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12-16-16 Education in the News

New Jersey Spotlight--Public School Teachers Earn Mostly High Grades on Evaluations

But will fewer top scores be seen as student performance is weighted more heavily?

The Christie administration last week released the latest data on how New Jersey’s public school teachers have fared under the much-vaunted reforms to teacher evaluations — a joint effort undertaken with the Legislature.

The data indicates how many teachers at every school are ranked “effective” or better or rated “ineffective” under the state’s new standardized system for the 2014-2015 school year.

The big headline: More than 98 percent of New Jersey’s public school teachers were rated “effective” or “highly effective.” But it’s a bit more complicated than that when looking at an individual school or district.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

The data shows that New Jersey teachers overall do pretty well under the new system.


John Mooney | December 16, 2016


New Jersey Spotlight--Christie Signs Off on Quarterly Contributions to Public-Worker Pensions

New law still allows officials to skip or short payments if state is having revenue problems

After vetoing two prior attempts to change the way New Jersey deposits contributions into the state’s public-employee pension system, Gov. Chris Christie has now reversed course, signing a bipartisan bill yesterday that establishes a new quarterly payment schedule.

New Jersey will begin budgeting the quarterly payments at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2017.

The state’s current practice is to make pension contributions in one lump sum at the end of each fiscal year, but that often exposes the payments to midyear budget problems, something that’s helped to drive the pension system deep into debt over the past two decades. The quarterly payment schedule is designed to ensure more of the pension contribution is protected from those budget cuts, and to allow the $73 billion pension system, which is professionally managed, to generate bigger investment returns by getting more money into the system earlier in the fiscal year.


John Reitmeyer | December 16, 2016


Education Week--In Some States, a Tug of War Over ESSA Plans

With plans still being drafted, rival visions vie for attention

Now that states are moving to take on new authority over K-12 policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act, skirmishes are breaking out in several states over who's in charge.

Legislators in Colorado and elsewhere have bickered with state board members over who should oversee parts of the plans they must submit to the U.S. Department of Education next year outlining how they will put ESSA into effect, pointing to nebulous clauses buried in their states' constitutions on who calls the shots.

Even in places dominated by a single party, such as Indiana and California, state leaders are tussling with local leaders over whether to kick back some of the flexibility in areas like accountability and assessments to school board members. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, commissioned his own ESSA advisory committee after education groups complained that the Republican-dominated board of education didn't include their input in a draft plan.

These sorts of conflicts will likely escalate and multiply as legislatures start their sessions in January and as governors unspool policy priorities in their annual State-of-the-State addresses and budget messages. ESSA goes into effect next fall.


By Daarel Burnette II |December 13, 2016