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12- 9and10-14 Education in the News

Star Ledger - Schools can earn automatic partial escape from state control under a new proposal ‘…The bill (S1895) allows districts that score 80 percent or higher in any of the five categories of New Jersey's Quality Single Accountability Continuum to immediately be released from state control in that area. Districts would remain under state control in other QSAC areas until also fulfilling 80 percent of those requirements…’

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 08, 2014 at 5:37 PM, updated December 08, 2014 at 5:38 PM

TRENTON —State-controlled school districts could earn their automatic release from intervention in some areas under a bill endorsed Monday by the state Senate's budget and appropriations committee.

The bill (S1895) allows districts that score 80 percent or higher in any of the five categories of New Jersey's Quality Single Accountability Continuum to immediately be released from state control in that area. Districts would remain under state control in other QSAC areas until also fulfilling 80 percent of those requirements.

Schools face a state QSAC review every three years in the categories of instruction and program, personnel, fiscal management, operations and governance. Currently, if a district scores an 80 or above in a QSAC category the state may release the school from its control over that category, but that release is not automatic, said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), co-sponsor of the bill.

Aside from the QSAC core, the state makes a subjective decision about whether the district has adequate programs, policies and staffing to demonstrate that its QSAC score is sustainable.

The Newark, Paterson, Jersey City and Camden districts are all under some form of state control, causing tension within the communities. Ruiz, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), said those districts need to a clearer path to escaping state intervention.

Jersey City is in a holding pattern because it never knows when it will be under its own control, said Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson).

"It does not make for a good environment for education," Cunningham said.

The Department of Education last week announced it will grant three-year QSAC waivers to schools that fulfill 80-100 percent of the QSAC performance indicators. Ruiz said the legislature should follow that lead in using QSAC to release schools from state intervention.

The bill passed the committee despite several members abstaining from voting because the bill is unclear about the process of state withdraw.

A tandem bill, A3080, was referred to the state Assembly's education committee in May.

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


NJ Spotlight - Vo-Tech Advocates Applaud Bill-Signings, See Brighter Outlook for Funding…Assembly speaker shepherds through legislation, optimistic that Christie will include more money in next state budget


John Mooney | December 10, 2014


The good news for vocational-technical school supporters was that Gov. Chris Christie signed five bills last week that will enhance their programs, including measures bolstering their links to local schools and industry.

The bad news was that Christie vetoed two bills that would have provided extra funding for the schools, including money for adult schools that were hit especially hard in state budget cuts three years ago.

Related Links

Christie's veto message

Legislature Backs Words of Support for Vo-Tech Schools with Action

But the prime sponsor of the vo-tech bills offered some words of hope yesterday, as Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said he would likely include such funding in the next state budget – and that he expected the governor would leave the funding intact next time.

Christie said in his veto message that such funding should be included as part of the annual state budget process, not in mid-year legislation. Otherwise, he spoke well of the bill package, calling it an important investment in schools and students.

“If you read his veto message, that’s what I take away from it,” Prieto said in an interview, adding he also has had conversations with administration officials about the funding. “Reading the message, there was some hope.”

A former Assembly budget committee chairman, Prieto stopped short of guaranteeing that the money would be included in the next budget – no small sum at close to $10 million – when the state is facing a number of big expenses, not just for education, but also for transportation and pension liabilities.

But with plenty of power now as the Assembly speaker, Prieto said the funding would be a priority.

“I’m going to make every effort to get this funded in the budget,” he said.

Asked why this year would be any different than previous years in which vo-tech schools and others have faced increasing needs and tighter funding, Prieto said his position affords him some confidence.

“It’s different because I’m a Speaker who believes in a lot of issues involving education,” he said.

The governor’s bill signings, if not his vetoes, were largely celebrated last week among supporters ranging from the educators to legislators from both parties to the business community.

The bills Christie signed mandate the following:

·         Require New Jersey’s school performance reports to include specific indicators of student career readiness;

·         Require preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include coursework to support improved student career readiness;

·         Establish a four-year county vocational school district facilities partnership grant program;

·         Require all school districts and public colleges to enter into dual-enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students; and

·         Provide regulatory leeway for county vocational school districts’ programs held in industry settings and other offsite locations.

The bills he vetoed were the following:

·         A bill to restore funding to adult programs within vo-tech districts, estimated to cost at least $6.2 million for the students currently enrolled, never mind those lost with the 2010 cuts.

·         A bill to provide additional funding to vo-tech programs that have seen more than 10 percent growth in enrollment.

Much of the credit for the signings went to Prieto, who put his name behind the package early on and didn’t much let up.

“The speaker is a man of his word,” said Judy Savage, director of the NJ Council of County Vocational Technical Schools. “He said he would make this a priority, and he certainly did so.”

Prieto himself said getting five of seven bills signed is a pretty good percentage, and that he hopes to complete the deal in the coming budget cycle. ”I think this is a win-win for vocational education,” he said



Press of Atlantic City - State revises high school graduation assessments

Students in the graduating classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 will be able to meet graduation requirements in language arts and math in the following ways:

1. Achieve a passing score on a PARCC English Language Arts Assessment in grades 9, 10 or 11, and in Algebra I, Geometry or Algebra II.

2. Get a passing score on a substitute competency test. Acceptable tests include:

*SAT Critical Reading and/or Math; passing score 400 in each.

* ACT Reading and/or math; passing score 16 in each

* PSAT reading and/or math ; passing score 40 in each.

* ACT Aspire reading and/or math; passing score 422 in each.

* ASVAB-AFQT military test; passing score at least 31

* Accuplacer-Write Placer; passing score at least 6

* Accuplacer Elementary Algebra; passing score at least 76

3. NJDOE Portfolio Appeal: Districts can submit for review portfolios of students who do not demonstrate competencies through the PARCC or a substitute test in language arts and/or math.

Source: N.J. Department of Education

Posted: Monday, December 8, 2014 5:00 pm

State revises high school graduation assessments By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer The Press of Atlantic City

The state Department of Education has updated the list of various assessments that current high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be able to use to meet the state graduation requirement during the phase-in period for new state tests.

The new list, sent to chief school administrators last week, adds the PSAT and ACT Aspire tests to the list of substitute assessments students can use in place of passing the new state PARCC assessments to be given for the first time starting in March.

The list also changes the minimum passing scores on two tests. The passing score for the Accuplacer Write Placer drops from 8 to 6, and the minimum passing score on the military ASVAB/AFQT test rises one point to 31.

The large menu of options is creating a logistical challenge for high school counselors who will have to track which tests students take and pass to make sure they can graduate. This year they also also tracking the last administration of the old HSPA graduation test for seniors who did not pass it in their junior year.

Shelley Grossman, president of the Cape Atlantic School Counselors Association said it has been confusing because the process keeps changing. She said counselors barely discussed PARCC as a high school graduation requirement at their fall conference because at the time it was not expected to be a used as a graduation requirement, but only as a field test.

Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe announced in late September that students in the graduating classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 could use their PARCC scores to meet the graduation requirement, or they could also use the results of several other approved standardized tests including the SAT, ACT and Accuplacer. The PARCC tests are not expected to become the sole graduation requirement until at least 2019.

See sample questions from the PARCC

Urban school officials have expressed concern that since many of their students do not plan to attend college, they are less likely to take another standadized test like the SAT, making their only graduation options passing the PARCC or a state Department of Education portfolio review, which is time-consuming to prepare.

The state also said that schools that use block or semester scheduling do not have to require students who took a tested course in the fall to take the PARCC test in the spring of 2015. A special testing period was added later in the spring for schools on block scheduling.

Millville High School principal Kathleen Procopio said she is concerned that if she exempts juniors in the fall block from testing in the spring, she is hurting their chances to meet the graduation requirement since some may not plan to take another standardized test.

“It limits their options,” she said.

Procopio said without another test, the only option for students who fail the new PARCC is the portfolio review. She said if she exempts the students in the fall block, and they don’t have another standardized test to fall back on, staff could have hundreds of portfolios to prepare.

Most school officials said they believe the large variety of options will provide enough flexibilty to make sure all qualified students graduate. But they do agree that the logistics of tracking every student will take some time to set up.

Hammonton school guidance supervisor Michael Ryan said he doesn’t expect to have many portfolio reviews, but he is expecting more paperwork.

“This will result in a more complicated record keeping system for the guidance office, but it shouldn't have an impact on a school's graduation rate,” he said.

State officials said they understand concerns about the new test, but that the new PARCC tests will be more valuable to teachers and parents and concerns are being addressed.

Department spokesman Mike Yaple said the the big complaint about the old paper-and-pencil test is that it really didn’t give educators any data to improve classroom instruction. In addition, the old test didn’t provide parents with insights into whether their child is on track to graduate ready for college and career.

“The electronic PARCC test is designed to address that,” he said in an email. “Through PARCC, New Jersey schools will have a tool that will help educators improve the classroom, and give parents some truly meaningful feedback on how their child is doing.”

He said the department has been strongly encouraging schools to download the test onto a local server, where student computers or devices can connect to it locally rather than relying on Internet bandwidth, which has been a concern.

While the testing is required of all students taking the PARCC-tested courses in English, algebra, alebra II and geometry, the flexibilty options also provide an alternative for the small number of students who “opt out” of taking the PARCC tests entirely.

Hespe has said that typically less than 1 percent of students have refused to take the test or turned in blank answer booklets, and the expectation is that all students will take the tests. Students who skip school on testing days would be subject to their district’s attendance and discipline policies.

There has been a small movement statewide to opt out of PARCC testing, and the most recent department memo indicates that for at least for the next three years high school students will be able to substitute one of the other options.

Yaple said in an email that during the phase-in period a district may accept any of the substitute tests to qualify to meet graduation requirements.

Contact Diane D'Amico:



@ACPressDamico on Twitter



Newjerseynewsroom.com - Education in New Jersey: Separate and Unequal?

Monday, 08 December 2014 21:12




For decades, the question as to whether or not there is an equitable education system in New Jersey has been a constant debate amongst policy makers for a myriad of reasons. Now, more emphasis than ever has been added to the dialogue by way of a report published last year which put the issue at the forefront once again with the question of why?

Paul Tractenberg, with the Institute on Education Law and Policy, Rutgers University-Newark, issued a joint report with the Civil Rights Project, UCLA. It’s the title that continues to have tongues wagging:

New Jersey’s Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Urban Schools

While we associate (as does the Merriam-Webster dictionary) apartheid with a despicable social system practiced in South Africa, the authors claim that New Jersey’s most segregated schools – 91 in total – are apartheid schools because they have less than 1 percent of students who are white, and at least 79 percent are low income.

Because we, as a state, have allowed municipalities and school systems to corral many minority students into low-performing schools, this prohibits the ability for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to interact. This practice dooms those students to a cycle of shoddy educational opportunities and “real” contact with peers unlike them, the report says.

And, the overarching link to this issue is that most of the students in underperforming schools live beneath the poverty line, so they are incapable of picking up and moving to a more affluent, better performing school.

Richard Rothstein, who studies the performance gap between better performing students and lower performing ones, links segregation directly to the root of this disparity. Statistical data tells us that many of our neighborhoods are homogeneous and lacking economic and racial diversity, which in turn contributes to concentrations of poverty and segregated schools. The by-product of this results in lower-performing schools and children unprepared for the usual rigors of attending classes.

Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law, offers a blunt assessment:

“We can’t expect to narrow the achievement gap if children come to school unprepared to take advantage of what good schools can offer. If we concentrate such children in schools of poverty and racial isolation, raising their achievement is even more daunting. Desegregation is a necessary part of a school improvement strategy, and there is no way to desegregate schools without desegregating the urban and suburban neighborhoods of our metropolitan areas. And we are unlikely to embark on policies to desegregate if we fail to identify the racially explicit policies that created the segregated neighborhoods we know today.”

He offers a powerful indictment that calls for courage on the part of policy makers if we expect improvement. Tractenberg believes this dilemma can be fixed, but it will require an enormous amount of change and a power-sharing shift. In short, political will and legislative courage.

The Tractenberg Report offers these suggestions:

* Fresh focus on magnet and regional schools that would allow students to cross local boundaries._

* State-supported schools must provide “explicit goals and procedures” that promote racial diversity._

* Halt or cut off any subsidies for “more low-income housing … where students must attend apartheid schools …”_

* Give serious consideration to consolidate school districts in the interests of “civil rights and racial balance goals.”

While I try to distill important issues to a more manageable conversation in my blog, this is one instance where you should print or download the entire report, turn on that overhead light and read it for yourself. To read the entire report, click this link: http://bit.ly/1xZtN9K.

Its clarity, soundness and thoroughness should be obvious. And, while some may disagree with the proposed solutions, I think the debate that it sparks is long overdue.

It strikes me that while we often read stories about education, the kids themselves become a statistic or some generalization that we do not always see. Please remember that these students belong to all us. Just because we do not see them does not mean they are not there and that their success is essential to the success of our entire society. That's my take. What's yours?

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Troy Singleton serves in the New Jersey General Assembly, representing the 7th Legislative District since November, 2011