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11-14-11 More Education News - Virtual Charters, School Reprt Cards, Ravitch Comments
The Record - State says not all costs on Teaneck "…They are not required to put aside $15 million," Barra said. "And second of all, since they are not required to put it aside, of course, they can make adjustments as they go along when they find out how many students are applying, etc." GSCS notes: The timing of when districts are notified of “how many students are applying…” is critical to whether a local district will have enough time to actually adjust their budgets so that funding may be used for students in the local traditional district in the forthcoming budget year. The district would have to know that in the fall prior to the next budget year in order to plan appropriately for the coming school year. Clearly, right now this time lapse issue alone is already a big problem for Teaneck.

NJ Spotlight - State Readies New School Report Cards…Details are few, but new system favors rankings and like-to-like comparisons

Star Ledger - Q&A with Diane Ravitch on N.J. school reform

The Record - State says not all costs on Teaneck "…They are not required to put aside $15 million," Barra said. "And second of all, since they are not required to put it aside, of course, they can make adjustments as they go along when they find out how many students are applying, etc."

GSCS notes: The timing of when districts are notified of “how many students are applying…” is critical to whether a local district will have enough time to actually adjust their budgets so that funding may be used for students in the local traditional district in the forthcoming budget year. The district would have to know that in the fall prior to the next budget year in order to plan appropriately for the coming school year. Clearly, right now this time lapse issue alone is already a big problem for Teaneck.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BY DENISA R. SUPERVILLE

STAFF WRITER

The Record

TEANECK— The public school district will not be on the hook for the entire cost of educating all the students at a virtual charter school if the students are not from the township, a spokesman for the state Education Department said Friday.

The district will only be responsible for the cost of the students who live in the township, spokesman Justin Barra said Friday. The district will be able to make adjustments to its budget after enrollment numbers for Garden State Virtual Charter School become available, he added.

The charter school will find out in January whether it will be allowed to open in fall 2012.

But school district officials have been alarmed about how the funding would affect Teaneck public schools since its founders filed an application with the Education Department in October.

The alarm was further heightened in late October, when the Education Department sent a letter to the school district, saying that the district may be responsible for $15 million to pay for the cost of educating the students.

The correspondence said it was for planning purposes only, but school officials have said that allocating that amount would "devastate" the public schools and lead to the end of the current form of public education in Teaneck.

By law, a charter school is supposed to receive taxpayer dollars for each student equal to 90 percent of per-pupil funding in the district where the student resides.

The K-12 virtual school anticipates an enrollment of 1,000 students in the first year and 3,500 by the fourth year.

It would have a drop-in center in Teaneckfor those who want extra help in person. The school's 36 teachers would do most of their instruction by Web conferencing.

The founders hope to serve children who are struggling, gifted, disabled or need flexibility, according to the application.

District Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said this week that setting aside the $15 million would have devastating consequences, including layoffs and program cuts.

At a school board meeting this week, district officials asked residents to write, call, petition and e-mail Governor Christie, acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf and the state Legislature to take action to stop the application.

"Let's do everything that won't hurt," Pinsak said in answer to a parent who asked about starting a petition.

"I think the petition idea is good," she later added. "I think the letter-writing campaign is good. … It's just beginning."

Board trustee Margot Embree Fisher said trustees had to think beyond Teaneck.

"We have to make this a global fight," she said. "I feel very strongly that we need to be sure to press the issue of local referendum for charter schools. I think that's an essential part of this."

David Schmidt, a spokesman for Garden State Virtual Charter School, did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Neither did Jason Flynn, the lead founder and a Teaneck parent and attorney.

Barra's comments Friday came after Cerf sent an e-mail to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, saying that he would try to get to the bottom of the funding issue.

"To be quite explicit, asking the citizens of Teaneck to incur a $15 million unanticipated cost related to students who don't even come from there is not something I would ever support," Cerf wrote in an e-mail.

Weinberg had asked Cerf to clear up the Education Department's request in an Oct. 28 letter.

Barra reiterated that the $15 million number in the letter was a projected estimate to the district to help the district plan going forward.

"They are not required to put aside $15 million," Barra said. "And second of all, since they are not required to put it aside, of course, they can make adjustments as they go along when they find out how many students are applying, etc."

But Ardie Walser, school board president, said the Education Department's response does not allay the concerns he has about the charter school. Walser, who said he is not against charter schools, said the Education Department should have been clearer in the letter sent to the district.

"I'll be heartened when I see that it is not going to happen, and we can move on to other business," Walser said. "This is taking up an incredible amount of energy."

E-mail:superville@northjersey.com

 

NJ Spotlight - State Readies New School Report Cards…Details are few, but new system favors rankings and like-to-like comparisons

By John Mooney, November 14 in Education|1 Comment

Get ready to see how every local public school in New Jersey stacks up, at least according to the state.

Related Links

The Christie administration will unveil this week a plan for new school report cards that will rate every public school in New Jersey both statewide and against their peers on overall achievement, gaps in achievement, and specific academic targets.

The proposed School Performance Reports are one piece of the state’s application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, due by the end of today.

But whether the application is approved or not, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf said yesterday that the administration would pursue the new system regardless, saying it would provide a better accounting than the current system that lists detailed scores but little in the way of rankings.

“At a glance, it will let educators and parents know where a school stands,” Cerf said in an interview. “Even if the school is doing OK, it will be a tool that will be profoundly more valuable than what we have now.”

The new reports are just one of several components in the waiver application that has dominated the administration’s education docket for the last month, much of it following the federal guidelines that will require states pull out the lowest-achieving schools and impose certain interventions.

Cerf did not provide much new on those plans yesterday, saying the details will be rolled out this week. But an outline of the application released last week said the state would provide a menu of options for what will be roughly the 200 lowest- performing schools, ranging from strategic programs to wholesale overhauls of leadership and staff.

For the remaining 2,200-plus schools in the state, the specific metrics for how they will be rated remain in development, and Cerf pledged a “statewide discussion” that will delve into different models.

He said yesterday that he leans against using letter grades for individual schools, much like those imposed in his former job as deputy chancellor of New York City schools.

At least in the beginning, Cerf said New Jersey would instead rank schools in terms of what percentile they fall into in three different categories: overall achievement growth, disparities in achievement between different student categories, and other targets like graduation rates.

And schools will be rated not only statewide but also their comparable socio-economic peers -- pitting suburban schools against suburban schools and urban against urban. Cerf added there will be a brief narrative written by the state that also explains each school’s standing.

What happens to schools based on their standings will be largely up to their districts, since the administration has said it would step back in its regulation of schools that are not in the lowest percentiles. The highest achieving and those showing the most progress in closing achievement gaps also will be openly promoted, including possible cash rewards.

 

Star Ledger - Q&A with Diane Ravitch on N.J. school reform

Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 10:25 AM

By Star-Ledger StaffThe Star-Ledger

Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, says people like Chris Christie and Barack Obama are wrecking American schools. A leading thinker on education reform for a generation, she believes the bipartisan consensus around school reform is all wrong.

She discussed her views with editorial page editor Tom Moran at the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City last week.

Q. Tell us first about your changing views. As a senior official in the first Bush administration, you were big fan of charter schools and testing, and now you are a skeptic. What happened?

A. At the time I support those ideas, they hadn’t been tried. Now I see, because it’s been applied across the board, that there are all kinds of negative consequences. I hadn’t thought of the possibility that the stakes would get so high people would cheat, or that states would game the system like New York did by lowering the passing mark every year. Or that districts would feel so pressured, they cut everything but math and science. For me, there came a point where I had to admit it’s not working.

Q. What about charters?

A. The same thing. The idea was they would pick up the kids on the streets who were dropouts, and recruit the lowest performing kids. They could be laboratories of innovation. I never thought they’d skim off the top students. I’m still for charters that serve the neediest children. I oppose their expansion into successful districts because it will take away funding from existing schools. In Englewood (Calif.), so many charter schools have opened, they’ve lost a third of their student population and the remaining district is imploding, about to go into bankruptcy. That’s a way to destroy public education.

Q. What about tests? When you criticize the performance on charter schools, you rely on test scores, right?

A. I’m not against the use of tests. I’m against attaching rewards and punishments to it. When you do that, you destroy the measure.

Q. Then how can we tell if a teacher is succeeding?

A. You tell by having supervisors who are experienced and make informed judgments. There is a basic rule on testing, that they should be used only for what they’re designed. So a fifth-grade reading test tells you what a fifth-grader can read. It’s not a test of teacher quality. Family income accounts for about 60 percent of the outcome, and the teacher is between 10 and 15 percent.

Q. New Jersey’s Legislature is about to take up tenure reform. How important is that? And what advice to you have for them?

A. I don’t think anyone who is failing should be guaranteed a job. But this should be done by people who actually observes their performance.

Q. Do you think too many bad teachers keep their jobs under existing tenure rules?

A. I don’t know. But if bad leaders gave tenure to bad teachers, then you have bad leaders.

Q. What’s your assessment of the role that teachers unions are playing in the reform movement? Are they blocking needed reforms? Is the NJEA?

A. The unions, if anything, are being too pusilanimous. I am very much opposed to evaluating teachers by test scores, and the NEA (National Education Association) just passed a resolution saying they would go along with that. I don’t think they should.

Q. What’s your reaction when you see international comparisons showing American kids lag behind other advanced countries?

A. Americans, for various reasons, have never done well on international tests. But when you look at affluent schools, they top Korea, Finland and Japan.

Q. What about poor districts?

A. We need to make sure children have early childhood education, so they arrive ready to learn. And for the teaching professions, we need much higher standards for entry. It should be hard to become a teacher. We change the recruitment practices and give greater support for teachers, and we need to work on retaining them. Recruitment, support, retention.

Q. Why do so few teachers come from the top of their classes?

A. It’s a low-paid profession that’s always under attack. Why would that attract the best and the brightest?

Q. What do you think of Gov. Christie’s approach?

A. He’s disrespectful. He belittles teachers and makes them feel disrespected. I don’t see how that helps education.

 


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