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11-13-15 Education in the News

NJ SPOTLIGHT - IT'S NOT 'ONE CAMDEN' AS ENROLLMENT PLAN REFLECTS LESSONS LEARNED…Conflict experienced in Newark hasn’t surfaced so far as officials stress community involvement in universal enrollment system   ‘Few publicly mentioned Newark on Tuesday at Camden’s launch, but it was clear that Camden officials sought to not make the same mistakes.

“We really tried to work with the community on the front end,” said Camden Mayor Dana Redd, when asked specifically what Camden did differently.

“There were definitely detractors, but we continued to invite them in and give them the information that they could research on their own,” she said. “We began to build a community support system that you are now seeing.”…’

JOHN MOONEY | NOVEMBER 13, 2015

When Camden officials this week rolled out a new universal enrollment system for the city’s district and charter schools to start next year, the lessons learned from their state-appointed brethren in Newark were apparent.

While the controversial “One Newark” enrollment system was launched in 2013 with an evening affair in the city’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Camden chose for its announcement a drab complex of school trailers that serve as the district’s parent enrollment center.

While Newark’s first year of the program included a complex array of criteria and weights that puzzled and angered many people, Camden officials pledged their “Camden Enrollment” system will be simple and clear, with the only preferences being given to siblings and to those who want to stay in their neighborhood schools.

RELATED LINKS

CAMDEN FAMILY ENROLLMENT PLAN

And while Newark’s state-appointed superintendent still works to gain the support of the local board – even as the enrollment system has been much improved in its second year -- the president of Camden’s board was up at the dais with state-appointed Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard to announce the new program.

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The true test, of course, will come when the new enrollment procedure begins in January and families for the first time will be able to apply to all 36 district and charter schools through a single portal.

While such a notion proved polarizing in Newark and was a big reason for former superintendent Cami Anderson’s exit this summer, the launch of the similar initiative in Camden has so far been without the same rancor.

Few publicly mentioned Newark on Tuesday at Camden’s launch, but it was clear that Camden officials sought to not make the same mistakes.

“We really tried to work with the community on the front end,” said Camden Mayor Dana Redd, when asked specifically what Camden did differently.

“There were definitely detractors, but we continued to invite them in and give them the information that they could research on their own,” she said. “We began to build a community support system that you are now seeing.”

That’s not to downplay the other and varied reasons for the difference in tone, including the contrasting politics in the two cities and the fact that Newark’s schools have been under state control for two decades versus Camden’s two years.

The dire state of Camden schools -- with 23 of 26 district schools among the state’s very lowest performing at last count – also put the Christie administration and Rouhanifard in a stronger position for initiating big changes.

But there were also key tactical decisions, including Rouhanifard’s decision last year to delay instituting the new system last year after he first proposed it. One of the raps against Anderson was that she moved too far, too fast with her plans, without community support.

“Our initial instinct is we need to fix this now, and let’s sprint to the finish line,” Rouhanifard said. “But we then said, ‘Whoa, this is really complicated’ and we’ll need partners in this.”

The challenges remain daunting, and Rouhanifard acknowledged he will surely face pushback amid claims that the new enrollment system is only meant to prop up charter schools and the new hybrid “renaissance schools.”

The district has yet to release the full details of the algorithm it will use to decide a student’s placement, nor what safeguards will be in place to assure charters are adequately serving students with special needs, a common complaint of critics.

Rouhanifard stressed that any family that wants to stay in its neighborhood district school will be given first choice, and there will be no involuntary placements – another point of criticism of the Newark system when it debuted.

And in a first for Camden, he said transportation will be provided students more than two miles from their school, district or charter.

For all the arguments that Camden’s charters will only benefit from such a system, not all were ready to sign on immediately. One that offered early resistance was the Camden Charter School Network, which now includes four schools and whose board was reluctant to let the city take control of enrollment.

“Our parent base has been with us for a number of years, and any type of change is unsettling,” said Joseph Conway, the charter network’s co-founder. “The idea that they had stepped out of Camden city (schools) to be with us and now would have to work with the city, that was a little bit offsetting.”

“But we’re all looking to play on the same level playing field, and those who are already there and have siblings will still have access to our schools,” he said. “We’re just going to have to lift our game, and that will be to the benefit of the kids.”

 

Star Ledger – Is N.J. one of the smartest states? Report ranks top to bottom   ‘According to a new analysis by The Washington Post, Garden Staters stack up pretty well when compared to other Americans, ranking ninth in the nation in terms of brain power…

November 14, 2015 at 1:35 PM, updated November 14, 2015 at 3:29 PM by Mark Mueller

New Jersey — a cradle of big ideas, from the light bulb to cutting-edge pharmaceutical research — has long been known for its wealth and top-flight schools.

But do those factors translate into smart residents?

According to a new analysis by The Washington Post, Garden Staters stack up pretty well when compared to other Americans, ranking ninth in the nation in terms of brain power.

The Post launched its insta-analysis following Donald Trump's harangue against Iowans Thursday for supporting fellow Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who has come under fire for inconsistencies about his past in a memoir.

"How stupid are the people of Iowa?" Trump asked during a campaign stop in the state. "How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"

MORE: Which N.J. schools were named National Blue Ribbon schools?

The newspaper weighed four criteria in its rankings: 2015 SAT scores, 2015 ACT scores, college graduation rates and IQ tests.

Iowa, it turns out, isn't so dumb after all, notching eighth place on the list of smartest states, just ahead of New Jersey, the Post reported.

Massachusetts, home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came in as the smartest state, followed by Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Wisconsin.

The South took a beating in the newspaper's list, with South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi in the bottom six. The dimmest state, according to the ranking? Sunny Hawaii.

Mark Mueller may be reached at mmueller@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkJMueller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

NJ Spotlight - NJ’s Decision To Stick With PARRC Puts It Among Small Minority Of States - According to a new report, only seven states are using PARCC to evaluate students in 2015-2016, as more states go their own way

JOHN MOONEY | NOVEMBER 12, 2015

As arguments over the state’s participation in PARCC rage on, it appears as if New Jersey’s reliance on the standardized tests is making it increasingly isolated.

New Jersey is now just one of seven states, along with Washington, D.C., that is slated to give at least some version of the PARCC language arts and math in the 2015-2016 school year, according to a new state-by-state survey conducted by the Education Commission of the States, a Colorado-based policy organization.

Those numbers are down from as many as 20 states initially in the PARCC testing consortium when New Jersey joined 2011, picking from two such multistate partnerships that had emerged in the country to develop new tests.

RELATED LINKS

SURVEY FROM EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES

But standardized testing has moved to the forefront of debate both nationally and in individual states, and numerous states have since dropped out of testing consortiums like PARCC or have significantly modified their testing to fit their own needs and politics.

Since last November, 15 states have made “significant changes” in testing policies, the ECS said.

The other states still expected to give the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests this year are Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, according to the survey.

And even then, there are issues about how much PARCC will actually be used. Massachusetts, for instance, is weighing whether to combine PARCC with its existing high school test.

The survey also noted that the Smarter Balanced testing consortium now has 15 member-states --including Connecticut, Delaware, and California -- also down from a year ago. PARCC and Smarter Balanced were the two main testing consortia created to develop standardized exams that would allow states to compare their results against one another.

Meanwhile, 25 other states have opted to develop their own state-specific tests, up from 20 a year ago.

Separate from these mandated exams, the report listed 27 states that also have statewide exams in social studies and history in at least some grades -- including four that use the U.S. citizenship test. New Jersey has no such statewide exam.

New Jersey is in the slim majority of states with no requirements for taking at least a portion of the college entrance exams, either, such as the SAT and ACT. Twenty-one states have such requirements.

Every state, including New Jersey, has at least one science exam in elementary, middle, and high school.


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