metrics on student proficiency through the statewide QSAC model, Newark will be allowed to receive credit for student growth.  “If we hit these numbers, it will show we have made tremendous progress in much more sophisticated ways than just an 80 percent proficiency,” Newark superintendent Chris Cerf said yesterday.

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1 Comment

  • StateAidGuy, August 14, 2016 @ 6:05 pm Reply

    The Baker/Weber study is not very compelling for two reasons:

    Baker and Weber define “Efficiency” as _improvement_ based on spending and demographics, not overall performance. Since their definition of “Efficiency” is change in performance, and not performance relative to a set threshold like a state average, it means that a low-scoring district that makes a slight improvement is considered more “efficient” than a middle or high scoring district whose scores are flat.

    Baker & Weber use a very narrow window for looking at improvement too, 2011-12 to 2013-14. If a district did all its improvement prior to 2011, it doesn't get any credit for that. Hence districts that significantly outperform their demographics, like Dover and Union City, don't look particularly efficient. Baker and Weber themselves say that Union City is only average based on their definition of efficiency. They seem surprised by that, but they shouldn't be since when a district is already doing so well compared to its demographics, improvement is even harder.

    The second problem is that Baker & Taylor use Total Budgetary Cost Per Pupil as their measure of district spending.

    Using Total Budgetary Cost Per Pupil is legitimate – I use it all the time too – but Total Budgetary Cost Per Pupil excludes Pre-K and construction spending and thus leaves out a huge portion of the Abbott financial advantage.

    I don't know how you would factor in Pre-K spending to give a per pupil spending amount, but Pre-K spending has to at least be acknowledged as part of the Abbott financial advantage since kids in the Abbotts have two extra years of school compared to kids in high-FRL non-Abbotts.

    Re: Avalon

    As for Avalon…. Avalon spends $44,401 per pupil. That's seriously, seriously in excess of what any district needs to spend. Since Avalon's score improvement is nothing special despite spending that massive money, it looks incredibly inefficient.

    Ok, Avalon is wasting money, but it's its own taxes its spending, not state money, so Avalon's “inefficiency” is of no concern to me or really anyone who doesn't live in Avalon.

    Since Asbury Park gets over $55 million for 2300 K-12 students, it's a completely different story from the state POV.

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