Supreme Court Rules for Abbotts

The New Jersey State Supreme Court yesterday rejected the State Legislature’s attempt to declassify Abbott districts by enacting the 2008 School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), which claimed to fairly distribute aid to poor students regardless of where they live. (For a synopsis of the ruling, see here.) Back in May 1997, the Court ruled that so-called Abbott districts – the 31 poorest urban school districts in New Jersey – had to be funded at the …

AFT vs. NEA

The New York Times reports today that the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, is willing to consider tenure and merit pay. Why do we care? The vast majority of New Jersey teachers belong to the National Education Association, AFT’s 600-pound beer-guzzling brother who’d sooner flatten you than flatter you. And AFT has traditionally been, well, untraditional. This is, after all, the union in New York City (it’s called the UFT there) …

Growth Models, Shmowth Models

Jay Matthews of the Washington Post reports today on national opposition to using growth models to evaluate teacher performance, i.e., measuring each student’s progress instead of using average improvement from year to year. One guess as to whom is voicing opposition. I asked two National Education Association officials, Joel Packer, director of education policy and practice, and Bill Raabe, director of collective bargaining and member advocacy, why we couldn’t test students in September and May, …

Preschool Opportunity?

Dr. Rich Noonan, Superintendent of Madison Public Schools, posted a letter last week complaining about the new preschool mandate that all New Jersey districts must provide full day preschools to low-income kids: Is the State of New Jersey in a position to fund such a costly new endeavor at a time when it cannot meet its present financial obligations, and when housing foreclosures and layoffs are significantly eroding our economic vitality? When concerns over New …

Is It Time to Trade Up to a Better Model?

Here’s two “must-reads” for you. Andrew Rotherham, who runs the thinktank Education Sector and blogs on Eduwonk, has a piece in US News and World Report on accountability and No Child Left Behind. As long as we’re on our merit pay/teacher accountability tear, we’ll pull out this quote: Shortly after the law now called No Child Left Behind was first passed in 1965, a frustrated senator remarked, “I want to change this bill because it …

Star-Ledger Advocates Merit Pay

The Star-Ledger gets behind merit pay for teachers in today’s editorial, arguing that the typical union denunciation — that a differentiated pay system would harm collegiality — is unpersuasive. It is not, we suspect, the fact that some teachers will get more money that makes so many in education nervous about merit pay but the prospect that all teachers will be evaluated. Yet teachers routinely administer tests and score and judge their students. Teachers must …

Aides Over Kids?

The State Assembly Education Committee is expected to release a new bill, A-420, which gives job protection to paraprofessionals employed in Title 1 districts, i.e., more than 75% of the school districts in New Jersey. Sponsored by Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and Joan Voss, the legislation, among other things, forces districts to extend employment to school and classroom aides by May 15th for the upcoming year. Typically, districts make these decisions in August and September when …

County-Wide Preschools!

New Jersey’s public schools, under a new state mandate to provide free preschool to 3, 4, and 5 year-olds from low-income families, are in a pickle. Oh, heck – let’s call it a whole deli platter. While few dispute the advantages of pre-school for poor kids (well, a few do: see here and here) administrators and schools boards worry about finding suitable space and about whether the State’s promise to fund the programs is reliable. …

Joe the Lawyer

The Press of Atlantic City has an article today about the negative reactions generated by the new graduation requirements recently issued by the DOE. At the Vocational-Technical Schools Open Forum at last month’s New Jersey School Boards Annual Convention, representatives from both vocational and academic high schools lit into the High School Redesign Steering Committee’s new set of graduation requirements, which mandates that all graduates complete biology, chemistry, algebra 1 and 2, economics, four years …