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1-10-13 Education and Related Issues in the News
Politickernj-State Street Wire - Armed guards at schools not best way to stem violence, Christie says

NJ Spotlight - Should Students Grade their Teachers?.. Some educators suggest student surveys should be part of teacher-effectiveness evaluations

Star Ledger - Treasury audit: N.J. finished fiscal year with $123M budget gap

Politickernj - State audit of Katzenbach School cites large, 'inefficient' campus use for dwindling student body

Politickernj - Armed guards at schools not best way to stem violence, Christie says

By Matthew Arco | January 9th, 2013 - 12:47pm

BELMAR – Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his stance Wednesday that armed guards at all New Jersey schools is not the best way to combat future gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting.

The governor held off from criticizing local officials who opted to put armed guards in public schools, saying he would not attempt to stop towns from implementing armed guard programs.

However, Christie argued he doesn’t think it will solve the overarching issue.

“There’s no silver bullet solution to this,” he said, arguing again that efforts to prevent future attacks need to focus on guns, mental health and media – rather than a single area.

“I also think it’s a negative for our kids to have to see armed [police officers at school every day],” he said.


NJ Spotlight - Should Students Grade their Teachers?.. Some educators suggest student surveys should be part of teacher-effectiveness evaluations

By John Mooney, January 10, 2013 in Education|

With all the debate in New Jersey and elsewhere about evaluating teachers on how well their students perform, another idea is starting to surface that could prove equally provocative: judging teachers by what their students think of them.

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One of the options available to New Jersey school districts as they build teacher evaluation systems is including student surveys among the “multiple measures” of student achievement. The idea is gaining popularity, at least among policy-makers.

Several districts that have been part of the pilot program testing evaluation models have included or plan to include student surveys, although not necessarily as part of a teacher's grade.

In Alexandria, for instance, teachers survey their students and are required to employ the results in developing self-evaluations and professional goals.

Still, those surveys are not part of the evaluations themselves, and one principal said that’s where it could get problematic.

“I’m not sure that children have enough knowledge about pedagogy to evaluate teachers,” said David Pawlowski, principal of the Alexandria Middle School. “That gets into a tricky area.”

The idea is gaining traction nationally, however, with the release this week of the final report of the massive Measures for Effective Teaching (MET) research project conducted by the Bill & Belinda Gates Foundation, which looked at a variety of ways of evaluating teachers.

In preliminary findings released over the past few years, the MET study suggested both student achievement and classroom observation be given strong weight in judging the effectiveness of teachers. It’s a common refrain in school reform circles and a centerpiece of teacher evaluation systems in dozens of states, including New Jersey.

But the study also included student surveys as a central component, saying that their judgments provide valuable insight as to how well a teacher is supporting and communicating with his or her charges.

“Only recently have many policymakers and practitioners come to recognize that --when asked the right questions, in the right ways -- students can be an important source of information on the quality of teaching and the learning environment in individual classrooms,” reads the introduction to the MET brief on student surveys.

How that is done is where it can get complicated, however, and New Jersey is only starting to grapple with that issue as it demands every district have an evaluation system in place by next fall.

The guidelines and regulations for those systems are yet to be distributed, and state officials said they are continuing to develop and discuss what will be in them, including the possibility of student surveys.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf yesterday said that student input is an intriguing option among many for judging teacher effectiveness, but said it is too early to tell how important it might be.

“I am intrigued by recent research indicating that they may be valid as one element of an approach that incorporates multiple indicators,” he wrote in an email. “At the same time, I share the concerns of some educators about student surveys, so would not want to take any steps in that direction without soliciting their views and perspective.”

And there are plenty of views and perspectives.

The chief lobbyist for the state’s principals association said the survey information is valuable for a teacher’s own growth, but should not be included in actual ratings.

“Such survey results should be used by the teacher or principal as formative data to be used by the administrator to inform and improve their practice, not as part of the calculation of their rating,” said Debra Bradley, government relations director for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

In Alexandria, Pawlowski said that it has been “eye-popping” in some ways for teachers to hear directly from their students. The surveys are given as early as kindergarten, where the questions are simple and the answers come with a sad or smiley face.

But as the students get older, they are asked questions like whether they think all their classmates are treated fairly or that they are challenged on a daily basis.

None of the actual surveys are shared with administrators, Pawlowski said. They're used by the teachers to reflect on and improve their own work.

“If 70 percent of the students say that not every kid is treated fairly, that is certainly something to reflect upon,” he said.

It’s not always an easy adjustment for teachers, Pawlowski added.

“It can build anxiety and concern as to how it will be used,” he said. “But once we have gotten into it, I think they’ve appreciated the feedback and even made some real changes



Star Ledger - Treasury audit: N.J. finished fiscal year with $123M budget gap

By Jarrett Renshaw/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger Jan 09, 2013 at 4:15 PM, updated Jan 09, 2013 at 7:48 PM


TRENTON — New Jersey closed the 2012 fiscal year with a $123 million shortfall, forcing Gov. Chris Christie to tap into his rainy-day fund, which was already meager, to close the budget gap and raising fresh questions about how he plans to overcome the state’s current problems.

The details were part of the annual audit released yesterday by the Treasury Department.

Overall, revenue from the major tax sources grew by 2.8 percent in fiscal 2012, which ended on June 30, about $275 million less than Christie had hoped. However, after he cut spending by $195 million, a $123 million shortfall still remained, the audit states.

The release settles a one-sided feud touched off by Christie when he called David Rosen, the Legislature’s top budget officer, the "Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers" for challenging the governor’s more optimistic revenue projections.

It turns out Rosen was more accurate than Christie.

"I think the administration should recognize that he was more accurate," said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), the budget committee chairman.

A spokesman for Christie did not respond to requests for comment.

The reliance on the state’s cash reserves reduces the fiscal safety net Christie anticipated in the current $31.7 billion budget, which is already showing a significant revenue shortfall. Through October, state revenue collections are $451 million short of the governor’s projections.

Christie projected the state would end this fiscal year with $648 million in cash reserves, but after the drawdown of $123 million, now that number is $525 million, not much higher than the current shortfall.

Christie’s revenue projections have come under intense scrutiny by Democratic lawmakers and Wall Street analysts since he predicted last year that New Jersey would have the most robust revenue rebound of any state.

The governor had been depending on revenue growth of 8.4 percent in the current budget, but actual growth has been less than 1 percent in the first five months of the fiscal year, Rosen said.


Politickernj - State audit of Katzenbach School cites large, 'inefficient' campus use for dwindling student body

By State Street Wire Staff | January 9th, 2013 - 3:49pm

TRENTON – A state audit of a 130-year-old school for the deaf found a campus “too large and inefficient’’ in light of declining enrollment.

An audit of the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf, which is on 110 acres in Ewing, said that its enrollment has dwindled from 203 in 2008-09 to 168 in 2011-12. The report was released today by the state Auditor.

“The school’s facilities and grounds are vastly underutilized,’’ the audit stated.

The school, which has eight dormitory buildings that could hold 369 students, had a residential student enrollment of 74 during 2011-12, 20 percent of capacity, according to the audit.

While enrollment has dropped 17 percent over the last three years, the school’s expenditures have risen 9.2 percent in the same period, the audit stated.

At one point in its past, the school accommodated nearly 600 students, according to the report.

The state Education Department is in the midst of conducting a study to “determine a more cost-effective manner’’ to meet student needs, the audit reported.

“A change in location should be considered,’’ the audit recommended.

In a response, Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf agreed that “all alternatives’’ must be examined.

The audit also touched on financial issues, including that terminated employees were not always removed from the payroll in a timely manner. The Education Department responded that it was addressing this and other issues.

Read more at http://www.politickernj.com/62240/state-audit-katzenbach-school-cites-large-inefficient-campus-use-dwindling-student-body?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Wake%20Up%20Call%20NJ&utm_campaign=Wake%20Up%20Call#ixzz2HaGxXiaz
or sign up for a free trial of State Street Wire at http://www.politickernj.com/freetrial


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