|9-4-14 Education Issues in the News|
NJ Spotlight - Education Chief Kicks Off Campaign to Explain Common Core…StandardsStatewide effort aims to address community concerns about tougher academic benchmarks. If you haven’t heard enough already, get ready to hear a lot more about the Common Core State Standards, via the Christie administration…Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe said yesterday that his department hopes to go school-by-school with a statewide community outreach campaign to promote and explain the much-disputed standards.
Star Ledger - Anderson touts Newark's transportation, security plan for new school year
“…From our perspective there is nothing more important than getting community voices heard and getting community input into the plan,” said Ross Danis, president of the Newark Trust for Education and co-chair of the committee. “We spent hours this summer reviewing street by street hub by hub the placement of crossing guards…” But frustration among some parents and activists about the implementation of the One Newark plan still boils.
NJ Spotlight - Education Chief Kicks Off Campaign to Explain Common Core Standards
John Mooney | September 4, 2014
Statewide effort aims to address community concerns about tougher academic benchmarks
If you haven’t heard enough already, get ready to hear a lot more about the Common Core State Standards, via the Christie administration.
Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe said yesterday that his department hopes to go school-by-school with a statewide community outreach campaign to promote and explain the much-disputed standards.
Hespe said the campaign will include providing schools with resources, from text to video, while education department staffers – with help from teachers and principals in the field -- will encourage and facilitate larger community discussions.
“One of the foundational elements to what we are doing in the state in terms of education reform is new, higher academic standards,” Hespe said yesterday. “And I don’t think a lot of people understand what the standards are and why they are good for kids.”
In what will be an unprecedented effort -- at least since the state’s enacted new academic standards 15 years ago -- Hespe said the campaign for now will focus on the Common Core standards in language arts and math, which have been adopted in 43 states and Washington, D.C, rather than the even-more controversial testing that is being driven by the new benchmarks.
The standards have technically been in place for three years, but it is their newly aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing, which will start in spring of 2015, that is spurring much of the public angst.
But Hespe said many of the concerns about Common Core are due to what he calls “clearly a lot of misinformation.” He said he hopes the resources being distributed by his department will help them explain the new standards to concerned parents.
“We’re going to drive it down to the school level, where we think it is the best way to communicate with families and parents and students,” he said yesterday.
“As many as we can,” he said. “I would hope that every school at least has some resources available to it, be they brochures, websites, (or) a video that a principal can show at a back to school night.”
Hespe’s comments came yesterday after a Power Point presentation to the State Board of Education about the new standards.
Developed over the course of a decade, the Common Core standards are billed as being more rigorous and demanding, pressing students to delve deeper into topics and learn the skills of research and inquiry, rather than just memorizing facts.
But Common Core has come under fire across the country – especially in the past year -- from critics on both the right and the left, with the more conservative voices complaining about federal control of local schools while liberal critics have focused on the one-size-fits-all model and the associated testing.
Among those in the audience yesterday for the lightly attended meeting was Susan Cauldwell, executive director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing, the non-profit arm of the grassroots group Save Our Schools NJ.
“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the public is not allowed to participate in these scripted, staged presentations,” she said in an email last night.
“The Common Core State Standards were adopted four summers ago,” she continued. “That the DOE is now mounting a public relations offensive speaks to their failure to engage and consider the opinions and concerns of various stakeholders. Today's presentation did little to address that failure.”
Under political pressure from both sides, Gov. Chris Christie this summer compromised on the use of the new PARCC testing in the evaluation of teachers, scaling back how much student test performance will weigh in the new rating system, at least for now.
Christie also created a task force to study the use of the standards and the testing in the state’s public schools up to now and in coming years, with its first report due in December. The panel’s nine members have yet to be appointed by the governor, but Hespe said they are likely to be announced in the next two weeks.
Hespe said the task force will focus more on the testing, and that he expects a vigorous discussion, but he said there are still plenty of reasons for his department to put its energy into explaining what’s behind the testing in the standards.
“I am trying to unravel the different areas of debate, and we’re going to start with the Common Core, where I don’t see there is much area of disagreement,” he said. “But when you hear Common Core, it all gets woven together: testing time, teacher evaluation. One may be driving the other, but they are still separate policy issues.”
Hespe didn’t put a price tag on the campaign, saying “There is always going to be a cost involved, but this should not be overly expensive.”
Star Ledger - Anderson touts Newark's transportation, security plan for new school year
“…From our perspective there is nothing more important than getting community voices heard and getting community input into the plan,” said Ross Danis, president of the Newark Trust for Education and co-chair of the committee. “We spent hours this summer reviewing street by street hub by hub the placement of crossing guards…” But frustration among some parents and activists about the implementation of the One Newark plastill boils.
Naomi Nix | The Star-Ledger By Naomi Nix | The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
NEWARK — The yellow school bus whizzed by the white columns and faded brick of Newark Vocational High School, past the trimmed lawn of West Side High School and parked in front of the cement steps of Mount Vernon School.
Buses will transport hundreds of Newark students Thursday along new transportation routes to school in what will likely be one of the biggest logistical tests of the district’s school overhaul plan to date.
Superintendent Cami Anderson touted the district’s security and transportation plan this morning during a two-hour press conference and bus route tour.
“This is a great thing because it will provide more opportunities,” Anderson said of the district’s new bus system. “We are about more opportunities for families, choices for schools (and) more ways to get there.”
Under the old model, the Newark public school system did not provide school buses except for special needs children. Passes for public transit were provided for elementary and middle school students who lived more than 2 miles from their school or high school students who lived more than 2.5 miles from school.
This year, the district has launched a bus service for students who were directly affected by the district’s overhaul plan. The district said its planning for more than 3,000 students to ride the shuttles, but expects ridership to peak somewhere around 600, officials said.
Thirty buses will pick and drop students off at eight transportation hubs throughout the city.
Students will check in through an electronic system at each hub. Bus aides will monitor student behavior on the shuttles, while transportation aides will watch over operations at the hubs. Each hub will also have security guard and a managerial captain to handle unexpected issues, such as late student arrivals, according to the district.
Essex County Sheriff’s office said it will put more officers on the city’s sidewalks and roadways to monitor back-to-school operations, including members of its bomb and canine squad, according to spokesman Kevin Lynch.
“These kids are not going to school around the corner necessarily anymore,” he said. “We are going to be out there to maintain order to make this movement to school go as smooth as possible.”
Additionally, the Newark police department has launched its own safe passage school plan, placing officers along 15 main corridors around the city, according to Newark mayor Ras Baraka.
Baraka said Friday he denied a request from Anderson for city police to monitor the transportation hubs.
“They want us to secure those hubs but we already have a safe passageway program for 43,000 kids,” Baraka said Friday in an interview.
“If we protect the hubs what about the kids that’s getting on New Jersey Transit bus that already go to school the regular way that we have already organized our services around?”
Some details of the district’s transportation plan, such as the placement of crossing guards and order and timing of the shuttle bus route were informed by the Community Review Committee, started earlier this year by the state when Anderson’s contract was renewed, officials said.
“From our perspective there is nothing more important than getting community voices heard and getting community input into the plan,” said Ross Danis, president of the Newark Trust for Education and co-chair of the committee.
“We spent hours this summer reviewing street by street hub by hub the placement of crossing guards.”
But frustration among some parents and activists about the implementation of the One Newark plan still boils.
About 200 people filled City Hall’s chambers Tuesday evening during a public hearing hosted by Sen. Ron Rice and the Essex County legislative delegation.
Maria Dasilva, 43, had hoped her 5-year old daughter would go to Ann Street School, which is a block away from her home.
But instead the kindergartner was placed in B.R.I.C.K Avon. DaSilva said she doesn't have a car and worries about getting her daughter to school.
“It’s too far,” she said. “The area is not safe.”
Melanie Mwanje echoed similar concerns. The west ward parent of three said two of her kids were placed in their first choice school, North Star Academy. But her daughter was placed in Marion P. Thomas Charter School.
After three weeks into the school year Mwanje said she has had trouble borrowing cars to pick up her children at different schools at 4 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. respectively.
“I’m one person,” she said.
Naomi Nix may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsnix87. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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