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3-4-15 Education Issues in the News

Star Ledger- Is it too easy to become a teacher? State board to discuss standards

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
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on March 04, 2015 at 8:15 AM

TRENTON — New Jersey's Board of Education today will discuss requiring additional training time for student teachers and higher standards for substitutes.

The board is considering a proposal introduced last month that would implement more rigorous standards for teacher candidates.

Under the proposal, those who pursue a teaching career though an education program at a college or university would have their student teaching requirements doubled from a semester to an entire school year. They would also need to teach in two different school settings, including spending time with special needs students.

Alternative-route programs, which allow non-teachers to transition into careers in education, would be extended from one year to two. Those prospective teachers would also be required to stay in the same program from start to finish.

The proposed changed would also affect future substitute teachers. Currently required to have an associate degree or 60 college credits, substitutes would now be required compete a bachelor's degree.

In a presentation in February, Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said current requirements are not strong enough, making it too easy to get into a New Jersey classroom, especially for substitutes and out-of-state teachers.

A public testimony session on the changes will be held after the morning board meeting and a final vote won't come until a later date.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


NJ Spotlight - Nearly Quarter-Million NJ Students Take PARCC Exams on Day Two of Testing…Can you pass 11th-grade language arts test? Try answering a sample question from the exam

John Mooney | March 4, 2015

More than 240,000 Garden State students took the new online PARCC tests yesterday, more than in any of the other nearly dozen states taking part in the testing consortium, according to state officials.

Related Links

Third-Grade Math Sample Question

First-Grade Language Arts Sample Question

English-Language Arts Practice Tests

And in the second day of New Jersey’s statewide testing window, there were a few hiccups, to be sure.

Among the most notable problems was the shutdown of the PARCC help center in the late morning, preventing schools from calling in for assistance for two hours. Online chat and email support remained in place.

But overall, state officials said Day Two went smoothly

“Overall, there have been some localized issues, but when considering the sheer number taking the tests across the state, it has been generally quiet and business as usual,” said Michael Yaple, the state Department of Education’s communications director.

A couple of districts reported their own problems. Union Township faced a potential outside hacking of their internal computer network, all but stopping the testing until Thursday. West Windsor-Plainsboro schools encountered technical problems that delayed the testing for a few hours.

And state officials continued to deal with the opt-out movement that has seen large numbers of families in some school districts refusing to take part in the exams.

Yaple said the department wouldn’t have a total number for how many students opted out of PARCC until the end of the month-long testing window.

With the roll-out of the new testing, NJ Spotlight continues to post sample questions from PARCC’s practice tests. The latest installment is a practice question from the 11th grade language arts test, which will ultimately be one of the tests required for graduation.

The exercise, which asks students to gather evidence from multiple reading passages, is an example of PARCC’s emphasis on students showing research and analytic skills in both their reading and writing.

Read the passage from “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,” written by American author James Weldon Johnson in 1912. Then answer questions 3 and 4.

“The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” by James Weldon Johnson

1 I did not feel at ease until the ship was well out of New York harbor; and, notwithstanding the repeated reassurances of my millionaire friend and my own knowledge of the facts in the case, I somehow could not rid myself of the sentiment that I was, in a great degree, responsible for the widow’s tragic end. We had brought most of the morning papers aboard with us, but my great fear of seeing my name in connection with the killing would not permit me to read the accounts, although, in one of the papers, I did look at the picture of the victim, which did not in the least resemble her. This morbid state of mind, together with seasickness, kept me miserable for three or four days. At the end of that time my spirits began to revive, and I took an interest in the ship, my fellow passengers, and the voyage in general. On the second or third day out we passed several spouting whales; but I could not arouse myself to make the effort to go to the other side of the ship to see them. A little later we ran in close proximity to a large iceberg. I was curious enough to get up and look at it, and I was fully repaid for my pains. The sun was shining full upon it, and it glistened like a mammoth diamond, cut with a million facets. As we passed it constantly changed its shape; at each different angle of vision it assumed new and astonishing forms of beauty. I watched it through a pair of glasses, seeking to verify my early conception of an iceberg—in the geographies of my grammar-school days the pictures of icebergs always included a stranded polar bear, standing desolately upon one of the snowy crags. I looked for the bear, but if he was there he refused to put himself on exhibition.

2 It was not, however, until the morning that we entered the harbor of Havre that I was able to shake off my gloom. Then the strange sights, the chatter in an unfamiliar tongue and the excitement of landing and passing the customs officials caused me to forget completely the events of a few days before. Indeed, I grew so lighthearted that when I caught my first sight of the train which was to take us to Paris, I enjoyed a hearty laugh. The toy-looking engine, the stuffy little compartment cars with tiny, old-fashioned wheels struck me as being extremely funny. But before we reached Paris my respect for our train rose considerably. I found that the “tiny” engine made remarkably fast time, and that the old-fashioned wheels ran very smoothly. I even began to appreciate the “stuffy” cars for their privacy. As I watched the passing scenery from the car window it seemed too beautiful to be real. The bright- colored houses against the green background impressed me as the work of some idealistic painter. Before we arrived in Paris there was awakened in my heart a love for France which continued to grow stronger, a love which today makes that country for me the one above all others to be desired.

3 We rolled into the station Saint Lazare about four o’clock in the afternoon, and drove immediately to the Hotel Continental. My benefactor, humoring my curiosity and enthusiasm, which seemed to please him very much, suggested that we take a short walk before dinner. We stepped out of the hotel and turned to the right into the Rue de Rivoli. When the vista of the Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysées suddenly burst on me I could hardly credit my own eyes. I shall attempt no such supererogatory task as a description of Paris. I wish only to give briefly the impressions which that wonderful city made upon me. It impressed me as the perfect and perfectly beautiful city; and even after I had been there for some time, and seen not only its avenues and palaces, but its most squalid alleys and hovels, this impression was not weakened. Paris became for me a charmed spot, and whenever I have returned there I have fallen under the spell, a spell which compels admiration for all of its manners and customs and justification of even its follies and sins.

3. Part A

What is the meaning of the word morbid as it is used in paragraph 1?

1) informed

2) reluctant

3) unhealthy

4) intrigued

Part B

According to the passage, what is responsible for the narrator’s morbid state of mind?

1) his distaste for New York harbor

2) the burdensome company of his millionaire friend

3) his connection to events surrounding a killing

4) the passengers on the ship

4. Part A

In paragraph 1, the narrator describes the ship passing by an iceberg that “glistened like a mammoth diamond.” What does this description reveal about the narrator’s state of mind at the time?

1) It demonstrates how the spectacular setting distracts the narrator from what had previously occupied him.

2) It implies a yearning for physical wealth and accomplishment, indicating that the narrator has neither.

3) It highlights the narrator’s general inquisitiveness, exemplifying his tendency to observe all passing scenery during his voyage.

4) It establishes the narrator’s estrangement from nature, forecasting his later preference for man-made, mechanical objects.

Part B

Select the sentence from paragraph 1 that best supports the answer to Part C.

1) “This morbid state of mind, together with seasickness, kept me miserable for three or four days.”

2) “At the end of that time my spirits began to revive, and I took an interest in the ship, my fellow passengers, and the voyage in general.”

3) “On the second or third day out we passed several spouting whales; but I could not arouse myself to make the effort to go to the other side of the ship to see them.”

4) “I looked for the bear, but if he was there he refused to put himself on exhibition.”


Star Ledger - Few N.J. school districts still hold elections, budget votes in April

By James Kleimann | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on March 04, 2015 at 8:10 AM, updated March 04, 2015 at 9:20 AM

According to the New Jersey School Board Association, only 18 districts will be holding elections and budget votes on April 21 in 2015, with most hailing from home-rule-centric Bergen County.HACKENSACK --More than three years after Governor Chris Christie imposed a 2 percent tax cap and allowed districts to opt out of holding a public vote on the annual school budget, fewer than 20 of New Jersey's more than 500 school districts continue to hold elections and budget votes in the spring.

With Ramsey, Emerson, Midland Park, Mountain Lakes, Pequannock, Rockaway, Edison and Secaucus having recently joined the other 500 or so districts with November races, here's who's left:

Bergen County: Cliffside Park, Fairview, Garfield, Hackensack, Oakland, Palisades Park
Cumberland County: Bridgeton
Essex County: Irvington, Newark (a state-operated district with no budget election)
Hudson County: North Bergen, Weehawken
Middlesex County: New Brunswick
Monmouth County: Neptune Township
Morris County: Chatham, Riverdale
Passaic County: Passaic, Totowa
Warren County: Greenwich

The law, which held that districts would not have to hold a public vote on the budget if it were at or below the 2 percent levy cap, has resulted in savings. With elections paired with municipal and state races in November, districts no longer go through the expense of renting ballot machines or paying additional workers to monitor the polls.

But it hasn't been a slam dunk, either.

"It has saved money for taxpayers, which is a good thing. But it has not in any way increased voter turnout for school board candidates appearing on the November general election ballot for which it was intended to do," Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin told NJ Advance Media in November. "We are seeing a significant drop off in vote totals from statewide offices to county offices to local municipal offices down to local school board candidates and ballot questions."

Monday was the deadline for school board candidates to file for April elections. Under the law, passed in 2012, towns that cancel budget votes and move school board elections to the fall are required to do so for at least four years.

James Kleimann may be reached at jkleimann@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @jameskleimann. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608