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12-13-11 Education Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - Newark's First Foray into Teacher Evaluation Pilot, with Teachers Front and Center…In first stage, superintendent begins to discuss details, build bridges to staff and community

Star Ledger - N.J. Assembly panel clears bill requiring school officials to notify parents of absentee children

NJ Spotlight - Administration Reveals Which Charters Have Made the First Cut…More than half the applications weeded out, at least for now

NJ Spotlight (njspotlight.com )- Newark's First Foray into Teacher Evaluation Pilot, with Teachers Front and Center…In first stage, superintendent begins to discuss details, build bridges to staff and community

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By John Mooney, December 13, 2011 in Education|Post a Comment

By the district’s last available count, only about 1 percent of Newark’s teachers – or 32 of them -- got unsatisfactory evaluations in 2009-2010, while better than 90 percent were deemed proficient or distinguished.

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For a district where a good third or more of students struggle to compute or read on grade level, that’s tough math for Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson and her staff to reconcile.

Last night, in an effort aimed at both standing firm on raising teacher quality and making educators part of that process, Anderson launched the first public stage in her plans for overhauling the district’s teacher evaluation system and convened an advisory group of teachers, administrators, and others to hear the first outlines of the strategy.

The outline was a mix of patience and practice, including further details on the basic components of how teachers would be observed in their classrooms, but also an extended timeline and a pledge to include staff and community all along the way.

For the rest of this school year, for instance, there will be monthly workshops for teachers and their evaluators to practice with the new tool that measures different classroom skills and a new computerized data-entry system to keep track of progress.

“Testing things out in a low-stakes environment is critical,” Anderson said. “This is not fake. We must have meaningful engagement from those who do the hard work.”

Newark is one of 11 districts in the state piloting a controversial plan led by Gov. Chris Christie that would more closely tie teacher evaluation -- and potentially tenure -- to student achievement.

And while plenty of controversy remains, several in the group last night said they appreciated at least being included in the process, no small thing in a state-operated district that has not always held such trust between teachers and administration.

One vote of appreciation, if not full confidence, came from the union leaders that up until then had been lukewarm and even hostile to the plans.

“You seem to be more open and willing to different stakeholders,” said Cheryl Skeete, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers NJ, the umbrella organization for the Newark Teachers Union.

“It seems more well-rounded than earlier when we were told it was only one way,” she told Anderson’s staff. “That should help in getting more buy-in.”

That should mean something. The NTU has openly opposed the pilot as it stood up till now, surely contributing to the fact that not one of the district’s 80-plus schools voted to join the pilot in its first year. That left just seven schools included, all of them as a condition of large federal grants.

But Anderson and her staff did not appear much discouraged by the tepid response so far, saying the seven schools should prove an ample laboratory for trying different approaches.

Much of the next six months, they said, would focus on improving classroom observations and feedback to teachers, while the data component tying teachers to student outcomes would only start to be tested next year.

“We’re taking a deep dive on practice,” said Tracy Breslin, a senior advisor to Anderson for talent management. “We will look at how people are using it and how they are using it well. Frankly, that’s plenty to do in one year.”

Members of the group said that support and feedback from the observations -- as opposed to punishments -- is a critical first step.

“A gotcha tool won’t work,” said Dennis Argul, a master teacher of more than 30 years in the district’s visual and performing arts department. “That doesn’t work for children and it doesn’t work for adults.”

And the fact that the district would be taking its time surely helped ease some of the tension.

“The district is taking a reasonable approach,” said Leonard Pugliese, president of the City Association of Supervisors and Supervisors (CASA), the principal’s union. “The initial thought was to have it in place this year and many of us knew that was unrealistic. They are slowing it down a little.”

Star Ledger - N.J. Assembly panel clears bill requiring school officials to notify parents of absentee children

Published: Monday, December 12, 2011, 9:03 PM Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011, 9:03 PM

By Matt Friedman/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger

TRENTON — An Assembly panel today approved a bill to force public school administrators to notify parents when their child does not show up for school, unless the parents have already let the school know about the absence.

The bill (A416), which the Assembly Education Committee cleared unanimously, is called "Tabitha’s Law" after Tabitha Tudor, a 13-year-old who went missing in Nashville, Tn. Although school officials received no notification that she would be absent, they did not notify her parents when she did not turn up. Tudor’s parents did not learn about her disappearance until 4:45 in the afternoon.

"Due to the delay, law enforcement officials and Tabitha’s parents lost an entire day before their search could begin," says the bill’s text. "Tabitha is still missing."

The measure also requires parents to notify their child’s school if he or she will be absent.

"Reacting quickly to an unexplained absence can avert a tragedy and the heartache that everyone feels when they hear a story like Tabitha’s," said Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Passaic), a sponsor along with Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex).

 

NJ Spotlight ( njspotlight.com )- Administration Reveals Which Charters Have Made the First Cut…More than half the applications weeded out, at least for now

By John Mooney, December 13, 2011 in Education|Post a Comment

With every detail of its process under scrutiny, the Christie administration said yesterday that 17 of 42 applications for new charter schools in the state have made the first cut in the latest review, while the remainder have been eliminated, at least for now.

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Charter Applications in the Running

Included in the latter group were a couple of the more controversial proposals, including a plan for an online charter out of Teaneck that had caused a budget stir and protest in that Bergen County town. A second online proposal also fell short, as did the only two proposals this round for charters in Paterson.

But in taking the unusual step of releasing the list midway through the process, the administration disclosed that some other contentious plans remain in the running. They include language immersion schools in Essex and Middlesex counties, and a proposal for a Montclair charter school making its fifth try.

“In our review, we evaluated both the strength of the proposed educational program and the capacity of the founding team to implement that program,” said Justin Barra, the state Department of Education’s communications director. “Applicants that did not move on to the second stage of the process did not meet our review benchmarks in these areas.”

State officials said they released the list yesterday after those behind the Teaneck online proposal publicly announced their application had been eliminated. The plan had caused an uproar and a legal challenge in Teaneck after the state said the district needed to set aside $15 million in its 2012-2013 budget in case the school was approved.

The state will continue its review of the remaining applications over the next month, requesting additional information and in-person interviews from the schools still under consideration. Final approvals are to be announced January 17.

 


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160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
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