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10-30-14 Common Core, Schol Security - In the News

Press of Atlantic City - New Jersey education chief pushes Common Core

10-29-14 by Diane D’AmicoCurrent print subscribers

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“And I believe we will get the last 10 percent,” he told attendees at the annual New Jersey School Boards Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center, asking them to have the courage to see the process through.

Hespe acknowledged that there is apprehension about the new PARCC tests based on the Common Core State Standards, but he said testing is crucial to gathering data needed to improve education for all students today and into the future.

In a speech titled “Rising to the Challenge,” Hespe noted that only slightly more than 40 percent of high school graduates are prepared for college-level work according to data compiled by the SAT and National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

He cited low graduation rates and high remediation rates at state and county colleges, saying it costs families time and money if a student is not prepared for college when they graduate from high school. The new tests, he said, will help provide the data to show where and how to improve.

“We need to provide information to parents, teachers and leaders, and we have to get better at assessments to do that,” he said.

Hespe said the testing in 2015 is crucial to beginning that process.

“Do we have the courage to implement PARCC on schedule and as planned?” he asked. “The final mile is a dangerous one. But this is an opportunity to make every child’s life more meaningful.”

He said he that once the data start coming in and can be used to improve instruction, he believes support will build and expects New Jersey to remain among the top-ranked states. Hespe said the state has a lot to be proud of and consistently leads the nation in NAEP results. But, he said, there is still a large achievement gap for minority and low-income students.

He showed a short video of educators talking about the new Common Core standards and asked board members to stay informed about the process. The video will be posted on the department’s website.

After his speech, he said he knows some critics are encouraging parents to have their child opt out of the testing. He said he would ask them to have their children take the test, get the results, then decide whether it is useful.

“We do have a responsibility to make sure we get enough data to make good decisions,” he said. “I encourage parents to participate and see if the data help them make decisions for their child.”

The conference, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the New Jersey School Boards Association, continues today. The group first met in Atlantic City in 1953, and association spokesman Frank Belluscio said the Convention Center is the only venue in the state large enough to house the event.

Hespe, who talked with attendees before his speech, said he would be back at the conference today and looked forward to meeting more school board members. He joked that his approval rating so far Tuesday was about three to one in favor, and he was hoping to improve on that.

Contact Diane D’Amico:



@ACPressDamico on Twitter



NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: School Security Report Shows Increased Protections, Higher Costs….School boards association report outlines changes and recommendations for schools post-Sandy Hook

John Mooney | October 30, 2014


What it is: The New Jersey School Boards Association yesterday released the final report of its task force on school security, titled “What Makes Schools Safe.”

The report details the results of a survey of nearly half of the state’s school districts since the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT.

The vast majority of respondents are taking at least some steps to improve security. The report also offers a long list of 45 recommendation for further improvements.

What it means: The report brings new attention to school security, as the nation nears the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting where 20 children and six adults were killed. It focuses on key areas that include security personnel, hardware like cameras and alarms, staff training, safety drills, communications, and school climate. But the report makes clear that few of the improvements come cheap, especially personnel and hardware.

The task force: The school boards association’s task force was made up of nearly a dozen school board members and staff, and chaired by former association president Raymond Wiss and vice president Donald Webster. Over eight meetings, the group also tapped educators, law enforcement and security officials, academic experts, and state officials.

School survey: The effort included a survey of every district in the state, in which 273 districts -- close to half -- responded. Of those, 85 percent said they had made changes in their school security since the Sandy Hook shootings. Two-thirds were technological upgrades and almost half made architectural changes to their buildings. Nearly a third added security personnel.

No consensus on personnel: The focus of attention after Sandy Hook was whether to put additional police or other personnel in schools, and the report makes recommendations favoring the use of police “school resource officers.” But it stops short of saying every school should have such staffing, calling that a local decision, and raises strong reservations against the use of non-police security staff or even retired police.

The costs: About a quarter of districts surveyed said they would employ additional personnel if they could afford them. The report said the addition of school resource officers would cost between $88,000 and $150,000 per person.

Hardening schools: The report lays out a lengthy list of options concerning architectural and technological changes, including building secure vestibules at the entrance of schools and adding secure locks on schools doors, both external and to individual classrooms.

The costs: Cost is a barrier for a large number of surveyed schools, and the report lists the individual price tags of a variety of technological and architectural measures.

·         Bulletproof glass -- $300 per square foot

·         Classroom door locks -- $350 per door

·         Door contacts/entry buzzers -- $2,000 per door, plus software.

·         Entryway redesign -- $50,000 to $100,000.

·         Identification badges -- $1,000 or less.

·         Metal-detecting handheld wands -- $250 to $1,000 per unit.

·         Surveillance cameras -- $2,500 per unit (from $150,000 to $250,000 for a complete system)

Low-cost measure: Among the recommendations is the use of a clear “ballistic film” to coat windows at key entry points to prevent glass from shattering. “A shatterproof shield, which would prevent the type of entry that took place in Newtown, would cost approximately $10 to $16 per square foot installed,” the report read.

Focus on climate: The report puts special attention on building stronger school climate and culture through a variety of means, from formal support and counseling programs to heightened attention among staff for at-risk students.


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