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1-6-10 Race to the Top Plans on the move, not without conflict
STAR LEDGER-TRENTON 'N.J. education commissioner unveils system tying student performance to teacher evaluations' "Two weeks before the deadline to apply for up to $400 million in federal Race to the Top education reform aid, state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy on Tuesday unveiled details of the state’s proposed application to more than 600 local school officials in a packed auditorium in Trenton..." ......................... The RECORD - 'Teachers' union advises local affiliates not to join chase for federal grants' "Hours after education Commissioner Lucille Davy made an impassioned plea in Trenton Tuesday morning to persuade districts to join the state’s chase for $400 million in federal grants, the state teachers’ union tried to stop the plan by advising local teachers’ associations...Tuesday afternoon that affiliates should not sign local memorandums of understanding agreeing to the state’s proposal..."

N.J. education commissioner unveils system tying student performance to teacher evaluations
By Jeanette M. Rundquist
January 06, 2010, 8:00AM
TRENTON -- Two weeks before the deadline to apply for up to $400 million in federal Race to the Top education reform aid, state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy on Tuesday unveiled details of the state’s proposed application to more than 600 local school officials in a packed auditorium in Trenton.
Pitching a plan that would bring state-of-the-art data systems to schools, tie teacher evaluations more closely to student academic growth and include plans for turning around, or closing, poorly-performing schools, Davy asked the more than 225 New Jersey districts represented to support the state’s bid for a share of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top stimulus money.
"I made the case," Davy said. She called the plan "aggressive but achievable" and said she would like New Jersey’s 600-plus districts to all sign on.
 
In addition to creating an ambitious school reform agenda, applying states must show buy-in from local superintendents, school boards and teachers unions. Davy said the more districts that sign on, the more money the state is potentially eligible to win.
 
That could already be emerging as a problem. Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, attended the session in Trenton. Late Tuesday she called the proposal "flawed in numerous areas," and said the teachers union would recommend local unions do not sign.
She objected specifically to provisions that tie teacher pay and evaluations to student performance, and ones that could lengthen the school day in poorly-performing districts. Local unions have the option to sign, however.
 
"We would like to have resources come into the state for education, but we can’t sacrifice the ideals we believe are important for the sake of a gimmick," she said.
 
State Education Department spokeswoman Kathryn Forsyth said DOE has had "good constructive discussions with NJEA" and the state hopes union locals "will come to the conclusion that they want to participate."
 
New Jersey is scrambling to complete its application for Race to the Top, a competitive grant initiative that rewards states for ambitious educational reform. The first deadline in the two-round competition is Jan. 19, the same day Gov.-elect Chris Christie is sworn in. The state initially considered sitting out Phase 1, but decided last month to apply.
 
Not all states will win money. Davy Tuesday said as few as 10 to 15 states may get grants.
The proposed application addresses four areas: Implementing clearer, higher standards and related tests; using data systems to improve teaching and learning; improving the quality of teaching and school leadership; and turning around persistently low-performing schools.
 
Among details New Jersey proposes is a data system where classroom teachers in participating districts would be able to access all of the quizzes and tests a student ever took, with tools to help understand how to better teach the student. Davy said she would also like to earmark money for full-day preschool in some districts.
 
Many educators expressed cautious support for the ideas, but said they had much to think and talk about before deciding whether to sign.
 
Districts taking part must sign a memo of understanding by Jan. 14.
 

Teachers' union advises local affiliates not to join chase for federal grants  Tuesday, January 6, 2010 print

BY LESLIE BRODY
The Record
STAFF WRITER
Hours after education Commissioner Lucille Davy made an impassioned plea in Trenton Tuesday morning to persuade districts to join the state’s chase for $400 million in federal grants, the state teachers’ union tried to stop the plan by advising local teachers’ associations not to sign on.

Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, said Tuesday afternoon that affiliates should not sign local memorandums of understanding agreeing to the state’s proposal.

“It’s a severely flawed plan,” Keshishian said. “There are numerable objectionable provisions” regarding merit pay and using student test scores to evaluate teachers. The NJEA’s disapproval could significantly damage the state’s application for the federal grant, which seeks extensive community buy-in and requires union representatives’ signatures.

Earlier in the morning, Davy had told more than 600 superintendents, union representatives and board members from more than 225 districts gathered at the War Memorial why they should join in applying for “Race to the Top” money.

“This is our one-shot chance to get significant resources,” Davy said. “They’re unprecedented resources and we may never have this opportunity to get them again.”

The federal competition aims for a sweeping overhaul to fix failing schools, raise student test scores and improve teachers. The state’s chances of winning part of the $4.35 billion will be better if more districts sign up, but many educators are leery of the strings attached. Districts have until Jan. 14 to decide whether to participate because the state’s deadline for applying in the first round is Jan. 19.

Among many steps, districts that commit to the initiative must do more to tie teacher compensation to students’ growth in the classroom, and some of the state’s worst-performing schools might be forced to close if they don’t shape up within three years of intensive intervention. Some superintendents said joining the reform effort would require heavy planning and extra work, but it could also bring welcome infusions of resources to help them enhance instruction.

If New Jersey wins grant money of up to $100 million per year for four years, half would go directly to so-called Title I districts, which have heavy concentrations of children who are poor, struggling in English or facing other hurdles. The other half would go to the state Department of Education to give participating districts cutting-edge software to help teachers develop better lesson plans, plus technical support and other services.

E-mail: brody@northjersey.com


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



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