Friday, October 10, 2014

Start school day later so teens can get more sleep, N.J. lawmaker says

Columbus Day Activities- Columbus Park, Hoboken
October, 2014 reports that NJ state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would direct the state Department of Education to study the potential health benefits of starting middle and high school students’ days later, as well as the negative academic consequences of sleep deprivation.

“Studies are showing that our current school start time system is flipped the wrong way,” Codey said in a statement. “Middle and high school start times are too early and elementary and pre-k classes are too late." Codey’s legislation follows an August policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends beginning school days for adolescents at 8:30 a.m.

“Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty,” the association said in a press release.

“This is more than a matter of teenagers dozing at their desks, this is about their health and ability to learn, retain information and succeed,” Codey said. “The smart thing to do is to start the school day at a time that is best for learning and best for the health and safety of students.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who decides what bills get put up for a vote, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Codey’s legislation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hoboken BOE Candidates Forum Wednesday October 8

Hoboken Elks Club
Wilson Conde of the Jersey Journal reports that The Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition will partner with the Hoboken Elks Club to sponsor a forum for Hoboken Board of Education candidates tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hoboken Elks Lodge.

The forum will give community members a chance to meet the candidates, each of whom will be asked questions. The moderator will be Bob Bowdon.
Helen Manogue, Hoboken QLC’s coordinator, said this year’s candidates are Sharyn l. Angley, Peter Biancamano, Lynn Danzker, Antonio Gray, Brian Murray, Frances Rhodes Kearns, Monica Stromwall and Patricia Waiters.

However, Angley, Gray, and Stromwal will not be present at the forum, Manogue said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Under Kids First and Ruth McAllister (Tyroler)/Leon Gold/Mark Toback Leadership Analysis Shows Hoboken Public School District Ranked 490th out of 558 Public School Districts in New Jersey-

Hoboken Board Trustee and President Ruth McAllister (Tyroler) is fond of saying how much better the Hoboken School District is today than when she was first elected to the Hoboken Board of Education in the spring of 2009. In a few previous posts, independent, objective, and independent evidence was presented that might question some of the Board President's claims. Anyone who is interested in details that challenge her claims should Click Here and Click Here

Now there is additional data indicating Ms. McAllister (Tyroler) may want to reconsider her self congratulatory end of meeting remarks.  Last month we learned the QSAC DPR in Instruction and Program was a 45 out of 100 and marked the Hoboken Board's third consecutive year of failing to pass state mandated criteria for this DPR (recall, Trustee McAllister (Tyroler) was the Chair of the District's Curriculum Committee for the past 4+ years). Now we read about some additional analysis done by, a site which ranks schools and school districts based on their most recently reported test scores. The test scores are calculated by taking the average math and English scores across all grades and adding them together for a combined score. District rankings are calculated by averaging the rank percentile of the schools within  each district. 

In this analysis the Hoboken Public School District is ranked 490th out of 558 public school districts in New Jersey (bottom 12%). This evidently is the "improvement" after 5 years of leadership by Board President McAllister (Tyroler) and her Kids First political group. 


The ranking should come as little surprise. In November of 2011 the school district was declared a District in Need of Improvement by the NJ Department of Education for the first time in district history after over 30 months of McAllister's (Tyroler) and Kids First leadership.

Failing scores on INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM, a district labeled a District in Need of Improvement by the State Department of Education, and a ranking of 490 out of 558 must be difficult to sell as "improvement" to an informed public. Even more challenging must be the recent ranking of Hoboken as the 9th most violent school district in the State of New Jersey by But, it seems even that ranking was not a one time occurrence as we examine the multi-year trend of violence and vandalism in the Hoboken School District under Kids First and McAllister's (Tyroler) leadership:

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Click to Enlarge 

Again, notions of improvement can be subjective and riddled with opinions and spin. Sometimes presenting independent, objective, and non-partisan data depicts a circumstance or presents a counter narrative that differs from campaign promises or ego driven defensive rants.

Taking a page out of Ms. McAllister's (Tyroler) playbook, we read this in a recent Hoboken Reporter cover story:  

Monica Stromwall, who recently took over the chairmanship of the school board’s curriculum committee, defended the Hoboken’s school administration.
“Test scores are always a concern in any district, but steady progress is being made,” she said. The district’s steady application of consistent assessment and intervention programs are working and we will continue to support this.”
Here is one graph challenging the statement that "steady progress is made".....

...steady progress is being made

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did you know there’s a school board election in five weeks? -by Carlos Davis

Hoboken Waterfront- September 29, 2014
The following article by Carlos Davis appeared in the Hoboken Reporter on September 28. Click here to access the article in its entirety.  -Dr. Petrosino

It’s unusually quiet for election season in Hoboken. In merely five weeks, three of the nine seats on the Hoboken Board of Education will be contested during the Nov. 4 general election. The three incumbents are running again, and their challengers have recently stepped up their critiques at school board meetings.

One reason for the tepid campaigning may be that the election has no chance of changing who controls the school board. Six of the nine current trustees were elected on the Kids First slate, which is associated with Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Two of the incumbents running are opponents of Kids First and the third has been allied with them, although she didn’t technically run on their slate.

That trustee, Monica Stromwall, was unanimously appointed by the board this past February after Carmelo Garcia resigned his seat to serve as a newly elected state Assemblyman. Stromwall has consistently voted with the Kids First majority since then, but will be running with her own slate called Parents for Progress, along with Sharyn Angley and Antonio Gray.

In fact, this year, no one is running under the “Kids First” banner–possibly because of division within the group’s ranks over policy toward the district’s charter schools. The Kids First members on the school board have opposed the expansion of the HoLa dual language charter school, while some past Kids First supporters, including the mayor, have been in favor of charter schools.

The two other incumbents running this year, Peter Biancamano and Frances Rhodes-Kearns, have often filled the role of the loyal opposition against Kids First, questioning the decisions of the majority at school board meetings. 

From an initial field of 11, the number of candidates for the school board dwindled to eight after Barbara Reyes, Britney Montgomery, and Jackie Dowd Prince dropped out.

Biancamano and Rhodes-Kearns are teaming up to form the Education for all Children slate. A third slate, the Parents for Change slate, is composed of two former board candidates, Brian Murray (a frequent Kids First critic) and Patricia Waiters, as well as Lynn Danzker.

The Board of Education Candidates’ Forum will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2014 at the Elks Lodge at 1005 Washington St. For those who cannot attend, the forum will be videotaped and may be viewed later on Hoboken’s Cablevision Channel 78.

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Did you know there s a school board election in five weeks Three of nine seats up charter schools and new superintendent at issue 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Smartest Kids in the World- Amanda Ripley

New York Times bestseller, The Smartest Kids was selected by The Economist, The Washington Post, The New York Times and as one of the most notable books of 2013.
In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words. What is it like to be a child in these new education superpowers?
In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, 15, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, 18, exchanges an upscale Minnesota suburb for a booming South Korean city; and Tom, 17, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for a gritty city in Poland.
Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into what works worldwide, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these places had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. They had changed. Teaching had become more serious; parents had focused on what mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education. A reporting tour de force, The Smartest Kids is a book aboutbuilding resilience in a new world—as told by the young Americans with the most at stake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hoboken School Board Picks New Interim Superintendent

Pier A Park- Hoboken, NJ 
The Hoboken Board of Education has appointed Dr. Richard J. Brockel to serve as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement is found. Brockel will serve on a contract basis until Aug. 11, when outgoing superintendent Mark Toback officially leaves to take over as head of the Wayne public school district.

The hiring of Dr. Brockel is the 5th superintendent of schools since May of 2009 (Superintendent Raslowsky: 2007-2009; Interim Superintendent Carter 2009-2011; Interim Superintendent Rusak 2011; Superintendent Mark Toback 2011-2014; and Interim Superintendent Brockel 2014- present). 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Disaggregation of District Wide Data by Grade Reveals an Interesting Story in Hoboken, NJ

The Hoboken School District in Hoboken, NJ is currently engaged in a lawsuit with both the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) as well as the Hola Dual Language Charter School. The core of the lawsuit centers on a claim by the Hoboken Board of Education that charter schools in Hoboken are contributing to segregation and thus the NJDOE should consider 1) repealing the original charter for the Dual Language School and/or 2) should  deny the expansion of the Hola Dual Language Charter School from K-6 to K-8.

A look at 2010-11 disaggregated data seems to indicate that the Hoboken Public Schools start out with 70% of its students who do NOT come from families who qualify for free lunch. 

Disaggregation- verb (used with object), 1. to separate into its component parts; 2. to become separated from an aggregate or mass. 

However, by high school these percentages are reversed and the 12th grade has only 30% of its students who do not qualify for free lunch. As the disaggregated data shows there are at least 3 trends that are very evident in Hoboken: 1) In the early grades, the district is predominately middle class (70%); 2) a longitudinal view of the data by grade shows a continuous increase in students qualifying for free lunch, reaching a maximum of 70% by senior year; 3) the general enrollment in the Hoboken School District declines steadily from grades 1-12 (the slight "bump" in grades 10, 11, and 12 are due to "school choice" students coming to the district from out of Hoboken).

In an upcoming post we will explore what might be some other reasons other than segregation, "white-flight" and racism for this demographic trend in the Hoboken public schools.

Original 2010 Department of Education Data

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project-based learning benefits students By Jessie Wagoner

“We had developed a pretty comfortable expectation that was going to be something that happened,” Kirk said. “To be perfectly honest, the district is committed to us for the educational piece, not for the financial piece. There is no argument; we are more expensive than a traditional school setting. So there has to be a conscious decision that the benefit outweighs the cost.”
The legislative post-audit looks solely at the financial matters of the district. The audit identifies ways to reduce expenditures. 
However, the district maintains it is important to look at the whole picture when making decisions related to education. The quality of learning and the different style of learning offered at Turning Point Academy is valuable to the students, parents and the district. The district is engaged in efforts to raise awareness about the services offered at Turning Point in an effort to increase enrollment.
“There will be a conscious effort to help parents be more aware of exactly what services their children can receive there,” Davidson said. “We want kids to know what their options are so they can make the right choice for them. Our district is committed to doing everything we can to continue having an option for those students because we think it is important for there to be a whole continuum of services for kids.”
Project-based learning is a staple at Turning Point. For students, project-based learning provides the opportunity to collaborate with others, research, be active learners and hone their public speaking skills. 
“Education is probably going more toward how we teach students here than how a traditional system does,” Kirk said. “The most significant difference is we are able to do it easier here because we don’t have such large numbers.”
In a project-based learning environment, the teacher will give a big picture or umbrella of what the class will be talking about, then give a target and timeline for where the class will be going. The teacher then asks the children an overarching question.
Teachers won’t tell the students how to answer the question, but will instead give them a rubric explaining how the students should demonstrate their knowledge. Most frequently this requires working in groups of two to three students and making a presentation to the class. There is collaboration, participation and research while the teacher takes on a role of facilitator.
The learning is hands-on. One group may design an invention, while another group may develop a computer program to demonstrate their learning. The rubric is the same for every student, but the student takes ownership of the learning.
“Our focus at Turning Point is creating learners that are capable of learning themselves,” Kirk said. “We don’t want to just give the kids knowledge — we want the kids to chase the knowledge and find it. We want to create thirsty learners.”
One feature at Turning Point is the way classes are combined. Kindergarten through fourth grade students are in a group, fifth through eighth are another group and high school students are placed together.
Shalla and Robert Bennett’s daughters have been attending Turning Point for several years. This year, Emeil is in third grade and Elleana is in fifth grade. The family said they have enjoyed the learning experiences offered at Turning Point. Small class sizes, project-based learning and the combined class grades are highlights for them.
“I like Turning Point because it is more individual,” Elleana Bennett said. “Last year I was in ninth grade math and seventh grade reading, so I didn’t have to just stay on fourth grade things.”
One benefit of the class setup Shalla Bennett has noticed is that it allows for consistency. Instead of changing teachers each year, her daughters have been able to have the same teacher for multiple years.
“I’m not very good with change,” said Emeil Bennett. “So I like having the same class and the same teacher each year.”
Having the same teacher has helped increase learning for Emeil Bennett by providing her with the stability that meets her needs.
“That stability allows her to immediately start learning,” Shalla Bennett said. “Otherwise it takes her a good couple months just to get settled into the environment.”
Learning at their own pace and working with other students is another plus for the family. Older students serve as mentors for younger students.
“There is an expectation that if you are a student that has mastered this skill, then you should help your peers,” said Shalla Bennett. “Sometimes kids learn better from other kids. So they can help one another.”
Students at Turning Point are eligible to participate in athletic activities offered through Emporia Middle School and Emporia High School. As the Bennett girls get older, they are looking forward to taking part in several different sports.
In light of the audit findings, Davidson and the USD 253 board will continue studying and evaluating recommendations of the audit. The district is committed to meeting student needs while also being fiscally responsible.
“We have already begun a study,” Davidson said. “And I think we will continue to look at it to make sure that we are doing the best that we can, being as effective as we possible can for those student services.”
For more information about Turning Point Academy or enrollment questions, call at 341-2455. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Longitudinal QSAC Scores in Instruction and Program DPR Under Kids First/Carter-Rusak-Toback Leadership

Click to Enlarge
On September 9, 2014 the Hoboken Board of Education officially released their 2013-14 QSAC Initial Placement letter to the public. The score on INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM was a 45 out of 100. This is a 20+ point drop from last year (the single biggest drop in district history in terms of points and percentage) and 35 points away from a passing score of 80.  Here is a look at the QSAC data in INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM beginning with when the curriculum I headed up was formally approved by the Board of Education in December of 2009 and since the political group known as Kids First have had a super majority of the Hoboken Board of Education (see chart). 

During the entire time of this decline in Instruction and Program, Trustee McAllister was not only a Hoboken Board of Education member but was also chair of the district's Curriculum Committee. The curriculum committee is the committee with oversight and responsibility for many of the benchmarks on the QSAC Instruction and Program DPR. Trustee McAllister is a board member fond of saying that the district was in dire straits when she was elected in Spring of 2009 and that it is doing so much better now. She is entitled to her opinion, but this data indicates differently. 

In my opinion, the task at hand seems beyond the competency level of those overseeing the education of the children in the Hoboken School District. In addition to the failing QSAC score in Instruction and Program, the district has a lower than average HS graduation rate, for the first time in history the district is classified as a DISTRICT IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT by the NJ Dept of Education (Nov. 2011), the district is ranked 9th worst in the state in violence, vandalism and bullying (, and is one of the lowest ranking districts in NJ (New Jersey Monthly- September 2014). The high school received a grade of "D" (lowest ranking) from the Newark Star-Ledger in 2013. These are not my opinions. These are the findings of independent, objective, and impartial third party evaluators and self reported data by the district. Some may disagree with one or two of these--- but there is overwhelming consensus. And.... It wasn't like this in 2009 when Kids First took over the district. The Board majority DID NOT inherit a district in decline as they want everyone to believe. Rather, these disturbing facts are the result of the past 5+ years of board/district "leadership" and the entire community is now suffering for their incompetence, arrogance, and unwillingness to accept responsibility and provide a plan of action to remediate the damage they have done. The Board majority rose to power pointing fingers and pontificating about costs per student, test scores, and ineptitude-- now they want everyone to be silent on these issues for fear the downward spiral they've set in place for the district might be blamed on them instead of those who came before.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hola Dual Language School to Receive Grant From the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund

Boys and Girls Club of Hoboken- November, 2012
On Tuesday, September 8th the Hoboken Board of Education voted to transfer $28,235.41 from a $819,000 portion of the United Arab Emirates Embassy's $4.5 million Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund to the Hola Dual Language Charter School. The funds will be used for a number of items in order to implement a "Digital Divide" project in complicance with the requirements of the Sandy relief fund. The motion passed overwhelmingly (7-2) with Board members Ruth Tyroler, Thomas Kluepfel, Peter Biancamano, Jennifer Evans, Jean Marie Mitchell, Francis Rhodes-Kearns and Monica Stromwall voting for the transfer. Two Board members voted against the agenda item.

Click here for full details on the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, Inc.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reconsideration Documents for the 2013-14 School Year QSAC Instruction and Program DPR - Hoboken School District

After receiving a score of 45 out of 100 on the June 16, 2014 QSAC 2014-15 Placement Letter for the Instruction and Program DPR, then superintendent Mark Toback asked the State of New Jersey's Department of Education for reconsideration or appeal for the low rating (80 is passing). The appeal allowed for both reconsideration of the score by the state as well as initiated a delay in when the Board would officially have to present the results to the general public (the Board by code must report QSAC scores at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting after receiving their QSAC Initial Placement Letter). 

The appeal or reconsideration was denied. The following are the official documents the State of New Jersey generated in response to reconsideration as well as the state's reasons for denying the appeal. The score of 45 in Instruction and Program stands.

Agenda for the September 9, 2014 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting