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1-12-15 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight - Newark School Chief Could Earn Hefty Bonus Based on Performance Review…If Cami Anderson meets seven criteria, she qualifies for a 20 percent boost above her 2013-2014 salary

 John Mooney | January 12, 2015 

Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson was grilled by legislators last week; now she’s under review by the Christie administration to see if she met her performance goals in the past school year.

This review, however, may come with some cash.lated Links

Newark School Chief Wins New Contract

Superintendent Cami Anderson’s Contract

Under Anderson’s previous contract, which expired in June, she can get an additional 20 percent of last year’s base salary ($247,500) if she meets seven quantitative and qualitative goals.

Following a request by NJ Spotlight, the administration recently released the goals. But a spokesman for the state Department of Education stressed that they were set in January, midway through the 2013 - 2014 school year.

Planning/qualitative goals

·         “Family Snapshots” for all schools that provide data on performance, as well as families reporting high satisfaction with fairness/utility of the measures.

·         Policy manual with decisions informed by advisory group of charter and community leaders

·         Facilities proposal to Schools Development Authority regarding “fewer, better” schools

·         Three-year portfolio plan with focus on equity

Key performance metrics/quantitative goals:

·         Decrease the number of students who are chronically absent by 5 percent

·         Increase the High School Proficiency graduation rate by 3 percent

·         Increase the percent of 11th graders meeting language arts and/or math standards on the ACT by 3 percent

The administration’s review comes as the pressure intensifies on Anderson, as she faced a scathing critique from legislators last week in a rare appearance in Trenton.

Much of the criticism focused both on her policies and on her leadership style, which has left her at odds with many Newark community leaders.

The list of criteria for her bonus did not speak much to these issues and was noteworthy for what’s included -- and what’s not.

Only one of the quantitative criteria is based on the district’s performance on the state’s own assessments, while another uses the ACT college entrance test now taken by all 11th graders.

The qualitative goals are more about setting up plans rather than implementing them fully and satisfactorily. The portfolio plan goal appears to refer to Anderson’s “One Newark” reorganization that has been the object of much of the community’s criticism against her.

DOE spokesman Michael Yaple said the administration is now determining whether Anderson met the goals and would qualify for the bonuses.

When asked whether setting goals midway through the year was a valid method of evaluation, Yaple said that it was not just Anderson determining the criteria but also the administration under state Education Commissioner David Hespe.

“It is a supervisory decision that occurs after discussions between the Department and the superintendent,” he said in an email.

Still, he said the department hoped to expedite the process in the future with the recent appointment of a new director to oversee districts with the greatest amount state intervention, which includes Newark and the three other state-operated districts.

Tim Matheney, formerly the head of the state’s teacher evaluation office, was moved to the new position three months ago.

“Moving forward, the Chief Intervention Officer hopes to take steps to reduce the time to finalize evaluations,” Yaple said.

Anderson would not comment on the performance goals at this point; a spokeswoman said she wanted to let the full process be completed.

While the process is being finalized for 2013-14 school year, one is underway for the current school year as well. Yaple said the performance goals would be set by the end of this month.

Under the new three-year contract finished in June, Anderson is eligible for a similar 20 percent bonus. Her base salary is $251,500 this school year, with cost-of-living raises in subsequent years.

There’s a bit more at stake for the renewal process specified by the current contract. Anderson not only has her bonus on the line, but also her job: She must be renewed each year to retain her position.

Under the contract, the administration must notify Anderson of its intentions for the next school year by March 1.


Star Ledger - Where the hypocrisy is staggering when it comes to charter schools: Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board The Star-Ledger
on January 11, 2015 at 8:03 AM, updated January 11, 2015 at 9:38 AM

The biggest knock on charter schools has always been that they fail to take their fair share of at-risk kids.

This isn’t necessarily nefarious: Factors like more proactive parents also mean that better off kids are more likely to enter the lottery. Some charters, like Hola, a dual-language school in Hoboken, are truly mission-driven, and do everything they can to recruit the neediest kids.

They go door-to-door and pass out fliers. But until recently, the state had considered another solution off-limits: A weighted lottery, in which charters put a finger on the scale to give an advantage to poor kids, who are disproportionately black and Latino.

Thankfully, this seems to have changed. When Superintendent Cami Anderson set up a universal enrollment system to ensure charters in Newark take their fair share of at-risk kids, it set a precedent. David Hespe, the acting commissioner of education, said all charters can use weighted lotteries.

So Hola is now seeking to set up a lottery to enroll more at-risk kids. The surprise, and the outrage, is that the district is trying to block the school from doing so.

The hypocrisy here is staggering. The district has complained that Hola doesn’t take its fair share of at-risk kids, but now it is seeking to block a reasonable remedy. And the district itself is exacerbating the problem by allowing white families to move their children from the most segregated school in the city, Connors Elementary, to other area schools.

To understand how preposterous this all is, you need some background on the ongoing battle over Hola. It’s a popular charter that immerses kids in Spanish and English starting at a young age. The program is terrific, and its test scores are excellent. So what’s the problem? In a word, race.

The district has been trying to stop Hola's expansion on the grounds that it has been drawing too many white students away from district schools. The district isn’t trying to claim that Hola is doing this on purpose, given the charter's active efforts to recruit at-risk students. But while Hola has so far managed to get twice the portion of minority kids as the city’s population, it still has a smaller portion than the district schools.

In its $50,000 lawsuit, the district blames this on Hola. Instead of trying improve its own offerings, the district is using its resources to go after the charter -- even trying to block Hola from giving low income kids an extra shot in its lottery this year.

There’s a waiting period for the district to give its opinion on a weighted lottery, and because the district has sought to delay this process, Hola will likely be unable to do one until January of 2016. This means the extra shot for low income kids this year has been squandered. They will have to wait for Hoboken politics, because the district refuses to allow what is right.