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2-3-12 Education in the News - Trenton on the move
NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Sen. Ruiz’s New Tenure Bill…New teacher categories and a new emphasis on evaluation and student performance make this bill both controversial and compelling… “…But the new bill provides added powers for superintendents and school boards to sign off on the decisions…”

New Jersey Newsroom - N.J. Assembly panel approves bill raising mandatory school attendance from age 16 to 18

Asbury Park Press - Bills restricting charter schools advance… “…Another bill that would ramp up requirements on current charter schools passed unanimously Thursday… The bills are expected to come to a vote in the Assembly. It was uncertain whether they expected to advance in the Senate.”

NJ Spotlight - Assembly Committee Votes to Put Charters Under Local Control…Bill calls for local referendum on any school that wants to be granted a charter in a NJ district… “…But the local referendum bill may never get to the governor’s desk, since the Senate has yet to take up the measure… Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to support it, but he has lately sent some mixed messages on the extent of charter school growth in the state, and especially in better-performing suburban districts...”

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Sen. Ruiz’s New Tenure Bill…New teacher categories and a new emphasis on evaluation and student performance make this bill both controversial and compelling… “…But the new bill provides added powers for superintendents and school boards to sign off on the decisions…”

By John Mooney, February 3, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

Synopsis: The bill (S-1455) is the latest working version of a measure to revise teacher tenure and evaluation in New Jersey.

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Primary Sponsor: State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex)

What it does: The new proposed Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act makes key changes in Ruiz’s original bill filed last year. It tightens some provisions on how evaluations would be conducted and by whom; adds requirements for helping all teachers; and more closely aligns other provisions with changes sought by Gov. Chris Christie.

What it means: Ruiz has spent the better part of six months meeting with stakeholders to come up with a final bill that she contended would draw the widest possible support. Even before the revision, the bill was given pretty good odds of passing, with support from the Christie administration and some of the Democratic leadership, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Burlington). It has yet to be seen whether that will be enough.

New intro:

·         a. The goal of this legislation is to raise student achievement by improving instruction through the adoption of evaluations that provide specific feedback to educators, inform the provision of aligned professional development, and inform personnel decisions.

·         b. The New Jersey Supreme Court has found that a multitude of factors play a vital role in the quality of a child’s education, including effectiveness in teaching methods and evaluations. Changing the current evaluation system to focus on improved student outcomes, including objective measures of student growth, is critical to improving teacher effectiveness, raising student achievement, and meeting the objectives of the federal "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001."

Four categories of teachers: One change is simple but could become the new nomenclature in New Jersey. Teachers will be assigned to one of four categories each year: highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective. Those tags will come through annual evaluations that look at both classroom practice and the extent that students progress in a particular class. Ruiz previously had just two categories, effective and ineffective, and now follows the tiers proposed by a task force convened by Christie last year.

Who’s in, who’s out: Ruiz's latest bill remains largely unchanged in that teachers would receive tenure after three years of “effective” or “highly effective” evaluations by a panel of teachers and administrators in each school. In one tweak, the three years would not start until after the first year of teaching, effectively requiring four years to receive tenure. The current law requires three years and a day. Under the bill, a teacher would lose tenure after one year of “ineffective” or “partially effective” evaluations and a second year that did not show improvement. The revocation of tenure would not be appealable except on grounds that proper procedure was not followed.

Mutual consent: Ruiz has left intact her provision that both teachers and principals must consent to the placement of a teacher in a school, preventing teachers from being shuffled around. But the new bill provides added powers for superintendents and school boards to sign off on the decisions. In addition, teachers who do not find placement would be put in a hiring pool for future vacancies, but could lose their jobs if unclaimed after a year.

New help for teachers: Ruiz’s latest bill adds language to reinforce an existing law that requires first-year teachers to have a year of a “researched-based mentoring program” under the guidance of “effective, experienced teachers.” The bill also adds a section that requires districts to specifically provide enhanced professional development to teachers found less than effective.

The controversial stuff: The whole push for tenure reform has gotten caught in the debate over how to measure whether a teacher's students have progressed, and how much those measurements should count in the evaluation. Christie has sought that student test scores, where applicable, count as much as 45 percent of the overall evaluation. Ruiz is more general in her provisions, listing a broad array of criteria, including that they be “partially based on multiple objective measures of student learning.“ Still, the district's evaluation methods would need approval of the state commissioner, and if not approved, a state evaluation model could be applied to a district.

All comes down to seniority: Ruiz’s new bill would lighten the heavy weight that seniority plays in making personnel decisions, especially layoffs. Under Ruiz’s bill, teachers would first be divided into their performance tiers, and then seniority would be factored in. In other words, the first layoffs would only be of “ineffective” teachers, the youngest first. Only once those are exhausted, could the layoffs move on to “partially effective teachers.” This section will be significant, since seniority has consistently been the sticking point in all negotiations with teacher unions.

 

 

 

 

New Jersey Newsroom - N.J. Assembly panel approves bill raising mandatory school attendance from age 16 to 18

Thursday, 02 February 2012 16:19 Legislation that would raise New Jersey’s compulsory school attendance age to 18 was approved Thursday by the Assembly Education Committee.

In an effort to reduce New Jersey’s high school dropout rate, the proposal (A-1411) would raise the age requirement for attendance from 16 to 18 years of age. Students who graduate high school before their 18th birthday would be exempt.

“Societal changes and the increasing demands of the labor market continue to place a premium on education,” Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer), a sponsor, said. “A person who stops attending school at age 16 will always lack the skills and preparation to successfully compete in the workforce and function in society.

“Requiring students to attend school until they’re 18 will help ensure that students receive an adequate education and are sufficiently prepared to compete in the labor market,” the Assemblywoman said.

High school dropouts are more likely to live in poverty, receive government assistance, become involved in crime and suffer from poor health.

“Quite simply – and quite tragically - too many of our students are being allowed to walk away before they’ve completed their education and built a foundation for their future,” Watson Coleman said. “Futures are being lost under our current law.”

According to reports, nationally, high school dropouts cost between $320 billion and $350 billion annually in lost wages, taxable income, health, welfare and incarceration costs. About a quarter of those who entered high school this year won't earn a diploma, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, someone who did not complete high school will earn about $630,000 less over their lifetime than someone who has at least a GED.

—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

 

 Asbury Park Press - Bills restricting charter schools advance…  “…Another bill that would ramp up requirements on current charter schools passed unanimously Thursday… The bills are expected to come to a vote in the Assembly. It was uncertain whether they expected to advance in the Senate.”

NJ Spotlight - Assembly Committee Votes to Put Charters Under Local Control…Bill calls for local referendum on any school that wants to be granted a charter in a NJ district… “…But the local referendum bill may never get to the governor’s desk, since the Senate has yet to take up the measure… Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to support it, but he has lately sent some mixed messages on the extent of charter school growth in the state, and especially in better-performing suburban districts. ..”

 

 

Asbury Park Press - Bills restricting charter schools advance…  “…Another bill that would ramp up requirements on current charter schools passed unanimously Thursday… The bills are expected to come to a vote in the Assembly. It was uncertain whether they expected to advance in the Senate.”

12:54 AM, Feb. 3, 2012 |

Written by  Jason Method Statehouse Bureau

 

TRENTON — Although Gov. Chris Christie wants to expand the use of charter schools as part of his education reform efforts, two bills that would restrict the alternative public schools cleared an Assembly committee Thursday.

The Assembly Education Committee, controlled by Democrats, voted 6-2 along party lines, to advance a measure that would require proposed new charter schools to win endorsement by voters in the school districts in which they are planned.

The votes would come only after the state Commissioner of Education had authorized the school. The bill would also force existing charters to gain voter approval before expanding the number of grades they offer.

The action comes as residents have fought high-profile battles to resist new charters affiliated with religious organizations in Cherry Hill and Highland Park. Local school districts must pay charters, which are public schools, a per-student allotment from their budgets.

Rita McClellan, 47, a legal secretary who lives in Cherry Hill, said that the township’s school district will lose $1.9 million because of Regis Academy, a charter school affiliated with Solid Rock Church that is approved to open this fall.

McClellan said the loss could amount to 19 Cherry Hill staffers. She said state officials ignored numerous letters from officials and residents that protested the proposed K-8 school and raised questions about the application.

“If the Department of Education had really reviewed the objection letters, they would have given serious consideration to the issues that were raised,” she said. “The DOE process is kept completely secret from the public.”

Darcie Cimarusti of Highland Park spoke about how one Hebrew language charter school was draining money from local school districts, and how residents rallied to kill another proposed Jewish charter.

“Our situation has become a national example on how the push for charters … with the money of big money foundations is completely trampling local communities,” Cimarusti said.

Carlos Perez, head of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, argued against the bill. He said that none of the 5,367 charter schools in the country have been approved through a voter referendum.

Nonetheless, Perez said the state’s charter school law, passed in 1995, needs updating. He said the approval process must become more transparent and that charter schools should operate under a performance-based contract.

Christie and education choice advocates say charter schools are particularly needed in cities where student test scores have been abysmal. Charters offer a better choice for many students and families, advocates say.

But stemming the rise of charters has become a rallying point for some Democratic lawmakers who say they would rather see funds spent on traditional public schools.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex, sponsor of the bill, said fights over charters are mostly about money.

“Resources are really tight, and everyone is competing for the same shrinking pool,” Jasey told the committee.

Assemblyman David Wolfe, R-Ocean, who voted against the bill, noted the state had approved only 12 charters from nearly 100 applicants last year. “It’s a rigorous process,” he said.

Another bill that would ramp up requirements on current charter schools passed unanimously Thursday.

The proposed law requires charters’ annual reviews and budgets be posted on the state’s website, mandates that charters use a lottery system to enroll students and expands the reasons the state can use to close a charter school.

The bills are expected to come to a vote in the Assembly. It was uncertain whether they expected to advance in the Senate.

 

NJ Spotlight - Assembly Committee Votes to Put Charters Under Local Control…Bill calls for local referendum on any school that wants to be granted a charter in a NJ district

By John Mooney, February 3, 2012 in Education|1 Comment

The Christie administration’s slowdown in approving charter schools in the suburbs hasn’t slowed the push by Assembly Democrats to tighten controls on all charters -- possibly imperiling a slew of schools awaiting their final OK.

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The Assembly education committee yesterday moved a bill that would give local voters the right to approve new charters in their home districts. If passed by both houses, the law would make New Jersey only the third state to require charter schools to face a local referendum.

First proposed last year, the new bill has been toughened for the new session. Amendments filed with the bill would make those referendums retroactive for as many as 30 urban and suburban schools awaiting their final charters.

The votes would come after the state’s preliminary approval, but often as much as a year can lapse before the final charter is granted and a school can open.

A new amendment would also require an up-or-down local vote for all schools looking to expand beyond their current charters, a potential blow to some of the larger, more established charters in the state that have added schools to their networks.

“There are folks who want a moratorium on them entirely,” said state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), the chief sponsor of the bill and the education committee’s chairman.

“I don’t want to go that far, because I think charter schools do have a place,” he said after the hearing. “But the people need to have a say.”

The big question remains whether the bill, the most controversial of a host of charter school bills first proposed in the Assembly and Senate last year, will ever pass both houses with margins large enough.

Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to support it, but he has lately sent some mixed messages on the extent of charter school growth in the state, and especially in better-performing suburban districts.

His administration approved a small class of eight new charters last month, all of them in cities. And in a town hall meeting in Voorhees, Christie even indicated some support for the local referendum bill -- at least for higher-performing communities.

But the local referendum bill may never get to the governor’s desk, since the Senate has yet to take up the measure. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has previously said she is opposed to the local referendum, contending it would stop charters altogether. She and others have also talked about a more comprehensive rewrite of the charter school law that she said would address many of the concerns.

In the Assembly, a new and powerful player in the debate is state Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), now the Democrats’ majority leader.

His district includes an approved charter school in Cherry Hill that has touched a nerve in South Jersey, as well as a lawsuit from the home school district. The suit contends, among other things, that the new charter would wrongfully draw nearly $2 million from the district’s budget.

Under the latest amendments to the pending bill, the new school -- Regis Academic Charter School -- would be one of the schools that could be subject to a local referendum retroactively.

Greenwald last night did not speak to Regis specifically, but did acknowledge he has taken an increased interest in the issue since its preliminary approval. Greenwald attended yesterday’s hearing briefly.

“I don’t mind the school being located there, but it shouldn’t be drawing from successful school districts and also taking their money,” Greenwald said in an interview. “In my communities, people are outraged at the governor on this.”

The hearing yesterday included many familiar advocates on each side of the debate: charter school students, parents and leaders warning that the local referendum would kill the movement, district representatives calling it critical to ease the tensions and save local communities from what one called “taxation without representation.”

The vote was predictably along party lines, with six Democrats in favor and two Republicans opposed. One hedge came from state Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), who said he could change his vote on the floor but agree to release the bill.

The committee also passed a second piece of charter legislation that would require tighter reporting of student demographics during each phase of recruitment, acceptance, and retention. It also would tighten the process for the state’s monitoring and potential revocation of charters.

The bill also includes a provision that would sign up all district students in a charter school’s admissions lottery.

Whether that would be workable, even its lead sponsor, Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) has said is uncertain. But the bulk of the rest of the bill appears to have bipartisan support and the best chance at this point of passage.

Star Ledger - Newark superintendent to announce closing of 7 failing schools, new charter school rules

Published: Thursday, February 02, 2012, 9:00 PM Updated: Friday, February 03, 2012, 7:13 AM

By Star-Ledger StaffThe Star-Ledger

NEWARK — In an historic reshuffling of the state’s largest school system, Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson Friday will announce a series of districtwide reforms that include closing seven failing schools and increasing charter school accountability.

The measures, which also call for an expansion of Newark’s elite magnet school system, are by far the most far-reaching — and potentially controversial — initiatives of Anderson’s eight-month tenure.

"It’s our responsibility to put kids in schools that put them on a pathway to college," Anderson said, adding that the reforms will foster diversity among students with different socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of achievement.

"We can’t become a city where struggling students are isolated in some schools," she said.

According to a list obtained by The Star-Ledger and corroborated by three district officials, the schools that will close are: Dayton Street, Martin Luther King, 18th Avenue, Miller Street and Burnet Street elementary schools, and the ninth grade academies at Barringer and West Side high schools.

Anderson would not confirm which schools are closing, but said the facilities were targeted, in part, because of declining enrollment and poor performance.

Except for Miller Street Elementary School, the others posted failing grades for most students on math and language tests, according to statewide results released Wednesday. At Martin Luther King, only 10 percent of seventh graders achieved minimum language proficiency on the statewide tests.

Anderson admitted the school closings will be controversial.

"I understand that schools are first community institutions," she said. "If you went there, if your grandfather went there, you have an emotional tie to it."

School board members and principals from the schools slated for closure were briefed on the plan Thursday.

Beginning in September, students from those schools will be "co-located" to other buildings. It was unclear what will happen to teachers and staff.

The closings come almost one year after a proposal to consolidate city schools sparked a major outcry and divided community members.

At least one city leader has already expressed concern with the reforms.

South Ward Councilman and Central High School Principal Ras Baraka said any school closing will carry unforeseen consequences.

"The gang lines, kids moving one place to another, it’s always an issue in Newark," he said. "I’m sure that they thought this through downtown. The question is have they thought this through in the neighborhoods."

Baraka has repeatedly called on the state to relinquish control of the district, which it has held since 1995.

In addition to the school closings, Anderson’s initiatives call for increased accountability among Newark’s charter schools. She said she wants those schools to enroll more special needs students and do a better job sharing achievement data with the district.

Anderson also wants to expand access to the city’s exclusive magnet schools because, she said, those schools too often admit only the highest performers. Magnet schools typically require an application process and tend to accept only the best students.

"In general, we need a better distribution of kids in schools across Newark," Anderson said. "That goes for existing schools, magnet schools and charter schools."

Anderson will formally announce the reforms this afternoon at Rutgers-Newark. Meetings will be held throughout the city with parents and community leaders to further explain the process and solicit input.

"We want to hear feedback," she said, adding that the proposals emerged from a plan put forth two years ago by former superintendent Clifford Janey — drafted with exhaustive community input.

 

 

 


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