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11-1-11 After 3 Program continues, DOE release on NJ improvement in NAEP scores
Star Ledger - Last-minute partnership saves New Jersey After 3 program from shutdown

NJ Spotlight - Lights to Stay on at Statewide Afterschool Fund…NJ After 3's surprise reprieve by governor on eve of elections has some Democrats questioning timing

New Jersey education system continues to improve overall national ranking on 2011 NAEP exam

Star Ledger - Last-minute partnership saves New Jersey After 3 program from shutdown

Published: Monday, October 31, 2011, 6:42 PM     Updated: Monday, October 31, 2011, 6:42 PM

 By Star-Ledger Staff

TRENTON — A popular after-school program for children of poor, working families known as New Jersey After 3, on the verge of ending because of budget cuts, has been spared through a partnership between private donors and the state Department of Education, Gov. Chris Christie said today.

The partnership, forged in the program’s eleventh hour, includes David Tepper, a wealthy hedge fund manager and Christie ally, who formed a nonprofit organization, Better Education for New Jersey Kids.

Christie said Tepper would contribute an undisclosed sum until the federal government provides more money to the state.

"There are lots of willing funders out there who want to support good programs for people in New Jersey," Christie said at a Statehouse news conference. "This is the model for what we should be doing for these types of programs across the state during difficult fiscal times."

New Jersey After 3 has always operated through a combination of state and private money. But four months ago Christie erased $3 million in state funds for the program for the fiscal year 2012 using a line-item veto. Democrats decried the cut and tried but failed to restore the funds in June.

Democrats expressed relief at Christie’s announcement today but questioned the partnership with Tepper. His nonprofit organization bought $1 million worth of advertising this summer to counter the teachers union’s ads against Christie during a battle over pension and health benefits.

"After-school programming isn’t a political issue and I’m sorry to see the governor playing politics with it like this," Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said in a statement.

Christie said the money would be donated to New Jersey After 3, and that it would be up to the program’s administrators to decide if the amount of the contributions and the identities of the donors should be made public. But he added that people willing to give substantial sums of money to a worthwhile program should be able to remain anonymous.

Mark Valli, the president and chief executive of NJ After 3, did not return a call seeking comment. He said in a statement last week that the group had explored "virtually every option" before announcing it’s shutdown.

In a statement released today, Douglas Kennedy, the group’s board chairman, called the partnership "an innovative and educational approach.

Christie said that continuing the after-school program would help the state qualify for a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The law mandates that students nationwide be able to demonstrate proficiency in math and reading by 2014. States seeking to waive that requirement must apply by deadlines in November or January to prove that they are making progress toward meeting that goal.

"We will tap our own public-private expertise and partner with the Department of Education to design and develop an extended learning program that fits with and complements the state’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver application," Kennedy said.

Since its inception in 2004, NJ After 3 has extended the school day by 40 percent for about 75,000 students in 29 school districts statewide, offering tutoring, fitness activities, arts programs and other services for the families it serves.

Although NJ After 3 already offers academic enrichment for students enrolled in its after-school programs, the quality and quantity of school work may need to improve to meet the requirements of the waiver application.

By Jessica Calefati and Christopher Baxter/The Star-Ledger

Staff writers Chris Megerian, Kelly Heyboer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

NJ Spotlight  - Lights to Stay on at Statewide Afterschool Fund…NJ After 3's surprise reprieve by governor on eve of elections has some Democrats questioning timing

By John Mooney, November 1 in Education|Post a Comment

 

New Jersey After 3 won a financial reprieve on the day the statewide afterschool program was to shutter its doors, its rescue a combination of good timing, last-minute talks, and a little reform-minded politics.

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The New Brunswick nonprofit had said yesterday would be its last day, after a poor economy and the elimination of state funding by Gov. Chris Christie left it broke three months into its eighth year.

Director Mark Valli said the office walls had been stripped as he prepared to walk out of the George Street headquarters for the final time.

But after saying last week that he had little choice but to cut the funding, Christie unexpectedly announced in a morning press conference that a solution had been found.

Long term, he said the organization that funded afterschool programs for close to 75,000 students might be able to tap into newly freed up -- albeit still uncertain -- federal money intended for such initiatives.

Short term, Christie said some friendly groups would pay an undisclosed amount for the organization to stay alive in the meantime. The lead funder will be philanthropist David Tepper, a hedge fund executive who helped launch the controversial Better Education for Kids (B4K), which is running a campaign for teacher quality and other reforms.

“New Jersey After 3 has identified other funders as well who are willing to come forward now that Mr. Tepper has offered to be the lead funder on this,” Christie said. “So today, New Jersey After 3’s doors will not close. They are going to remain open.”

Still, exactly when and how all this will happen remains far from certain. Even NJ After 3’s, Valli said he is short on details. And either way, the full resumption of its programs is still likely months away, depending on a few variables.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Valli said. “We have to secure these private interests, for one. Yes, a whole lot of work to do.”

Democrats questioned the timing of the announcement a week before the legislative election, as well as the involvement of B4K.

State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) had planned an event in Englewood yesterday protesting the imminent death of the program. She cancelled due to the weather and power outages, only to learn of Christie’s announcement.

“It’s great the program is being saved,” she said in a phone interview late in the day. “But why today and not back in June and July before the beginning of the school year?”

As for B4K, Huttle said the group has been one of Christie’s political allies and wondered about its agenda. “I have questions about all of that,” she said.

When exactly New Jersey After 3 will start to operate in earnest again remains a big question. After a cut of $3 million in state funding, it did not award any grants this fall and was operating on a skeleton staff.

Now the resumption of the program largely rests on New Jersey’s pending application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Included in that waiver would be some flexibility with federal funding now earmarked for outside tutoring. The application is in the works now, due to the federal government on November 14.

New Jersey’s acting education commissioner Chris Cerf has questioned the effectiveness of the tutoring requirement, and instead said that the money could be more effectively go “extended learning time,” be it longer days, longer weeks and longer years.

NJ After 3 would be one of recipients, Christie said yesterday, and Valli said it opens the way for a range of innovations in districts to tap into this and other organizations.

“This is an opportunity to really develop a whole new extended learning experience,” Valli said. “It is an eleventh hour opportunity, and really has the potential for ground-breaking stuff.”

Valli said he had little hope of the reprieve when he emailed friends and supporters last week about the program’s demise.

In After 3's history, there had been frequent talk of potentially tapping federal money, but to little avail, he said.

But a call from the governor’s office on Friday, and a face-to-face meeting with state officials, came up with the last-minute plan. “You have to realize I had it still marked on my calendar that this was the last day, we were ready to shut down,” Valli said yesterday.

Tepper was not at the meeting, and his or B4K’s precise involvement in the arrangement remains unclear. B4K executive director Derrell Bradford said he had no details and Tepper would be unavailable for comment. But he said B4K was not hiding any agenda.

“Our agenda is very clear,” he said. “We’re here to support common-sense, bipartisan education reforms.”

Still, the high-profile announcement by the governor about B4K’s role continues the slow emergence of the group into the mainstream.

Created this summer as a counterweight to the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the organization has largely been quiet beyond a couple of mailings in some legislative races.

But it has begun more organizing, and working with the nationwide Students First organization founded by former Washington D.C. schools leader Michelle Rhee. It is planning a series of regional meetings of members in the coming months. In addition, it is holding private roundtables of teachers to weigh in on pending teacher tenure and other legislative proposals.

 

 

New Jersey education system continues to improve overall national ranking on
2011 NAEP exam

Despite improvement from most student subgroups, closing New Jersey's substantial
achievement gap remains a focus of Christie Administration education reform efforts

For Immediate Release

Contact: Justin Barra
Allison Kobus

Date: November 1, 2011

609-292-1126

Trenton, NJ – Under the Christie Administration, New Jersey continued to improve its overall national ranking on the 2011 National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Between 2009 and 2011, New Jersey maintained its ranking as the 2nd highest performing state in the country in grade 4 and 8 reading, and improved from 5th to 4th in grade 4 math, and from 5th to 3rd in grade 8 math. Though nearly all subgroups have improved since 2003, the gap between low- and high-income students remains one of the largest in the country. In grade 8 reading, New Jersey ranks 50 out of 51 states plus DC in the size of its achievement gap.

"Under Governor Christie, New Jersey schools have continued to improve and on average remain among the top schools in the country by objective measures. We have some of the hardest working and best teachers in the country, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude for this significant achievement," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf. "In spite of our strong overall scores, we must find the right balance between celebrating our successes and a sense urgency to improve a system where in too many places, the zip code in which you’re born determines your educational outcomes. We must continue our work at the state level to ensure that we free high-performing schools and districts from bureaucratic red tape so that they can continue to succeed, while at the same time strengthen interventions for our lowest-performing students. In order to do this, we must continue to invest in the four building blocks of success – academics, performance and accountability, talent, and innovation."

New Jersey Overall State Ranking: 2009-2011

2009

2011

Grade 4 reading

2

2

Grade 8 reading

2

2

Grade 4 math

5

4

Grade 8 math

5

3

In both grades and subjects, the average scale scores for New Jersey students continued to increase between 2009 and 2011, though NAEP does not consider these results "statistically significant," in part because of the relatively small sample size at the state level.

New Jersey Scale Score: 2009-2011

2009

2011

Grade 4 reading

229

231

Grade 8 reading

273

275

Grade 4 math

247

248

Grade 8 math

293

294

In spite of these overall gains, significant achievement gaps continue to remain for low-income students across New Jersey. Though most subgroups have improved since 2003, the gaps have remained over the past 8 years. New Jersey continues to have one of the largest achievement gaps of any state in the country, and New Jersey’s achievement gap is increasing compared to other states between 4th and 8th grade. In 8th grade reading, New Jersey ranks 50 out of 51 states in the size of its achievement gap, behind only Alaska.

New Jersey State Achievement Gap Ranking –
ranking of states with smallest achievement gap for
low income students: 2009-2011
(51 total states, including DC)

2009

2011

Grade 4 reading

34

22

Grade 8 reading

49

50

Grade 4 math

47

41

Grade 8 math

49

46

The 2011 NAEP assessment was administered between January 24, 2011 and March 4, 2011. In New Jersey, fourth-graders from 115 schools participated and eighth-graders from 135 schools participated. Approximately 3,100 students took the fourth-grade reading assessment and 2,500 students took the eighth-grade reading assessment. There were 3,300 students assessed in fourth-grade math and 2,600 students assessed in eighth-grade math.

The Commissioner of Education Statistics, who heads the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education, is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project. The National Assessment Governing Board, appointed by the Secretary of Education but independent of the Department, sets policy for NAEP and is responsible for developing the framework and test specifications that serve as the blueprint for the assessments. The Governing Board is a bipartisan group whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988.

 


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