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1-11-12 Education & Related Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - Driving the Teacher Quality Component for Education Reform…Assistant State Commissioner Peter Shulman brings experience and expertise to his latest post

Asbury Park Press - Despite setback, Long Beach Island district still plans school closure, consolidation Bloomberg - Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

Bloomberg - Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

NJ Spotlight - Driving the Teacher Quality Component for Education Reform…Assistant State Commissioner Peter Shulman brings experience and expertise to his latest post

By John Mooney, January 11, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment


The man in charge of New Jersey’s latest effort to improve teacher quality easily uses terms like “human capital continuum,” “skill sets,” and “gap analysis.”

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Peter Shulman, the new assistant state commissioner and chief talent officer, is a very much a systems guy. That's hardly surprising for someone not that long from getting an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Yet Shulman’s education and experience belie his 36 years. While he never taught in a classroom, he has held administrative stints in the Miami-Dade public schools and headed up the teacher quality push for Delaware’s education department, a forerunner in the education reform world. Shulman also holds a master's in education from Penn.

Now just a month on the job in Trenton, Shulman will need all those credentials and experience in leading the teacher quality component of Gov. Chris Christie’s and acting commissioner Chris Cerf’s education reform policy.

Job No. 1: the pilot program now underway in 10 districts to reform teacher evaluation statewide. The districts are each testing evaluation models that will more directly tie teacher performance with their students’ performance, including on state tests. It is the centerpiece of Christie’s plans to scale back and redefine teacher tenure.

But that’s just part of his job. Shulman will also leads the state offices that oversee teacher education, certification, professional development, and retention, each tricky topics in themselves.

And in talking with him recently, his business school vocabulary came into play to describe how these issues are all related: “None of these operate in a vacuum, but in a human capital continuum,” he said..

Shulman spoke at length as to how has seen all these issues play out before in his years in Miami, as its director of teacher recruitment, and then in Delaware, one of the first two winners of the federal Race to the Top competition, which has been a big impetus for refining teacher evaluation and tenure nationwide.

His charge in Delaware was to implement the educator piece of its Race to the Top plan, including evaluation and other areas. “It was everything from principal leadership to new teacher pipelines to data-driven professional learning communities,” he said.

Cerf said he hired Shulman for that experience and for his energy in trying to tackle these issues as one.

"Peter is a seasoned executive who combines both intensive public sector experience and strong analytic training,” Cerf said in an email yesterday. “In Delaware, a Race to the Top winner, he led one of the nation's leading human capital reform efforts.

“I am delighted that he has brought his experience and skills to the much larger arena of New Jersey," Cerf wrote.

This is the second top staff member that Cerf has brought from Delaware, the first being project management director James Palmer. Shulman -- like Cerf -- is also an alumnus of the Broad Foundation’s education network, a large class of reform-minded education officials spanning the country,

Shulman in the interview said Delaware provided some lessons for New Jersey in its teacher evaluation efforts. While it is well ahead of New Jersey in designing a new system, Shulman said it is still at least a year off from having something in place that will have direct consequences for teachers.

He said progress has been slowed by the same debates dogging every state, issues like how to evaluate teachers whose students don’t take state tests or the accuracy and reliability of that data itself.

“For them, it will be a one-year delay,” he said. “But there have definitely been lessons learned, the good and the bad.”

That is part of why Shulman said New Jersey is being deliberate with the current pilot, a project that he conceded is at very different levels in different districts so far. Last fall, Cerf announced that the pilot would continue into next year, with no consequences for teachers for at least another year after that.

“We are six weeks in and there are islands of success where we are moving aggressively and those where we are struggling,” Shulman said.

He promised a full status report on the pilot project within the month. Shulman said the state will also be launching a similar pilot for how districts evaluate school principals, with details to come.

Others have said the state needs to move carefully, pointing to several other states further along and still struggling. The New Jersey Education Association, the teachers' union, has so far been on board with the pilot, but one of its top directors said it requires patience.

‘We are looking for a quality experience, not a quick experience,” said Rosemary Knab, an NJEA associate director who is one of its leads in following the state project. “Most places where this has been successful have been slow and thoughtful and multiyear process.”

Shulman has no problem with that, but added it doesn’t lessen the urgency of the effort.

“I don’t believe in a finish line, but a model for continued improvement,” he said. “That will take some time, and over the next 18 months, I think we’ll get to a level of understanding for everyone.”


Asbury Park Press - Despite setback, Long Beach Island district still plans school closure, consolidation

10:40 PM, Jan. 10, 2012 |

The LBI school district may sell Long Beach Island Grade School in Ship Bottom, to use the money from the sale to make improvements to the Ethel Jacobsen School in Surf City and take the district down to one school. / MARY FRANK/Mary Frank/Staff Photographer


Written by Nicholas Huba Staff Writer



The Long Beach Island Consolidated School educates students from five of Long Beach Island’s six municipalities: Surf City, Ship Bottom, Long Beach Township, Harvey Cedars and Barnegat Light. Beach Haven has its own school district. The cost to educate each student is $21,866, according to the state Department of Education.

SURF CITY — Despite a struggling real estate market, the Long Beach Island school district remains committed to closing and selling one of the district’s two schools and expanding the other.

Superintendent Karen McKeon said district officials plan to close Long Beach Island Grade School in Ship Bottom, built in 1951, and consolidate the district’s pupils into Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School in neighboring Surf City, built in 1968, to cut spending.

“We went out to bid to sell the LBI Grade School and $9.5 million was the minimum bid — and no one reached the minimum,” McKeon said. “Now we are currently negotiating with five or six different groups about the sale of the property. This is something that we are still committed to.”

The possibility of closing one of the district’s schools has been a hot topic on Long Beach Island for a decade. People in favor said doing so will control costs and help with dwindling enrollment in recent years. Total enrollment in the district is about 235 students.

Last year, the district had the engineering firm LAN Associates compile a report on its school buildings at a cost of $30,000.

According to the report, closing and selling the grade school, valued at $8.7 million, and making $9.4 million in additions to the Jacobsen school would be the cheapest move for the district. The money from the sale of the grade school would pay for improvements to the Jacobsen school.

“We are not going to go out to referendum; the improvements are going to be paid for through the sale of the school,” said McKeon, who was hired as superintendent before the start of the current school year. “I have a couple of meetings set up with potential buyers, and once we have all of the information we are going to review it and make a decision.”

The study reviewed building systems, provided a space-use analysis, updated demographics, conducted written appraisals and provided a written report. The report did not look into savings from combining the district's operation into one building or the educational impact the plan would have.




Bloomberg - Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

By John Hechinger - Dec 22, 2011 12:01 AM ETThu Dec 22 05:01:00 GMT 2011

Students run under a mural depicting ancient Hmong leader Chi You and the Hmong flight from Vietnam during gym class at the Hmong College Prep Academy on Dec. 14, 2011 in St Paul, Minn.

Twin Cities German Immersion School's kindergarten teacher Elena Heindl talks with parents as they take a tour of the school on Dec. 15, 2011.

Twin Cities German Immersion School's kindergarten teacher Elena Heindl talks with parents as they take a tour of the school on Dec. 15, 2011. Photographer: Craig Lassig/Bloomberg

At Dugsi Academy, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota, girls wearing traditional Muslim headscarves and flowing ankle-length skirts study Arabic and Somali. The charter school educates “East African children in the Twin Cities,” its website says. Every student is black.

At Twin Cities German Immersion School, another St. Paul charter, children gather under a map of “Deutschland,” study with interns from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and learn to dance the waltz. Ninety percent of its students are white.

Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down“separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated”schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.

Charter-School Birthplace

In Minnesota, the birthplace of the U.S. charter-school movement, the divide is more than black and white.

St. Paul’s Hmong College Prep Academy, 99 percent Asian-American in the past school year, immerses students “in the rich heritage that defines Hmong culture.” Its Academia Cesar Chavez School -- 93 percent Hispanic -- promises bilingual education “by advocating Latino cultural values in an environment of familia and community.” Minneapolis’s Four Directions Charter School, 94 percent Native American, black and Hispanic, promotes “lifelong learning for American Indian students.”

Charter schools, which select children through lotteries, are open to all who apply, said Abdulkadir Osman, Dugsi’s executive director.

“Some people call it segregation,” Osman said. “This is the parent’s choice. They can go anywhere they want. We are offering families something unique.”

Nobody ‘Forced’

That’s a “significant difference” between Minnesota charters and segregated schools in the 1950s South, said Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change at Macalester College in St. Paul.

“Nobody is being forced to go to these schools,” said Nathan, who helped write Minnesota’s 1991 charter-school law.

Ever since Horace Mann crusaded for free universal education in the 19th century, public schools have been hailed as the U.S. institutions that bring together people of disparate backgrounds.

The atomization of charter schools coincides with growing U.S. diversity. Americans of other races will outnumber whites by 2042, the Census Bureau projects.

Even after a divided Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that schools couldn’t consider race in making pupil assignments to integrate schools, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy urged districts to find other ways to fight “de facto resegregation” and “racial isolation.”

“The nation’s schools strive to teach that our strength comes from people of different races, creeds, and cultures uniting in commitment to the freedom of all,” Kennedy wrote.

Diverse Workplaces

Citing Kennedy’s words, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder this month called for schools -- including charters -- to combat growing segregation.

Along with breeding “educational inequity,” racially-divided schools deny children the experiences they need to succeed in an increasingly diverse workplace, Duncan said in announcing voluntary guidelines for schools.

Charter schools may specialize in serving a single culture as long as they have open admissions, and there’s no evidence of discrimination, said Russlynn Ali, assistant education secretary for civil rights.

The education department is encouraging charter schools to promote diversity. Charters could expand recruiting and consider lotteries that give extra weight to disadvantaged groups, such as families living in low-income neighborhoods or children who speak English as a second language, Ali said in a phone interview.

Immigrant Magnet

Minnesota, 85 percent white, is a case study of the nation’s growing diversity. Since the 1970s, Minneapolis and St. Paul have become a magnet for Hmong refugees, who fought alongside Americans in the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, Somalis sought refuge from civil war.

St. Paul, where the nation’s first charter school opened in 1992, is 16 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 15 percent Asian-American, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

Charter schools should be similarly diverse, recommended a 1988 report that provided the groundwork for Minnesota’s charter-school law.

“We envision the creation of schools which, by design, would invite a dynamic mix of students by race and ability levels,” the Citizens League, a St. Paul-based nonprofit public-policy group, wrote in the report.

‘Great Failure’

Instead, in the 2009-2010 school year, three quarters of the Minneapolis and St. Paul region’s 127 charter schools were“highly segregated,” according to the University of Minnesota Law School’s race institute. Forty-four percent of schools were 80 percent or more non-white, and 32 percent, mostly white.

“It’s been a great failure that the most segregated schools in Minnesota are charter schools,” said Mindy Greiling, a state representative who lobbied for the charter-school law when she was a member of a suburban school board in the 1980s.“It breaks my heart.”

Segregation is typical nationwide. Seventy percent of black charter-school students across the country attended “racially isolated” schools, twice as many as the share in traditional public schools, according to the report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Half of all Latino charter-school students went to these intensely segregated schools, the study found. In the West and the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country,“charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” the report said.

Hmong Roots

They also serve as havens for minority students who need extra help, said leaders of Minnesota charter schools.

Christianna Hang, founder of Hmong College Prep Academy, said she designed the school so children, mostly first-generation Americans, didn’t feel adrift in public schools as she did when she arrived in the U.S. in 1980.

In the Hmong academy’s central hallway, a tapestry depicts families living in Laos, fleeing the Vietnam War and arriving in America. The school’s roughly 700 students, in grades kindergarten through 12th grade, learn Hmong.

“I came here for my parents as much as for me,” said Mai Chee Xiong, a 17-year-old senior. “I was very Americanized. I wanted to be able to speak with them in our language, and I wanted to understand my roots.”

In the 2009-2010 school year, 26 percent of Hmong Academy students met or exceeded standards on state math exams, while 30 percent did so in reading. About half passed those tests in the St. Paul Public School District.

Harvard Banners

To raise expectations, classrooms adopt colleges, hanging banners from Harvard University, Yale University and Dartmouth College over their doors.

“If we don’t do something to help these kids, they will get lost,” Hang said. “If they drop out of school, they will never become productive citizens, and there’s no way they will achieve the American dream.”

Dugsi Academy, the school for East Africans, and Twin Cities German Immersion School make for some of St. Paul’s sharpest contrasts.

Until this school year, the two schools were neighbors, across a busy commercial thoroughfare in a racially diverse neighborhood. At different times of the day, the kids used a city playground in front of the German school for recess. Dugsi has since moved three miles away, across a highway from the Hmong academy.

The German Immersion School is a bright, airy former factory with exposed brick and high ceilings.

Fluent German

“Eva, was ist das?” kindergarten teacher Elena Heindl asked one morning earlier this month as she pointed a red flashlight to letters, eliciting the name of each one in German.

To succeed at the school, students must be fluent in German to enroll, unless they enter before second or third grade, Julie Elias, a parent, told prospective families on a tour this month.

“You can’t just move into the neighborhood if you want to go to our school,” Elias said. The school is legally required to take anyone picked in its lottery, though it counsels parents against enrolling in older grades without German knowledge, said Annika Fjelstad, its director.

The school, which includes many families with one parent who speaks German or that have German relatives, holds special events at the Germanic-American Institute in a $1.3 million St. Paul house with a ballroom. Children like to call the institute“our school’s mansion,” said Chris Weimholt, another parent giving the tour.

No Buses

In the 2009-2010 school year, 87 percent of children at the German school passed state math tests and 84 percent did so in reading, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. Fifteen percent qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, compared with 71 percent in St. Paul. The school doesn’t offer bus transportation, so most parents drive, often carpooling, Elias said.

The language requirement and lack of transportation prevents poor families from attending, said Greiling, the state legislator, who has toured the school.

“A regular public school could never have that kind of bar,” she said. “It seems an odd thing that this would be legal.”

The German program doesn’t have buses because they would cost $100,000 a year, too heavy a burden for an expanding school of 274 that wants to maintain classes of 20 students, Fjelstad said. An immersion school can’t take kids who aren’t fluent after early grades, she said.

In February, the school formed an “inclusivity” task force to find ways to make the school more reflective of the community, Fjelstad said. The school will try to improve recruiting through its relationship with community organizations, such as a neighboring YMCA, she said.

International View

The school offers a different kind of diversity, said Weimholt, a nurse whose grandfather emigrated from Germany after World War I. “It doesn’t look diverse by skin color. But families straddle two different continents. The school truly has an international perspective.”

So does Dugsi Academy. Children learn Arabic and Somali along with English and traditional academic subjects. A caller last month heard no English on a school voice mail.

One morning in late November, a sixth-grade social-studies class discussed immigration with 28-year-old Khaleefah Abdallah, who himself fled Somalia 12 years ago. The boys wore jeans and sweatshirts. The girls sported hijabs, or traditional Muslim head coverings with skirts or long pants.

‘Melting Pot’

Abdallah asked his class about the idea of the American“melting pot:” immigrants assimilating into U.S. culture. He suggested another metaphor, a “salad bowl,” where people from different backgrounds mix while retaining their own identity.

“I agree with the salad bowl,” Fadumo Ahmed, 12, dressed in a black hijab and sneakers with pink laces, told the class.“We all come from different places, but we still want to keep our culture.”

Students shared stories of the challenge of co-existing in mainstream America.

Ahmed Hassan, 12, complained about a boy on a city playground who made fun of the long traditional robe he wore one Friday.

“He told me it looked like a skirt,” Hassan said. Abdallah told the class that, under the U.S. constitution, Americans have the freedom to express themselves through their clothing.

Test Scores

Dugsi, a low-slung red-brick building in an office park, has about 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Almost all qualify for federal free or reduced lunches, according to the state. Only 19 percent passed state math exams in the 2009-2010 school year, while 40 percent did so in reading.

The school’s test scores reflect families’ backgrounds. said Osman, the Dugsi director and a former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Somalia, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1993. Parents work as cab drivers, nurses and grocers, Osman said. Many had no formal schooling.

It would be better if one day Somali students could go to school with children from other backgrounds, Osman said.

“That’s the beauty of America -- Latinos, Caucasians, African-Americans and Native Americans, all together in the same building, eating lunch and in the same classrooms,” Osman said.“It would be something wonderful. That’s what I’m thinking of for my own kids and grandchildren.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hechinger in Boston at jhechinger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at jkaufman17@bloomberg.net


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