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11-6-15 Education and Related Issues in the News

NJ Spotlight - PARCC EXAM RESULTS FOR NJ MAGNIFY ACHIEVEMENT GAPS LINKED TO INCOME, RACE...Hispanic and black students, low-income children trail significantly compared to higher-income and white and Asian students

JOHN MOONEY | NOVEMBER 5, 2015

While New Jersey’s so-called “achievement gap” between rich and poor and white and minorities has always been wide, the chasm appears even wider based on the first year of the new PARCC testing.

The Christie administration yesterday provided the State Board of Education with more results from last spring’s debut of the online testing, with the data this time broken down by race and income.

The breakdown based on income levels showed that while 44 percent of the state’s third-grade students met PARCC’s expectations on that grade’s language arts test – hardly an encouraging number -- the rate for low-income students was just 25 percent.

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PARCC YEAR-ONE RESULTS

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The disparities in the older grades were even more disheartening. Just 22 percent of students categorized as low-income met the mark on the new PARCC sixth-grade math exam, compared to 53 percent of those not considered low-income – a gap of more than 30 percent.

The numbers broken down by race are equally stark. While 80 percent of Asian students and 61 percent of white students “met expectations” for the seventh-grade language arts test, the numbers for African-American and Hispanic students were 30 and 35 percent, respectively.

The presentation was part of a discussion before the State Board on what comes next with the new testing.

The first statewide results were released last month, and schools are slated to receive their individual results and that of their students in the next couple of weeks. The public release of all school and district scores will come in January, according to the state.

As expected, the state board, in a resolution vote, adopted the PARCC scoring of the results and the consortium’s five categories for achievement, ranging from “not meeting expectations” (Level 1) to “approaching expectations” (Level 3) to “exceeding expectations” (Level 5).

The board also heard a presentation from the administration on how those marks would be applied – at least for now – to the state’s high school graduation requirement.

The Christie administration has said it would not set a hard-and-fast bar for graduating until the Class of 2020 – next year’s ninth-graders – instead providing options for meeting the graduation requirements in lieu of the PARCC test scores.

While one option includes minimum scores on one or more PARCC tests, students can also meet graduation requirements by achieving a specified minimum score on the SAT and ACT college entrance tests or other college placement assessments. The last resort is an appeals process in which students must show their proficiency by submitting graded school work or other specified samples.

Yesterday, officials defined what the temporary requirements will be for the PARCC marks, with variations according to grade levels and subjects.

For example, students would meet the graduation requirement for language arts by getting at least a 750 – “meeting expectations” – on the 10th grade test or a slightly lower 725 – or “approaching expectations” -- on the 11th grade exam.

The minimum bar on the math side will be achieving at least 750 on the Algebra 1 exam, typically given in eighth or ninth grade, or a 725 on the geometry or Algebra II tests.

The high school benchmark has been the most contentious issue, given that the stakes are the highest, and a chief critic of the state’s methods yesterday said the administration’s latest line still remains an unfairly defined barrier for tens of thousands of current seniors on the cusp of graduating.

"Now that [the administration] has set PARCC cut scores, we estimate about 35,000-40,000 seniors will not be able to use PARCC to graduate and will have to find another ‘option’ to get a diploma,” said Stan Karp of the Education Law Center, the Newark-based advocacy group.

“The Department's plan is unfair to students and their families and violates the law for changing graduation requirements," he said.

Star Ledger - N.J. to require more classroom time for student teachers...New state rules will require aspiring New Jersey teachers to spend more time in the classroom, including exposure to a special education setting, before they can earn their certification. 

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on November 05, 2015 at 11:16 AM

TRENTON — New state rules will require aspiring New Jersey teachers to spend more time in the classroom, including exposure to a special education setting, before they can earn their certification. 

Student teachers, currently required to complete one semester teaching full-time, will need to complete an additional 175 hours of clinical experience beginning in 2018-19, according to regulations approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education. 

The changes come after months of discussions between state Department of Education officials and New Jersey college officials — and despite complaints that the time requirements could be too demanding for college students. 

"I'm not totally assured that what we are doing is going to work," state board member Ronald Butcher said. "But I have to admit that I am handing it over to the staff and saying they are the professionals, they are the ones that have been working on it it, and I sure can't come up with a better proposal." 

RELATED: Tiny N.J. college to become a university

Department of Education officials introduced comprehensive revisions to the state's teacher licensure and certification standards in February with the intent of the raising the bar for New Jersey's aspiring teachers, including substitute teachers and career and technical school instructors.

Along with extending the time for student teaching, the state is also requiring more training hours for career and technical school teachers who transition from jobs in their industry and limiting the amount of time substitute teachers can spend in individual classrooms. 

Those requirements also prompted complaints from some educators, but it was the changes to student teaching that raised red flags at colleges across the state, including Rutgers, Princeton, the College of New Jersey and Montclair State, among others.

While higher education administrators said they support the idea of more student teaching, they also said they worry that the extended time requirements may scare students away from teaching in the first place. 

Additionally, the colleges said they might have a hard time finding more placements in local school districts for student teachers. 

The new rules will require student teachers to log 175 hours in clinical experience before their traditional semester spent in the classroom. But only 100 of those hours must come in the semester immediately before the full-time teaching assignment, an amendment made by the state board to give college students more flexibility to meet the time requirements while working part-time jobs or fulfilling other obligations. 

Board of Education President Mark Biedron proposed the amendment based on feedback from colleges, he said. 

'They felt that 175 (hours) all in that one semester would be onerous," he said. 

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

 

NJ Spotlight -  UNION -- AND ITS MONEY -- HELPED SHAPE OUTCOME OF ASSEMBLY RACES...NJEA poured millions into Democratic candidates' campaigns, didn’t back even one Republican

JOHN MOONEY | NOVEMBER 6, 2015

Gov. Chris Christie may claim in places like New Hampshire and Iowa that he has tamed New Jersey’s public employee unions, but you wouldn’t have known it from the smile on the face of one union’s leader.

“We had a terrific week,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, as his union gathered yesterday for its annual convention in Atlantic City. “Nobody can ruin this week for me.”

Steinhauer was referring to the NJEA’s little-noticed but quite successful campaign push in Tuesday’s election. With all 80 state Assembly seats on the ballot, New Jersey’s Democrats – helped considerably by $4 million the NJEA spent on behalf of their campaigns – added four seats to the majority they already had in the lower house.

The NJEA was all in for the Democrats this year. For the first time in recent memory, the union did not endorse a single Republican. But the union also insisted that it wasn’t party affiliation that mattered. “We would have liked to endorse a Republican,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, the NJEA’s head of government relations and director of the NJEA’s PAC.

“The reason the Republicans weren’t endorsed was that none of them stood up and voted for the five-seventh pension payment,” she said, referring to the proposed $3.1 billion payment of five-seventh of the state’s obligation. “The rubber met the road on the pension payment. This election for the NJEA was very much about one thing: It was about candidates keeping promises.”

The Republicans had their own take, of course, saying that the NJEA and other unions poured money into races where the GOP couldn’t match the opposition’s spending. And Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) said that spending showed where the union’s true heart resides.

“What is the goal of the special-interest money?” Bramnick said at a State House news conference yesterday, adding that it didn’t appear to be about education.

The NJEA’s election money came in two streams: from the NJEA-backed independent PAC, Garden State Forward; and the union’s own PAC.

Garden State Forward, which spent a whopping $18 million on the gubernatorial and legislative races two years ago, this time came back with about $3.8 million.

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES SEE SIZABLE RETURN FOR STANCE ON PUBLIC PENSIONS

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Much of it went through General Majority, the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic PAC that spent heavily on the tight races in the 1st District and 2nd District. Garden State Forward also spent directly on contested races in Districts 11 and 38, as well as in District 14, which wasn’t so close. A media buy of $250,000 came in the final days of the race in District 11, where the Democrats’ picked up a seat.

“We did very well where we put our resources,” Schnitzer said.

Edward Richardson, executive director of the NJEA, said the decision on how to allocate the money was a strategic one.

“It really had to do with what our partners were interested in doing, and where we felt we had some gaps,” he said. “It’s about economy of scale. It was in District 1 and 2, and [General Majority] also played in 11 and 38. Collectively, you have access to so much more expertise than we could buy on our own.”

“And we wanted to supplement that,” he continued. “We wanted to shore up 14.And even in 38, we made a decision to do some stuff up there on our own.”

The union’s own PAC spent another $500,000, Schnitzer said, focusing on the 14th District and the 38th District.

Despite early predictions of a tight race, the 38th turned out to be a sweep for the Democrats. District 14 was never seen as close, but Schnitzer said the union didn’t want to take it for granted.

“That’s always been a battleground district, and they’ve been among our biggest supporters,” she said. Schnitzer and other union officials said it wasn’t just dollars that made a difference in the Assembly races, as she said NJEA members have been proven to be more likely to vote but also put in time working for the endorsed candidates.

“Our members were so mobilized,” she said. “What I will remember most about this election is the level of engagement. This may have been the lowest turnout in history, but members were never more passionate in this election.”

Added Richardson: “You can provide all the air cover you want, but in the end, that is where these things are won and lost. Our members were clearly charged up and out there working.”

As for what the election results might portend for the 2017 gubernatorial election, Richardson said it is too early to tell. “It sends a message right now, and we’ll see how that resonates. Two years from now is a whole ‘nother game, another set of factors.”


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828