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11-18-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--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.

We are focused on test scores and accept without question the fallacy that they have importance beyond the system that rewards and punishes those forced to use them. The results may serve to allow us to extol/defend the wisdom of our own views of racial equality or inferiority, of sufficient/insufficient moral fiber, of tax equity or burden, and so forth, but they tell us nothing about the impact of schooling that we didn't know 30 years ago.


Rich Ten Eyck | November 18, 2016


Star Ledger--N.J. outperforms other states on most PARCC exams

TRENTON — New Jersey bested other PARCC states on the majority of math and English exams administered last school year even though many of its students still struggled on the tests, according to new data. 

Among the six states and District of Columbia that participated in testing, New Jersey had the highest average score on 14 of the 18 exams as well as the highest percentage of students who earned what's considered a passing score. 

New Jersey students scored particularly well on the elementary school and middle school tests, posting the highest average score on each of the exams for grades 3-7, according to new data released by PARCC. 

Students in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia also took the exams, which are for students in grades 3-11. 

"We are encouraged by the performance of our students compared to students in other states, but we know that we still have work to do in New Jersey to support further improvement," said David Saenz, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. 

New Jersey's scores improved on nearly every exam in 2015-16, the second year students took the computerized tests from PARCC, short for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.


Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com| November 18, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated November 18, 2016 at 7:45 AM


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 –  a process that 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.

Through an examination of public records, The Record found that transgender policies were already commonplace prior to a May letter issued by federal justice and education officials laying out requirements for schools to accommodate transgender students. The federal directives heated up a national discussion and led to lawsuits in other parts of the country –  with the U.S. Supreme Court recently wading into the fray when it said it would decide whether a transgender boy may use the boys’ bathroom in a Virginia high school.

It is unclear what impact the election of Donald Trump as president will have on the issue, particularly in New Jersey – where some school officials have said their policies are an extension of state civil rights laws. Trump, earlier this year, was critical of a North Carolina law barring transgender people from using restrooms based on their gender identity, saying that people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” He later said the matter should be decided by states and not the federal government.

By last month, The Record found, 47 of 62 North Jersey high school districts had transgender policies in place, with many specifying that students were allowed to use restrooms based on their gender identity, one of the requirements highlighted in the May letter.


Abbott Koloff and Andrew Wyrich , NorthJersey.com


The Record--Schools play major role - good and bad - in life of kids with anxiety

This article was originally published April 26, 2015.

A kindergartner is grabbed by the arm and dragged into the classroom she is afraid to enter.

A middle-schooler has an anxiety attack in gym class, and the teacher stands there looking at his watch, timing the student's struggle while classmates laugh.

An aide yells when a student starts to cry.

A nurse tells a 5-year-old who just threw up on herself out of nervousness, "You may have your mother wrapped around your finger, but you don't have me."

These are incidents that have occurred in North Jersey public schools, according to parents and their kids who suffer from anxiety disorders, which remain misunderstood and often considered less serious or more a weakness than a health condition.

"I think if you said he had autism, cancer, leukemia, we would have cakes, pies and dinner coming over our house every other day," said Tom O'Donnell of Washington Township, whose 14-year-old son suffers from anxiety. "I think the school would have a different understanding."

Children spend at least 30 hours a week in school. It is not only where they are educated, but where they learn to socialize and overcome personal and academic challenges.

It is also a place where a child's anxiety can be set off by academic pressure, social situations, sickness-related phobia or other triggers.


KARA YORIO, The Record 11:52 p.m. EST November 17, 2016


Education Week-- Common Core Gives Nod to Digital Skills

The Common Core State Standards allow for teaching digital literacy, but they don't make a big push for it

Despite requiring some technology use, the Common Core State Standards for English/language arts don't do enough to ensure that students become effective digital readers, some literacy experts say.

"At the top level, they're saying, yes, we recognize literacy means being digitally literate," said Bridget Dalton, an associate professor of literacy studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "But when you go to specific standards in reading, there's not a lot there to guide you."

Because of the ambiguity in the reading standards, which often give teachers the option to use "print or digital" texts, some say language arts educators are likely to stick with more traditional print-based methods.

And there's concern that language arts teachers will remain print-focused for another reason as well: Because the common-core-aligned tests, while administered on a computer, set up an environment that's more akin to print reading than it is to an authentic online experience.

Permission But Not a Requirement

Mentions of digital texts and tools appear throughout the common-core standards, but the document is certainly more prescriptive in some places than others.

First published in 2009, the common core, which nearly 40 states now use, is made up of anchor and grade-specific standards. The anchor standards describe the broad skills students need by the end of their education to be ready for college or careers, while the grade-specific standards lay out what students should know by the end of a certain grade.


By Liana Heitin|November 8, 2016