9-30-15 Common Core Conversation, Blue Ribbon Schools Announced

NJ Spotlight - Common Core ‘Listening Tour’ Hears From Just a Handful of Witnesses

John Mooney | September 30, 2015

Few turn out for sessions scheduled after Gov. Christie backed off from previous support of controversial education standards


A veteran math teacher, claiming few educators were actually involved, questioned how the Common Core State Standards were developed. A father of two was in favor of them, and asked that parents be given an integral role in the state’s review of those standards.

And another person wondered if all the testimony would even matter.

That’s a sampling of what Christie administration officials are hearing on a much-touted “listening tour” being staged on the heels of Gov. Chris Christie’s disavowal of the Common Core, which he once supported and the state subsequently adopted.

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The “listening tour” is meant to be the main chance for the public to give its input as a task force appointed by Christie reviews the state of the academic standards tied to the controversial PARCC exams.

In the days leading up to the launch of his run for the Republican nomination for president, Christie announced that he opposed Common Core, which he described as a federal intrusion in public education.

The series of public hearings, which finished up this week, did not draw big crowds. A meeting held Monday in Stockton had just seven people sign up to comment. The first session in Parsippany earlier this month saw nine people testify. The last session was scheduled to be held last night in Hamilton.

Even if it was sparse, the testimony did reflect a wide spectrum of perspectives.

Amy Rominiecki – a library media specialist at Seneca High School in Tabernacle -- testified in Stockton this week that media literacy should be a critical piece in the review of the standards.

“Digital and online media should be infused throughout the standards and appear at all the grade levels so that students read, view and listen for information in any format,” she said in her submitted testimony.

Rafael Collazo testified on behalf of the National Council of La Raza, the civil rights and advocacy group on behalf of Hispanic residents. But he said that first and foremost, he is a father of two children in Gloucester Township schools who sees the Common Core Standards as a move to “help level the playing field.”

“All students, regardless of ethnicity and household income level, will be held to the same rigorous standards, thereby promoting equity in the quality of education,” read his written testimony.

Yet another person wondered if the public hearings were efforts in futility and only being held for Christie’s political benefit.

“What I worry is public comment in New Jersey goes nowhere by design,” said Sue Altman in testimony this week. “It is not meant to effect change, is meant to appease an angry public.”

Altman, describing herself as a product of New Jersey’s public schools, said the process deserved more than the few months prescribed by the governor.

“What’s the rush?” she said. “And why spend all this money to rush through something important? And why only three minutes of comment?”


Garden State Coalition of Schools

160 W. State St., Trenton, NJ 08608    (609) 394-2828




Testimony Before the Standards Review Committee

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


            My name is Elisabeth Ginsburg, Vice President of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, an organization of New Jersey school districts dedicated to public support for public education.   I am also president of the Board of Education in Glen Ridge, a pre-K-12 district in Essex County. I am here today to testify on the Common Core Standards (CCS) re-evaluation process.  We appreciate being given this opportunity.

Over the past several years, New Jersey districts have spent enormous time and energy aligning curricula to the CCS.  As the result of this intense study and hands-on involvement by educators, the GSCS trustees come to the conclusion that there is much that is good in the CCS and that the current standards examination should focus on keeping those many strong elements intact.  The following are especially important to retain as part of the revised New Jersey Standards:

  • Grade-specific standards in Language Arts and Math, including the Standards for Mathematical Practice, that allow students to demonstrate mastery of skills and content at the end of each year (rather than waiting multiple years, as was the case under the previous standards).
  • Emphasis in math on mastery of “number sense”—a basic understanding of what numbers mean, how they relate to each other and how they can be used in real world situations—as a foundation of mathematics instruction.
  • Analysis of multiple texts in Language Arts.  This focus on text analysis requires students to support written claims with text-based evidence.  
  • Continue to emphasize distinctions between skills needed for fiction versus informational (non-fiction) text analysis.
  • Focus overall on literacy skills that students will need in the 21st century, including multimedia analysis, ethical digital research and collaborative learning modes
  • Retain CCS Literacy Standards to ensure that students practice reading, analysis and writing skills across all content areas, including science, technology, history and math. This cross-disciplinary fluency is critical for college and career readiness.

Any set of standards benefits from careful review, but the GSCS trustees encourage the Committee to recommend intelligent “tweaks” rather than radical departures from the already strong CCS.

Our greatest concern is not the Common Core Standards, but the real problem of using standardized tests aligned with the CCS to assess the skills and problem solving capabilities of students who have not had time to receive an adequate educational foundation using curricula aligned with the CCS.  This, we believe, is of much greater concern than the standards themselves.


Star Ledger - Which N.J. schools were named National Blue Ribbon schools?

Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
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on September 29, 2015 at 3:42 PM, updated September 29, 2015 at 7:30 PM

Fifteen New Jersey schools have been recognized by the federal government as National Blue Ribbon Schools, a designation that celebrates excellence in academics or progress in closing the achievement gap among groups of students.

The schools — nine public and six private — were among 335 nationwide given the prestigious label, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Tuesday.

Two high schools in the Essex County Vocational Technical School District — Bloomfield Tech and Newark Tech — made the list, elating Superintendent James Pedersen and former interim Superintendent Frank Cocchiola, now an assistant to Pedersen.

In an interview, both men credited the district's collaborative atmosphere, with administrators, teachers and students working in close cooperation to boost academic performance.

Pedersen said the Essex County vo-tech district also emphasizes professional development for teachers, constantly improving the level of instruction. That two of the district's four schools were granted the Blue Ribbon designation "says something about our district," he said.

"To have one is great," Pedersen said. "To have two is unbelievable."

Related: Is your child's elementary school in the top 100 in N.J.?

Each of the 15 New Jersey schools was chosen for the "exemplary high performing" category, which weighs state or national tests, high school graduation rates and the performance of subgroups of students, such as those who are economically disadvantaged.

The National Blue Ribbon School program began 33 years ago. Since then, the federal Department of Education has recognized more than 8,000 schools.

An awards ceremony will be held Nov. 9-10 in Washington D.C.

Last year, 11 New Jersey schools were granted the designation.

The New Jersey public schools named to the program Tuesday include:

  • Bergen County Academies, Bergen County Technical Schools, Bergen County
  • Bloomfield Tech, Essex County Vocational Technical School District, Essex County
  • Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School, Haddonfield Public Schools, Camden County
  • Elizabeth High School, Elizabeth Public Schools, Union County
  • H.W. Mountz Elementary School, Spring Lake School District, Monmouth County
  • Liberty Corner School, Bernards Township School District, Somerset County
  • Newark Tech, Essex County Vocational Technical School District, Essex County
  • Southern Boulevard School, School District of the Chathams, Morris County
  • Voorhees High School, North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional,  Hunterdon County

The private schools recognized include:

  • Academy of Saint Paul, Ramsey, Bergen County
  • Holy Cross Elementary School, Rumson, Monmouth County
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Moorestown, Burlington County
  • Our Lady of Czestochowa School, Jersey City, Hudson County
  • Oratory Preparatory School, Summit, Union County
  • Trinity Academy, Caldwell, Essex County

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