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9-15-11 Education Issues in the News

Njspotlight.com - Fine Print: New Jersey's SAT Profile, 2011

New Jersey's overall scores steady or improving, but not everywhere

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By John Mooney, September 15 in Education|Post a Comment


What it is: The College Board each year releases the mean SAT scores and other data for millions of college-bound students, broken down both nationally and state by state. The SAT scores are the most closely monitored, but the report also provides extensive data on courses and grades.

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Why it matters: This year, much of the attention is on the sudden drop in the mean scores across the country, on every test, with reading scores the lowest on record. In New Jersey, the overall math score rose slightly, up two points, while reading and writing stayed the same. But the state’s public school numbers were not as promising, falling an overall 11 points on all three tests.

The numbers everyone cares about: New Jersey saw no change in its overall mean scores in reading (495) and writing (497), and the slight rise in math (516), each of them out of a maximum of 800. The reading score remains a little below the national mean (497), but the state slightly topped the national norm in both math (514) and writing (489). Still, New Jersey’s public school numbers were more troubling, falling three or four points in each of the tests, to 492 in reading, 516 in math and 494 in writing.

The top tier: New Jersey's kids in the 75th percentile are pretty much on par with the rest of the country. In reading, the mean for this group in both New Jersey and nationwide is 570; for math, it's 600. The mean in writing was slightly higher in New Jersey at 570, compared with 560 nationwide. And not surprisingly, non-public school kids continue to far surpass their public school counterparts, with the independent school scores as much as 100 points higher on each test.

The gaps persist: The achievement gap is alive and well in New Jersey's SAT scores, with the mean for black students at 418 in reading, 425 in math and 416 in writing. That's at least 100 points lower that the means for whites and even greater for Asians.

Consolation: More students appear to be taking the SAT than in past years, both in New Jersey and nationwide, an indication that more graduates are at least aspiring for college. For New Jersey, it was a 3 percent jump overall and nearly 10 percent increase among public schools.

Favorite majors: In these precarious times, health services continues to be the favorite intended college major for New Jersey graduates, listed by 15 percent of the SAT test-takers. It's followed by business (12 percent), education (8 percent), and engineering (7 percent).

Favorite colleges: New Jersey's public colleges and universities dominate the list. Forty percent applied to Rutgers, 17 percent to Montclair State University, and close to 15 percent to the College of New Jersey.

The privates: Drexel University in Philadelphia is now the most popular of the private colleges getting New Jersey applications, with almost 10 percent of New Jersey test-takers applying. It is followed, in order, by Monmouth University, Rider University, and a tie between Johns Hopkins University and New York University. New Jersey’s own Seton Hall University dropped off the top five list among privates.


Njspotlight - Podcast: NJ's Anti-Bullying Law Being Felt in Schools

NJ Spotlight editor discusses the state's new anti-bullying law and how it's playing out in the public schools

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By John Mooney, September 15 in Education|Post a Comment

New Jersey's public schools continue to adjust to the state's new anti-bullying law. One of the toughest in the nation, it defines strict rules on how -- and how fast -- educators must respond to incidents.

NJ Spotlight's John Mooney joins the discussion on the ramifications of the law with WHYY's "Radio Times" host Marty Moss-Coane. Also on the show, first aired yesterday, are Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and Stuart Green, a clinical social worker and founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.

Listen: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Law


Star Ledger - Gov. Christie stresses importance of staffing public schools with high-quality teachers during school visit

Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 7:00 PM

By Jessica Calefati/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger

BERGENFIELD — Gov. Chris Christie touted his education reform agenda for a third straight day today, visiting sixth graders at Bergenfield’s Roy W. Brown Middle School to stress the importance of teacher quality.

Bergenfield is one of 10 districts recently chosen to pilot a new teacher evaluation system the governor wants to launch statewide by next fall.

Administrators in the pilot districts will judge teachers on student academic performance and classroom observations. Teachers’ performance under the new system could ultimately influence their tenure, salary or job security— changes the state’s largest teachers union has been fighting since Christie took office.

During his visit today, Christie praised Bergenfield as a district that already uses rigorous standards to evaluate teachers.

"The biggest problem in education is our comfort level," he said. "We need to push our adults to do better before we can expect them to push our children."

Superintendent Michael Kuchar said the purpose of the district’s robust evaluation system is not to bash teachers or praise complacency. Rather, he said, it aims to help teachers fine-tune their skills so they can support students.

Kuchar credits the evaluation system for lowering the district’s dropout rate from 63 students a few years ago to a single student last year.

"This is not meant to be a ‘gotcha,’" Kuchar said. "We’re sickened that we lost even one student."

The other districts participating in the pilot program are: Alexandria Township, Elizabeth, Monroe Township, Ocean City, Pemberton Township, Red Bank, Secaucus, West Deptford Township and Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional.

Most of the pilot districts participating in the Excellent Educators for New Jersey evaluation program have support from their local unions, Christie said.

"If they are willing to be partners in real reform, they will have a seat at the table," Christie said of the New Jersey Education Association. "They have a seat at the table on this."

He did, however, chastise the union for "lying" to its membership about details of his pension reform, exaggerating the percentage of their salaries teachers must now contribute.

"It’s awful of this organization to be out there scaring its members and trying to engender hate," Christie said. "They’re myopically focused on what they want."

Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the NJEA, denied the governor’s allegation and said he suspects more disputes between the governor and the union over education reform will surface.

Christie’s visit to Bergenfield today was his third stop this week with acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. They also visited Pennington, where they promoted a plan to reduce students’ standardized testing load, and Cherry Hill, where they discussed new state curriculum standards.

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