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10-21-11 DOE Chief of Staff, Race to Top Kindergarten tests likely, Bullying program issues
Njspotlight.com - For David Hespe, Return to Trenton Brings New and Old Challenges…As former commissioner, Cerf's new chief of staff knows firsthand the value of patience and perseverance… "Dave is balanced, deliberative, and straightforwardly honest," said Lynne Strickland, head of the Garden State Coalition of Schools who has worked with Hespe off and on for more than a decade."He's an all-around good guy who has the tools to be very effective, while being well-liked by those who work for him," she said. "And that's important at the DOE these days."...

Wall Street Journal - States ready tests for kindergarten…New York and New Jersey are preparing to administer mandatory school-readiness tests to children as young as 4 years old in an effort to win millions of dollars from the federal government.

New Jersey Newsroom -N.J. schools’ anti-bullying laws could be costly in long run

Njspotlight.com - For David Hespe, Return to Trenton Brings New and Old Challenges…As former commissioner, Cerf's new chief of staff knows firsthand the value of patience and perseverance… "Dave is balanced, deliberative, and straightforwardly honest," said Lynne Strickland, head of the Garden State Coalition of Schools who has worked with Hespe off and on for more than a decade."He's an all-around good guy who has the tools to be very effective, while being well-liked by those who work for him," she said. "And that's important at the DOE these days." ...

By John Mooney, October 21 in Education|Post a Comment

When David Hespe was New Jersey's education commissioner under Gov. Christie Whitman a decade ago, he spoke in one of his early interviews about the need for New Jersey to improve how it intervenes -- and doesn't intervene -- in public schools.

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Now, Hespe is acting commissioner Chris Cerf's chief of staff, the commissioner's man to get things done.

And in one of his early interviews in his new job, Hespe is talking about the need to improve how New Jersey intervenes -- and doesn't intervene -- in public schools.

Such is the pace of change when it comes to education reform in any state, and it is Hespe's experience, patience and perseverance that Cerf has enlisted to break through some of the logjams.

Known for his smarts and savvy as a long-time Statehouse insider, Hespe has so far gotten good reviews in bringing some clarity and purpose to an often-controversial reform agenda that has sometimes been long on sound bytes and short on substance.

But at his three-month mark, he is the first to admit that he has just begun. And his more recent experience as a district superintendent in Willingboro has brought its own recognition of the challenges that await.

"This is very difficult work, and really takes a school-by-school approach," he said "And it takes developing a plan and really making sure it is implemented."

Achieving Student Achievement

In some ways, not much has changed from his days in the commissioner's office, he continued, with perpetual hopes to lift student achievement the common thread.

"What will make that happen?" Hespe said yesterday. "It was a problem 10 years ago, and it's a problem now."

So far, those who work with Hespe in and out of the department speak well of him, even when they don't always agree with his boss's policies.

"Dave is balanced, deliberative, and straightforwardly honest," said Lynne Strickland, head of the Garden State Coalition of Schools who has worked with Hespe off and on for more than a decade.

"He's an all-around good guy who has the tools to be very effective, while being well-liked by those who work for him," she said. "And that's important at the DOE these days."

Hespe's latest work has included leading a task force to look at ways the state can help districts by refining and freeing them up from statutory and regulatory mandates.

Streamlining the State

Appointed by Gov. Chris Christie before he was named Cerf's chief of staff, Hespe and the task force issued its preliminary report last month, with suggestions for streamlining the state's monitoring process and the oversight under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The group is in the midst of finishing its recommendations. Public hearings were held in Camden and Paramus this week to hear comments from districts and citizens.

He said the final report will include specific recommendations and language for changes in law and regulations by the legislature, the state Board of Education, and the department itself.

"In order for this to have legs, it will be important for the different bodies to act on it," he said. "Once written, we hope to make a compelling case."

But he said the tougher work is how the department itself is changing, with Cerf reorganizing offices and divisions to be more coordinated and targeted -- a reorganization that Hespe has to orchestrate with at least 100 fewer people than he had a decade ago.

"It really comes back to whether we are doing the things that matter," he said. "If so, then the capacity will be there."

For instance, the department will turn much of its attention to the lowest-performing schools. These got plenty of attention in the past but often from four or five different initiatives.

"It was always a question of whether all were working together or at odds," Hespe said. "We might have had four or five places of contact with a school. Not only might that lead to something very disjointed but also very episodic."

Hespe said it has been rewarding work so far, even if he is not the corner office any more.

"This is the most meaningful time in my career," he said. "There is so much we can do."

 

Wall Street Journal - States ready tests for kindergarten

By LISA FLEISHER

New York and New Jersey are preparing to administer mandatory school-readiness tests to children as young as 4 years old in an effort to win millions of dollars from the federal government.

The states submitted applications this week for the newest round of federal Race to the Top money, the Obama administration's signature education program. The competition gives more weight to bidders that perform wide-ranging assessments of children in the first few months of kindergarten.

In New York, they would gauge children's language, math, science and literacy skills, as well as emotional and physical development, and general knowledge.

The results would provide a baseline measure of each student's skill level when he or she enters the school system, according to a proposal the Board of Regents approved this week. The test results, however, wouldn't force students into special education classes or block them from school, officials said.

If New York secures the money, it would begin the assessments in the 2014-15 school year, according to the proposal.

The program would cover about 200,000 children annually and represent the largest expansion of mandatory and uniform assessments in the state since 2006, when New York began requiring exams in grades three and five through seven.

Officials stressed the kindergarten assessments wouldn't resemble the high-pressure exams taken by older children.

Still, as New York relies more and more on testing to measure student and teacher performance, any expansion of testing is likely to fuel the debate over its value, especially among young children.

Nationwide, 25 states require kindergarten assessments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York already does some limited screening of young students: Schools look for hearing and vision problems, as well as signs of disabilities.

Some individual schools evaluate kindergarteners for reading and math skills at the beginning of the school year.

Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, said the apparent emphasis on academics in the state assessments could draw attention away from other factors that influence learning.

"It's just very reductionist," she said. "It doesn't get to getting kids ready to really succeed, both in school and then later in life."

Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers, said he supports the proposal as long as the state uses the results sparingly.

"It's a precious time and a delicate time to be testing children," he said. "We need to be very careful how we do it and what we read into those results."

The data collected would help shape policy in New York, but it would not be used in so-called high-stakes decisions, such as teacher hiring, firing and pay.

Although the federal funding would be worth up to $100 million for early-childhood learning in New York, the money wouldn't be used to cover the $4 million needed to perform the assessments over four years.

New Jersey will proceed with assessments for about 118,000 kindergartners regardless of whether it wins the $60 million for which it is eligible, said Justin Barra, a spokesman for the state Education Department.

Mr. Barra said there would be a major difference between tests given to older children and the observation-based assessments for kindergartners.

"Basic things, like a teacher stands over a kid's shoulder, watches him read and takes notes about how he's doing," he said. "To be clear, it's not like a bubble test. The kids aren't filling out paperwork. We're not scanning things in."

 

New Jersey Newsroom -N.J. schools’ anti-bullying laws could be costly in long run

Thursday, 20 October 2011 12:58  BY BOB HOLT,

Some people are saying that New Jersey’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights are among the toughest in the nation. Many school officials are still getting used to the laws, and trying to acclimate them into their school’s daily routine.

The anti-bullying bill was passed after the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood.

According to NorthJersey.com, in Ridgewood, a Benjamin Franklin Middle School teacher recently overheard a student calling his friend “a retard” during lunch. School employees are required to file a written report with the principal within two days. Then school officials met with both sets of parents and filled out a report that was sent to the district superintendent, the school board and the New Jersey Department of Education.

Benjamin Franklin principal Anthony Orsini, said, “Now it’s on the offending student’s record that he committed harassment, intimidation and bullying. It’s possible a college could get access to his disciplinary record.”

The New York Times reports that each school now has to designate an anti-bullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district will have an anti-bullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate each case and post grades on its web site. Educators who don’t abide by the rules may lose their licenses, according to superintendents. This is without state funding to help.

Some administrators are concerned that making schools legally responsible for bullying will lead to more complaints and potential lawsuits from students and parents unhappy with the result of incidents.

The law requires that all public school teachers and staff members receive training in suicide prevention and in recognition of harassment, intimidation and bullying. Students guilty of bullying may receive penalties of suspension and/or expulsion.

Ridgewood has heard about 10 to 15 complaints a day since the beginning of the fall term, while Eastside High School in Paterson has seen no complaints. According to MercerSpace, Hamilton Township has named the first week of October the “Week of Respect,” meant to make children aware of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.

Hamilton director of educational services Michael Gilbert said the new law places some blame for bullying on those who witness an incident, and he wants students to know they are empowered by the responsibility. He believes that students could have a real effect on eliminating bullying by sharing the burden.

Some people are saying that New Jersey’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights are among the toughest in the nation. Many school officials are still getting used to the laws, and trying to acclimate them into their school’s daily routine.

The anti-bullying bill was passed after the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood.

According to NorthJersey.com, in Ridgewood, a Benjamin Franklin Middle School teacher recently overheard a student calling his friend “a retard” during lunch. School employees are required to file a written report with the principal within two days. Then school officials met with both sets of parents and filled out a report that was sent to the district superintendent, the school board and the New Jersey Department of Education.  (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)

http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/bullying

 


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