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Garden State Coalition of Schools
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12-15-15 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight - SWEENEY CALLS FOR INVESTING $165 MILLION IN PRE-K, EARLY-CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS…Democratic plan would extend Abbot-like services to 17 districts, restore ‘wraparound’ programs to 31 Abbott districts


New Jersey’s long history of state-funded preschool may have opened another chapter yesterday with Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s proposed public investment plan that would include more than $165 million over two years in expanded preschool and other early-childhood programs.

Significant details are still to be worked out -- and the political and financial prospects are even more uncertain. Sweeney’s expected run for governor in 2017 certainly plays into the calculus as well.

But if enacted, the proposal from Sweeney and other Democratic leaders yesterday could be the first noteworthy expansion of the state’s landmark program since the late 2000s, and among the largest since the state Supreme Court first ordered universal preschool for New Jersey’s 31 poorest cities.

The Democratic plan wants to expand that Abbott-designed program of two years offull-day preschool to another 17 districts.

The proposal calls for a two-year phase-in, with $62.7 million in the fiscal 2017 budget and $103 million in fiscal 2018.

Which districts those would be is just one of the questions to be resolved, but one likely possibility would be the 17 districts now receiving federal aid to start programs for four-year-olds from low-income families.

The proposal would also restore additional services in the Abbott districts for before- and after-school programs, so-called wraparound offerings. Cuts to those services over the past six years have been devastating for the Abbott districts and their families, officials said, as they seek to enroll more students. The proposal did not say how much that would cost.

A third piece of the proposal – also without a price tag -- would create a loan pool funded by both public and private dollars to help establish new preschool programs across the state.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has led the latest push for expanded preschool in her role as chair of the Senate education committee, convening a hearing earlier this fall to start exploring the options.

She said yesterday at a the news conference in the State House that for every $1 invested in preschool, research shows it results in a $7 return in education and other social-service costs.

“New Jersey is a leader in high-quality preschool education, and its programs have been identified as a national model, but too many families still do not have access to these programs,” she said in the announcement.LATED STORIES







“We need to expand early-childhood education throughout the state and implement creative ways of funding innovative programs. This is a major step forward in that process."

Yet even if enacted and funded, the plan is just an incremental step toward a goal -- for some -- of universal preschool statewide or even just in communities with large low-income populations. Estimates for achieving the latter, which would involve another 100 districts -- have come in at close to $300 million a year.

Advocates nevertheless cheered the proposal yesterday, acknowledging the details are light at this point but grateful that Democratic leadership has made early-childhood programs one of its top priorities.

“We are on the legislative agenda,” said Sam Crane, coordinator of Pre-K Our Way, a privately funded public campaign for expanding preschool in the state. “We are in the same breath now as transportation trust fund and other priorities.”

Crane said that not only new programs but also restoring wraparound services for the Abbott districts was essential. “They are the flagship in this state, and that is a critical point to what they serve,” he said.

The next steps will be a set of bills from the Democratic leaders, lawmakers said, likely to come in the new session after the new year.

And there will be plenty of questions as to what the state can afford in the face of rising pension costs, not to mention other priorities like restoring the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.

But Crane was among those who said the Democrats putting a clear price tag on their proposal was a significant gesture in moving that debate beyond general pledges of support.

“Anybody can make promises, but that is testament to the seriousness of their proposal,” he said.


Jersey Journal - What do those PARCC test results mean for Jersey City? | Opinion

By Jersey Journal Guest Columnist 
on December 14, 2015 at 5:10 PM


The much anticipated PARCC assessment results have finally arrived and parents, schools and districts throughout New Jersey are receiving individualized, school-wide and district-wide reports on student performance.

There are several implications for us to consider as we engage in discussions throughout Jersey City.

1)  While our schools continue to improve in critical areas, we know we have a long way to go in fulfilling our mission of providing an excellent education to all Jersey City students. These are baseline results and data gleaned from the tests will better focus our efforts where they are most needed in our district.

2)  It is clear that we must continue our emphasis on rigorous, research-based instructional programs that are accessible to all. With very few exceptions, the PARCC assessment holds ALL students to the same high standards. Similarly, we must continue to tailor our support for students, staff and schools based on their strengths and needs.

3)  Not only did our students have to demonstrate mastery of more challenging content, but they also had to take the assessment on the computer. This required us to ensure that our students were prepared for this and other technologies. We have many technology-based innovations in our schools, and this has motivated us to expand and enhance these initiatives. However, we were delighted that the test administration went relatively smoothly and despite initial concerns most of our students were comfortable utilizing the computer.

4) We had already begun to identify best practices throughout the district, and not surprisingly the results for many of these classrooms or schools reaffirm that there is a great deal of talent in the district and there is much we can learn from one another.

As a member of the Governor's Study Commission on the Use of Assessments in New Jersey, I know firsthand that issues surrounding the PARCC assessment consumed a great deal of our time and energy last year. There were very legitimate concerns raised, but hopefully the time spent this year will abate in light of adjustments made to the exam, its administration to students and a better understanding of the expectations.   

Jersey City has seen significant gains in the past few years in graduation rates, lower dropout rates and many, many other factors. It is important to remember the PARCC test remains just one of the many indicators used and because this is the first year, we cannot yet speak to "progress" or gains. Ultimately it is important to remember that it is the collective will of parents, educators and the community that must guide us on our journey to ensure that ALL of our students will graduate prepared for success regardless of race, gender, income, zip code or school attended.

EDITIOR'S NOTE: Marcia V. Lyles is superintendent of the Jersey City Public Schools.

Trenton Times - Trenton's graduation rate rises again

By Cristina Rojas | For NJ.com 

December 14, 2015 at 7:37 PM

TRENTON — For the second year in a row, Trenton's on-time high school graduation rate saw gains, the district announcedMonday.

The data showed that a total of 79.7 percent of students at Trenton Central High School's main campus completed high school within four years, compared to last year's 67 percent.

The increase marked a 24.9 percent increase over a five-year period.

New Jersey graduation rates: How did your child's district fare in 2014? (Interactive)

Rates are calculated based on how many students graduate four years after they started high school, adjusting for students who transfer in and out of the state.

The west campus' graduation rate remained stagnant at 83 percent.

Meanwhile, the district's alternative high school program Daylight/Twilight, which saw a 7-percentage points drop last year to 14 percent, increased this year to 29.1. percent.

Interim schools superintendent Lucy Feria attributed the gains to the stability of the district's programs and the commitment of its teaching and administrative staff. She said that the district would continue to provide meaningful but rigorous programs for students so that the upward trend continues.

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