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2-5-15 Education News Round Up: State Board Meeting

NJ Spotlight - STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION PRESENTS FIRST PEEK AT REPORTS ON PARCC RESULTS

JOHN MOONEY | FEBRUARY 5, 2015

Breakout of scores on new tests will make it simple to compare students to counterparts across district, state, and country

http://www.njspotlight.com/assets/15/0204/2042.256

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The Christie administration provided the first look yesterday at the reports that will be made available to parents and schools under the new and controversial PARCC exams that will be starting next month.

In a presentation to the State Board of Education, assistant commissioner Bari Erlichson walked through the new reports, which will be full of colorful graphics to show how individual students fare on the new online tests. The charts will also indicate how they compare with kids in their district, state, and across the country -- or at least in the dozen states taking the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.

RELATED LINKS

PARCC Report Presentation

The reports will be available in the fall, she said, but in coming years, it could be as soon as the summer or even the end of the school year.

Erlichson started her presentation with a blunt assessment, dismissing the value of the state’s tests for the past decade -- both the NJASK for elementary and middle schools and the High School Proficiency Assessment for high schools -- as not being much value to the state’s teachers.

“NJASK and HSPA were not assessments that informed student learning,” she said. “It was ultimately not meaningful as a teacher tool or to help parents engage in student learning.”

The new reports, she said, would change that by furnishing detailed, user-friendly data about a student’s specific capabilities, such as vocabulary or reading and comprehending different kinds of texts. She said different reports available to schools would let them look at how students performed on individual questions.

The reports will look significantly different from the current one reports, with students split into five achievement categories -- ranging from “minimal” to “distinguished” -- rather than three.

 

NJ Spotlight - SCHOOL PERFORMANCE REPORTS: HOW MANY GRADS PURSUE COLLEGE DEGREES?

JOHN MOONEY | FEBRUARY 5, 2015

New Jersey tracks how many of our students enroll in higher-education institutions – and stay for at least a full year of classes

 

One part of the state’s new School Performance Reports looks at a longer-term question: How many of New Jersey’s high-school graduates move on to higher-education institutions -- and how many stay there? .

Using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the state is now tracking the percentage of graduates enrolled in colleges or universities 16 months after high school, which is the equivalent of making it through freshman year.

RELATED LINKS

School Performance Reports: Poorer Districts Have Higher Absenteeism

School Performance Reports: New Data Tracks Interest in Vo-Tech Classes

The Results are In: State Releases 2013-2014 School Performance Reports

The latest report compiles data for the Class of 2013, now more than a year out of high school, and breaks it down by two- and four-year schools, as well as by other categories including race.

The range is varies widely, from virtually all of the graduates of the state’s selective county academies moving on to pursue higher education to only about one-third of high-school graduates heading to college from some of New Jersey’s poorer cities.

The top five schools for college attendance were:

  • Academy for Allied Health Sciences, Union County Vo-Tech: 93.7 percent enrolled
  • Chatham High School: 93.2 percent enrolled
  • Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Ocean Vo-Tech: 93.1 percent enrolled
  • Bergen County Technical High School-Teterboro, Bergen Vo-Tech: 92.7 percent enrolled
  • Union County Magnet High School, Union County Vo-Tech: 92.5 percent enrolled

Editor’s note: Each day this week, NJ Spotlight will highlight one set of data from the state’s School Performance Reports.

 

NJ Spotlight - ADMINISTRATION RELEASES NEW CODE FOR TEACHER TRAINING, ‘ALTERNATE ROUTE’

JOHN MOONEY | FEBRUARY 5, 2015

Proposals get lukewarm reception from teacher-education colleges and educators themselves

The Christie administration released yesterday its new code detailing how teachers are to be trained and licensed. It drew a decidedly mixed response from those representing the colleges who will be doing the training and from the teachers themselves.

Top staff of the state Department of Education presented the proposed code at the State Board of Education, proposing an extensive array of changes as to how student teachers are to go through the system and how the state’s “alternate route” will be redesigned.

RELATED LINKS

Proposed Changes to the Traditional Route

Proposed Changes to the Alternate Route

The proposals double the time that teacher candidates will need to serve as student teachers in a district, as well as the time required for those taking the alternate route.

But representatives of the state’s colleges and universities that train the bulk of the teachers said they had plenty of questions about the new proposals.

The schools, along with the state’s top teachers unions, collaborated on a report this fall that laid out their own plan for improving teacher education, including stronger requirements for preparation and more support once on the job.

“We were disappointed to not see more of the extensive work that was put forward,” said Joelle Tutela, president of New Jersey Colleges of Teacher Education, who attended the state board meeting yesterday.

Accompanied by a dozen other college representatives, Tutela said there were some positive aspects from her membership’s perspective, including tougher requirements on the alternate-route programs.

But they were limited. She said the department had reached out to the group for suggestions, but it did not seem to take them to heart. “They had started dialogue with us, but then we didn’t see what they were proposing until 72 hours before the [state board] meeting,” she said.

Among several concerns, she asked whether the requirement for more student teaching time came with the additional resources that would required, financial and otherwise.

“That sounds great, but we need the supports to make it happen,” Tutella said.

Leaders of the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union, were mixed in their reactions as well. They also said the administration had skipped over some of the strongest recommendations from the coalition’s proposal last fall.

One proposal the NJEA is pushing is for a new level of “teacher leaders,” something left out of the administration’s proposal yesterday. A legislative bill that would start the process of creating such a tier is to be voted on in the state Senate today.

“We are at the height of needing teacher leaders, and as we need standards everywhere else, we need standards there, too,” said Marie Blistan, the NJEA’s vice president who attend the board meeting yesterday.

Blistan also worried about the new time requirements for student teachers, when there is already pushback from classroom teachers who worry about the added pressures that come with teacher evaluations.

“We as a profession have always welcomed student teachers, but now there seems to be some reluctance from those wanting to go into teaching and also those who worry we are putting our evaluations in the hands of [student teachers] who are in the classrooms,” she said.

Assistant state education commissioner Peter Shulman said after the presentation that he was aware of the concerns, and he hoped for further discussions in the weeks and months ahead.

Star Ledger- N.J. wants to adopt more rigorous standards for teacher candidates

Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on February 04, 2015 at 6:08 PM, updated February 05, 2015 at 7:04 AM

TRENTON —Becoming a teacher in New Jersey would require additional training time for student teachers and higher standards for substitutes under revised rules proposed today by the state Department of Education.

The update to state policy would affect future students pursuing a teaching degree through a traditional four-year college progam as well as future substitutes teachers and those transitioning into teaching through alternative routes, like Teach for America or other programs.

"We need to make sure the next generation, the next 150,000 teachers in New Jersey are prepared," Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said after presenting the proposed changes. "By simply thinking about preparing them in a similar manner that we have prepared them before, I don't think we are advancing the conversation."

Shulman noted several times during his presentation that current requirements are not strong enough, making it too easy to get into a New Jersey classroom, especially for substitutes and out-of-state teachers.

Under the proposal, those who pursue a teaching career though an education program at a college or university would have their student teaching requirements doubled from a semester to an entire school year. They would also now need to teach in two different school settings, including spending time with special needs students.

The GPA requirement for students pursuing a teaching degree was recently raised to 3.0 from 2.75 and those students must also pass a teacher performance exam under recently approved regulations.

"It's having a higher bar initially, having a more aligned clinical base preparation and then having a higher bar before I get certified," Shulman said.

Shulman also said the current alternative-route programs can be ineffective because candidates are allowed to jump from program to program, which causes the sequence of instruction to be disrupted. The new requirements would require start-to-finish training in one program.

Meanwhile, those programs would be extended from one year to two with additional mandatory hours.

"It's too easy to say, 'You know what, I want to be a teacher,'" Shulman said. "That doesn't make sense for our kids."

Substitute teachers, currently required to have an associate degree or 60 college credits, would now be required compete a bachelor's degree, though current substitutes would likely be grandfathered in, Shulman said. The state also wants to lower the number of consecutive days one substitute can spend in a classroom.

The new regulations would also strengthen the requirements for out-of-state teachers, almost all of which are currently accepted in New Jersey under what Shulman called "porous rules." New Jersey would now require evidence of effective teaching in two of three years within the last four to earn a permanent license.

The state consulted The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, as it developed the proposal, NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer said. The two sides agree on some elements but not on everything, Steinhauer said.

"I would applaud the board for taking action on the things that they have been working on and things that we have brought to the table for them," he said. "I think they are making an honest effort to come to agreement on a lot things. I think this is a great first step."

One of the lingering issues is the higher standard for substitutes, which the NJEA believes could result in a shortage.

The state board will accept public testimony about the proposed regulations at its March 4 meeting.

In addition to the stronger requirements for teachers, the state also wants to begin collecting more data on its teacher candidates and the teacher programs at colleges and universities. The state wants to gain a better of understanding of the education programs' strengths and weaknesses, Shulman said.

Other data that will be collected will help guide prospective teachers into the subjects with the highest demand, he said.

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

 

Star Ledger - By the numbers: Jersey City schools have a yearly $50 million problem

Laura Herzog | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Laura Herzog | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on February 05, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated February 05, 2015 at 8:06 AM

 
 

TRENTON -- Jersey City's school buildings are old, and there simply aren't enough of them. That point was emphasized by Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles in heraddress to the state board of education in Trenton Wednesday morning.

"I've talked to the board before, and I'm going to continue to talk about our aging and outdated facilities. This is a major, major concern," Lyles said. 

The superintendent was in the state capitol for the required yearly evaluation of the Jersey City school district, which is partially controlled by the state.

The schools chief called attention to a shortage of pre-K space (pre-K classes serving 945 students are being held in trailers), an infrastructure cost of over $50 million to maintain its buildings, and the number of aging schools.

Thirteen schools are more than 100 years old, 13 over 80 years old, six are over 50 and only seven built after 1965, according to Lyles. 

Though Lyles was pleased with the construction of two new schools-PS 20 in Greenville and a $54 million elementary school in the Heights-the district projects its total enrollment to swell from about 29,000 students to nearly 35,000 students by 2017, with the largest uptick coming in pre-k.

Here are some other Jersey City interesting school numbers, as provided by Lyles:

  • Jersey City may be the second-most diverse city in the United States: Of nearly 29,000 students, over 38 percent are Latino, 32 percent are African-American, 17.5 are Asian and 11 percent are white. Thirteen percent of students are English language learners, and Lyles said "we are really very, very happy about some of the progress" for ESL students, who outperform the state in most grades.
  • Seventy percent of students earn free and reduced lunch. Poverty is a significant issue in the city, where 40 percent of Jersey City's 40 schools are "low-performing" schools that meet certain criteria to receive targeted attention. The progress in these schools in the past two years has largely not been "significant," Lyles said.
  • Pervasive achievement gaps on NJASK and HSPA testing, including an up-to-30 percent gap between Asians and African-American students. That holds "across the board," in terms of graduation rates and achievement and participation in more rigorous programs, Lyles said. The district is working on strategies to address these gaps, she said.
  • The district has a 67 percent graduation rate overall, compared to an 89 percent average 2014 graduation rate for the state. Lyles said the district expects to see some progress in the coming years.
  • There's a current budget shortfall of $4 million on the $665 million budget, with an anticipated $21 million shortfall over the next three years. Despite rising costs, like upcoming salary hikes worked into the new teachers' contract, Lyles said the district has received flat funding.

Laura Herzog may be reached at lherzog@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LauraHerzogL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

Star Ledger -By the numbers: Jersey City schools have a yearly $50 million problem

Laura Herzog | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Laura Herzog | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on February 05, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated February 05, 2015 at 8:06 AM

TRENTON -- Jersey City's school buildings are old, and there simply aren't enough of them. That point was emphasized by Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles in heraddress to the state board of education in Trenton Wednesday morning.

"I've talked to the board before, and I'm going to continue to talk about our aging and outdated facilities. This is a major, major concern," Lyles said. 

The superintendent was in the state capitol for the required yearly evaluation of the Jersey City school district, which is partially controlled by the state.

The schools chief called attention to a shortage of pre-K space (pre-K classes serving 945 students are being held in trailers), an infrastructure cost of over $50 million to maintain its buildings, and the number of aging schools.

Thirteen schools are more than 100 years old, 13 over 80 years old, six are over 50 and only seven built after 1965, according to Lyles. 

Though Lyles was pleased with the construction of two new schools-PS 20 in Greenville and a $54 million elementary school in the Heights-the district projects its total enrollment to swell from about 29,000 students to nearly 35,000 students by 2017, with the largest uptick coming in pre-k.

Here are some other Jersey City interesting school numbers, as provided by Lyles:

  • Jersey City may be the second-most diverse city in the United States: Of nearly 29,000 students, over 38 percent are Latino, 32 percent are African-American, 17.5 are Asian and 11 percent are white. Thirteen percent of students are English language learners, and Lyles said "we are really very, very happy about some of the progress" for ESL students, who outperform the state in most grades.
  • Seventy percent of students earn free and reduced lunch. Poverty is a significant issue in the city, where 40 percent of Jersey City's 40 schools are "low-performing" schools that meet certain criteria to receive targeted attention. The progress in these schools in the past two years has largely not been "significant," Lyles said.
  • Pervasive achievement gaps on NJASK and HSPA testing, including an up-to-30 percent gap between Asians and African-American students. That holds "across the board," in terms of graduation rates and achievement and participation in more rigorous programs, Lyles said. The district is working on strategies to address these gaps, she said.
  • The district has a 67 percent graduation rate overall, compared to an 89 percent average 2014 graduation rate for the state. Lyles said the district expects to see some progress in the coming years.
  • There's a current budget shortfall of $4 million on the $665 million budget, with an anticipated $21 million shortfall over the next three years. Despite rising costs, like upcoming salary hikes worked into the new teachers' contract, Lyles said the district has received flat funding.

Laura Herzog may be reached at lherzog@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LauraHerzogL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.