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9-1-16 Education in the News

Star Ledger--N.J. triples weight of PARCC results in teacher evaluations

TRENTON — The results of controversial standardized tests that many New Jersey students have yet to pass will carry three times as much weight in some teacher's evaluations this school year, the state announced Wednesday. 

Teachers in grades 4-7 whose students participate in the PARCC math tests or in grades 4-8 whose students take PARCC English exams will have 30 percent of their rating based on students' performance on the tests, an increase from 10 percent, Deputy Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said in a memo to schools.  

The teacher evaluations take into account how much a teacher's students improved their scores on the annual PARCC exams. So, a teacher whose students earn low test scores can still get a boost in his or her performance rating as long as the students made progress compared to their peers, according to the state. 


Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com| August 31, 2016 at 7:21 PM, updated September 01, 2016 at 7:42 AM


The Record--State appeals court says N.J. may deny access to public records

Government agencies in New Jersey may deny access to public records by saying they can “neither confirm nor deny” their existence, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.

New Jersey is now the second state to adopt as law what one veteran media lawyer called “a broad and damaging secrecy tool” first used by the U.S. government during the Cold War to protect its national security interests.

The other state, Indiana, has authorized “neither confirm nor deny” responses through a statute, not a court ruling.

Related:  Read the decision (PDF)

What it means

New Jersey’s state appeals court ruled Wednesday that all government agencies are allowed to “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of public records when they get a request for information under New Jersey’s sunshine law, the Open Public Records Act. Here’s what it means:

  • The ruling applies statewide to all government agencies. This includes the governor’s office, city halls, all 21 county prosecutors, and hundreds of police departments, state commissions and school boards.
  • New Jersey is the first state to allow “neither confirm nor deny” responses through a court ruling. Indiana is the only other state that allows these responses; their legislature and governor passed a law allowing them.
  • The federal government has used the “neither confirm nor deny” response, also known as a “Glomar” response, since the Cold War to protect national security interests.
  • Media law experts say that since it was first used by the CIA in the 1970s, the Glomar response has become more widespread and has been used to deny access to records that sometimes do not involve national security.
  • If a New Jersey agency responds to a request for public records with a Glomar response, they must be prepared to show a state judge “sufficient basis” for that action, the appeals court ruled.

The three-judge panel of the Appellate Division ruled Wednesday against North Jersey Media Group, a division of Gannett that publishes The Record and other newspapers.

The New Jersey appeals court allowed what is known in the federal government as a “Glomar response,” which some agencies have used since the 1970s to block requests for public records submitted under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

“Glomar responses are used under FOIA in two contexts: where confirming or denying raises national security issues or privacy issues,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a First Amendment expert and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. “But even then, agencies must present as much as possible. It is essential that Glomar responses be limited or they could be used to undermine public records laws.”


By Salvador Rizzo| state house bureau | The Record


Philadelphia Inquirer--Judge orders teachers union to court over benefit talks

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey's biggest teacher's union are again headed to a courtroom to settle differences after a judge ruled Wednesday the labor group must explain why it skipped meetings to help determine health insurance coverage and rates for public school teachers and retirees.

Judge Mary Jacobson granted the New Jersey attorney general's request to require representatives from the New Jersey Education Association to explain why it missed at least two meetings this summer.

It's the latest in a long-running fight between the Republican Christie administration and the NJEA over setting pensioners' benefit rates. Christie wants to reduce benefits to save $250 million. The union is opposed.


MICHAEL CATALINI, The Associated Press| Updated: August 31, 2016 — 4:16 PM EDT


Philadelphia Inquirer--New fund would direct millions to Camden's Renaissance schools

George Norcross, the longtime Democratic power broker of South Jersey and chairman of Cooper University Health Care, on Wednesday announced the launch of a $28.5 million fund that will pay for construction and renovation of Camden's Renaissance schools.

Norcross, also an insurance executive, said he would raise $5.7 million from local organizations and individuals, including $1 million from his family, and that the rest of the money will come from 4-1 matching by national philanthropic foundations.

The local fund is being established by the nonprofit Charter School Growth Fund, a national venture capital fund that invests in charter schools.

Hybrids of public and charter schools, Renaissance schools are publicly funded but privately operated. Unlike charter schools, they guarantee seats to every child in the school's neighborhood, and they have contracts with the district mandating services like special education. By law they must operate in new or renovated buildings.

The "Camden Facility Fund" will support the expansion of Camden's Renaissance schools, which are operated by KIPP, Mastery, and Uncommon Schools.


Allison Steele, STAFF WRITER| Updated: August 31, 2016 — 7:14 PM EDT






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