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1-19-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Dems Seek School-Aid Fix, Fear Christie Will Push for Drastic Changes Via Budget School funding has never been an easy issue for New Jersey, not even for political colleagues like Sweeney and Prieto who can’t agree on how to administer it fairly Gov. Chris Christie isn’t due to present a new state spending plan until next month, but with lawmakers now starting to look more closely at the issue of education funding, the budget debate in many ways is already well underway. Two legislative hearings have already been held this week on the school-funding issue, and several more are scheduled to be held over the coming weeks...'

NJ Spotlight--NJ Supreme Court Ruling Could Leave Towns on Hook for 120,000 Affordable Units Court rules housing responsibilities continued to accrue during 16-year period when affordable-housing regulation was in dispute New Jersey municipalities will have to accommodate low-income residents who could not afford a place to live during a 16-year period when affordable-housing regulations were in dispute, the state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in another landmark decision. While the full impact of the decision is unclear, it could mean municipalities being required to zone for 120,000 additional homes for low-income residents...'

Education Week--Education Department Withdraws Controversial ESSA Spending Proposal That big fight over spending rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act has ended not with a bang, but a whimper: U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. is throwing in the towel, withdrawing a proposed regulation for a section of the law known as "supplement-not-supplant" that had strong backing in the civil rights community, but angered state chiefs, advocates for districts, and Republicans in Congress. The proposal was all but certain to be tossed by a Republican-backed Congress and the Trump administration. The department's draft rule, released in August, would have pushed for districts and states to make sure they were spending roughly same amount of money—including for teachers' salaries—in schools that serve a sizeable population of poor students and less-poor schools. Civil rights advocates applauded the secretary for trying to fix what they saw as a long-standing problem when it comes to making sure students in poverty get their fair share of resources. But advocates for districts and states said the regulation would have been nearly impossible to comply with and could have led to unintended consequences, including forced teacher transfers...'

1-18-17 Education in the News
The Atlantic--What Betsy DeVos Did (and Didn't) Reveal About Her Education Priorities The Michigan billionaire’s confirmation hearing was heavy on partisanship and light on substance. Donald Trump advocated on the campaign trail for a $20 billion federal school-voucher program. But during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening, Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s choice to lead the U.S. Education Department, said school choice should be a state decision. She framed school choice as a right for students and families. And she said during the hearing that she was committed to strengthening public education for all students. While the Michigan billionaire has backed charter schools and vouchers, which let families use public money to pay for private schools, DeVos would not, she said, try to force states to embrace school choice. But a number of organizations, largely Democratic, that had raised questions about DeVos’s commitment to expanding charters and vouchers and about her family’s financial holdings and religious causes were unlikely to find much more of the hearing reassuring...'
1-17-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Public Hearings — as Many as 9 — Planned on School Funding Democrats Sweeney and Prieto will pursue individual approaches to funding reform Get ready to hear a lot more about school funding in New Jersey. This week will start what could amount to nine separate public hearings in the next month about the state of school funding for New Jersey’s public schools, all driven by the somewhat fractured Democratic leadership of the Legislature. The first is scheduled for today before the Joint Committee for the Public Schools, a hearing that has long been on the docket...'
1-16-17 Education in the News
Jersey Journal--New law earmarks funds for school districts to pay for security improvements Schools in New Jersey may be getting safer. Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Jersey City, that designates funding to increase the security of schools has been signed into law. The new law (A-2158) authorizes the use of emergency reserve funds or proceeds from bonds issued by the state Economic Development Authority to finance school security improvements, such as security cameras and an automatic door locking system for access control...'

The Record--Showdown looming over school funding formula In the meantime, they announced separate, uncoordinated Senate and Assembly hearings to collect testimony that would form the basis for legislation to fix the current system, which is widely acknowledged to give unequal treatment to students and taxpayers in different parts of the state. Assembly hearings begin Wednesday; Senate hearings begin Jan. 27. The cost of public education accounts for the largest portion of property tax bills and roughly a third of the state budget...'

Education Week--ESSA Plans: Seventeen States Plus D.C. Shooting for Early-Bird Deadline Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have told the U.S. Department of Education that they are aiming to file their plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Suceeds Act by early April, in time for the first deadline set by the Obama administration. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia. States have spent the past year reaching out to educators and advocates to decide how to handle everything from teacher effectiveness to school ratings to that brand new indicator of student success and school quality...'

1-13-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Interactive Map: New Jersey Graduation Rate Inches up for Class of 2016 While improvement holds for all races and ethnic groups, rates vary between schools from 100 percent to less than 30 percent The percentage of New Jersey high school seniors who graduated last June reached a new high point, with slightly more than nine in 10 students getting a diploma, according to new data released by state education officials Thursday. This accomplishment is especially noteworthy since the class of 2016 was the first that was supposed to pass the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or an alternate test in order to graduate, although students could also use portfolios. As recently as last April, estimates put 10,000 students in danger of not graduating because they had not passed one or both PARCC sections or substitute tests such as the SAT or ACT..;.'

Star Ledger--New rules for N.J. private schools will hurt disabled kids, critics say TRENTON -- State officials are proposing new rules to crack down on spending, high salaries, luxury cars and nepotism at New Jersey private schools that educate students with disabilities at taxpayers' expense. The new regulations were discussed last week at the state Board of Education meeting in Trenton, where several private school officials addressed the board to say the changes were unnecessary and would hurt some of the state's most vulnerable students...'

Star Ledger--See how your high school's graduation rate ranks versus other districts TRENTON -- New Jersey's high school graduation rate improved again in 2016, despite a graduation scare in the wake of new requirements for standardized testing. Statewide, 90.1 percent of students graduated within four years, a slight increase over the 89.7 percent graduation rate for the Class of 2015. New Jersey has improved its graduation rate every year since 2011, when 83 percent of students graduated, the state Department of Education said...'

Press of Atlantic City--An American fault line: High school-only grads left behind WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record. The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground. College graduates, on average, earned 56 percent more than high school grads in 2015, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute. That was up from 51 percent in 1999 and is the largest such gap in EPI's figures dating to 1973...'

Education Week--ESSA Highlights Absenteeism as a Key Challenge for Schools Reporting mandates, new leeway in using federal aid, and the chance to make it a school-quality indicator all raise the issue’s profile. Billboards and yard signs throughout Grand Rapids, Mich., tell students to "Strive for Less Than Five Days Absent." Leader boards inside school buildings display attendance by grade level. Students who miss too many days are contacted by school personnel and offered support. Since the district began a focused campaign three years ago, chronic absenteeism has dropped from 36 percent to 23 percent. "It is something every community looking at their data can dig into. It's very actionable," says Mel Atkins II, the executive director of community and student affairs for the Grand Rapids public school system. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states are required to report chronic absenteeism rates, and districts will be allowed to use federal dollars on training to reduce the problem...'

1-12-17 Education in the News
Star Ledger--N.J. schools 'not safe' for most LGBTQ students, survey finds TRENTON -- Even as schools have offered significantly more support for LGBTQ students, New Jersey's middle and high schools remain hostile environments for many gay, lesbian and transgender teens, according to a survey by a national education advocacy organization. The 2015 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 85 percent of the 302 LGBTQ students surveyed in New Jersey said they heard negative remarks about gender expression in school and nearly 80 percent heard homophobic remarks. Fourteen percent of students said they heard homophobic comments from school staff, the results released Wednesday found...'

Observer--NJ Democratic Leaders Sweeney and Prieto Offer Competing School Funding Plans N.J. Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto could be headed toward a collision on school funding. PolitickerNJ Though New Jersey governor Chris Christie focused his attention and the legislature’s on mitigating the state’s opiate crisis during his state of the state address this week, school funding could be the next major legislative battle as Christie works to secure his legacy during his last year in office...'

NY Times--Justices Face ‘Blizzard of Words’ in Special Education Case WASHINGTON — In a case that could affect the education of 6.7 million children with disabilities, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled to decide whether it should require public schools to do more under a federal law that calls for them to provide a free education that addresses the children’s needs. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court was being asked to choose among several finely shaded formulations. “What is frustrating about this case and about this statute is that we have a blizzard of words,” he said. The court appeared uneasy with a standard used by many appeals courts, which have said that providing a modest educational benefit was enough. But some of the justices indicated that they were concerned about the costs that any changes could impose...'

1-11-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Sweeney and Prieto Thrust and Parry over School Funding Plan Senate president and assembly speaker agree on at least one issue: They need to get out ahead of governor’s ‘Fairness Formula’ While it’s anyone’s guess as to what Gov. Chris Christie will do next with school funding, state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto continue to spar on what will be the Democratic strategy. On the same day the Senate unanimously passed a resolution to hold four hearings on the topic, Prieto announced his chamber’s education committee would hold four hearings of its own, starting next week...'

Washington Post--A disturbing look at how charter schools are hurting a traditional school district Bethlehem Steel is reflected in the Lehigh River in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1995. The author went to the town to understand the effect of charter schools on Pennsylvania’s public schools. (Nanine Hartzenbusch/AP) Charter schools have become a central feature of the school “choice” movement, itself a key part of corporate school reform, which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses rather than civic institutions. There are now thousands of charters — which are publicly funded but independently operated, sometimes by for-profit companies — enrolling a few million students in 43 states and the District of Columbia who make up about 6 percent of public school students across the country. While they are a small minority of the public school student population, outsized controversy surrounds charter schools in many communities, especially in states where lax oversight has resulted in financial irregularities and traditional public schools are negatively affected. There are so many issues surrounding charter schools that in October 2016, leaders of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, bucked intense pressure from charter supporters and ratified a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charters and for stronger oversight of these schools...'

1-10-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--NJ Seeks Help from Bankers to Bring Down Public-Worker Pension Costs Spokesman says Treasury hopes for ‘new and innovative ideas’ for what is now the worst-funded system in the U.S. New Jersey is already one of the nation’s most indebted states, and its public-employee pension system, according to one recent estimate, is now the worst-funded state-retirement plan in the country. But the state is also facing even more fiscal trouble thanks in part to nearly $3 billion in pension bonds that were issued two decades ago...'

Star Ledger--School groups to Christie: Don't raise salary cap, eliminate it TRENTON -- Rather than raising the maximum salary for New Jersey school superintendents, Gov. Chris Christie should abandon the "unnecessary" and "overly rigid" salary cap altogether, the associations representing local school boards and school principals said Monday. In public testimony in Trenton, both the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) called for an end to the cap, which Christie imposed in 2011. The governor last year announced plans to raise the maximum salary for superintendents from $175,000 to $191,500...'

Star Ledger--N.J. mall to open alternative school for at-risk students ELIZABETH -- Owners of the Mills at Jersey Gardens mall plan to open a alternative school for at-risk students in a partnership with Union County, officials announced Sunday.
Union County Freeholder Bruce Bergen, left, with his wife, Jodi, as Bergen is sworn-in as chairman of the freeholder board. (Union County photo) Tom Haydon    NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
The Simon Property Group currently has 29 schools in 12 other states, but this would be the first in New Jersey, said Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen. "We are proud to be hosting their first program here in the tri-state area," Bergen said. The alternative school is expected to have about 20 students when it opens later this year...'

The Record--Will combative or compassionate Christie show for key speech Tuesday? Even amid legislative setbacks, plummeting popularity and a self-imposed blackout on the state press, Gov. Chris Christie has promised to do “big things” in his final year and exit the State House “loudly.” But Christie has also shown much more of his softer side in recent public appearances, not just the bombast that made him famous. All of which makes it anyone’s guess as to which Chris Christie will show up to deliver the State of the State address Tuesday – the sharp-tongued executive on his last stand or the bipartisan “true heart,” the Secret Service code name he has said he would have chosen had he won the presidency. Or both. “He’s an interesting guy. It may depend on how he’s feeling that morning. He could go either way, and he has gone either way,” said former Republican Gov. Tom Kean...'

Education Week--High Court Argument to Center on Level of Benefits for Spec. Ed. When the U.S. Supreme Court made its first substantive interpretation in 1982 of the main federal special education law, it was careful to say that courts should not impose their own view of education adequacy upon states and districts for children covered by the law. In that case, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the court created a definition of a "free, appropriate public education" in the special education arena that has stood for decades. Under the definition, special education must confer "some educational benefit." But in a case set to be argued Jan. 11, the court is weighing in on what "some" should mean. The question at hand: What level of educational benefit must school districts provide to students with disabilities in order for them to receive that free, appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? At the center of the latest case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Board, (Case No. 15-827), is a 17-year-old Colorado student with autism, called "Drew" in court briefs. His parents contend that the individualized education program created for him by the Douglas County district did not offer him an educational benefit...'

1-9-16 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Sweeney Pushes to Keep His School-Funding Plan Alive Senate president adds new wrinkle to scheme, a select committee to investigate school funding statewide Senate President Steve Sweeney last week took another shot at staying front and center on the topic of school funding, even as his hopes of seeing his plan implemented are growing more uncertain, at least in the near term. Sweeney announced Friday that he would file a resolution tomorrow — and expects passage tomorrow —creating a new Select Committee on School Funding Fairness to hold hearings across New Jersey to gain testimony on the state of school funding...'

NJ Spotlight--Background to Christie State of State: High Unemployment, Property Taxes Governor enters final year in office with low approval ratings and some Republican lawmakers breaking ranks to oppose him When Gov. Chris Christie ran for president last year, he frequently promised to “tell it like it is.” But this year, as Christie is now getting ready to deliver another State of the State address in Trenton, telling it like it is may not be so easy for him to do. After seven full years with Christie in office, New Jersey property taxes remain the most expensive in the nation while rebates have been reduced. The state’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national average, and the public-employee pension system is also still in big trouble despite Christie’s one-time reform efforts...'

Education Week--New Jersey Earns a B on State Report Card, Ranks Second in Nation An Education Week State Highlight Report The 21st annual edition of Quality Counts—Under Construction: Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation—continues Education Week’s long-standing tradition of grading the states on their performance. A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked by the report. State Overview This year, New Jersey finishes second among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 85.6 out of 100 points and a grade of B. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C...'

1-6-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--NJ Spotlight and WHYY Newsworks Talk Christie and Charters Will the governor make this a big bang issue or will he let it just fade away in his last year in office? Any talk of charter schools in New Jersey is as much about politics as it is about education, and such chatter has only ramped up of late as both critics and advocates have weighed in on new regulations for the alternative schools...'

NJ Spotlight--NJ Picks Up Federal Grants to Retrofit Diesel School Buses Older diesel engines can expose kids to nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, or soot Five school districts in New Jersey have been awarded grants totaling $810,000 to replace or retrofit older diesel bus engines under a program from the federal government. The awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are part of $7.7 million given to 88 school bus fleets in 27 states under its diesel-emissions reduction program. The eight-year-old program is designed to reduce pollution linked to health problems caused by soot, or fine particulates, emitted by dirty buses that are associated with such health problems as asthma and lung damage...'

5 new developments in N.J.'s charter school rules fight TRENTON -- Charter school supporters and opponents faced off Wednesday at a long and emotional meeting in Trenton as state officials moved forward with plans to overhaul rules to make it easier to open and operate alternative public schools. Dozens of people on both sides of the issue addressed the state Board of Education, which held a lengthy discussion about the charter school overhaul plan proposed by Gov. Chris Christie's administration. State officials also introduced several changes to the proposal they said they made after hearing from parents, school administrators and advocacy groups...'

Education Week--States' Capacity a Nagging Issue as ESSA Gears Up The big job of retooling state education systems will take staff resources and funding, both of which are squeezed in states across the country. As state lawmakers prepare for new flexibility—and responsibilities—under the Every Student Succeeds Act, they face questions about whether staffing levels and other state resources are fully up to the task. Under both the No Child Left Behind Act and subsequent waivers of that law's provisions, education agencies in many states struggled in a very public way when it came to rolling out a federally prescribed accountability agenda...'

1-5-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Critics, Advocates Pump Up Volume of Charter-School Debates After protest moves indoors, meeting of state Board of Education turns into lively discussion of whether NJ needs charters at all Just when things seemed to have quieted down a bit, New Jersey’s charter school debates are back — full-throated and full throttle. And unlike earlier battles before the Legislature and the occasional local school board, charter-school critics and advocates are taking their arguments to the state Board of Education and even the state Department of Education itself...'

Star Ledger--N.J. teachers will spend less time under evaluation with new rules TRENTON -- New Jersey teachers will be evaluated by their supervisors in three 20-minute sessions a year under new rules approved Wednesday that significantly reduce the amount of time principals must spend observing classrooms. The state Board of Education unanimously approved new educator effectiveness regulations at its meeting in Trenton. The changes were recommended by the state Department of Education, which found principals could get all the information they needed after observing teachers in their classrooms in 20-minute increments...'

Education Week--Tricky Balance in Shifting From ESSA Blueprint to K-12 Reality As ESSA passes its first birthday, states take on the hard work of turning the new law into policy on the ground.
By Alyson Klein  December 30, 2016
One year ago, President Barack Obama and longtime education leaders in Congress burst through years of deadlock to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, the first update to the nation's main K-12 law in over a decade. Now the law remains a work in progress, as states, districts, and a shifting cast of federal officials work furiously to prepare for its full rollout this fall...'

1-4-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Agenda: Public Hearings on Charters and Private Schools State Board hears from the public on new charter regulations and those for private special-ed schools Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 Time: 10 a.m. Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st-floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton New year meeting: The State Board of Education returns for 2017 with some hot topics on the agenda, and a public eager to speak out on them. One is new charter regulations that the Christie administration has pressed to loosen the reins on alternative schools. The other is private special-education schools, where the rules maybe getting a little tighter. Overall, 100 people have signed up to testify in the afternoon on both topics...'

NJ Spotlight--Op-Ed: Leaving New Jersey’s Young Children Out in the Cold Shouldn’t every impoverished child in New Jersey be given the assistance he or she needs regardless of where they happen to live in the state? Head Start was created in 1965 to help children and families overcome the disadvantages of poverty, but today it covers less than half of the 3- and 4-year-olds eligible for the early education, health care, and family programs offered. A new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) reveals that inadequate federal funding for Head Start has resulted in disparities from state to state in funding, classroom hours, quality, and percentage of low-income children served...'

Star Ledger--Critics prepare for battle over Christie's charter school overhaul TRENTON -- Charter school opponents are planning a show of force in Trenton Wednesday as the state Board of Education considers loosening regulations to free charter schools from red tape. Gov. Chris Christie's administration unveiled a plan in October that would help charter schools get better access to facilities, get faster renewals and gain more flexibility in hiring teachers. Christie said the new rules would remove some of the bureaucracy holding back the state's 88 charter schools, which serve about 3 percent of the state's public school students...'

Philadelphia Inquirer--Drive to kill school property tax headed back to Legislature HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Debate over school property taxes in Pennsylvania is expected to return to the Legislature in 2017. Senate supporters say the Nov. 8 election provided the necessary votes to eliminate school property taxes entirely and replace them with other revenue streams. That would mean shifting about $14 billion in taxes from property owners, including businesses, to Pennsylvania consumers and workers through sales and personal income taxes...'

Education Week--Nation's Schools Get Middling Grade on Quality Counts Report Card Overall, the nation’s schools earn a C on the latest Quality Counts report card, with variations among some states. As a new political and policy era dawns in Washington, the status of the nation’s schools remains stable, though still earning a grade of C from Quality Counts 2017, the 21st annual report card issued by the Education Week Research Center. The C corresponds to a score of 74.2, which is nearly identical to the 74.4 the nation posted in 2016, when it also received a C. The steadiness of national results, notwithstanding, a handful of states saw their scores increase or decline by a full point or more...'

1-3-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Education 2017: You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard Can Christie continue to dominate? Will the chief justice shape the state’s top court’s ruling on Abbott? Who’s likely to head up the NJEA … A new governor to be elected, an old governor looking to cement his legacy, and, oh yeah, there’s that guy moving into the White House later this month. Two days in, and 2017 is already shaking out to be an eventful one for New Jersey. That’s nowhere truer than in education: The Garden State is already facing a host of challenges about funding, charter schools, and teacher quality — to name just a few...'

Star Ledger--5 things N.J. parents and students should watch for in 2017 New Jersey students return to the classroom this week as 2017 ushers in a time of uncertainty in education. With a new president taking office in January and an election for a new governor in November, both federal and state education policies may soon be shifting. In the meantime, Gov. Chris Christie still has one more year to try to leave his stamp on New Jersey's education system. And schools will continue to operate under the status quo, including another round of standardized testing...'

1-2-17 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--Op-Ed: We Must Learn to Teach the Entire Child Emphasizing the academic aspects of education to the detriment of others will not help develop life-long learners Public schools have been, and always will be, primarily academic institutions. Yet schools are doing a disservice to students if they exclusively emphasize the academic side of their students’ experiences. We need to be that and so much more...'

Philadelphia Inquirer--He seeks more black men to teach in Philly and beyond Sharif El-Mekki vividly recalls every black male teacher who ever taught him: two in elementary school, two in high school. "They were transformative figures in my life," said El-Mekki, a veteran Philadelphia educator. For 2017, El-Mekki has a goal to organize 1,000 black men to show up for the first day of school, encouraging city youth to be their best. By 2025, his goal is much loftier - to double the number of black men teaching in the city. To that end, he has launched The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice...'

NPR--Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All We all experience stress at work, no matter the job. But for teachers, the work seems to be getting harder and the stress harder to shake. A new report out this month pulls together some stark numbers on this: Forty-six percent of teachers say they feel high daily stress. That's on par with nurses and physicians. And roughly half of teachers agree with this statement: "The stress and disappointments involved in teaching at this school aren't really worth it." It's a problem for all of us — not just these unhappy teachers...'

The Atlantic--5 Numbers That Explain Education in 2016 From record-high graduation rates to the percentage of students who attend charters, here are some figures that help tell the story of U.S. schools over the last year. As a writer, I generally favor words over numbers. But sometimes a good number is worth a thousand words. Or something like that. In that spirit, here are five numbers that help explain the state of education in 2016 (with a smattering of words thrown in for good measure)...'

12-30-16 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight (2016 Best Op-Eds)--Op-Ed: PARCC Is a Symptom, Not the Problem Fixing school accountability, property-tax equity, fair distribution of resources, and charter school expansion may be necessary but is not sufficient. A recent article on the NJ Spotlight website reporting on the release of school-by-school PARCC results generated a number of comments. As usual, the responses represented a cross-section of perspectives, demonstrating that we continue to get drawn into discussions and debates about doing the wrong thing better...'

Education Week--New Guidance Outlines Civil Rights Protections for Students With Disabilities During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights has taken an activist stance on civil rights enforcement, especially when it comes to students with disabilities. And as the clock winds down on this presidency, the Education Department is continuing its efforts though the release Wednesday of three new guidance documents for schools. The first document is a parent and educator resource guide on Section 504. Section 504 refers to a portion of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal money, which includings public schools as well as charter schools...'

12-29-16 Education in the News
NPR--We Learned A Lot In 2016 About How Preschool Can Help Kids One of the most controversial questions in education has been whether preschool — and specifically Head Start — helps kids succeed as they move through elementary school. Critics have long noted, and research has supported, that the benefits of Head Start fade in a few years. It's an important question for an $8 billion federal program that provides support for nearly a million low-income children and their families. This year brought several new studies, however, that found that — when done right — Head Start and other programs can give low-income students lasting benefits...'

Education Week--School Districts' Hiring Practices Need an Upgrade, Report Says School districts nationwide need a lesson in how to woo top talent, according to a new report that reveals how the field's approach to hiring teachers lags way behind the modern practices of other professions. The report from the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank, looked at 200 public school districts nationwide and where they go wrong. The findings are especially relevant now in light of the teacher shortages that many school districts are suffering. Here are the highlights:..'

12-28-16 Education in the News
The Record--Technology meets tradition with new learning programs RIDGEFIELD — A program that educators call blended learning is changing the structure of the classroom where chalkboards, lab reports, and worksheets have given way to virtual lessons on laptop screens. The program integrates face-to-face instruction with Web-based learning and allows children to work at their own pace while teachers simultaneously receive progress reports. "Students are driving their own instruction," says John Coviello, principal at Ridgefield Memorial High School. "They learn autonomy, and teachers become the expert facilitator."...'

NPR--When A School's Online Eavesdropping Can Prevent A Suicide Ken Yeh thought his school was buying software to keep kids off of certain websites. What he didn't know was that it could help identify a student who might be considering suicide. Yeh is the technology director at a private K-12 school near Los Angeles. Three years ago, the school began buying Chromebook laptops for students to use in class and at home. That, Yeh says, raised concerns from parents about what they'd be used for, especially outside of school. He turned to a startup called called GoGuardian, which helped the school create a list of off-limits sites: porn, hacking-related sites and "timewasters" like online games, TV and movie streaming. The software also has another feature: It tracks students' browsing and their searches...'

12-27-16 Education in the News
The Record--Transgender teens quietly gain rights North Jersey schools have put policies in place, but they differ greatly from district to district Almost 50 North Jersey high school districts quietly passed policies during the past few years spelling out the rights of transgender students, from what bathrooms they can use to the pronouns and names used to describe the student to the definitions of terms such as "gender expression." The process has continued unabated and often without a great deal of public attention, even as a national debate over the issue raged in recent months and the federal government issued mandates...'

Education Week--8 Reasons Why School Secretaries Deserve More Credit In many small school communities, and even in a few larger ones, school secretaries take on roles and have influence that can be impactful to students, parents and teachers, and I think it's important to recognize that...'

12-26-16 Education in the News
TRENTON -- An enthusiastic testing "opt-out" movement, fueled in part by the state's largest teachers union, cost New Jersey taxpayers more than $1 million in 2015, according to the state Department of Education. New Jersey paid testing giant Pearson $1.4 million for tests not taken in the first year of the PARCC exams because it overestimated the number of students who would take the math and English tests by nearly 60,000 students, state auditor Stephen Ells found in a report released this week. The education department said in a written response to the audit that the estimated number of students taking PARCC was based on previous years of testing. It attributed the million-dollar mishap largely to parents who held their children out of testing...'

Education Week--Study: Students With ADHD Not Helped by Common Test Accommodations Offering students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder extended testing time or frequent breaks does not appear to help them perform better on a standardized test than other students with ADHD who do not get such accommodations, says a new study published in Learning Disabilities, a Multidisciplinary Journal...'

The Atlantic--Sixteen in ‘16: Our Favorite Education Stories Take a stroll down memory lane, a scroll through some #TBTs, or whatever the school kids are calling a throwback these days. Here are our favorite education stories The Atlantic published this year...'

12-23-16 Education in the News
How can students learn civics, economics, and geography when they’re expected to cover so much history? If you heard someone complaining about “standards,” I wouldn’t blame you for assuming the topic of conversation was the Common Core. The Common Core State Standards have found themselves at the middle of a national firestorm. Republican candidates for president spent the winter tripping over each other to try and distance themselves from the standards. Education and union activists on the left tirelessly rail against them at state board meetings and before study commissions...'

The Atlantic--Where Do Schools Close Most Often for Weather? The forecast has to be more frightful to cancel classes in some states than in others. The superstitions for conjuring the snow-day cosmos on a blustery winter day are not to be taken lightly. Wearing your pajamas inside out is mandatory. Sleeping with a spoon under your pillow is non-negotiable. And flushing ice cubes down the toilet is absolutely required. On the meteorologic battlefield, no flake—or flannel onesie—can be left unturned. Weather-related school closures are common across the country’s largest public districts, though some have canceled class vastly more often than others in the past decade...'

Education Week--Teachers Say They Know More About the Common Core, But Challenges Linger More than six years after states began adopting the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math, most teachers say they are now familiar with the standards, and a growing number feel prepared to teach them to their students. “But fewer than 1 in 5 “strongly agree” that classroom resources are well-aligned to the standards and professional development is high-quality, and many are turning to online sites like Teachers Pay Teachers to find materials for their classrooms...'

12-22-16 Education in the News
NJ Spotlight--2016 Education Recap: Policy Debates More Fizzle than Pop Politics, personalities, and other weighty issues contribute to stalled agendas For all the debates over the past few years about teacher tenure, charter schools, PARCC testing, and school funding, this week’s end to the 2016 legislative session proved pretty anti-climactic. Topping the Legislature’s education bills this week: a proposal about special-education certification and another dealing with dual enrollments with community college. All in all, school issues took a backseat to the pension wars and battles over transportation funding and, at the end, the outcry over publishing legal notices online rather than in newspapers...'

Education Week--SNAPSHOT    Summing Up Results From TIMSS, PISA
Students in the United States are by and large treading water in the two largest international benchmarking tests in math, science, and reading, which both released 2015 results in recent weeks.

U.S. 15-year-olds did not perform significantly differently in science or reading on the Program for International Student Assessment in 2015 compared with their showing in previous years, and their math performance significantly declined since 2012 and 2009, the last two times PISA was given. That put the United States roughly in the middle of education systems in reading and science on PISA, but below average in math...'

ABC News--Utah Man Donates Money to Cover Kids' School Lunches A Utah man who grew up eating free- and reduced-lunch at school has donated enough money to pay for more than 5,000 meals for kids with outstanding lunch balances due at schools in the district where he received his education. Damon Burton now owns website development and marketing companies and was looking for ways to give back and decided to give $2,000 to the Davis School District, the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/2hLYgJi )...'

12-21-16 Education in the News
Star Ledger--Camden gets $6M from feds to help build 'cradle-to-career' pipeline CAMDEN -- It's been four years since the Center for Family Services received a $500,000 federal grant to start planning their own "Promise Neighborhood," an initiative to support children in poor neighborhoods with a goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Merilee Rutolo, the center's chief operating officer, said staff and community partners have worked on the initiative ever since that 2012 planning grant, even though the U.S. Department of Education hasn't released any additional grant money to support the project. That changed Tuesday, when the department announced it was awarding $33 million to build Promise Neighborhood projects in six cities around the country...'

Education Week--Can Michigan Sustain Its Multitiered Supports? Michigan's experiences exemplify the challenges facing states as they scale up multitiered systems of supports Through a statewide initiative, Michigan has launched multitiered systems of supports as a framework to improve academics and behavior in more than half the state's 900 elementary and secondary schools. But educators and researchers have found that initial buy-in, financial incentives, and even early success don't guarantee schools will sustain the model for the long haul...'

12-20-16 Education in the News
Trenton Times--No reason why any N.J. kids can't go to school    Editorial
You lose a great deal when circumstances conspire to leave you homeless: a permanent roof over your head, of course, but also your sense of security, and the luxury of knowing you're able to keep your family safe. If you're a homeless child, the miseries are only compounded. You stand to lose the stabilizing influence of a decent education - the guidance of teachers, the closeness of friends - as well as the future that such an education provides. A bill moving through the N.J. Legislature would require the state to pay the educational costs of students who reside in homeless shelters outside of their home district for more than a year...'

Reuters (via The Atlantic)-- College Board faces rocky path after CEO pushes new vision for SAT David Coleman spearheaded a sweeping redesign of America's oldest college entrance exam. His plan to act fast – and tie the test to the controversial Common Core - stirred up internal resistance and created new problems. NEW YORK - Shortly after taking over the College Board in 2012, new CEO David Coleman circulated an internal memo laying out what he called a “beautiful vision.” It was his 7,800-word plan for transforming the organization’s signature product, the SAT college entrance exam. The path Coleman laid out was detailed, bold and idealistic - a reflection of his personality, say those who know him. Literary passages for the new SAT should be “memorable and often beautiful,” he wrote, and students should be able to take the test by computer...'

Education Week-- States Beef Up School Counseling Corps Several states are making investments to build their corps of school counselors in the wake of mounting, quantifiable evidence that counseling support can be a powerful weapon in the battle to get more students through high school and into college. Minnesota recently announced a $12 million effort to send counselors, social workers, nurses, and school psychologists into 77 schools. College advisers joined the counseling staffs in 30 high schools in Tennessee this fall, thanks to a $7.2 million, three-year pot of money. Colorado is piling millions on top of a $15 million investment because it got such strong results. And the Lilly Endowment in Indiana has pledged up to $30 million to support the design of comprehensive counseling programs there...'

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The Special Education Task Force Report was released  in November 2015. GSCS, a Task Force member,  is looking forward to discussion on this important topic.  See below for links to the report.

RELATED LINKS

FINAL REPORT OF THE NEW JERSEY TASK FORCE ON IMPROVING SPECIAL EDUCATION FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS

LETTER TO LEGISLATURE, GOV. CHRISTIE AND STATE OFFICIALS

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