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5-16-15 Education Issues in the News
The Record - NJ Assembly bill proposal advances, seeks time-out on applying Common Core academic standards

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Bill Would Let Schools Ease Into Common Core Standards, New Testing...But Christie and state education officials remain committed to implementing new requirements

Star Ledger- Assembly committee approves bill that would delay key parts of education

NJ Spotlight - Interactive Map: Per-Pupil Costs Vary Widely in New Jersey’s Schools...Biggest total annual spending total last year was staggering $1 billion in Newark

Star Ledger- Camden superintendent: Staff members who protested with students will be 'disciplined'

The Record - NJ Assembly bill proposal advances, seeks time-out on applying Common Core academic standards

May 15, 2014, 7:26 PM    Last updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 7:26 PM

By HANNAN ADELY

staff writer

The Record

TRENTON — A bill that would delay the use of new standardized tests and create a task force to investigate related Common Core academic standards was released by an Assembly committee Thursday.

New Jersey and 44 states have adopted Common Core, which supporters say sets more rigorous and clear standards, and have begun to apply it in classrooms. The state will require the computer-based tests for all districts in the 2014-15 school year.

But educators and parents who spoke at Assembly meeting said schools simply were not ready for it and the testing put excessive burdens on schools and students.

Patrick Fletcher, superintendent of the River Dell School District, said schools didn’t have adequate technology or technology funding and that the nine-hour tests for students in grades 3 to 11 robbed schools of instructional time.

“My colleagues here and across the state are not asking you to stop these reform efforts,” he said. “We are simply asking you to get them right.”

Representatives from the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Organization also spoke in support of the bill.

Parents were concerned about the stress on students because of the long tests and the lack of local input in Common Core standards. Kim Barron, a parent from Mahwah, said there was too much emphasis on high-stakes testing and that “children aren’t being given the opportunity to learn.”

The Assembly bill’s lead sponsors are Mila Jasey, D-Essex, and Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex. The bill would establish a task force to investigate the costs and effectiveness of the Common Core standards in New Jersey schools. It would delay the use of the tests as a basis for student performance in teacher and principal evaluation and for purposes of graduation. It also would give students the option of taking the tests online or with a pencil and paper, or a combination of the two, until two years after the bill’s enactment.

The bill now heads to a vote by the full Assembly.  A corresponding Senate bill is in committee, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May.

Email: adely@northjersey.com

 

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Bill Would Let Schools Ease Into Common Core Standards, New Testing

John Mooney | May 16, 2014

But Christie and state education officials remain committed to implementing new requirements

 

What it is: A bill sponsored by state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex) seeks to slow down the impact of new state testing, while calling for creation of a task force to explore questions surrounding the state’s transition to the Common Core standards and new PARCC testing.

Dim prospects: The bill, A-3082, calls for slower implementation of the new standards and testing, especially with the new online PARCC exams now under field testing. But both the governor’s office and the state education department said little has changed in their own commitment to implementing the new requirements.

The bill: A consolidation of several bills, the legislation seeks to create a 16-member “education reform task force” to determine how the new Common Core and PARCC testing requirements will be implemented. The bill calls for a delay of up to two years in the use of PARCC results to measure student and teacher progress.

Supported by educators:Among more than 30 advocates and others speaking in favor of the bill yesterday were the president of the New Jersey Education Association and representatives of the state’s principals and superintendents groups.

The pricetag: Among a number of concerns raised about how the changes are rolling out, is the budget impact -- the president of the school board in Washington Township in Gloucester County said the cost of the new testing and teaching training is nearing $5 million just in her district.

Too much, too soon: “What I’ve heard is not an objection to the evaluation piece or even the Common Core, but the fact that it is happening all at once,” Jasey said. “They really don’t have the capacity to do it and do it well. We want to do it, but we want to do it well and we’re just spinning at this point.”

State officials absent: No representatives of the state Department of Education attended the hearing yesterday. That prompted the committee’s’ chairman, state Assemblyman Patrick Diegan Jr. (D-Middlesex), to say, “This is beyond annoying.”

View from the Senate: The chairman of the Senate’s education committee, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), said yesterday said she had yet to review the bill, but agreed with slowing down implementation of at least some of the requirements. Ruiz said she would favor postponing for a year the use of the new PARCC testing in measuring individual teacher and student performance.

Quote: “This is something that is new to New Jersey, and we have to be responsible in its rollout,” Ruiz said. “The point is not to get into the middle of this and have unintended consequences.”

What happens next: While the Assembly bill moves to passage in that chamber, there is not yet a companion bill in the Senate. While Ruiz said yesterday said that she would entertain such a bill in the Senate education committee, she said she is also looking at other alternatives, including state administrative code and regulations.

 

Star Ledger- Assembly committee approves bill that would delay key parts of education reform

 

By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger 5-15-14
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
 

TRENTON — The message was simple: Slow down and do it right.

After listening to more than three dozen teachers, parents, and school administrators describe the perils of the state’s new curriculum and the computer-based tests that track student achievement, the Assembly Education Committee voted unanimously today to delay the consequences of the "high-stakes" tests expected to be given next spring.

The bill allows the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests to be used next spring as planned, but the results will not count toward student achievement, teacher evaluations or school effectiveness for two years while a 15-member task force investigates its costs and use.

"The bill doesn’t slow implementation of PARCC tests, just the stakes attached to them," the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), said.

"We’re going to evaluate the test before we attach the high stakes."

The bill, which was approved 8-0 with bipartisan support, creates a 15-member panel that will explore the Common Core State Standards and the computer-based test that measures students’ mastery of the curricula. The panel will also investigate the potential effectiveness of the test on teacher and principal evaluations, the centerpiece of the TEACHNJ tenure reform bill that Gov. Chris Christie signed in 2012.

The panel will also calculate the cost of the test, audit the technological needs of school districts and explore the privacy issues surrounding the PARCC data.

The bill will go to the full Assembly for a vote. A similar version is pending in the Senate.

Most of the speakers praised the bill, saying it acknowledges what they have been saying for two years. Teachers and administrators haven’t had enough time to adapt to the new curricula and the tests that will measure student progress — and determine whether teachers are effective. The tests also take too much time from classroom instruction and require cash-strapped districts to spend too much money on technology, they said.

"Slow down and get this right," Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. "We are on a course for certain failure. We cannot afford to let that happen."

Michael Vrancik of the New Jersey School Boards Association was the only voice of dissent. The NJSBA supports the task force, he said, but, "We don’t want to delay anything. We have to move through this process. The Common Core was adopted nearly four years ago. We need to keep moving forward."

But several parents, including Lisa Grieco-Rodgers of South Brunswick, warned lawmakers that parents might step in if they don’t act.

The mother of two said she was among a growing number of parents choosing to opt out of the tests.

"I will pull them from the PARCC," she said. "We must stop this madness."

 

NJ Spotlight - Interactive Map: Per-Pupil Costs Vary Widely in New Jersey’s Schools

Colleen O'Dea | May 16, 2014

Biggest total annual spending total last year was staggering $1 billion in Newark

Hover over a district to see its total spent, click for more information. The map does not include charter schools and the county districts and some elementary districts may be obscured by the regional high school districts to which they send students. For data on those districts, and all districts, check NJ Spotlight's searchable database.

It costs between $8,400 and nearly $100,000 per student to educate and operate New Jersey's school districts and charter schools, according to new data from the state Department of Education.

The 2014 version of the Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending, released last Friday, provides per-pupil spending data in 17 categories. For most, it ranks how each district's spending compared with those of similar size and type.

The guide also provides calculations of the grand total cost per pupil to operate New Jersey's 661 school districts and charter schools, including state payments on behalf of districts for their employees' pension, Social Security and retirement medical costs, as well as tuition and debt service costs borne by the districts.

That total averaged $18,891 last year, up 4.8 percent from 2011-12.

In calculating those costs, the state counted all students for which a district is responsible, including those it sends out to special-education or vocational schools.

There's a wide range of costs, from $8,440 for each of 117 students at the Classical Academy Charter School in Clifton to $93,953 for each of 667 students served by the Bergen County Special Services District.

Because of very small class sizes, special education can be very expensive, and the special services districts that provide that service, and others like transportation, held the top six spots for spending last year.

Avalon, a small K-8 district in Cape May County, ranked most costly among non-special services districts, with a total of $43,775 for each of 106 students. The lowest-spending regular district was East Greenwich, a K-6 in Gloucester, with a cost of $12,585 for each of its 1,203 students.

The grand total spent by and on behalf of some districts can seem staggering. The total cost of education in Newark, the state's largest district, with nearly 43,000 students, was $1.04 billion. Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth all spent more than $500 million.

At the other end of the spectrum, education spending at Classical Academy and in the tiny Stockton K-6 district in Hunterdon County, which with just 52 students is New Jersey's smallest regular public school district, totaled less than $1 million.

To get an idea of the costs borne by local tax dollars, the guide includes a budgetary or comparative amount per pupil. That is considered a better measure for comparing spending among districts because it includes most items paid with local taxes and state aid. The state average budgeted per pupil this year is $14,781, 4.3 percent higher than what was spent last year. That's about $4,100 less than the grand total amount spent.

The DOE has been releasing the guide, formerly known as the Comparative Spending Guide, since 1977, as a way for people to see and compare how their school districts are spending money. Three years ago, the state changed the guide to give a more complete accounting of spending.

The the full guide is available online.

The map atop the page shows the grand total spent per pupil by district. Because some districts overlap, not all districts are visible in the map. Charter schools and county districts are also not mapped. But all the districts and charter schools are in NJ Spotlight's searchable database. It includes the totals and several other categories of data and is accessible via the search box above or by clicking here.

Note: If you are looking at districts' ranks, a lower-spending district will have a lower number rank. The district spending the least will rank first. Higher-spending districts have higher ranks.

Here are the number of districts in each category:

·         K-6: 59

·         K-8, less than 400 students: 71

·         K-8, 401-750 students: 64

·         K-8, more than 750 students: 84

·         K-12, less than 1,800 students: 49

·         K-12, 1,800-3,500 students: 68

·         K-12, more than 3,500 students: 103

·         Regional high schools: 47

·         Special services: 8

·         Vocational: 21

·         Charters: 78

Star Ledger- Camden superintendent: Staff members who protested with students will be 'disciplined'

By Jason Laday/South Jersey Times South Jersey Newspapers
on May 15, 2014 at 7:10 PM, updated May 15, 2014 at 7:15 PM

 

CAMDEN — Following Wednesday's student walkouts protesting teacher layoffs, Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard issued guidelines to district officials stating that while students should be shown some leniency, teachers who participated will be "disciplined."

The email, provided to the South Jersey Times by the district, stresses that "students need to be in school," and that any protests should take place outside of the school day. He added that disciplinary actions against students who stage future walkouts should avoid suspensions and expulsions.

"Students need to be in school, and suspending students will only take students out of the classroom," reads the email, sent shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday. "If students continue to leave school, responses should be adjusted accordingly.

"But now is the time to engage students, in school, to hear out their concerns and share accurate information."

School employees will be shown much less latitude with regard to their behavior. According to the email, staff members who left school early on Wednesday to join the protests "will be disciplined."

In the email, Rouhanifard asked school principals to provide the names, positions and departure times of all staff members who walked out.

"Obviously, staff members have the right to share their opinions, too, but any demonstrating needs to happen outside of the work day," said Rouhanifard in the email.

According to the superintendent, district officials will be visiting schools to speak with students directly throughout the next two weeks.

In addition, parents will be receiving calls at home about "the importance of students being in school throughout the day."

More than 300 students from multiple city schools staged a walkout Wednesday, and marched to the district administration building to protest the termination of 241 school employees, including 206 teachers.

Those 241 layoffs follow the termination of 94 central administration employees late last month.

The Camden school district began the most recent budget process with a $75 million deficit, including a $42 million operating budget shortfall. According to Rouhanifard, non-personnel cuts and the use of surplus funds have helped fill all but $28 million of that gap. However, the superintendent said the remaining gap will have to be reconciled with the elimination of 575 positions, many of them vacant.

In all, 335 central office and school employees have been laid off.

Students, with leadership from a group of adults identifying themselves as parents and community activists, have stated they are planning more walkouts and marches for next week, including a protest in front of city hall next Tuesday, and in Trenton the following Thursday.

Contact staff writer Jason Laday at 856-686-3628 or jladay@southjerseymedia.com.

 

 


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609-394-2828



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