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5-29-14 Education Issues in Recent News
South Bergenite - Carlstadt board to ask state to lift superintendent salary cap

Education Week - PARCC Consortium Lowers Price of Common-Core Tests

Education Week - Student Privacy Laws Need Updating, White House Report Says

South Bergenite - Carlstadt board to ask state to lift superintendent salary cap
May 2014 Kelly Nicholaides South Bergenite

The Carlstadt Board of Education is scrambling to try and keep Superintendent Stephen Kollinok, even though his contract does not expire until June 2015. The veteran educator who has been working in the district for more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator, became superintendent in 2008, with a starting salary of $140,000, and he will be earning $177,161 by the end of his contract.

Under the state salary cap for superintendents, Kollinok's maximum salary is $135,000 for a district Carlstadt's size. However, because his contract was approved prior to the salary cap put in place by Gov. Chris Christie in 2010. Kollinok's salary is not subject to a cap until his contract expires.

Board members are already worried about the June 2015 expiration date, noting that a deep salary cut of approximately $40,000 would perhaps make Kollinok look at other districts for employment.

"Eighty-five to 90 percent of superintendents are interim, and school boards are talking to legislators recommending that districts remove the cap, submit a resolution and send it to state legislators and the governor. The pool for superintendents is extremely small. We're not getting a lot of superintendents applying, or they're using some districts as a stepping stone," said board member Bruce Young at the April 29 board work session. "Look at what happened at Becton and East Rutherford. We don't want a possible loss of our superintendent due to the salary cap. It's about consistency. We want to keep our educational system in Carlstadt consistent, not have superintendents use it as a stepping stone."

After the meeting, Young said that he understood where the governor was coming from regarding saving money through salary caps, but the move has led to a mass exodus of superintendents who retire, collect their pensions and benefits, and then take interim positions in various districts for a maximum of two years per district. The positions pay higher salaries but with no benefits.

"Eighty-five percent of the superintendents in Bergen County are interim," Young said. "There are no principals who want the job, and interims make up to three times the salaries," Young said.

Becton Regional High School and East Rutherford districts have been using interim superintendents for several years. For the last three, they have been sharing interim superintendent Gary Bowen, who splits his time between Becton and Faust and McKenzie Schools until July 2014.

With Becton's school construction project completed, Becton's board of education members felt that Becton needed its own superintendent to focus on the needs of high school students. The district hired longtime Becton educator Louise Clarke to be Becton's superintendent, beginning in July. Clarke will earn $137,000 a year, and she marks an end to the revolving door of interim superintendents that began with Paul Saxton, who cost the district approximately $900 a day five years ago. Saxton was replaced with David Mango, who left for a higher paying superintendent job closer to his home in another district.

In East Rutherford, former Lyndhurst Superintendent Joseph Abate was hired to replace Bowen at East Rutherford Public Schools (Faust and McKenzie). Abate, who will earn $145,000 annually, will be the district's second interim superintendent over a span of five years.

Abate retired from Lyndhurst in 2010 after 17 years as that district's superintendent. His compensation package was $203,406, with 219.5 days of unused sick time, 30 unused vacation days and two personal days on top of his pension of $103,104 annually.

Complicating matters in Carlstadt, in addition to the board officials looking to keep Kollinok, the board is in the process of negotiating with the teachers' union, whose contract expires in July.

Education Week - PARCC Consortium Lowers Price of Common-Core Tests
May 2014, Catherine Gewertz, Education Week

The PARCC testing consortium announced Friday that it has lowered the price of its common-core assessments by more than $5 per student.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College or Careers said its tests would cost, at most, about $24 per student, a significant drop from the initial projection of $29.50 per student. The new price is for the computer-based version of the tests, which debut next spring. The decrease means that for just over half of PARCC's member states, the tests are more affordable than those the states currently use.

While the price has been lowered, the precise figure has not been finalized. Consortium officials said that the final price will be determined in part by the number of students who take the tests, information that's an unknown until states make formal orders for the assessments.

As you can see below, the pricing structure has a few variables in it. The first is how many students end up taking the tests. PARCC's price estimates fall into three categories, with the lowest price available in a "high volume" scenario, and the highest price accompanying a "low volume" scenario.

Prices also vary by grade band. Grades 3-8 are packaged as a math and English/language arts set, while PARCC's high school end-of-course tests are packaged by individual subject, splitting the cost evenly between math and English/language arts.

Rolled together, it boils down to this: If uptake for the tests is low, states would pay about $24 per student for the assessments in grades 3-8, and $25 in high school. If uptake soars, those figures decline to about $19 and $20.

With all that in mind, here is PARCC's pricing structure. It might be a bit easier to put the "volume" bands into better context if you keep in mind that there about 10 million students in grades 3-11 in the PARCC member states that still plan to use the consortium's tests.

Another thing to notice about this pricing structure is that there's a bigger price gap between the computer and paper-and-pencil versions of the exams. Initially, PARCC said states would pay a few more dollars per student for the transitional paper version. Now that differential is $9 in grades 3-8 and $5.50 to $7 in high school.

PARCC disclosed the new price structure as part of an announcement that Pearson and a team of subcontractors have won a major contract to do the next major phase of work on building the tests. (My colleague Sean Cavanagh has more details on the contract and the negotiation over at the Marketplace K-12 blog.)

James Mason, the assessment director in Mississippi and a leader of the state team that negotiated the contract, said the $24-per-student price was reached after "very aggressive negotiating" with Pearson, which won the contract (and was the sole bidder).

That contract covers delivering and administering the tests, reporting the results, analyzing scores, and coordinating with states in the development of cut scores, all during the first four years of the test. It also includes writing items and building forms for Year Two of the tests.

The subcontractors on the new contract include the Educational Testing Service, WestEd, Measured Progress, and Caveon.

An earlier item-development contract, which covered the writing of the first 10,000-plus test items for Year One, depends on some of the same companies. Pearson and ETS are the two prime contractors, and Measured Progress is one of the subcontractors.

Education Week - Student Privacy Laws Need Updating, White House Report Says
May 12, 2014 Michele Molnar  Education Week

A White House report released today recommends modernizing the privacy regulatory framework that governs how student data is handled.

Doing so would seek to accomplish two goals, according to the publication. First, it would protect students from having their data shared or used inappropriately, especially when that data is gathered in an educational context. Secondly, it would "ensure that innovation in educational technology, including new approaches and business models, have ample opportunity to flourish," according to the report, "Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values," released by John Podesta, counselor to President Obama.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA, and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, or COPPA, are two laws intended to protect the privacy of children. They have come under fire recently from some privacy advocates for being antiquated in this high-tech age of data collection, cloud data storage, and data-mining.

FERPA, which was written before the Internet existed, is intended to protect disclosure of the personally identifiable information contained in children's education records. And COPPA, which requires parental consent under certain conditions for the online collection of personal information from children under age 13, was written before the age of smartphones, tablets, apps, the cloud, and big data.

"When they say 'modernize,' we say, 'build upon' because I don't want to get away from the privacy protections that current laws already afford," said Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer for the Washington-based nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed 14 pages of comments on big data for the White House report before it was released.

Barnes viewed the report favorably, in general, but took issue with a statement that education technologies are already being deployed "with strong privacy and safety protections for students, inside and outside of the classroom." She mentioned statewide longitudinal databases and cloud computing databases "being used every day that do not adequately protect students."

The Software & Information Industry Association, a trade group for technology businesses, issued a statement concurring about the value of big data to support student learning. However, the group known as SIIA said, "modernizing privacy rules need not involve new legislation."

"The federal government has taken important recent steps in modernizing the privacy regulatory framework by updating COPPA and FERPA guidance," said the statement released by Mark Schneiderman, senior director of education policy for the organization, who also blogged on the issue. "The SIIA also agrees that the opportunity goes beyond protection to empowering students with information that can improve their learning, as well as with the digital literacy to ensure appropriate use of their personally sensitive data throughout their lives."

The White House report included a policy recommendation to ensure that data collected on students in school is used for educational purposes. "Big data and other technological innovations, including new online course platforms that provide students real time feedback, promise to transform education by personalizing learning," the report stated. "At the same time, the federal government must ensure educational data linked to individual students gathered in school is used for educational purposes, and protect students against their data being shared or used inappropriately."

Common Sense Media, an organization that hosted a "School Privacy Zone" summit of education leaders in Washington this February, reacted favorably to the report. "The development of social, mobile and educational technologies have created exciting and immersive environments for young people resulting in a proliferation of sensitive digital data about them," said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of the organization, in remarks sent via email.

"Today's report is a major statement from the White House that as the internet continues to become a source of learning, innovation, and economic growth, the privacy and security of our nation's kids will be a national priority."

Besides a focus on education, the report covers "big data" as it is used today in other realms, including health care, law enforcement, and homeland security.

UPDATE: This post was updated at 9:45 p.m. to include the White House report's policy recommendation about data collection for education purposes.


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