Archives for category: New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went to an open meeting with parents and other concerned citizens where the topic was the impoverished district of Camden, which has been under state control for three years.

In the meeting, education activist and Camden resident Sue Altman debated Governor Christie and didn’t back down. This video is going viral.

All Christie knows about education is that 1) it costs too much, and, 2) charters do a better job for less.

Altman explained that the charters don’t enroll the same demographic as the public schools.

Public ed advocate/Camden resident Sue Altman stood up and held her ground against Gov. Christie for nearly 6 minutes – correcting him on how long the state’s run Camden schools, calling him out on the hypocrisy of planning far less for Camden than his own administration’s report says is needed, reminding him the kids there can’t even drink the schools’ water….At one point, Christie just gives up and throws Altman the microphone.

For context about the event and about Camden, read this post by Professor Steven Danley (who happens to be Sue Altman’s husband).

Sue is a star. The way she handled the Governor, with knowledge, persistence, wit, and a smile is a lesson to all of us.

PS: I corrected this post to show that Sue is not yet a parent. She and Steve were married this summer.

Teachers in Middlesex County were surveyed about their views of PARCC testing. New Jersey is one of the few states that continues to participate in PARCC. Originally, there was a consortium with 24 states. Now there are five.

Here is the discouraging, but not surprising, findings:

Middlesex County Education Association Releases Findings of First-Time Survey of Teachers After PARCC Testing: Finds Significant Problems

June 2016

Some 1285 Middlesex County teachers and school professionals voluntarily and anonymously participated in a survey regarding the impact of the PARCC standardized test on students, schools, and instruction. In the most comprehensive survey conducted in New Jersey to date, the results showed serious issues for the new testing regimen. The major findings of the survey include:

• Feedback from the test was significantly delayed or not distributed to teachers.
• Conditions under which the PARCC test was taken draw into question the validity of the results.
• PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and raised concerns for many parents.
• The new test is a significant drain of instruction time and a disruption to classes.
• As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library media centers and computers as well as special services and programs.
• The testing/evaluation environment has had a negative impact on teachers and staff.

Delay in Receiving Feedback

In spite of the NJ Department of Education’s promises of rich feedback from PARCC testing to teachers to improve instruction, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and Mathematics) did not receive their students’ spring 2015 test scores until January 2016 or later. Another 24% never received them. After the state spent $22.1 million dollars and local districts spent millions more to implement the PARCC, less than 2% of these teachers found the data collected from PARCC to be an improvement from past state standardized tests.

Validity of PARCC Test Questionable and Students Impacted Negatively

Nearly half of educators reported directly observing administration problems, technical or otherwise, which could have negatively impacted student test scores. In addition, 59% reported observing students refusing to take the test seriously, resulting in invalid scores. In spite of these issues, the state of New Jersey continues to use PARCC test scores as part of evaluations for teachers of tested areas grades 4 to 8 and these scores are projected to play a larger role for more teachers in the future.

PARCC testing has had a pronounced effect on many students. 57% of school teachers and support staff reported increased anxiety and depression among students related to testing and 42% reported increased negativity and loss of interest in school by students overburdened by testing. Only 14% reported no observed problems for their students. One teacher wrote, “My first graders are worried about future testing.” Another teacher noted “I recently looked at old yearbooks – ten years ago our kids did fantastic learning projects. Now, all we do is data driven instruction and testing.”

A notably high percentage, 60% of educators, reported parents expressing complaints, apprehension, or concerns about the PARCC test directly to them. This reflects the previously publicly reported concerns of parents shown by the tens of thousands of New Jersey children who opted out of the PARCC test last year at their parents’ request.

Impact of PARCC Testing on Instruction

In terms of lost instructional time to PARCC, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and mathematics) reported spending 11-20 hours on PARCC testing this year and 35% spent more than 20 hours in PARCC testing. In addition, 38% of these teachers estimated spending another 6 or more instructional days on test prep, and nearly half of these teachers lost additional time to pre-testing to identify weak students before the PARCC test. Over 36% reported that their schools purchased commercially prepared pre-tests for use prior to the PARCC.

Educators widely reported that PARCC testing resulted in the closing of library media centers and loss of access to computers for extended periods of time, disruption of class schedules and routines, and loss of time for special services such as speech therapy and counseling. Advanced Placement teachers complained of the loss of valuable instructional time just prior to the AP tests for college credits. Other teachers commented that the guidance department, child study teams for special education students, and much of the school administration were barely available for up to a month for testing. A special education teacher reported that many special education students had substitute teachers for several weeks while their special education teachers administered the PARCC to other students in other grades.

Impact on Teachers and Professional Staff

As a result of the new evaluations for students and teachers, 91% of those surveyed reported an increased workload, primarily in the form of increased paperwork and documentation of work done rather than increased time working with students. Nearly 62% reported that PARCC testing has had a definite negative or strongly negative effect on themselves and their colleagues.

While 83% reported that 5 years ago they were either satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs, only 34% said they were satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs today. Representative of many of the comments in the survey, one teacher stated, “I have always loved my job, but the last few years with the implementation of the state testing and new teacher evaluation system, I am seriously considering retiring early and dissuading my own children from seeking this profession.”

Another teacher commented, “I wish I could just TEACH and do the things in my classroom that I know will lead to real learning based on the needs of my students and not on some politician’s ever-changing agenda. I am truly saddened by what is happening; the students are not being served. This is the first group of students I have had that have been working with Common Core standards their entire school careers, and I must say that they are the least prepared and have the biggest skill gaps of any
group I have had in decades. Rushing through developmentally inappropriate material in order to score well on a test that supposedly measures “deep” knowledge and application (on a timed test, yet!) does not do justice to our students or our profession.”

About the Survey and for More Information

The Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee collected data from 1287 Middlesex County educators who voluntarily responded anonymously to an online survey between May 9 and June 12, 2016. Respondents work in all major districts in the county including East Brunswick, Edison Township, Highland Park, Middlesex, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Brunswick, Spotswood, and Woodbridge Township. Elementary school teachers and professional staff represented over 38% of the respondents; middle school composed 32% of respondents; and high school participants were 29% of the total. Just under 9% have been in the profession for less than 5 years, 20% had 5 to 10 years in the profession, 43% have worked 11 to 20 years in the profession, and 28% have more than 20 years in the profession. This breakdown is generally representative of the profession as a whole.

Questions regarding this survey can be directed to Ellen Whitt, Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee, or 732-771-7882.

Sarah Blaine, former teacher and current lawyer, blogs at Parenting the Core. She is the parent of two children in New Jersey’s public schools. She prepared testimony in opposition to the proposal to use the PARCC test as a high school graduation requirement.

In her testimony, she reviews what New Jersey law says about the responsibility of the New Jersey state board of education. She maintains that its action to raise the high school graduation requirement to “college and career ready” is in direct conflict with state law.

So what do the statutes the Board’s regulations seek to implement require? N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-1 et seq. require that the Commissioner develop a graduation exit test to be approved by this Board in order to obtain a State-endorsed high school diploma. Id. at 7C-1, 7C-2, 7C-4. The Statewide assessment test must be administered to all 11th grade students. Id. at 7C-6 and 7C-6.1. It must measure those minimum basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically and socially in a democratic society: specifically, the test must measure the reading, writing, and computational skills students must demonstrate as minimum requirements for high school graduation. Id. at 7C-1, 7C-6.1. Further, if a student uses a comprehensive assessment option instead – i.e., the portfolio option – the student’s use of the portfolio option must be approved by the Commissioner of Education. Id. at 7C-4.

The problem is that the graduation requirements enshrined in the proposal for the Class of 2021 forward do not meet the requirements set forth in the statute.

First, the Statewide assessment test must be administered to all 11th graders. See N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-6; 7C-6.1. Under the Class of 2021 forward regulations, however, the tests that students will be required to obtain passing scores on to earn their high school diplomas, however, are the 10th grade ELA test and the Algebra I test. By definition, the 10th grade ELA test will not be administered to all 11th graders statewide.

The Algebra I test is even more problematic, as many students across the state take Algebra I (and therefore the Algebra I PARCC End-of-Course test) as early as 7th or 8th grade. It also, of course, makes no sense to tell children as young as 12 that their high school graduation depends on their performance on a test they’re taking now. Further, making obtaining a Proficient score on the End-Of-Course test for a course often taught in 7th or 8th grade a high school graduation requirement might well have the unintended consequence of discouraging districts from offering accelerated math programs to qualified students.

Second, I’ve scoured the PARCC consortium website in detail, and nowhere does it say that the PARCC ELA 10 and PARCC Algebra I tests were designed to measure whether students have achieved those minimum basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically, and socially in a democratic society. Instead, PARCC is focused on assessing college and career readiness – a laudable goal, but a much higher standard than the minimal basic skills standard the Board is authorized to employ in approving a test to determine which public school students in the state will be denied high school diplomas.

Read her testimony in full. She links to the relevant statutes.

The bottom line is that the state board has created a disastrous situation. Students in New Jersey have taken the PARCC tests. Most have failed the tests. Most students will not qualify for a high school diploma. If they fail, as most will, they will have to get the permission of the state commissioner to submit a portfolio of work instead. This is a recipe for chaos and demoralization.

This is nonsense. The sooner New Jersey gets a new governor who cares about students and public schools, the better off the state will be.

The best development now would be a lawsuit to force the state board of education to comply with state law and common sense.

Governor Chris Christie made a big deal of pretending to get rid of Common Core, but he tenaciously stayed with PARCC, the federal test of the Common Core standards. Now the state board of education has voted to make PARCC a high school graduation test, starting in 2021.

This is insane.

To begin with, no standardized test should be a high school graduation test. They are normed on a bell curve, which guarantees a high failure rate. The children who do not receive a diploma will disproportionately consist of children of poverty (most of whom are African-American and Hispanic), children with disabilities, and English language learners.

Next, it is clear that the PARCC test produces high failure rates. Most students in New Jersey failed it last year. Only about 25% passed the algebra and geometry tests; only 40% of high school students passed the 11th grade ELA tests.

What plans has the state made for the tens of thousands of students who will not get a high school diploma?

Please, ACLU and Education Law Center: Sue New Jersey to stop this travesty, this injustice towards children.

Jersey Jazzman, aka public school teacher and Ph.D. candidate Mark Weber, wrote a blistering reproach to the charter school cheerleaders who have persuaded Governor Chris Christie that charters accomplish more with less. This enables Christie to propose an outrageously inequitable plan that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

He shows how certain loud charter zealots in New Jersey have argued that charters in Newark are way better than Newark public schools, despite the clear evidence that the charters enroll a different demographic and have high attrition rates.

He points out that when honest critics point out the verifiable facts, they can expect to be slimed and smeared by the charter cheerleaders, who glory in the privatization of public schools.

Weber reviews the shameless attacks by charter zealot Laura Waters and refutes her claims with data, evidence, not rhetoric.

He concludes:

I’ve spent more time answering Waters’ post than it deserves; however, I’m doing so this time for a reason. Chris Christie has proposed a radical change in school funding — one that even Peter Cunningham agrees is pernicious for this state’s neediest children. Yet how does Christie justify his plan? With stories of charter school “success.” And who has sold this tale?

Laura Waters, Peter Cunningham, and the well-heeled charter school operators themselves. In their zeal to pump up charters and shoot down honest critics like Julia Sass Rubin, these fine, reformy folks have set up the students who attend New Jersey’s urban, public, district schools for a huge cut in their schools’ budgets.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t ever pretend that I don’t have a point of view. I’m a New Jersey public school teacher and I am damn tired of being blamed for things completely out of my and my colleagues’ control. I think the celebration of charter school “success” is largely a pretext for beating up teachers unions, gutting teacher workplace protections, and cutting back even further on public school funding, particularly in urban districts. I think charter cheerleading keeps us from having a real conversation about the structural problems related to race and economic inequality in America.

But now we’re seeing the consequences of unbridled charter love are even more dangerous than mere charter expansion. Charlatans like Christie are using the very arguments charter cheerleaders spout daily to make the case that we can simply turn our backs on urban schools and their students. So long as a few charter schools get better than average test scores — by whatever means necessary — it’s perfectly fine to cut the budgets of urban district schools.

This awful rhetoric can be laid directly at the feet of the charter industry and their willing saps in the media — and that includes the professional reformy propaganda machine that exists solely to counter informed critics like me or Bruce Baker or Julia Sass Rubin.

I won’t speak for Bruce [Baker] or Julia, but I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me when I say this: I am not against school choice or charter schools per se. I started my K-12 career in a charter school. I think there are worthwhile reasons for having charters and other forms of alternative schools. I have been teaching long enough to know not every kid is going to fit well in her neighborhood school, and that there are good reasons to offer other choices. I think there are charters that have practices that may well be worth studying.

So folks like me and Bruce and Julia may have a point of view our opinions, but we aren’t questioning charter cheerleading simply as a reflex; our criticisms are reasonable and informed by the evidence. Do you disagree? Fine, I’m happy to debate.

But understand: your ill-informed, statistically-inept charter cheerleading is no longer simply about justifying your own school; it’s now being used to excuse a wholesale defunding of our urban public schools.

Do you really want that on your hands?

Politico published a fascinating analysis of Cory Booker’s slippery career as Mayor of Newark.

We previously learned in Dale Russakoff’s book “The Prize” about Booker’s rock-star status among the powerful New York City elites and his less than stellar performance as Mayor of Newark. Booker is a hero to Democrats for Education Reform, the group that always bets against public schools.

In this article, Amy S. Rosenberg digs into the myth of Cory Booker, his careful polishing of his image and his efforts to cement his ties to the rich and powerful, while keeping his eyes on the opportunity to move up and out of Newark. Rosenberg does not assess Booker’s big project of turning Newark into a national model of school reform, which was his single biggest failure.

What did he actually accomplish? Is Newark better off today because of Booker?

One thing we know for sure is that Cory Booker is tied at the hip to those who want to get rid of public education. He is close to Chris Christie and helped the governor run the public schools of Newark into to the ground, while persuading Mark Zuckerberg to fork over $100 million to turn Newark into a city of charters. We know how that worked out.

Booker became a darling of Manhattan neoconservatives because he supported both charters and vouchers.

It worked for Booker. It didn’t work for the children of Newark.

Now Booker is angling to become Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential choice.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it never happens.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey unveiled a new funding plan, which he claims is “fair.” The essence of his plan that all children in the state would get exactly the same dollar amount–$6,599–, and that is fair! So, whether you are a child in a wealthy district or a child in an impoverished district, you will get the same! Isn’t that fair? Well, not really. That’s like saying the rich and the poor are equally permitted to sleep under bridges.

Julia Sass Rubin of Rutgers University explains why Chris Christie’s plan is a hoax and a swindle. It is not just because giving exactly the same amount to children in rich and poor districts is divisive and harms those with the greatest needs, but because so much of the budget is already earmarked that there is not enough to divvy up fairly.

Although numerous commentators pointed out the devastating impact that Christie’s proposal would have on children who live in communities with high rates of poverty, none actually verified the governor’s claim that dividing state aid equally among all New Jersey students would result in $6,599 per pupil funding.

Had they done so, they would have found that the $6,599 per pupil figure, and the promises of property tax reductions predicated on it, are both false.

There simply is not a $9.1 billion state education budget available to distribute across New Jersey while also protecting special education funding and charter schools.

State special education funding alone accounts for almost a billion dollars. And state funding pays for less than a third of all special education expenses. So if the governor distributed state aid evenly, he would eliminate the ability of many districts to provide special education services as their local tax base is inadequate to fund the additional costs.

Then there’s the state funding Christie would need to set aside to protect charter schools. In 2015-16, charter schools received in excess of $600 million in funding, primarily in the form of state aid pass-throughs from high poverty districts. And charter school funding is growing rapidly as the Christie administration increases the number of charter school students.

The governor’s numbers also ignore other programs he is unlikely to cut, such as pre-school funding and choice aid.

Eliminating state pre-school funding would remove another $656 million from the funds Christie could distribute to all districts. Cutting the funding would not only be bad public policy, it also would jeopardize federal preschool funds New Jersey currently receives.

The $54 million in choice aid funds the popular Interdistrict Public School Choice program that the governor supports and that benefits many small, rural districts.

There are many other examples.

When all is factored in, the actual amount that the governor’s plan would distribute is approximately $4,800 per student, nearly $2,000 less than he promised in his speech….

For example, Union City, which Christie lauded for producing “extraordinary growth under very trying circumstances,” would see its state and local funding drop from approximately $16,400 to $6,100 per student, a funding level below that of Mississippi.

This brief provides a first look at the “Fairness Formula,” Chris Christie’s school tax reform plan. In this analysis, we show:

The “Fairness Formula” will greatly reward the most-affluent districts, which are already paying the lowest school tax rates as measured by percentage of income.
The “Fairness Formula” will force the least-affluent districts to slash their school budgets, severely increase local property taxes, or both.
The premise of the “Fairness Formula” – that the schools enrolling New Jersey’s at-risk students have “failed” during the period of substantial school reform – is contradicted by a large body of evidence.

Jersey Jazzman noticed that Governor Chris Christie has been visiting Gulen charter schools. Governor Christie once represented Edison Schools, so there is no question that he likes privatization as a “solution” to the ills of urban education.

If you want to get the lowdown on Gulen charter schools, read Sharon Higgins or see Mark Hall’s film “Killing Ed.” (See here).

JJ finds it odd that Christie has an affinity for Gulen charter schools.

JJ writes:

There are times when I am astonished that the press doesn’t pick up on a particular story. For example: according to activists on Facebook, Chris Christie is having a private meeting tomorrow, June 30, 2016, at Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology.

If this is the case, it will be the third time since this spring that Chris Christie has visited a charter school linked to the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish expatriate living in seclusion in the United States.

On May 16, Christie visited Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School in Franklin. Two days later, he trekked to Bergen Arts & Sciences Charter School in Hackensack. Thomas Edison, Bergen A&S, and Paterson Science & Tech have all been linked by the Gulen Charter Schools website to the Gulenist movement in the US.

As I’ve written previously, the proliferation of Gulenist charter schools is not some wild-eyed conspiracy theory: it’s been reported on by CBS News, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall St. Journal. These schools, all linked to Gulen’s movement, have been popping up all over the country and are the subject of concerns expressed by the federal State Department due to their use of H1B visas to admit Turkish nationals into the US.

Given how closely tied Christie is to Donald Trump — who wants a ban on Muslims entering the country (although even he doesn’t seem to understand his own plan) — I can’t understand why no one in the state press has pursued this story. Why is Christie praising so many Gulen-linked charters? Why is he visiting so many of them?

Governor Chris Christie made a budget proposal for “fair funding” that attempts to pit middle-class taxpayers against the poor.

He proposes to give the same amount of school aid to every child in the schools, whether they are in an affluent or a poor district. He is selling this as property tax relief for the middle class, who will get a boost, but will result in cuts to poor kids in poor districts.

Russ Walsh calls this “punching poor children in the face,” as Chris Christie once said he would like to do to the teachers’ unions. Walsh writes:

He proposes a flat rate of aid in the area of $6,599 for every student in New Jersey whether they live in leafy, affluent Montgomery Township or cash strapped, property tax poor Camden. This “every one gets the same money plan” would provide a windfall to wealthy districts, many of which would see a dramatic increase in state aid to schools (and a reduction in property taxes) and conversely a death sentence to urban districts who would see their budgets reduced by tens of millions of dollars.

Daniel Katz says that Christie is pulling a reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. He says, “A good way to approach almost any education proposal from Chris Christie is to simply assume that it will cause far more harm than good and then try to gauge just how far along the harmful spectrum it will actually be.”

Mark Weber (aka Jersey Jazzman) says that Christie’s plan is so absurd that it makes building a wall on the Mexican border look reasonable by comparison.

Even Christie’s friends at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the hedge fund pro-charter group, cried foul.

“Fair funding” is one of those far-right ideas intended to pave the way for vouchers, a backpack full of cash, and strapping the money to the kids’ back. It is intended to generate support among middle-class and affluent people who object to high property taxes. Call it class warfare. Whatever it is, it is not fair to the kids with the greatest needs.


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