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3-17-14 Education Issues in the News
Philadelphia Inquirer - N.J. legislators look to expand school breakfast program "New Jersey legislators are pushing to expand access to school breakfast programs in an effort to stem hunger and improve focus in the classroom among the state's youth.An Assembly panel advanced legislation Monday that would require more public schools to offer breakfast. Another bill would encourage school districts and nonpublic schools to serve breakfast in first-period class..."

NJ Spotlight - ‘Calculator’ Helps NJ Teachers Figure Whether They’ll Make the Grade...Online tool helps determine where they might fall within new ‘ineffective’ to ‘highly effective’ evaluation system

NJ Spotlight - The List: New Jersey's 'Edubloggers' Talk Policy, Politics -- and Technology...Ten of the state's leading education bloggers make every aspect of learning and teaching (and administering) their business

> Phildadelhia Inquirer -N.J. legislators look to expand school breakfast program
>

by Andrew Seidman March 11, 2014
>
> New Jersey legislators are pushing to expand access to school breakfast programs in an effort to stem hunger and improve focus in the classroom among the state's youth.
>
> An Assembly panel advanced legislation Monday that would require more public schools to offer breakfast. Another bill would encourage school districts and nonpublic schools to serve breakfast in first-period class.
>
> The legislative effort comes as more students have become eligible for school breakfast programs, and low-income families have lost assistance from the federal government because of a reduction in food stamp funding.  About 250,000 students in New Jersey eat school-provided breakfast, up 16 percent from last year, Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher told the Assembly Women and Children Committee. In 2013, 500,000 New Jersey students were eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts, according to an October report by Advocates of Children of New Jersey.
>
> Despite recent gains - the state ranks 37th on the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center's annual school breakfast scorecard, up from 46th in 2013 - the breakfast program serves far fewer students than the 650,000 who eat school-provided lunches.  "We still have a ways to go," Fisher said.
>
> The disparity, in part, arises out of timing. All students are at school during the lunch period, while breakfast is frequently served before school starts.  To that end, the committee unanimously advanced a bill that would encourage the state to work with schools to establish breakfast programs in which meals would be served at the beginning of first-period class. Some schools already use this "breakfast after the bell" program.
>
> Supporters said the program does not take away from instruction time, since teachers can use the opportunity to talk about nutrition. Moreover, students have trouble concentrating on empty stomachs. "We know when they don't have breakfast, they don't perform near as well," Fisher said.
>
> Another barrier to eligible students' receiving school meals is the stigma of poverty that some school districts associate with the programs, Fisher said. "We can't force a district to do it," he said.
>
> A separate bill, which advanced with three yes votes and two abstentions, would require schools in which 5 percent of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price meals to serve breakfast. Under current law, the threshold is 20 percent for breakfast and 5 percent for lunch.  The program is federally funded, and schools are reimbursed for the meals. The state matches the funding for lunches with $5 million.
>
> "If it's working for lunch, it should work for breakfast," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden), a sponsor of the legislation and chairwoman of the committee.
>
> Sharon Seyler, legislative advocate for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said she was concerned that expanding the number of schools required to offer the breakfasts could become financially burdensome for districts. If not enough people participate, she said, school districts may not receive full reimbursements.  The legislation still needs to pass the full Assembly and Senate before it would head to Gov. Christie's desk.

 

NJ Spotlight - ‘Calculator’ Helps NJ Teachers Figure Whether They’ll Make the Grade

John Mooney | March 17, 2014

Online tool helps determine where they might fall within new ‘ineffective’ to ‘highly effective’ evaluation system

Figuring out exactly how New Jersey’s public school teachers will be rated under the state’s new evaluation system has been a little vexing, so the state Department of Education has put out an online “calculator’ for teachers to figure out how they might fare.

The new calculator goes a long way to simplifying how the various ratings – from “ineffective” to “highly effective” -- will be determined for the teachers.

Related Links

Teacher Evaluation Calculator

To be sure, the tool offers a range of interesting scenarios, depending on the teacher’s circumstances.

For teachers who will be gauged in part on state test scores, even good ratings from class observations may not save a teacher from at least a “partially effective” rating if their students haven’t shown above-average gains on the tests.

Yet for the vast majority of teachers who will not be gauged on test scores in the first years, the classroom observations will be almost the sole determinate. These teachers are still being required to set student performance goals based on other measures, but at 15 percent of the rating, the calculator shows how these goals’ impact is limited.

For example, even a teacher who does not meet any of those performance goals would still get an “effective” rating if he or she gets at least 3 out of a maximum of 4 points in the classroom-observation component.

The department said the calculator was only meant to help teachers test out different scenarios that will lead to their final grade, which is known as the “summative rating.” These final ratings will still be set by the districts and, ultimately, the state.

“Official summative ratings are calculated by an educator's district/the Department, but this tool can help educators get a sense of how the various components of an evaluation can affect a summative score,” said a memo to districts last week from assistant education commissioner Peter Shulman, in unveiling the new tool.

 

NJ Spotlight - The List: New Jersey's 'Edubloggers' Talk Policy, Politics -- and Technology

John Mooney | March 17, 2014

Ten of the state's leading education bloggers make every aspect of learning and teaching (and administering) their business

 

Never short of voices questioning and commenting on education policy and practice, New Jersey enjoys a robust roster of active bloggers on the issue.

This list of the top education blogs in the state is loosely organized in order of influence, as gauged by a combination of quality, quantity, buzz, and an informal survey of peers and others.

Unsurprisingly, this list of "edubloggers" is dominated by those focusing on policy, a cottage industry these days, especially among critics of the Christie administration’s education reforms. Some bloggers concentrate chiefly commentary; others do a considerable amount of independent research and reporting. This list favors the latter.

A few blogs dedicated to the practice of education, rather than just politics, are included as well -- drawn from the sizable collection of edubloggers across the state, some with a national audience.

1. Will Richardson

A South Hunterdon Regional High School teacher turned speaker, author, and consultant, Richardson is a pioneer among education bloggers. Starting in 2001, he was among the first to integrate the Internet into classroom instruction -- not just in New Jersey but nationwide. Ever insightful and provocative – his mantra: “Time to Rethink Education” -- Richardson’s blog has evolved over the years and remains a must-visit site for educators thinking about the future of their craft. Just ask his 47,000 Twitter followers.

2. schoolFinance101.com

The site is home to Bruce Baker, a professor of education policy at Rutgers University. Despite the title, Baker takes on all sorts of education policy issues, in New Jersey and elsewhere, and has proved a leading -- and incredibly prolific -- voice of dissent to the Christie administration’s math in its school funding and its charter school policies.

3. New Jersey Left Behind

The brainchild of Laura Waters, a policy wonk by hobby more than trade, and an unabashed defender of the school reform movement. She also serves on the Lawrenceville school board, adding to her perspective. (Full disclosure: Waters is a regular guest columnist for NJ Spotlight, as is another member of this list).

4. A Principal’s Reflections

New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger writes often and regularly about the issues of school leadership in New Jersey. And if you doubt his influence, Sheninger has more than 50,000 Twitter followers.

5. Jersey Jazzman

Another Christie antagonist (and NJ Spotlight columnist), Warren Township teacher Mark Weber is among the best-read in New Jersey’s anti-reform circles -- and national circles, too.

6. TeachIngenuity

The blog is written by David Janosz, a longtime leader in the state on the use of technology in education. His site is a little more tech-centered, but is accessible to anyone interested in its mission of “developing the power of creative imagination in young people.”

7. Mother Crusader

Blogger Darcie Cimarusti is one of the early organizers of Save Our Schools NJ, a grassroots group that has become a leading progressive voice in the state. Her blog is especially focused on holding accountable state’s ever-expanding charter school movement.

8. Bob Braun’s Ledger

Braun has more than 40 years as an education reporter and columnist in New Jersey with the Newark Star-Ledger. Since leaving the Ledger, his blog has become a must-read in the debates about Newark’s reform efforts under superintendent Cami Anderson.

9. JerseyCAN

This is one of the newer education blogs in the state, created by an organization chaired by former Gov. Tom Kean and more aligned with the reform movement than with its critics. The blog itself is a joint effort of the organization’s staff, led by Janellen Duffy, education advisor during the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine.

10. Brad Currie Blog

Brad Currie is a vice principal and supervisor in Chester district schools and a pioneer in a movement of New Jersey school leaders going online to share their ideas on how teachers teach and children learn. Currie cofounded the popular #Satchat discussions that take place on Twitter every Saturday morning, and span the country. His blog was a finalist for an Edublog Award in 2013.

 


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