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Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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11-4-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--Sweeney Plan Could Save $200M in Prescription Costs for Public Workers

New Jersey would be first state government to try high-tech pharmacy benefit manager

As part of his ongoing quest to curb New Jersey’s escalating healthcare costs, Senate President Steve Sweeney has called on the state to hire a technology firm that can aggressively identify cost savings in the prescription benefit plans that cover scores of government workers.

Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said hiring a high-tech pharmacy benefit manager to review prescription invoices in real time and proactively search out lower prices would save hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years, without eroding patient benefits. The state now spends nearly $2 billion annually to provide medications to almost 700,000 state, county and local workers, teachers, and retired staff.


Lilo H. Stainton | November 4, 2016


NJ Spotlight--Interactive Map: Passing PARCC Remains Challenge for High-Schoolers

While results released this week show improvement overall, most of the state’s high-school students failed to attain passing grades

Fewer than 10 percent of 11th graders in New Jersey's high schools passed the language arts section of the PARCC test last year, according to the results released on Wednesday by state education officials.

Overall, the results from the second official year of the tests were better for many schools and the state as a whole, but most high school students still did not achieving passing scores.

PARCC is composed of tests of math and language arts, given to students in grades 3-11. The language arts tests correspond to a student's grade level, while the higher-level math tests are not necessarily given at grade levels. For instance, students may begin taking Algebra and Geometry in middle school and, if so, would take the appropriate test at that time.

The tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with those scoring 4 or 5 considered passing.

When the state Department of Education ended the use of the High School Proficiency Assessment as a graduation requirement, it mandated students pass PARCC or other tests in math and language arts. Eventually, the PARCC tests will be graduation requirements.

Under the old testing system, many schools — particularly those in wealthy districts and the small "academies" within the county vocational districts — were used to getting high marks.


Colleen O'Dea | November 4, 2016


NJ Spotlight--Nine More Charters Apply to Open Their Doors in New Jersey

Applicants include schools already represented in some towns and cities, such as Paterson

As New Jersey’s oversight of charter schools continues to be debated, another eight applicants have started the process to open nine new schools in the next year.

The Christie administration released the names of the applicants this week, which includes another three in Paterson.

The latest applicants come as the administration proposes significant deregulation of charter schools, including loosening the rules on the highest-performing charters regarding the qualifications of the teachers they can hire.

The State Board of Education heard extensive testimony on the proposed regulations this week, and postponed further discussion until its December meeting.


John Mooney | November 4, 2016


Star Ledger--Why these 'staggering' PARCC scores have N.J. officials worried

TRENTON — In reviewing the results of last school year's state math and English exams, New Jersey's Department of Education can point to plenty of positive trends. 

Statewide, scores improved on nearly every exam in grades 3-11. More students exceeded grade-level expectations than the year before, and fewer students fell into the lowest-scoring category, those considered to have the most ground to make up before being ready for college or a career. 

But while presenting 2016 test results to the state Board of Education on Wednesday, Deputy Education Commissioner Peter Shulman emphasized low scores he called "nothing short of shocking" among economically disadvantaged and minority students. 

Compared to 2015, the state's achievement gap for those students remained roughly the same or even improved on some tests. But it grew wider on other exams, and Shulman said the results underscore the importance of testing to ensure all students are making progress, he said. 

"This is a civil rights issue," Shulman said. "This is an ethical issue. Not just an academic one." 


Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com |November 03, 2016 at 1:36 PM, updated November 03, 2016 at 3:39 PM


The Record--Fort Lee school board teams up with union to urge for health care reform

FORT LEE – Frustrated by ever rising health care premiums and the increasing contributions expected of districts and its employees, the Board of Education and the Fort Lee Education Association (FLEA) have banded together to urge the governor and the Department of Education to reexamine a 2011 pension and benefit reform law they say is unfair and unsustainable.

In a joint letter addressed to Governor Christie and acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington, board President David Sarnoff and FLEA President Adrian Rodriguez said they are struggling to agree on a contract that keeps the district's budget under a mandated 2 percent tax levy cap while also meeting the requirements under Chapter 78, a 2011 law that forced public workers to pay increasing contributions toward their health care premiums over a four-year phase-in period.

Contributions have since jumped from 1.5 percent of an employee's salary to between 3 percent for the lowest incomes and 35 percent for the top earners. Family plans can cost upwards of $30,000 per year.

The "skyrocketing cost" of premiums, which are expected to increase by 8.5 percent for the upcoming year, have reduced FLEA members' take-home pay to "levels that are lower than before they started contributing to premiums, resulting in many members seeing their wages go down year after year," according to the letter.


By Svetlana Shkolnikova|STAFF WRITER | Fort Lee Suburbanite


Education Week--Outsized Influence: Online Charters Bring Lobbying 'A' Game to States

For five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing.

The school, where students take all of their classes online while at home, had been assigned an "F" grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a "C." That troubled track record had finally made the virtual school of nearly 4,000 students a candidate for state regulators' chopping block.

In September, Hoosier Academies representatives appeared before the Indiana board of education to make their case for giving the school another chance.

There, they revealed their strategy: the creation of a second virtual school—one to which they had siphoned students who were most behind. Those students, they argued, would get more support and specialized services.

Glenda Ritz, the state schools chief in Indiana, bluntly noted that shifting the neediest students would raise the original school's grade and possibly spare it from being shut down.

It was another close call for a virtual charter school run by K12 Inc., a national company based in Herndon, Va.


By Arianna Prothero| November 3, 2016 | Corrected: November 3, 2016 Article Tools


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