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11-25-14 Education Issues in the News

Star Ledger - Why is this N.J. high school eliminating midterms and finals? ‘

By Jeff Goldman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 24, 2014 at 8:28 AM, updated November 24, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Figuring its students lose enough instruction time due to standardized tests, Glen Ridge High School is eliminating midterm and final examinations, according to a published report.

The Essex County school district used to schedule half-days for a week in January for midterms and then allot a week in June for finals. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, students will take quarterly exams as part of their 42-minute instructional periods.

The move comes as public high school students across the state prepare to take online tests in March and May. For example, ninth-graders will be administered five sessions of English language arts and four sessions of math testing. Each session will last 60 to 90 minutes for a total of 11 hours of exams, WSJ.com reported. The tests are expected to cut into 10 days of instruction.

Two other suburban Essex County school districts are also making changes to traditional exam schedules — Livingston is doing away with midterms, while Millburn is scrapping finals.

Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JGoldmanNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

NJ Spotlight - Arbitrators Rule Against Newark’s Anderson in Two More Tenure Cases…Superintendent taken to task for using two years of teacher evaluations when only one is allowed

John Mooney | November 25, 2014

 

It’s not quite a trend yet, but two more state-appointed arbitrators have sided with Newark teachers brought up on tenure charges by district superintendent Cami Anderson, claiming in both cases that her administration did not follow the proper process.

Following the first such decision against the district last month, the arbitrator in the case of teacher Neil Thomas found that Anderson again improperly cited two years of unsatisfactory evaluations in the tenure charges, when the TEACHNJ law allowing such determinations only went into full effect last year.

Related Links

In the Matter of Tenure Hearing of Neil Thomas

In the Matter of Tenure Hearing of Charles Coleman

NJ Department of Education “Clarification” Letter

Arbitrator Rules in Favor of Newark Teacher

“In the arbitrator’s opinion, the evaluation procedure set forth [in TEACHNJ] … has not been satisfied in the instant case,” wrote arbitrator Robert Simmelkjaer in the Thomas decision.

“The statutory language, along with implementing regulations, which were not in full force and effect during 2012-13 … convince the arbitrator that the charges are ‘insufficient’ and should be dismissed.”

In the second case of teacher Charles Coleman, arbitrator David Gregory found that Coleman’s principal had been inconsistent in her evaluation of the teacher, giving him low numerical scores but a “glowing narrative … regarding [his] actual classroom instruction.”

“Charging the respondent with inefficiency within days of this narrative is the quintessence of arbitrary and capricious action,” Gregory wrote.

The decisions, dated last week and posted by the state Department of Education yesterday, were a setback for Anderson, who has sought in the past year to use the powers under the new law to remove dozens of teachers her administration has deemed ineffective.

She has not lost all such cases, winning two of them this past spring. But the latest decisions were a specific rebuke of her strategy of citing two years of unsatisfactory ratings. It is the legal argument that is at the center of at least a dozen cases, said the Newark Teachers Union, which represented the teachers.

Anderson’s office had no further comment on the latest decisions yesterday.

The Christie administration sought to back Anderson after the first decision last month, issuing what it called a “clarification” to the district that said the law did not preclude such tenure charges in the first year for districts that had gone through a pilot year before the law was enacted.

Assistant commissioner Peter Shulman said the department did not intend “prohibition on school districts to use the 2012 - 2013 evaluation dated to make personal decisions, such as the decision to renew or nonrenew a nontenured teacher or the decision to bring a tenure charge of inefficiency against a tenured teacher.”

But Simmelkjaer, the arbitrator in the Thomas case, rejected Shulman’s interpretation. Further, Simmelkjaer said he found the department’s new guidance “problematic and inconsistent with previous communications from NJDOE” that said the pilot year evaluations were not to have job consequences attached to them.

 


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