Monday, August 22, 2016

HOBOKEN BOARD OF EDUCATION August 16, 2016 Meeting

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
7:00 P.M.

Notable: Board member steps down, Asst. Superintendent named, new Connors principal named.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chapter 78. Just how bad is it?

The following post was originally posted on Facebook by a thoughtful and reflective member of the NJEA. Name withheld for fear of any reprisal. - Dr. Petrosino 
Chapter 78. Just how bad is it? Here is a breakdown to share with family, friends and the NJEA Leadership. I will breakdown down Chapter 78 and other money coming out of your paycheck. 
1. Our pension payment went from 5.5% to 7.5%
So if you earn $75,000 dollars a year your pension is now costing $1500 more a year or $150 dollars a month.
2. Health Insurance went from 1.5% of salary to a percentage of the premium with an unjust sliding scale.
So if you made $75,000 you are now paying 23% of the premium at tier 4. So you went from paying $1,125 dollars for health insurance to $8,970. I am basing this number on my district.That is a difference of $7,845 dollars or $784.50 a month. 
That is $9,340.50 or $934.50 a month. That's a disgrace. 
Add in the fees members paid before Chapter 78 and it is disastrous. 
A member pays disability insurance: Let's use the number $1200 a year, that is what I pay. 
Union dues another $1400 a year. That is $11,940 dollars a year or $1,190.40 a month in deductions from our paychecks. 
Additionally, raises went from 4.5% to 2.61%.
My friends, this is a bloodbath. And the NJEA Leadership, well, they do not seem to get it. It is business as usual. Keep the dues flowing! Who pays dues to lose money yearly? I talk to my friends in NY and PA, our neighboring states, and it isn't happening there. 
NJEA has failed the membership. And no one has been held accountable.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reconceptualizing STEM Education- A Review

I was fortunate to be asked to contribute a chapter to this new volume by Richard Duschl and Amber Bismark on Reconceptualizing STEM Education. My chapter was about data modelling and pre-service teacher preparation. What follows is a review that was recently published on the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) website.

Petrosino, A. J. (2016). Teachers Use of Data, Measurement, and Data Modeling in Quantitative Reasoning. In R. Duschl & A. Bismarck (Eds), Reconceptualizing STEM Education: The Central Role of Practices (pp.167-180). New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.


Reconceptualizing STEM Education explores and maps out research and development ideas and issues around five central practice themes: Systems Thinking; Model-Based Reasoning; Quantitative Reasoning; Equity, Epistemic, and Ethical Outcomes; and STEM Communication and Outreach. These themes are aligned with the comprehensive agenda for the reform of science and engineering education set out by the 2015 PISA Framework, the US Next Generation Science Standards and the US National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The new practice-focused agenda has implications for the redesign of preK-12 education for alignment of curriculum-instruction-assessment; STEM teacher education and professional development; postsecondary, further, and graduate studies; and out-of-school informal education. In each section, experts set out powerful ideas followed by two eminent discussant responses that both respond to and provoke additional ideas from the lead papers. In the associated website <> highly distinguished, nationally recognized STEM education scholars and policymakers engage in deep conversations and considerations addressing core practices that guide STEM education. 

Reconceptualizing STEM Education

by Richard A. Duschl and Amber S. Bismack

Price at time of review: $56.95
350 pp.
Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
New York, NY
ISBN: 9781138901049

Grade Level: K-16

Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher

This book in the Teaching and Learning in Science series is a compendium of the Waterbury Summit held at Pennsylvania State University in 2013. The participants explored present practices associated with the teaching and learning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines and proposed profound changes. The reformed practices proposed are based on current research and will be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Research Council’s A Framework for K–12 Science Education. The agenda of the Framework and NGSS is coordinated around Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. This suggested reformed agenda will have far–reaching implications for redesigning the curriculum, instruction, assessment, technology integration, teacher education, postsecondary education, graduate education, and other facets of our society.

The participants focused on five themes to reconceptualize STEM education. Nationally renowned scholars presented papers on these themes: Systems Thinking, Model–Based Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Equity, Epistemic Outcomes, and Stem Communication and Outreach. For each theme, readers will find detailed narratives with charts and graphs vividly elucidating practices and how they could be implemented. Also, Poster Presentations are found in the first four themes. Following each presentation, a thorough analysis was given by two respondents and panelists answered questions posed by the audience. With current research data, the participants explored numerous facets/theories of the educational system in the teaching/learning process and references are listed for each theme. Further, the role of ethics in scientific decisions was brought to the forefront.

It is noted that emphasis was placed on the importance of helping educators learn how to engage all students in STEM disciplines. In addition, readers will find an interesting narrative on integrating the ARTS in STEM changing it to STEAM. As a result of this Summit, a clarion call resonates across the educational system to reform teaching pedagogies in STEM disciplines. Current data indicate that this is due to the fact that STEM based industries will be growing in the United States and that the number of students pursuing careers in STEM areas is decreasing. In order to close this gap, the participants proposed a paradigm shift by focusing on practices outlined in this book, Reconceptualizing STEM Education. This is indeed paramount because scientific literacy is needed in order to make wise decisions—educationally, economically, ethically, socially, politically, and environmentally. Consequently, this holistic approach to STEM education will foster an understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry.

It is noteworthy to understand that the participants emphasized that many challenges remain and that more critical research is vital. Some of these unanswered questions are listed in the summary. Readers will find a brief biography about the authors and participants. An index, numerous references, and a website are also included. This is an excellent resource for educators who are interested in preparing students to make decisions to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Reform in STEM education is needed in order to maintain a workforce in this global economy.

Petrosino, A. J. (2016). Teachers Use of Data, Measurement, and Data Modeling in Quantitative Reasoning. In R. Duschl & A. Bismarck (Eds), Reconceptualizing STEM Education: The Central Role of Practices (pp.167-180). New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems

Hoboken, NJ Summer 2016
With school resuming session, many parents might be wondering whether they’ve selected the best school districts to secure their children’s academic success. For many, quality is a question of available public funding. And while that may be true in certain cases, more resources do not always correlate with better academic performance, as our findings demonstrate.

That isn’t to say that money doesn’t help. According to an Economic Policy Institute report, income is higher in states where the workforce is well educated and thus more productive. In turn, workers with better earnings contribute greater taxes to beef up state budgets over the long run.

In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub’s analysts compared the quality of education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to shine the spotlight on top-performing school systems. In making such a comparison, we examined each state and the District across 17 key metrics, ranging from “student-teacher ratio” to “average SAT and ACT scores” to “dropout rate.” Continue reading below for our findings, additional expert commentary and the full description of our methodology.

Source: WalletHub

Source: WalletHub

Overall Rank State Total Score‘School-System Quality’ Rank ‘School-System Safety’ Rank
1 Massachusetts 73.65 1 1
2 New Jersey 69.13 3 3
3 Connecticut 65.47 2 20
4 Vermont 64.75 5 9
5 Wisconsin 64.24 7 2
6 New Hampshire 63.12 4 25
7 Virginia 62.95 6 13
8 Maine 60.45 8 16
9 Delaware 59.76 16 5
10 Minnesota 59.60 10 19
11 Iowa 57.50 12 38
12 Indiana 57.38 9 41
13 Illinois 57.31 14 22
14 Florida 56.00 21 8
15 Nebraska 55.88 11 40
16 Maryland 55.68 13 36
17 Kentucky 55.50 15 30
18 Utah 55.01 27 4
19 North Carolina 54.57 24 11
20 Kansas 54.13 20 14
21 Texas 53.83 26 10
22 North Dakota 53.34 17 42
23 Colorado 53.06 18 49
24 Montana 52.99 19 32
25 New York 51.61 32 15
26 Washington 51.11 30 12
27 Oklahoma 51.09 36 7
28 Rhode Island 51.08 31 21
29 Wyoming 51.00 22 34
30 Pennsylvania 50.74 28 28
31 Ohio 50.65 25 44
32 Missouri 49.38 29 39
33 Idaho 47.16 34 31
34 Michigan 46.67 35 29
35 Georgia 46.17 39 23
36 Tennessee 45.84 33 43
37 South Carolina 45.72 40 18
38 Arkansas 45.65 23 50
39 Hawaii 45.44 42 6
40 California 45.34 38 35
41 South Dakota 43.55 37 48
42 Alabama 39.85 41 47
43 Oregon 39.65 43 46
44 Nevada 38.02 48 17
45 West Virginia 37.73 44 37
46 Mississippi 36.63 46 26
47 District of Columbia 35.10 50 24
48 Arizona 35.03 47 33
49 Alaska 34.36 45 45
50 New Mexico 33.30 51 27
51 Louisiana 30.33 49 51

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Exploring the Relationship between Secondary Science Teachers’ Subject Matter Knowledge and Knowledge of Student Conceptions While Teaching Evolution by Natural Selection (Lucero, Petrosino, and Delgado 2016)

Saint Ann Church- Feast Day- July 26, 2016

Dear Drs. Lucero, Petrosino, and Delgado,

It is a pleasure to accept your revised manuscript, JRST-2016-03-0110.R1, titled "Exploring the Relationship between Secondary Science Teachers’ Subject Matter Knowledge and Knowledge of Student Conceptions While Teaching Evolution by Natural Selection" in its current form for publication in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

Future communication concerning your manuscript will follow later by separate email messages. The first will come from our publisher as your manuscript is finalized for publication (galley proofs). The second message will come from the JRST Editorial Office when the manuscript is scheduled for publication (volume and issue information). Please make sure to add our email to your safe-list as previous authors have missed crucial communications from the Journal and/or Wiley because of spam and/or junk filters.

PLEASE NOTE: Galley proofs will arrive to you within about 10 days. It will be very important that you adhere to the requested 3-day turnaround time when you receive them. So, please watch your in-box for these in a few weeks' time. Failure to return proofs in a timely fashion will result in rescinding our acceptance of this manuscript.

Thank you for your fine contribution to JRST. We look forward to publishing it.


Co-Editor, Journal of Research in Science Teaching

Editorial Office 

Journal of Research in Science Teaching
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1310 South Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA

Monday, July 18, 2016

Thank you, Ms. Nelys Moyeno

The following is excerpted from a link to the Hoboken Early Childhood Advisory Council---- the wonderful work that Ms. Moyeno has done over the years is considerable and noteworthy. All the best to her as she approached retirement. -Dr. Petrosino

Ms. Nelys Moyeno is an amazing public servant who has been meeting the needs of children and their families in the Hoboken Public School (HPS) district since 2007 as the Community and Parent Involvement Specialist. Nelys, affectionately known as Nellie, is often the first point of contact for family members inquiring about the Early Childhood Education Program. Nellie welcomes all community members with warmth and sincerity, never hesitating to field questions and offer reassurances regarding our youngest learners. What ultimately motivates her is ensuring that Hoboken’s children are receiving the best possible placement and educational experiences possible. You can see this firsthand as Nellie greets the children at the Joseph F. Brandt School with a big smile on her face and generous hugs.
Nellie was born at Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City and is a lifelong resident of Hoboken. Nellie grew up in a family with three siblings. Her mother, Rose, worked in a coat factory and her father, Angelo, was a longshoreman. Nellie’s parents had a profound impact on her by instilling a deep sense of service to the community. Nellie learned the importance of faith from them and has passed along this tradition to her own children and grandchildren.

She worked for the Hoboken Board of Education, first in the Bilingual Department and later as the Parent and Community Involvement Specialist. In this capacity, Nellie helped to place children in the Early Childhood Education Program. She also engaged the community by organizing various family workshops, an effort deeply appreciated by the Hoboken Public School guardians and parents. She further encouraged parental and community involvement as a Co-Chair for the Hoboken Early Childhood Advisory Council (HECAC), an advisory group that supports the Early Childhood Education Program.

Nellie was a trailblazer in city government, opening up doors for women to take on leadership positions in Hoboken. Nellie served on City Council for eight years as an At-Large member and was elected as Council President in her last two years of service. Nellie was the first Hispanic woman to serve in this position. This was a true milestone for our mile square city and a great honor for Nellie’s family and the Hispanic community. Nellie is proud to have been part of a legislative body that improved the quality of life for Hoboken residents and for forging a path for more women to get involved in local government.

Nellie Moyeno is a thoughtful and caring staff member from the Hoboken Public School District who deserves recognition for her tireless efforts. She has truly lived up to these inspirational words: “You have two hands. One to help yourself, the second to help others.” Please help us in wishing Nellie a wonderful retirement by thanking her for her service to the community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marie Pepe-- Legendary Hoboken Little League Player Who Helped Change Sports in America

HOBOKEN — If you don't know Maria Pepe, you probably haven't had a girl in your life who wanted to play Little League. As a tween, Pepe tried out for — and made — a Hoboken Little League baseball team in the 1970s, before learning that it was against Little League rules for a girl to play, and Hoboken could lose its Little League charter. The adults initiated a legal battle on her behalf, and in 1974, when Pepe was too old to play Little League, girls were allowed to play on Little League teams.
Pepe was honored Saturday in Hoboken for being a trailblazer, and the Little League batting cages at 5th Street and Hudson Avenue were named in her honor.
There was a ceremony, in which Pepe, her former coach James Farina, the former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer gave speeches. Then, a sign was unveiled with Pepe's likeness and the tagline "Trailblazer For Girls in Little League Baseball."
Already, Pepe's baseball cap is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, officials said, and it was high time for a local commendation.
While Pepe, the city's assistant comptroller, became teary eyed considering the honor and the accomplishment, she insisted that she "just wanted to play" baseball.
"My parents taught me in life what matters is how you play the game, not how many homeruns you hit," she said in her speech, as she sniffled. "What you do is measured in how it impacts others."

Hoboken Honors Maria PepeHoboken unveiled a sign in Pepe's honor April 16, 2016. After the unveiling, Pepe and others reflected on the importance of what she did, opening the door for girls in Little League. (Laura Herzog / NJ Advance Media for
Today, several girls play on the Hoboken Little League teams. Millions have played Little League around the world since 1974, according to the Little League Organization.
Among Hoboken's former Little League players is Tori Bravo, a 14-year-old Hoboken student who now plays baseball.
"I wouldn't be playing baseball without (Pepe)... so I'm really grateful," Bravo said.
NOW's former president Judith Weis, who worked in the 1970s to get the Little League organization to change its rules, said experts were brought in during hearings to block the change. One of whom insisted that little girls' bones were "more likely to break," she said incredulously.
After having coached several Hoboken Little League female players, one of Hoboken's Little League coaches said that in his experience, the girls have been some of the best members of the team.
"Girls of that age take instruction better, and almost as importantly, they're quite a bit of a calming influence in the dugout," said coach Scott Jandora.
Laura Herzog may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LauraHerzogL. Find on Facebook
Maria Pepe (born 1960) is best known for being one of the first girls to play Little League baseball. In 1972, at age 12, she pitched three Little League games for a Young Democrats team in Hoboken, New Jersey.
This was the same team which her friends from the neighborhood had joined, so she joined as well, after having been invited to play by Little League coach Jim Farina. Pepe was asked to leave the team after the Little League "threatened to revoke Hoboken's charter." The refusal to allow Pepe to play attracted the attention of the National Organization for Women (NOW). 
A court case began on Pepe's behalf, which was supported by NOW. Ultimately the New Jersey Superior Court decided that Little League must allow girls to try out. As a result, the Little League organization began a program specifically for girls starting in 1974.
Pepe became a minor celebrity and drew media attention to various women's causes at the time. The New York Yankees made her an honorary "Yankee for a day". 
In 2004 she lent her glove and hat to the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.[3] On August 20, 2004 she was also honored by Little League Baseball by being asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2004 Little League World Series in South Williamsport. 
In 2005 she attended a ceremony for Little League perfect game pitcher Kathleen Brownell who was being honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York

NY Times (1976) permission needed 
NY Times (1974) permission needed "Girls applaud ruling"

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Petrosino, Anthony Curriculum Vitae

  In the United StatesCanadaAustralia and India, a curriculum vitae (CV) is a comprehensive document used in academic circles and medical careers that elaborates on education, publications, and other achievements. A CV contains greater detail than a résumé, a shorter summary which is more often used in applications for jobs, but it is often expected that professionals use a short CV that highlights the current focus of their academic lives and not necessarily their full history. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

To do better in school experts say children should exercise their bodies as well as their brains-

That’s the latest advice from an international group of experts who studied the value of exercise in school-age kids.
“Physical activity before, during and after school promotes scholastic performance in children and youth,” according to a new consensus statement published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
What’s more, exercise and fitness “are beneficial to brain structure, brain function and cognition,” the experts concluded.
The group of 24 researchers from the United States, Canada and Europe came up with this advice after poring over the latest scientific and medical research on the benefits of exercise in kids ages 6 to 18. The experts, from a variety of disciplines, gathered in Copenhagen this spring to assess the value of all kinds of exercise, including recess and physical education classes in school, organized youth sports leagues and old-fashioned outdoor play.
Though all of these activities take kids out of the classroom or away from their homework, they are still a good investment in academic achievement, the consensus statement says. Even a single break for moderate-intensity exercise can boost “brain function, cognition and scholastic performance,” according to the statement.
The benefits also extend to the psychological and social realm, the experts wrote. Exercise will clear their heads, help them make friends, and help them feel more confident around their peers as well as coaches and other adults.
Any kind of exercise is valuable, but goal-oriented activities provide extra benefits, the experts found. Among other things, they promote “life skills” and “core values” like respect and social responsibility, they wrote in the statement.
Not surprisingly, exercise – whether it comes in the form of a tennis lesson, soccer tournament, family hike or bike ride to school – also boosts physical health. Kids with good heart and lung function and strong muscles are less likely to develop chronic conditions like diabetes and coronary artery disease as adults, the experts noted.
All of these are reasons why schools and communities should make sure kids have access to playgrounds, parks and bike lanes, the statement says.
And if you’re worried that your son or daughter will lose precious minutes polishing up a book report or cramming for a final, you can relax.
“Time taken away from academic lessons in favour of physical activity has been shown to not come at the cost of scholastic performance,” the experts wrote.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This is a test- Some high schools soar, others struggling to improve on SATs by Gianluca D’Elia

Parents sometimes use SAT scores as a gauge to determine whether
their students will be able to get into a top college

The following story appeared in the Hoboken Reporter on June 19, 2015 and was written by Gianluca D'Elia. It is a very thoughtful and well written piece with interviews and solid investigative educational reporting. 
I have added a few additional pieces of information that may provide some depth to the analysis for those who are interested.  The standard deviation of the SAT is around 110 points. The expected SAT score for children from families with a yearly income between $0-20,000 is 1326;  for families with a yearly income between $20,000-$40,000 it is 1402 and for families with a yearly income of $100,000 it is 1535 (see Figure 1). The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income in Hoboken was $101,782 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,219) and the median family income was $121,614 (+/- $18,466). In 2015-16, the percentage of students in the Hoboken Public Schools who were eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (see Figure 2) was 53.5% (see Figure 3) although it is likely that the percentage of Free or Reduced Lunch eligible students is higher for high school students. -Dr. Petrosino

Hoboken Reporter June 19, 2016- Last month, the state released the average SAT scores for each high school in the state for the 2014-2015 school year, allowing residents to compare how their district did on the standardized test, which many colleges use in evaluating applicants.

Not surprisingly, within Hudson County, Jersey City’s McNair Academic High School – a public magnet school that draws the top students from the town – had the highest average in the county and one of the highest in the state, 1848 out of a possible 2400 on the reading, math, and writing totaled. According to state data, 100 percent of its students took the test.

The scores were not in for the countywide public high schools like High Tech High School, some of which require an extensive application process, but High Tech usually scores in the 1600s.

Infinity Institute (a charter school) in Jersey City, Secaucus High School, and Weehawken High school had the next highest averages, with Infinity (1521) above the state average of 1508 and Secaucus and Weehawken below it (1476 and 1455 respectively).

Schools on the low end included Jersey City’s Ferris and Snyder High Schools, achieving 1046 and 1093 respectively. Hoboken Charter School, Hoboken High School, and Dickinson High School received scores of 1191, 1219 and 1234.

Bayonne High School’s average was a 1354, North Bergen’s was a 1311, and Memorial’s (West New York) was a 1243. The other charter and regular public schools fell in the middle.

The New Jersey Department of Education’s annual school performance reports for 2014-15 revealed that the statewide average for SAT scores fell by six points in the 2014-15 academic year, dropping from 1514 to 1508. Some attribute this to rising participation rates, which means more students are encouraged to take the test, even if some may not be prepared. College Board’s annual exam results in 2015 revealed a larger and more diverse pool of high school students taking the SAT, PSAT and AP exams than ever before.

“The standard deviation of the SAT is approximately 110 points” – College Board
In most area schools, participation was high, but some schools (Bayonne, North Bergen, and Weehawken) did not reach the 80 percent goal set by the Department of Education. 

The 2014-15 school year revealed progress for some schools.

Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson said Hoboken Junior Senior High School’s scores are slowly increasing. For the first time, the school’s composite SAT average surpassed the average of the schools in its peer group, which consists of schools that have similar demographics. 

“We’re now outperforming those schools,” Johnson said. Hoboken exceeded the peer average of 1190 with a composite score of 1219. 

“While we were happy with the growth, we’re still not satisfied with where our students’ performance is, as measured by the SAT,” she added.

The new SAT

Starting this spring, the College Board has gone back to the old system of administering just the math and reading portions of the test, with a top score of 1600 total. Students can take an optional writing portion, but it’s not required. 

Some parents use the SAT scores as a test of their school district, and it helps them gauge whether their children will perform well enough to have a shot at a top college.

Allen Pascual, the Director of Student Personnel from North Bergen High School’s guidance department, said the SAT changes may help improve the school’s averages. 

“Most colleges and universities look at two scores – math and reading,” he said. “Writing is not weighed as heavily.”

Writing is often the hardest section for students. A state profile report of SAT results from College Board from 2015 revealed that the writing section had the lowest average score out of the three sections. 

Pascual said the new format will also be beneficial to English Language Learning (ELL) students. 

“We have a lot of ELL students who have been here for two or three years and speak other languages at home such as Spanish or Gujarati [an Indian dialect],” Pascual said. “The writing portion always tends to be challenging for them, even though they can excel in reading. I’m glad the writing portion is optional now.”

Meanwhile, in the reading section, the focus is shifting from short stories to primary source documents, according to Johnson. Starting from the middle school level, Johnson said English and reading classes in Hoboken are emphasizing evidence-based arguments. As the reading material becomes more rigorous, that means “more close reading, less skimming,” she said. More practice will ultimately lead to more endurance for extracting evidence from longer reading passages, Johnson said. 

Johnson said the Hoboken school district is working to improve mathematical fluency, starting from the elementary level. 

“It’s really critical that kids become less reliant on calculators and more reliant on automaticity,” she said.

Weehawken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki said the high school students prepare for the test using online programs in addition to Princeton Review SAT Prep. Some of these programs are Newsela, which teaches reading comprehension through news articles, and Mathspace, a math skills program that incorporates individualized feedback into lessons. 

Ushering in a digital age

Because state standardized tests such as the PARCC are offered online, school administrators anticipate the SAT eventually becoming only computerized. In 2016, the test is being given both in print and online. 

Zywicki said, “We worked quickly with the district to make sure every student from seventh through twelfth grade would have a Chromebook” to practice their on-line skills. Johnson said Hoboken has also started using Chromebooks to help students become comfortable with digital testing.

Revamping resources

The Hudson County area has always had low test scores compared to most of the state, but school officials say they have been working to improve their resources. One trend among public schools is starting SAT preparation as early as possible. 

Johnson said, “We now administer the PSAT at no charge to all ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders during the school day, providing them with exposure to the test from the time they’re freshmen in high school.”

The PSAT is a practice test whose scores can be used in determining National Merit Scholarships. The scores are not sent to colleges with applications, though.

Johnson said that two years ago, Hoboken only offered the PSAT to juniors. Zywicki said Weehawken students can begin taking the PSAT in eighth grade. 

Both Hoboken and Weehawken use Princeton Review SAT preparation programs.

Pascual said that about seven years ago, North Bergen High School was pushed by the Board of Education to improve SAT scores and began to search for an SAT Prep program to partner with. Eventually, the high school partnered with Revolution Prep, a private tutoring service. Funded by the Board of Education, SAT prep classes are free for students and offered during after-school hours. In addition to lessons, the program also offers practice exams. 

“Before we started this SAT prep, our scores just weren’t there,” Pascual said. Referring to the practice exams, he said student averages on the exam have increased by 200 to 400 points between the first and last sitting. 

Emphasizing the importance of participating in practice SAT exams, Pascual said, “These exams help students figure out their strengths and weaknesses before the actual test.”

“We’re not at a disadvantage, Pascual said. “Our students have a lot of opportunities.”

North Bergen has also implemented SAT skills into language arts and math classes, Pascual said.

The district’s average score dropped by 44 points from the previous year’s 1355, but North Bergen’s SAT averages have consistently stayed above 1300 for the past five years.

Achievement over aptitude

One issue that arises for many high school students across the nation is getting good grades in their school yet scoring lower than expected on the SAT.

“What we’ve seen in the past is a situation where kids who are very high achievers and motivated students would have high grades, but unfortunately, there was a bit of disequilibrium between the grades they had in school and their SATs,” Johnson explained. “I see a lot of kids who do great in school but feel completely defeated when the SAT scores come out.”

“It seems like some of the changes in the SAT seem to be conducive to achievement and not aptitude,” she continued. “The ACT has already been that way for years.” 

While aptitude tests assess students’ likelihood to succeed in school in the future, achievement tests focus on what students already know. 

“I’m curious to see what the data will look like over the next year or two,” she added. “And I think we’ll get a better sense of whether these changes can be considered positive, or potentially, changes that College Board might go back and revise.”

Superintendents Clara Brito Herrera of West New York and Silvia Abbato of Union City did not return phone calls before the deadline. 

Figure 1: SAT scores by family income 

Figure 2: 2015 Income Eligibility Guidelines
Click to Enlarge
Figure 3- 2015-16 Hoboken Enrollment Data
Click to Enlarge

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Governor Christie Proposes Equal Funding for All School Districts

Apicella's on First Street from 1904 to 2005
Hoboken's last fish market
Governor Christie is proposing equal funding for all school districts in a sweeping effort to alter what he calls an "unaffordable and broken" education-funding formula "propped up by special interests and Supreme Court justices who got it wrong." The new plan, he said, would lower property tax bills and "end the disgrace of failed urban education." 

Under the proposed Fairness Formula, which he announced Tuesday afternoon at Hillsborough High School, each public school district would receive $6,599 per enrolled student — a figure arrived at by taking the $9.1 billion spent by the state today and dividing it among every K-12 student in New Jersey. 

Aid for special education would not be changed, according to the governor’s office.
That is a stark difference from the current formula under the School Funding Reform Act, which uses a weighted formula to determine how much money the state sends to districts.

Christie has for years strongly criticized that school-funding formula as unfair and fiscally irresponsible by pouring billions of tax dollars into underperforming districts and contributing to the state’s famously high property taxes. He did so again Tuesday, saying “failure is still the rule, not the exception” in districts where the state has spent nearly $100 billion the last 30 years in more than two dozen school districts where the graduate rates are well below the state average of 90 percent.
“It’s an immoral waste of the hard-earned money of the people of New Jersey,” Christie said. “We accept subpar performance and we pay a fortune for it.”

“Over and over again we see the same issue:  money spent without results for the families we are meant to serve,” Christie said. The current formula he added, “is failing families and their children.  It is bankrupting our state. It is driving families from their homes and New Jersey.”

Christie often says he could fix the inequity if only he had a Republican Legislature. The plan he was set to unveil Tuesday would likely have to go through the Democratic-led Legislature, which is pursuing its own reforms in a five-year plan to “address growing disparities in school funding throughout the state.”

Christie said his plan “is not a budget-cutting proposal,” but a “reallocation” of state aid.
He said his plan would provide “tax fairness” and provide better public education. Seventy-five percent of school districts would get more aid under his proposal, he said.

North Jersey towns stand to benefit, according to Christie. Under his proposal Fair Lawn would get an extra 815 percent in aid, while Teaneck would get 389 percent more and Wood-Ridge would get an additional 800 percent. That increase in state aid, he said would mean a drop in the average property tax bill of between $1,600 and $2,200 in those towns.

“All over the state, we slay the dragon of property taxes by implementing the Fairness Formula,” Christie said. “For the first time in anyone’s memory, property taxes plummeting not rising.  And all through valuing each child and their hopes, dreams and potential the same.
Christie said he will tour the state this summer to sell the proposal, which may be the last major policy battle he wages with Democrats before leaving office in January 2018.

Some Comparisons Across Hudson County (TGES estimates

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
Weehawken: $13,925
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/0-1800) Per Pupil: 
Weehawken: 15/49 

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
Hoboken City: $23,250
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/1801) Per Pupil: 
Hoboken City: 68/69 

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
North Bergen: $13,305
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/3501+) Per Pupil: 
North Bergen: 18/103

Full State List: Click here 

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