Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Attract more Female Engineers

Memorial Day Parade- Hoboken, NJ 1947
While all of the efforts channeled towards getting girls to study science, technology, engineering and math have certainly increased graduation rates in these programs, they haven't seemed to counter one particular setback for women in engineering: Once they make it into the field, they often leave. 
Research presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention this week showed that nearly 40 percent of women who earn engineering degrees quit the profession or never enter the field at all. The findings were initially published in 2012, but researchers highlighted new results of an analysis between those who left and those who stayed in engineering during the convention.
Beginning in 2009, the national longitudinal study, conducted by Nadya Fouad, PhD, and Romila Singh, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, surveyed over 5,300 women who had graduated with an engineering degree to see: What happens to women after they earn those degrees? 
Among the 38 percent of women who entered and subsequently left the field, 30 percent cited organizational climate, characterized by non-supportive supervisors or co-workers and general incivility, as a primary motivator. Nearly half left due to working conditions, like frequent travel, lack of advancement opportunities or low salary. 
"It is hard to justify the long hours to go nowhere," said one respondent, currently working in industrial engineering, in the study.


  How to Attract Female Engineers - NYTimes.com

Power-Up Project Based Learning with PBS LearningMedia

Project Based Learning – or PBL – is an important instructional strategy that many teachers use to engage students. These featured resources can enhance PBL lesson and inspire creative, new activities. Sign up for PBS LearningMedia to create interactive activities using quality multi media from PBS and partners.
Design Squad Nation | Collection | Grades 1-8
Design Squad gives students a stronger understanding of the design process, and the connection between engineering and the things we all use in everyday life. The results of engineering are all around us: from cars to cameras and everything in between. Design Squad Nation equips kids with science and math skills, inspires them, and lays the foundation they need to participate in engineering activities later in life. Use these Design Squad Nation resources to explore the world of science and engineering.
Scaling the Solar System | Video  | Grades 5-8
This video segment from Teaching Earth and Space Science shows how teacher Mark Goldner uses a classroom scaling activity to give eighth-grade students a physical feel for the vast spatial scale of the solar system. Goldner has his students approximate the size of the planets and the Sun using familiar objects; for example, Earth is represented by a peppercorn and the Sun is represented by an 8-inch beach ball. Goldner helps his students work out the scale of the model (1 inch equals 100,000 miles), and they think about both the sizes and distances between the planets in the solar system.
The Heat Loss Project | Video  | Grades 5-12
In this project-based learning activity,  science students use digital technologies to measure heat loss in the home. Teacher Lawrence Perretto explains the engineering skills students acquire as well as the larger implications the project has for teaching students about environmental conservation.
A School Project with a Purpose! | Curriculum and Videos | Grades 9-12
This project explores community landscapes and how land is developed for aesthetic and safety concerns. Based on the “Flagship Project” for Message to the Future Foundation (M2tf.org).
Integrating Disciplines in PBL | Video | Grades 11-13+
In this professional development video from Getting Results, instructors from different disciplines fit content from their disciplines into one integrated project that simulates a real-world problem. The instructors—from physics, technology, math, and communications disciplines—discuss the project and work with their students. One instructor explains that each course revolves around a real-world home insulation problem. The communications instructor, for instance, teaches students to write a formal report on their product. Communication between the instructors is key to integrating the different courses.
Learning Environment | Video  | Professional Learning
Watch a center-based educator set up thoughtfully planned learning environments to engage children in the PEEP science curriculum Explore Ramps. Learning centers that are intentionally designed can spark children’s curiosity and motivate them to experiment, test, and investigate. Learn a variety of professional development standards, including strategies that build upon children’s interests and backgrounds, ways to engage and communicate with them, and how to use project-based learning to generate excitement and deeper learning.
A Feast for Every Season | Video | Professional Learning
Each spring, students at Montclair’s Mt. Hebron Middle School grow their community garden together. This episode of NJEA’s Classroom Close-up shows how this project is able to reinforce classroom learning while strengthening the school community.
Engaging Students in Tech & Engineering | American Graduate | 13+
Learn how MOUSE is engaging middle and high school students in technology and engineering in this video from American Graduate Day 2013. Beginning in the middle school years, students can join the MOUSE Squad, which trains them to become technology experts in their schools. As 11th and 12th graders, students can start to design new technologies in the MOUSE Crops. After selecting a service-orientated theme, the MOUSE Corps members design, test, and refine technologies that benefit other people. Use the handout in the teacher’s resources to help prepare for a technology or engineering partnership at your school.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Questionable Security Drill Records in Hoboken and 22 Other NJ School Districts- WNBC TV New York

An investigation by NBC 4 New York's I-Team (Pei-Sze Cheng,  Fred Mamoun and Allison Fox)
has raised questions about mandated security drills in some New Jersey schools despite a renewed sense of national urgency when it comes to ensuring students, teachers and staff are prepared in the case of emergencies. Unfortunately, the Hoboken Public Schools under the stewardship of a group known as Kids First--- made the news this time:
"The Hoboken School District had several schools with questionable drill records, the I-Team found. One drill at Hoboken High School was recorded on September 17, 2012, but the school was closed for Rosh Hashanah. A school administrator told the I-Team officials are reviewing their dates."  -NBC 4 (May 20, 2015)
Seems that there were some inconsistencies with mandated public school drills and the dates that the administration of these drills took place. But in a school district where there have been 6 superintendents in 6 years, 2012 is ancient history. 

Click to Enlarge
Nonetheless, the Hoboken Public School District, under the leadership and stewardship of the political group known as Kids First, bears the burden of the responsibility. It will be interesting to see what, if any, the response will be. Here is more of the news report as well as a link to the actual news segment on NBC on May 20, 2015:

An investigation by NBC 4 New York's I-Team has raised questions about mandated security drills in some New Jersey schools despite a renewed sense of national urgency when it comes to ensuring students, teachers and staff are prepared in the case of emergencies.
Deadly school shootings like those at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, prompted changes to state laws across the nation.
Mandates for performing school emergency drills vary. New Jersey has some of the strictest laws on the books. Every school, public or private, must conduct one security drill a month or at least 10 drills a year in the Garden State. In New York, schools are only required to conduct one security drill a year under state law. Connecticut schools must conduct at least three drills a year.
Click to Enlarge
“The purpose of the drills is really to have educators start thinking outside the box, to start using their heads about alternatives to what they're faced with,” said Pat Kissane, executive director of the New Jersey arm of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
The I-Team reviewed records from public schools across 10 counties in New Jersey and found more than 150 questionable drill records in 23 school districts.
Some drills were recorded has having been carried out on weekends, during spring and winter recesses. Others appeared to have been conducted on school holidays.
The Hoboken School District had several schools with questionable drill records, the I-Team found. One drill at Hoboken High School was recorded on September 17, 2012, but the school was closed for Rosh Hashanah. A school administrator told the I-Team officials are reviewing their dates.

Read the full story by clicking HERE.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Total Funding vs. Per Pupil Expenses and Efficiency from 2009 to 2015 for Charter Schools in Hoboken, NJ

Memorial Day Parade- Hoboken, NJ 1915
6th and Washington St- Hoboken Historical Museum
Because we have data over time we can do some interesting longitudinal comparisons and spot trends and trend lines that are not always as clear when comparing data from one year to the next. I decided to look at two sets of numbers that have been talked about a fair amount lately. One is the amount of funds allocated to charter schools and the other is per pupil spending. From 2009-10 to 2014-15 we can see that money sent to the 3 charter schools in Hoboken, New Jersey has gone from $4,180, 880 to $8,386,226. During that same time, the number of students enrolled in charter schools has gone from 311 to 626 students and the per pupil costs has gone from $13,443 to $13,396 (see full data at end of this post). But when we plot trend lines (dotted lines), we see an unmistakable downward trend in per pupil spending over a 6 year period vs the resources allocated to charter schools.
Click to Enlarge 
According to a newspaper report published on April 23, 2015, the per pupil cost in the traditional public school district in Hoboken, NJ is $24,318 and is the highest in the its county (Hudson County, NJ). The higher per pupil spending of the traditional public schools in Hoboken vs. charter schools is often attributed to the high cost of educating children with special needs. But a recent analysis indicates the Hoboken School District is made up of 11% children with special needs while the charter schools in Hoboken are comprised of 8% special needs children.

The chart presents a fairly clear indication of increased efficiency over time as well as value added should the trends play out over the next couple of years. In essence, as charter schools educate more students in Hoboken, they do so with greater financial efficiency and without compromising quality. In truth, the perception and reality of better educational quality is magnified by the educational outcomes of the Hoboken School District under the stewardship of a group known as "Kids First" who have had super majority control of the Hoboken School District since May of 2009 (Click for more information: HERE1, HERE2, HERE3, HERE4).

Data: New Jersey Department of Education 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 12, 2015- Detailed Agenda Hoboken Board of Education Meeting

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
7:00 P.M.
The following is the detailed agenda for the Hoboken Board of Education Meeting- May 12, 2015. You can also access the direct link by clicking HERE

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hoboken Public Schools Score 45% on 2014 QSAC DPR in Instruction and Program- 4th Consecutive Year of Failing Scores During Kids First Era

June 16, 2014 NJDOE Placement Letter
A regular reader of this blog recently asked me to comment on the June, 2014 QSAC DPR in Instruction and Program for the Hoboken School District. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal which I will honor. -Dr. Petrosino

On June 16, 2014 the Hoboken School District received their Placement letter for the 2014-2015 Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) district performance review (DPR) from Robert L. Bumpus, the Acting Assistant Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education.

The failing score of 45% in Instruction and Program (arguably the most important DPR) is the fourth consecutive year of failure to meet the state's 80% criteria for the Instruction and Program DPR. The failure continues despite the district submitting yearly improvement plans outlining how they intend to pass the QSAC Instruction and Program DPR.

It is important to realize that in early 2010 the district received a score of 87% on the Instruction and Program DPR. That was the first QSAC assessment AFTER the completion of the Hoboken Curriculum Project which was voted on and approved by the Hoboken Board of Education in December of 2009 (the project included a new PreK-12 curriculum, full curriculum mapping, district assessments, and implementation plan).

The 87% was a achieved using the same teachers and similar population of students in the district today. So, it is reasonable to assume that the issue is not the teachers nor is the issue the students.

Under the political group known as Kids First and their Board of Education majority leadership, the Board's Curriculum Committee leadership of Ms. Ruth McAllister,  and the district leadership of Superintendents Peter Carter, Walter Rusak, and Mark Toback the score in Instruction and Program have fallen dramatically. This despite constant declarations of how much the Hoboken schools have improved under their leadership.

The QSAC DPR in Instruction and Program for 2015 were recently reported at a public meeting. Once we receive the official report from the NJDOE, we will comment. A preliminary account by the Hoboken Reporter indicates that while the Instruction and Program DPR has risen over the past year, it is still below criteria the State of New Jersey 's Dept. Of Education considers passing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hoboken K-12 School District Enrollment During Kids First Era: 2009-10 to 2014-15: Overall K-12 Enrollment Down 19.4%; K-12 Resident Enrollment down 25.3%; "School Choice" Population Increases Dramatically

Click to Enlarge
Is the K-12 student enrollment in the Hoboken Public School District increasing? Is the enrollment decreasing? Has the Kids First Board of Education majority instilled trust and faith in traditional public education in the City of Hoboken? Or, is 6 years of chronic administrative turnover, misreporting of test scores, violence and vandalism, and a district classified by the New Jersey Department of Education as a "District in Need of Improvement" leading parents to seek other educational alternatives? Well, rather than listen to rhetoric and misinformation from various constituents, it might be a good idea to simply look at the longitudinal data.

When we look at the data we notice that the K-12 enrollment has gone from 2184 in 2009-10 to 1760 in 2014-15 or a loss of 424 students or a reduction of 19.4% of the K-12 enrollment. But, a closer look at the data indicates that there has been an enormous increase in "choice students" in the Hoboken School District during the same time period. The district went from having 8 "choice students" to having 135 five years later in 2014-15. If we subtract "choice students" from the full enrollment, we get a much better sense of the Hoboken resident student population:

District enrollment - choice students = Hoboken resident student population 

So, what do we learn? Well…

1) since Kids First took full supermajority control of the Hoboken Public Schools from the 2009-10 school year to the current 2014-15 school year, the K-12 District enrollment has dropped 19.4%.

2) since Kids First took full supermajority control of the Hoboken Public Schools from the 2009-10 school year to the current 2014-15 school year, the K-12 Resident District enrollment has dropped 25.3% or from 2176 to 1625.

3) since Kids First took full supermajority control of the Hoboken Public Schools from the 2009-10 school year to the current 2014-15 school year, the number of "school choice" students has risen from 8 to 135 or a 15 fold increase (+1500%).

4) Charter enrollment during the same period in Hoboken increased by 312 students during the Kids First era. Rather than compete and offer a competitive educational experience, the Kids First majority has chosen to pursue lawsuits.

I know a little about the school choice program. It was while I was in the district in April of 2009 that Superintendent Raslowsky and I proposed it to the then Hoboken School Board and it passed 6-2 (the opposing votes were…Kids First members). The original vision was this would bring in about 10-20 students a year to the district. Interestingly, there was one Kids First member who did vote for the school choice program. Trustee Carrie Gillard was quoted in the Hoboken Reporter as saying

"We have a high school that's almost empty. We need to do something" -Trustee Gillard April, 2009 (Hoboken Reporter

A look at the ASSA report indicates the enrollment in the high school (grades 9-12) when Trustee Gillard made that statement in the spring of 2009 was 518. The latest numbers indicate there are now 416 students in grades 9-12…and that includes over 130 school choice students. So, the Hoboken resident high school enrollment has gone from about 518 students in April of 2009 to about 286 today (2014-15 ASSA Report). Yet, according to Board President Ruth McAllister (Pryor) the "high school is full"

424 less students during the Kids First era…and the budget has risen every year, under 300 resident students enrolled in high school grades 9-12 and the budget has risen every year...recall the contentious 5-4 vote which "saved" us from the opportunity of voting on the budget.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Agenda for May 5, 2015 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting


7:00 PM

General Fund Current Expenses $ 43,834,699
Contribution to Charter Schools $ 9,019,617
Capital Expenditures $ 612,100
Grants and Entitlements $ 14,525,312
Debt Service Fund $ 0

The budget includes sufficient funds to provide curriculum and instruction which will enable
all students to achieve the Core Curriculum Content Standards and is in compliance with
N.J.S.A. 18A and N.J.A.C Title 6 and 6A; and
BE IT RESOLVED, the Board approves a total tax levy of $ 41,004,666 to be raised for the
2015/2016 School District Budget of $ 67,991,728.

Hoboken School District Enrollment Down 20% in 4 years yet Budget Continues to Rise; Analysis of Special Education Enrollment Reveals 3% Difference with Charters

Budget time is always an interesting time. What is particularly interesting is hearing the rationale's for why the school budget must increase in light of plummeting overall enrollment. Attempts have been made to blame the city's charter schools. Well-- let's look at the numbers.
There is a great deal of information that can be gleamed from official state numbers. For instance in 2010 the K-12 enrollment (including special education children) for the Hoboken School District was 2346 students. By October of 2014, the K-12 enrollment (including special education children) for the Hoboken School District was 1897 students. This represents a reduction of -20% in four years. There was a total reduction of 449 students.  During the same time period charter school enrollment (including special needs children) went from 468 students to 684 students for a total gain of 216 students or an enrollment gain of +46%.

Special Education Another general claim made often by the Hoboken School Board is that they need to educate a great number of special education students and by implication that charter schools do not. A look at the 2014 ASSA data shows that out of the 1897 students in the Hoboken School District, 208 are classified by the district as special education. This works out to 11% of the total K-12 district enrollment. As we have seen, the 2014 ASSA report indicates that charter school educate a total of 684 students, 53 of which are classified as special education. This works out to 8%. 11% vs. 8%- evidently charters ARE educating a fair amount of children with special needs, contrary to popular opinion. Yet the Hoboken School District would like people to believe they are the only public school educating children with special needs. If fact, this is one of the long held explanations for the $26,000+ per pupil spending in the school district vs. $12,000 per student for the charter schools. 

So, a reasonable question might be why does the budget keep rising when the overall enrollment of the district is down 449 students since 2010? and even when considering charter school enrollment, the district's enrollment is still down 223 students and the population of children classified as ending special education is only 2% higher in the Hoboken School District than in the city's charter schools? 

Can Research and Dialogue Improve the Debate Over Charter Schools?

Laemmel's on Hudson Street Hoboken 1955
Can Research and Dialogue Improve the Debate Over Charter Schools?
Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation announce new online resources to improve dialogue on controversial education issues

New York -- As the nation recognizes National Charter Schools Week May 3-9, Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation today launched Charter Schools In Perspective, a set of resources designed to get beyond the polarization this issue can create in districts and states.
This polarization can cause confusion rather than clarity and make it difficult for policymakers, educators and community members to find practical solutions to improve schools for all children.

Charter Schools In Perspective consists of nonpartisan resources designed to support a more informed and civil dialogue about charter schools among policymakers, journalists and community members. These resources include:

Charter Schools In Perspective: A Guide to Research: This thorough and accessibly-written analysis brings together and synthesizes current research on charter schools. Topics include student achievement, finance, governance, innovation and public opinion. 

Ten Questions for Policymakers: This set of questions helps local officials think through decisions about charter schools in their jurisdictions. 

Ten Questions for Journalists: This set of questions provides local and national journalists with questions and ideas for stories about charter schools in their regions and nationwide.

Are Charter Schools a Good Way to Improve Education in Our Community?  This discussion guide is designed to help community members grapple with the trade-offs and benefits of introducing, expanding, limiting or closing charter schools. By presenting different perspectives on charter schools, it helps communities hold civil, productive dialogue on how to improve their schools.

All materials are available online at www.in-perspective.org/.
"Neither the Spencer Foundation nor Public Agenda takes positions on contemporary controversies about education. As a research organization, the Spencer Foundation is primarily interested in how high quality research and scholarship can be used to improve education policy and practice," said Dr. Diana Hess, Senior Vice President of the Spencer Foundation. "Both organizations recognize that charter schools have become deeply polarizing, with some advocates both for and against the schools entrenched in their positions and often dominating headlines. We believe that more informed, thoughtful deliberation about issues related to what kinds of schools the public should create is in the best interest of communities, parents and children."

Charter schools make up 7 percent of all U.S. public schools yet are quickly growing. Between 2007-08 and 2012-13, the number of charter schools increased by nearly 40 percent and the schools are permitted in 43 states. Meanwhile, public opinion research indicates that most people lack even basic knowledge about charter schools.

"Communities deserve better conditions to help them determine the best way to improve their local schools." said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. "We believe that Charter Schools In Perspective can help change the conversation so that we can focus on how the public K-12 education system as a whole can work better for students."

Charter Schools In Perspective grew out of the Spencer Foundation's Disciplined Dialogues Project, which seeks to bring an innovative, rigorous and disciplined process of deliberation and communication to key education issues where controversy and politicization exist and where policy is being created quickly. The Spencer Foundation will hold a second Disciplined Dialogues convening in June 2015 to explore issues related to teachers’ working conditions, teacher quality and student learning in elementary and secondary schools.

What People Are Saying About Charter Schools In Perspective:
 "If you want a neutral, well-informed guide through the ideologically-charged battlefield of charter schools, this is the place to go. This clearly laid-out summary of all things that ought to be known about charter schools is without peer in the country." 
  • Jack Jennings, Founder and former President/CEO, Center on Education Policy
"Our education debates are rife with impassioned declarations and sweeping claims. That can make it hard to find agreement on where things stand, how we can do better, and what solutions are worth trying. The Spencer Foundation and Public Agenda have provided a signal service in promoting civil discussion, clarifying what we do and don’t know, and respectfully acknowledging differing views. This is a resource that parents, educators, community leaders, and public officials will find valuable.”  
  • Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute   

About Public Agenda
Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/PublicAgenda and on Twitter at@PublicAgenda.

About the Spencer Foundation
The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer. The Foundation received its major endowment upon Spencer's death in 1968 and began formal grant making in 1971. Since that time, the Foundation has made grants totaling approximately $500 million. The Foundation is intended, by Spencer's direction, to investigate ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world. From the first, the Foundation has been dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to the improvement in education. The Foundation is thus committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities. Find the Spencer Foundation online at www.spencer.org.

625 N. Michigan Avenue Suite 1600 | Chicago, IL 60611 US

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Deconstructing Irene Korman Sobolov's 4/26/15 Letter to the Hoboken Reporter

Recently there was a letter published in the Hoboken Reporter. In that letter, Hoboken Board of Education Trustee and Kids First member Sobolov address some issues about the ongoing lawsuit she is pursuing against the NJDOE and a charter school in Hoboken. What follows is a deconstruction of her letter with verification and documentation written in red. Among other things, Ms. Sobolov fails to mention that the district's own auditor showed that there was a $1.5 million dollar surplus to the Hoboken School District's Budget (reported at the January 2015 Board of Education Meeting). With such a surplus, one must question what negative impact charter funding will have on the Hoboken School District. What book won't be purchased? What program will not be enacted? What person can not be hired? Which low income students or special needs students will be deprived of a single educational resource? The combination of a $1.5 million surplus and the highest per pupil costs in the state, leads one the conclusion money and resources are not necessarily what is at issue. -Dr. Petrosino 

Dear Editor:

Last week, the Hoboken Board of Education voted to seek an appellate review of the Commissioner of Education’s recent decision regarding the expansion of a charter school. The reason is simple: the commissioner failed to use accurate student census data and disregarded enrollment disparities of children impacted by poverty and children with special needs. The commissioner is required by law to consider these factors.

This is the third time the Commissioner of Education has seen Ms. Sobolov and her Kids First Board of Education majority's complaint concerning the decision to renew and expand the dual language school. In addition to the Commissioner, a panel of experts also weighed in on the decision. Yet, Ms. Sobolov still seems confident that the Commissioner disregarded data. BTW, the Commissioner DID address these concerns in the most recent decision letter dated March 20, 2015

The commissioner must also examine the financial impacts on the Hoboken Public School District’s educational program, as the funding comes directly from the district budget. With a disproportionate amount of low-income and special needs students, the district funding must provide for students who require more educational resources and services than more advantaged students.

Ms. Sobolov fails to mention that the district's own auditor showed that there was a $1.5 million dollar surplus to the Hoboken School District's Budget (reported at the January 2015 Board of Education Meeting). With such a surplus, one must question what negative impact charter funding will have on the Hoboken School District. What book won't be purchased? What program will not be enacted? What person can not be hired? Which low income students or special needs students will be deprived of a single educational resource? 

The commissioner ignored all of this, but I could not.

Again, there is absolutely no evidence that the Commissioner ignored information about the  low income or special needs students in the Hoboken School District. As a recent article on NJ.COM shows, Hoboken has the highest per pupil cost in Hudson County and one of the highest per pupil costs in the State of New Jersey. An examination of the Commissioner's letter (see link above) indicates factors Ms. Sobolov mentions were known. 

For a variety of different reasons, we have an imbalance in our community. One district—the Hoboken Public School District—is now serving the majority of our community’s most vulnerable students and those who require the most educational resources. Budget cuts to fund a charter school expansion will be felt by the students of the district.

What are some of the reasons for this "imbalance in our community"? Perhaps its the violence and vandalism (ranked 9th highest in the state)? Perhaps its the low test scores? Perhaps its the plummeting QSAC scores in Instruction and Program?  Perhaps its the failed laptop program that was so highly touted by Kids First supporters and ended up being exposed both regionally and nationally? Perhaps its having 6 superintendents in 6 years? Perhaps it is district enrollment down over 25% in 4 years? Perhaps it is Ms. Sobolov's political group known as Kids First voted against a dual language program in the public schools in 2009? There are many possible reasons why any parent with a choice is seeking other options. One of those reasons may be the general impression of the Hoboken Public Schools under the stewardship of Ms. Sobolov and the political group known as Kids First.  

I have always welcomed a community discussion. In December 2013, then Superintendent Dr. Toback asked the commissioner to help our community address this imbalance. His plea went unanswered. Shortly afterwards, the superintendent invited all school administrators to meet to discuss solutions. Although unsuccessful so far, I still believe we can find a way to reopen that dialogue and explore solutions as a community. There are many ways to encourage diversity if we work together—a universal application, coordinated outreach and dedicated enrollment spots.

The uncomfortable truth is that Ms. Sobolov and her Board majority have simply not been responsive to the community needs. It has been over 5 years now and the school district has not implemented its own dual language program. Clearly there is a great need for more seats in the community but the district remains unresponsive. Coordinated outreach and dedicated enrollment spots have already been enacted. A universal application is a policy used in the Newark public schools that Ms. Sobolov evidently wants to bring to Hoboken. Seems slightly out of touch to the needs of the parents of Hoboken school age children to me. 

I think most agree that the unfair state funding formula needs to be addressed. All parents love their child’s school and no parent wants to lose educational resources. I also believe that in such a small community, the imbalance in student population should be a concern that requires all of our attention and community-wide solutions.

Again, one needs to remember that the Hoboken School District had a $1.5 million dollar SURPLUS last year as explained by their an independent financial auditing firm of their own choosing. As for the "imbalance" in student population, Ms. Sobolov fails to mention that the 2 MOST economically segregated schools in Hoboken are Connors and Brandt which are both under her stewardship. 

As a parent myself, I completely understand it is a difficult situation for everyone. I feel the same love and commitment to my children's school and the students I serve as the charter parents who attended last week’s Board of Education meeting. But I stand by my decision. To “let it go” would require me to abandon the students in the Hoboken Public School District—often our community's most vulnerable children. I cannot do that. I hope those who disagree with my decision understand my reasons. 

Ms. Sobolov's fails to recognize that the "difficulty" of this situation is of her own initiative as well as her Kids First Board members. Inflammatory remarks of "white flight" and "bankruptcy" (recall the $1.5 million surplus!) by Kids First member Leon Gold as well as disregard for previous decisions by the NJ Commissioner of Education has made this issue drag out beyond reason. 

Education is clearly an important and passionate topic and I look forward to continued community discussion.

Education is also an area of specific expertise and competence. Failure in either area leads to ireputable damage to our most vulnerable citizens, our children. All our children. 

Yours truly
Irene Korman Sobolov*

* Board of Education members are unpaid positions and the job of being a trustee often entails many hours of service. While I may disagree with Ms. Sobolov on a number of issues related to education, I do recognize and acknowledge her dedication of time and effort. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Testing Corporations Spend $$$ to Lobby Congress and State Politicians

Church Square Park- Hoboken NJApril, 2015
photo: Roger J Muller Jr. 
Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.
The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.
The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.
Texas paid nearly $500 million to Pearson for five years of testing, but New York paid only $32 million to Pearson for the same five years.