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11-7-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--The List: A Quick Look at the School Districts with the Best PARCC Scores

No surprise, perhaps, but the schools in more affluent communities tended to have the highest average student scores and passing rates

PARCC has proven controversial since before New Jersey adopted the multistate system of testing. Public school students from grades three through 11 take computer-based exams in language arts. They also face elementary and middle-school graded math tests and Algebra I and Algebra II and geometry in the years in which they take those classes. Currently PARCC is one test high school students can use to fulfill the state's graduation testing mandate. Eventually, PARCC will become a graduation requirement.

While the statewide results improved in the second year of testing, the number of students not passing remains too high. Fewer than half of all high schoolers passed their tests, with the lowest passing rate 25 percent on the Algebra II exam.

But the news was not all bad. Some districts, typically those in the DOE's J District Factor Group of communities with the highest socio-economic status, had relatively high average scores and large percentages of students passing, meaning they scored at levels 4 (meets expectations) and 5 (exceeds expectations).


Colleen O'Dea | November 7, 2016


Star Ledger--Should teacher seniority rules trump the rights of kids? | Editorial

A group of Newark parents has just filed a lawsuit, arguing that a state statute forcing districts to fire teachers based on seniority, not talent, is unconstitutional.
At the very least, we should all agree this policy defies common sense. Schools are required to lay off teachers based on the date they started employment, not their actual job performance.
So they end up keeping ineffective teachers while losing some of their best ones. How is that good for kids?
The main victims are poor students, because many already start out behind. Teacher quality matters more for them. Yet when our state reformed its tenure laws in 2012, lawmakers didn't touch the process known as "last-in, first out," which prioritizes seniority in times of layoffs.

The teachers' union drew a red line there. So six Newark parents, backed by an education reform group, are now suing, saying this denies their kids a "thorough and efficient" education under our state constitution.
Their pro bono lawsuit is probably a long shot, since we haven't yet seen one succeed in other states. Win or lose, though, changing the policy itself is vital, especially as districts like Newark shrink their teaching staffs with declining enrollment. It is something our Legislature should have fixed long ago. Why should these parents have to go to court for it?
The clause they're suing under is the same one cited in the famous 1985 New Jersey Supreme Court case, Abbott v. Burke, which challenged the lack of equal funding for students in the poorest districts. But this time, it's not just about money. It's about the teacher in the classroom, too.


By  Star-Ledger Editorial Board


Philadelphia Inquirer--More U.S. middle school students dying of suicide than car crashes

 (Reuters) - The suicide rate among U.S. middle school students doubled from 2007 to 2014, surpassing for the first time the incidence of youngsters aged 10 to 14 who died in car crashes, a federal report released on Thursday said.

The steady seven-year rise in middle school suicides, from an annual rate of 0.9 to 2.1 per 100,000, came as traffic deaths among the same age group declined to 1.9 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The motor vehicle mortality rate reported for 2014, the latest year for which such data was available, marked a 60 percent decline from 1999, when the government began tracking such figures.

In aggregate numbers, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age took their own lives in 2014, compared with 384 who perished in automobile accidents that year, according to the CDC.

Those figures contrasted sharply with figures from 1999, when the rate of middle school students killed in car crashes, was four times higher than the rate among those who died from suicide that year.


Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters | Updated: November 4, 2016 — 8:15 AM EDT


NY Times--Trump-Clinton? Charter Schools Are the Big Issue on Massachusetts’ Ballot

BOSTON — The television ads are relentless, fueled by a historic surge of campaign spending. Fliers are clogging mailboxes. Both sides are knocking on doors across the state.

But in deep blue Massachusetts, the contentious campaigning is not for president but for a ballot question on whether to expand charter schools.

The pitched battle in this state, known as a bellwether on education policy, reflects the passions that charter schools arouse nationwide, particularly regarding a central part of the debate: If they offer children in lagging traditional public schools an alternative path to a quality education, do they also undermine those schools and the children in them?

Because Massachusetts’s charter schools rank among the nation’s best, advocates say a yes vote to allow more of them would send a strong signal that they have a crucial role to play in improving student learning and closing the achievement gap between white and black students.

But opponents say a no vote would show that even in a state where charter schools have been successful, most voters believe the schools — privately run but publicly financed — undermine traditional public schools, drain resources and perpetuate inequities, and should be curtailed.

“What happens in Massachusetts will send shock waves throughout the United States either way,” said Parag Pathak, a professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, who studies education.