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11-3-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--Wide Achievement Gap Persists Despite New PARCC Exams

Still release of school-by-school scores reveals many gains virtually statewide

For all the changes that the state’s new PARCC testing has wrought for New Jersey’s public schools, one constant has prevailed: a wide and deep achievement gap.

The Christie administration yesterday released the school-by-school test scores from the second year of the new online testing last spring, and like the statewide scores released this summer, they should be mostly good news for schools.

Follow this Link to see your school’s scores.

Statewide, there were gains in passing rates in virtually every grade and most of the subgroups. Yesterday, state officials said nearly half of the students in many grades moved up a full tier in performance.

Nonetheless, the gaps in performance between students from families with different incomes or of different races have clearly persisted and even may have even widened in some cases under PARCC.



John Mooney | November 3, 2016


NJ Spotlight--Newark School Chief Urges End to LIFO

Lawsuit argues layoffs should be based on merit, not seniority, while union says that would leave schools vulnerable to politics

The chief of New Jersey's largest school district yesterday firmly offered support for the arguments behind a new lawsuit against the state, which challenges the law protecting senior teachers from layoffs.

Chris Cerf, who was Gov. Chris Christie’s state education commissioner before taking the job of Newark schools superintendent, said the state’s "last in, first out" or LIFO seniority rules are a "serious, serious problem for us" as the cash-strapped district struggles to cover the cost of ineffective teachers who have been rejected from teaching positions but remain on the payroll.

Calling the LIFO law “morally unjustified,” Cerf listed it as one of the continuing challenges the Newark school district faces, along with an expired teacher contract, insufficient funding, and attracting and retaining talented teachers. He made the remarks while updating the state Board of Education on progress in the state-controlled district.


Meir Rinde | November 3, 2016


Star Ledger--N.J. public worker pension fund now the weakest in U.S., report says

TRENTON — New Jersey's distressed government worker pension system is now  the worst funded in the U.S., according to a report by Bloomberg.

The Garden State's public pension fund has languished near the bottom, but has now dropped below Kentucky and Illinois for last place, according to the report.

Their analysis compared the states' funding ratios, or their assets in relation to their pension debt.

As of July 1, 2015, New Jersey's state and local pension funds have just 37.5 percent of the funding it needs to pay for future benefits. That is based on new reporting standards that require the state to project lower investment returns and had bleak consequences for the state's estimates. 


Samantha Marcus | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com| November 02, 2016 at 6:55 PM, updated November 03, 2016 at 7:07 AM

Press of Atlantic City--Groups challenging N.J. high school graduation test requirement

Several New Jersey advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the use of the PARCC standardized tests as a requirement for high school graduation in the state.

The lawsuit says new state regulations, which require students to pass the Algebra I and ELA10 10th grade English exams to graduate starting in 2021, violate state law and will hurt students. Those regulations were approved by the state Board of Education.

The suit, filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, notes the only alternative for students who do not pass the tests is the time-consuming portfolio-review process, which requires the state Department of Education to review a student’s work.

A press release issued by the Education Law Center, co-counsel in the suit, said if the rule had been in effect in 2016, more than half the graduating class would have been at risk of not graduating.

The state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit the use of student standa…

According to the lawsuit, the state law requiring a state test explicitly calls for an 11th-grade test. The two tests included in the new requirements are given across a wide range of middle and high school grades. It says making the language arts requirement the 10th-grade test deprives students with limited English of an extra year to improve their skills.

The current regulations allow students to substitute other tests for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers through 2020, including the SAT and ACT. The lawsuit says those options can restrict low-income students’ access to alternative options since many are fee-based tests.


DIANE D’AMICO Staff Writer|November 2, 2016


CBS News--Okla. schools make tough cuts amid oil slump, budget cuts

INOLA, Okla. -- Inola High School is like any other in America, bustling with students running from class to class.

Except on Mondays.

The school district, outside of Tulsa, has lost $400,000 in state funding over the past year.

“Not in my worst dream did I ever figure I would be taking my district to a four-day school week,” said Dr. Kent Holbrook, the superintendent.

The choice was cut teachers or switch to four days with longer hours.

“When I started weighing out, what’s going to do more damage to these students? Is it going to be put 30, 35 first-graders in a class, or change the hours in a week? The decision was actually pretty easy,” Holbrook said.

Lawmakers blame a 70 percent drop in oil and gas prices since 2014. This year the state faced a $1.3 billion deficit and cut $34 million in education funding.

But critics say that’s in part due to years of giving tax breaks to oil companies; Rates as low as one percent during the boom, while the going rate in North Dakota was 11.5 percent.

Nearly one-third of Oklahoma’s school districts, in mostly poor, rural areas, have had to shorten the school week.

“Knowing we don’t have enough money to keep the lights on and the buses running … it’s just an outrage,” said Audra Cornett, who has two children in Inola schools and is also a teacher.


By Manuel Bojorquez CBS News November 2, 2016, 7:26 PM