Monday, September 1, 2014

Hoboken's Charter Schools Fostering White Flight? Pictures from The Jersey Journal Tell a Much Different Story

Dr. Leon Gold
On March 13, 2014 then Hoboken Board of Education President and Kids First member Leon Gold was quoted on Salon.com as saying charter schools in Hoboken, NJ are "fostering white flight." In other words, white students are leaving the traditional Hoboken Public Schools to attend one of the three charter schools in the city and by implication, that charter schools contain very little children of color or economic diversity

On May 23, 2014 the Jersey Journal reported on the senior prom of Hoboken Charter School located at 713 Washington Street:


HOBOKEN -- Luminous purple lights coupled with the mosaic details of the walls was reminiscent of a 1920's film. This was the setting for the small group of almost 30 seniors who gathered together for the Hoboken Charter School prom on Thursday, May 22.



The "Roaring Twenties" theme of the dance translated into the decor of the room, complete with feathered hats and beaded necklaces, which were placed in the center of each table.
A crowd of young woman embodied the style and grace of an iconic '20's woman, while the young men exuded charm in their crisp, mainly monochromatic suits, as they celebrated their 2014 senior prom, which took place at Room84 in Hoboken. By Chinedum Emelumba/The Jersey Journal 

Here are pictures that the Jersey Journal published online. Does this look like white flight to you?......




The students of Hoboken Charter School, located at 713 Washington St., gathered to celebrate their 2014 senior prom, on Thursday, May 22. Draped in their finest vintage inspired ensemble, the crowd danced through the night at the extravaganza, which was held at Room84 in Hoboken. Chinedum J.C. Emelumba/The Jersey Journal

White Flight? Of course not. But, the irresponsible language and terminology has left a negative impression about charter schools within the City of Hoboken and has caused a divide in the community. Dr. Gold's inaccurate and unproductive attacks on charter schools are unfortunate. 

Editor's Note: Dr. Leon Gold recently stepped down as the President of the Hoboken Board of Education. According to the Hoboken Reporter, Gold said it was simply time for time to step down. Actually, Gold was sworn in as President of the Hoboken Board of Education on January 7, 2014 and is stepping down 5 months from when his 1 year term was due to expire. 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Robert Reich: Inequality Is at the Heart of Who Gets a Good Education and Who Doesn't

Robert Reich 
The following is a recent and very thoughtful position piece on inequality and education. Former Labor Secretary Reich uses statistics and sound economic theory to deliver a clear message-- that it is important to spend money on eduction and especially to spend money to educate children from and currently in poverty. I have commented on how the Hoboken School District stands as an anomaly (spending over $28,000 per student) to Reich's argument and how easily it could used as a counter example to some of Reich's arguments. In the mean time, please enjoy this article. It really is excellent and well researched for a piece directed at a broad audience. -Dr. Petrosino 


American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.
Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.
Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points.
The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement.
On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia.
The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing.
It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.
According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2010 census tract and household income data, residential segregation by income has increased during the past three decades across the United States and in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas.
This matters, because a large portion of the money to support public schools comes from local property taxes. The federal government provides only about 14 percent of all funding, and the states provide 44 percent, on average. The rest, roughly 42 percent, is raised locally.
Most states do try to give more money to poor districts, but most states cut way back on their spending during the recession and haven’t nearly made up for the cutbacks.
Meanwhile, many of the nation’s local real estate markets remain weak, especially in lower-income communities. So local tax revenues are down.
As we segregate by income into different communities, schools in lower-income areas have fewer resources than ever.
The result is widening disparities in funding per pupil, to the direct disadvantage of poor kids.
The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one.
What are called a “public schools” in many of America’s wealthy communities aren’t really “public” at all. In effect, they’re private schools, whose tuition is hidden away in the purchase price of upscale homes there, and in the corresponding property taxes.
Even where courts have requiring richer school districts to subsidize poorer ones, large inequalities remain.
Rather than pay extra taxes that would go to poorer districts, many parents in upscale communities have quietly shifted their financial support to tax-deductible “parent’s foundations” designed to enhance their own schools.
About 12 percent of the more than 14,000 school districts across America are funded in part by such foundations. They’re paying for everything from a new school auditorium (Bowie, Maryland) to a high-tech weather station and language-arts program (Newton, MA).
“Parents’ foundations,” observed the Wall Street Journal, “are visible evidence of parents’ efforts to reconnect their money to their kids.” And not, it should have been noted, to kids in another community, who are likely to be poorer.
As a result of all this, the United States is one of only three, out of 34 advanced nationssurveyedby the OECD, whose schools serving higher-income children have more funding per pupil and lower student-teacher ratios than do schools serving poor students (the two others are Turkey and Israel).
Other advanced nations do it differently. Their national governments provide 54 percent of funding, on average, and local taxes account for less than half the portion they do in America. And they target a disproportionate share of national funding to poorer communities.
As Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, told the New York Times, “the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”
Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.
Yet we seem to be doing everything except getting more money to the schools that most need it.
We’re requiring all schools meet high standards, requiring students to take more and more tests, and judging teachers by their students’ test scores.
But until we recognize we’re systematically hobbling schools serving disadvantaged kids, we’re unlikely to make much headway. 

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama's transition advisory board. His latest book is "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." His homepage is www.robertreich.org.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program in Education Research

2014 Softball Champions- Hoboken, NJ 
News from the National Academy of Education: 

We are pleased to share information on the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs in education research. Please help us widely distribute this information to qualified candidates, listservs, and other electronic sources by using the paragraphs below. Thank you for your assistance.
National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program in Education Research

The NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. These $25,000 fellowships support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world. Fellows will also attend professional development retreats and receive mentorship from NAEd members and other senior scholars in their field. This highly competitive program aims to identify the most talented emerging researchers conducting dissertation research related to education. The Dissertation Fellowship program receives many more applications than it can fund. This year, up to 600 applications are anticipated and about 30 fellowships will be awarded. Additional guidelines and the fellowship application form are available on our website. Website: http://www.naeducation.org/NAED_080200.htm
Deadline to apply: October 3, 2014

National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Education Research
*** The Postdoctoral Fellowship underwent an applicant qualification change last year. Please note the new eligibility requirements pertaining to the date in which the doctoral degree was earned. ***

The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports early-career scholars working in critical areas of educational scholarship. Fellows will receive $55,000 for one academic year of research, or $27,500 for each of two contiguous years, working half time. Fellows will also attend professional development retreats and receive mentorship from NAEd members and other senior scholars in their field. Applicants must have had their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree conferred between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2013. This fellowship is non-residential, and applications from all disciplines are encouraged. Up to twenty-five NAEd/Spencer Fellowships will be awarded. Additional guidelines and the fellowship application form are available on our website.
Website: http://www.naeducation.org/NAED_080201.htm
Deadline to apply: November 7, 2014


Contact Information:
E-mail: info@naeducation.org
Website: www.naeducation.org


The National Academy of Education greatly appreciates support and funding from the Spencer Foundation to provide and administer these fellowship programs. For more information on the Spencer Foundation, please visit http://www.spencer.org

Monday, August 25, 2014

American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation


(photo credit: http://instagram.com/p/rz1JflOrve/)

For Release:  August 25, 2014 Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical andmental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day. 

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. 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.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents,” published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics. 

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” Dr. Owens said. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.” 

Many studies have documented that the average adolescent in the U.S. is chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy. A National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights. 

The policy statement is accompanied by a technical report, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences,” also published online Aug. 25. The technical report updates a prior report on excessive sleepiness among adolescents that was published in 2005. 

The reasons for teens’ lack of sleep are complex, and include homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs and use of technology that can keep them up late on week nights. The AAP recommends pediatricians counsel teens and parents about healthy sleep habits, including enforcing a media curfew. The AAP also advises health care professionals to educate parents, educators, athletic coaches and other stakeholders about the biological and environmental factors that contribute to insufficient sleep.

But the evidence strongly suggests that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among American adolescents. An estimated 40 percent of high schools in the U.S. currently have a start time before 8 a.m.; only 15 percent start at 8:30 a.m. or later. The median middle school start time is 8 a.m., and more than 20 percent of middle schools start at 7:45 a.m. or earlier. 

Napping, extending sleep on weekends, and caffeine consumption can temporarily counteract sleepiness, but they do not restore optimal alertness and are not a substitute for regular, sufficient sleep, according to the AAP.

The AAP urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. In most cases, this will mean a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later, though schools should also consider average commuting times and other local factors. 

“The AAP is making a definitive and powerful statement about the importance of sleep to the health, safety, performance and well-being of our nation's youth,” Dr. Owens said. “By advocating for later school start times for middle and high school students, the AAP is both promoting the compelling scientific evidence that supports school start time delay as an important public health measure, and providing support and encouragement to those school districts around the country contemplating that change.”

###

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.
- See more at: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Let-Them-Sleep-AAP-Recommends-Delaying-Start-Times-of-Middle-and-High-Schools-to-Combat-Teen-Sleep-Deprivation.aspx#sthash.xsY07hmw.dpuf

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hoboken Board of Education President Resigns - Remains as Board Trustee; Trustee McAllister Becomes President

Brandt School, Hoboken NJ 
At the start of the Tuesday August 19, 2014 Hoboken Board of Education meeting, Board President Leon Gold resigned as the Board President. There was no prior public notice and no explanation was given. Dr. Gold will remain a member of the Hoboken Board of Education. Gold received state and national attention when he was quoted in Salon.com as being critical of Governor Chris Christie's administration's stance on charter schools and the consequences of "white flight*" on traditional public schools in Hoboken. 

The new Board President will be Ms. Ruth McAllister. McAllister is the chair of the Curriculum Committee for the Board of Education. She has been vocal for the past few months on how much better the Hoboken School District is now than when when she was first elected back in 2009. I'm sure the new QSAC DPR for INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM will provide some objective evidence of her claim. The district's appeal of their June 16, 2014 decision letter should be finalized soon.  

Gold emphasized that he was speaking in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the entire Hoboken Board of Education.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why one New Jersey school district killed its student laptop program- http://arstechnica.com

Hoboken Laptops
Photo Hechingerreport.org
Seems as if Ars has now filed an open public records request to learn more about the laptop program in the Hoboken School District. I imagine there will be more information forthcoming from this story in the next few weeks. -Dr. Petrosino 

One school district in Hoboken, New Jersey has decided to abandon its one-to-one laptop program for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Ultimately, the Hoboken School District decided the scheme was more trouble than it was worth—even when supported by federal grants.
“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of the Hoboken School District, told The Hechinger Report. “It became unsustainable.”
The district is now going through the process of identifying the remaining laptops and seeking a bid for their destruction. District officials did not immediately respond to an Ars request for comment (Ars has filed a public records request to learn more).
Jerry Crocamo, a district network engineer, told The Hechinger Report that despite his colleagues’ best efforts to keep the laptops in perfect working order, there was an average of six new repair cases every day. The issues varied: cracked screens, dead batteries, malware infections, and more.
“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”
In addition to tough physical hardware, the district tried to plan in advance of software pitfalls. District officials attempted to block which websites students could access—in particular, pornographic sites—but the students figured out how to defeat that too. “There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.
Finally, because these laptops were designed to be used in conjunction with the high school’s wireless network, the district claimed that it too got mucked up.
“A lot of people knew the username and password,” Toback said. “So a lot of people were able to walk by the building and they would get wireless access. Over a period of years, you had thousands of people. It bogged it down, it made it unusable.”
Cyrus Farivar / Cyrus is the Senior Business Editor at Ars Technica, and is also a radio producer and author. His first book, The Internet of Elsewhere, was published in April 2011.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hoboken School’s Laptop Program Fail- MY9NJ.com

My9 New Jersey


Hoboken, New Jersey (My9NJ) -
In 2011, every Hoboken middle school student was given a school appointed laptop. However, depending on who you ask, either the Hoboken school district spent about a quarter-million-dollars of federal stimulus money on computers that are being thrown out because a program was a failure, or the program was a success and these computers are being moved for use somewhere else.
Former board member Maureen Sullivan said that this program to give seventh and eighth grade student’s computers failed.
“Even before this year it was clear that the program just was no good and I think that just gives families the sense that the government just is gonna forget about you and they’ll promise you something, then take it away with one hand,” she said.
“When I was there it seemed that all the computers had already died or were on their last legs. These were already old computers; they’re at least two years old I think may be the youngest computers there now and some were dead in the storage room that were pictured in my article. I think the computers have sort of run their course and they have to go through the recycling or throwing away process now,” -Jill Barshay (Hechinger Report) 
Barshay said that when she spoke with the outgoing superintendent he told her that he personally made the call to pull the plug on the laptop program and not fund it anymore. She said that originally the program had very good intentions.
“This is a very low income high school and junior high community and they wanted to give kids who otherwise wouldn’t have computer access, they wanted to give them computers. What they didn’t do was plan how they were going to use them,” she said.
----
From NJ.com (3/10/10)- Board member Maureen Sullivan voted against the (laptop) program. As of the mother of a 12-year-old, she said she had doubts whether 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds were best candidates for taking responsibility of the equipment. She also reasoned that the laptops will have mixed results when it comes to increasing test scores and will fail to improve their handwriting on written exams. Sitting next to her, board member Ruth McAllister didn’t believe the laptops would affect test results. When asked to vote on the first half of the agenda, McAllister said, jokingly, “Yes to all, and yes twice to the laptop program.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dualing Accounts of the Hoboken, NJ Laptop Program


Mothballed laptops locked inside a storage closet at 
Hoboken Junior Senior High School. (Jill Barshay) 
Recently the incoming interim Superintendent of Schools in Hoboken, New Jersey responded to report that went viral concerning a laptop program in the district. The article is titled "Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops" and was authored by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report. The interim Superintendent claims that Ms. Barshay "did not include some important details" in her reporting and posits that there were facts left out of the original article. The interim Superintendent also seems to be trying to keep this story from getting any bigger by pointing out that there are a "variety of news media wishing to create additional stories" from this incident. 
Below is a brief summary of Ms. Barshay's journalistic experience. I think I place a little more objectivity in her journalistic and investigative reporting skills than the current interim superintendent. Especially since the interim has had 1) no first hand experience of the laptop program and was simply 2) "briefed" on this issue by people in the district who were responsible for the programs implementation and success and 3) appears to be in damage control by questioning the journalistic expertise of an accomplished and nationally recognized reporter. 

Jill Barshay, a contributing editor, is the founding editor and writer of Education By The NumbersThe Hechinger Report’s blog about education data. Previously she was the New York bureau chief for Marketplace, a national business show on public radio stations. Barshay has worked at Congressional QuarterlyThe Asian Wall Street Journal and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She has also written for The New York Times, the Financial TimesThe Economist and The Washington Post, appeared on CNN, ABC News and C-SPAN and was a podcaster for Slate. A graduate of Brown University, the London School of Economics and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Barshay spent the 2010-11 academic year as a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in economics and business journalism at Columbia.


Fact-checking Campbell Brown: What she said, what research really shows


Former CNN correspondent Campbell Brown appeared on The Colbert Report recently in her role as head of the new Partnership for Educational Justice, an advocacy organization that is supporting seven parents in a lawsuit against New York State’s teacher tenure laws. (Supporting may be underestimating what the group is doing, given that she called the parents “our plaintiffs.”)  Colbert asked her some good questions but her answers were, well, questionable. In the following post, Alyssa Hadley Dunn,  a former high school English teacher who is now an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, fact-checks Brown’s answers. Dunn researches urban schools, educational policy, and social justice.
Fact check time: On Thursday night, Campbell Brown, a former journalist and CNN correspondent, appeared on The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert’s questions seemed difficult for Ms. Brown to answer. She was there to talk about her Partnership for Educational Justice, whose first initiative is supporting plaintiffs in a lawsuit against New York State’s teacher tenure laws.  Others have written about the ongoing debate between Ms. Brown and teachers’ unions leaders and about the connections between Ms. Brown and Michelle Rhee. Here, however, I am more interested in checking the “facts” that Ms. Brown uses to make her case. Quite simply: there is no research demonstrating causation between teacher tenure laws and lower rates of student achievement, which is the entire argument behind the lawsuit.
Let’s look at what she said versus what research actually shows. 
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“All the research shows the least effective teachers are being centered in the most disadvantaged schools, so the poorest… So what the tenure laws do combined with these dismissal protections is make it almost impossible to fire a teacher who’s been found to be incompetent.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
What does Ms. Brown mean by “effective”? Presently, many states around the country determine teacher effectiveness using complex and controversial measures called “value-added models,” or VAMs. This means that, in addition to principal observations, teachers are evaluated based on students’ growth on test scores over time. Many states agreed to use VAMs to secure federal Race to the Top funds, yet research continually questions the use of VAMs. Organizations like the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association cite years of research demonstrating that VAMs are inaccurate and unstable in determining the effects of individual teachers on student achievement. Even the Department of Education found a high rate of error with VAMs! (Just to be clear:  teachers, union leaders, and teacher educators are not against evaluating teachers. We simply differ—often very strongly—with Ms. Brown and others on the way that teachers should be evaluated.)
Now, if she meant to say “underqualified” or “least prepared” teachers are centered in high-poverty schools, then she would be partially correct, but not for the reasons she identifies. True, there are more first-year teachers, more teachers working outside of their certified fields in high-poverty schools, and more teachers from agencies like Teach For America, who place their “corps” members in schools after only six weeks of preparation. But teacher tenure laws are not to blame. In fact, teachers in these schools have higher turnover, and a majority leave before the three to five years required to get job security in many states.
This attrition of new and veteran teachers is the real reason that the least prepared teachers are working in the schools Ms. Campbell purports to help. And why is there attrition? Research shows that inequitable working conditions such as low pay, lack of resources, and an increase in bureaucracy cause teachers to leave high-needs schools. Without due process rights, it is even less likely that qualified teachers will want to work in high-needs schools with difficult conditions, because it would also mean that students’ lower test scores could jeopardize their employment with no available no recourse.
There are many ways to draw effective teachers into high-needs schools. Disregarding teachers’ rights is not one of them.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“If you look at student outcomes in New York, 91 percent of teachers around the state are rated effective or highly effective, and yet 31 percent of our kids are reading, writing, and doing math at grade level. How does that compute? How can you argue that the status quo is okay with stats like that?”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
In this statement and the lawsuit as a whole, Ms. Brown advances the idea that teachers are the most important factor in determining student success. Oh, that this were the case! This would make my job as a teacher educator significantly easier, if all that mattered was that new educators knew their content and their pedagogy. But that’s not all that matters. The reality is that parents’ levels of education and income, poverty, segregation, school resources, and other out-of-school factors also contribute to student achievement, with some reports saying that teachers only impact up to 20 percent of student achievement and others demonstrating that teachers only account for between 1 percent to 14 percent of variability in test scores. Ms. Brown’s campaign is spending valuable resources (though she refuses to reveal how much or from whom) on arguing about a single factor (the teacher) that accounts for, at most, 20 percent of student achievement. Think of the ways this money could be better spent if she committed to addressing all, or even some, of the other contextual factors, like systemic poverty, that have an even greater impact on student success than individual teachers.
Further, no one is arguing that “the status quo is okay.” Whether measured by test scores or other ways, this is clear. But the irony in her statement is that the status quo has been and continues to be shaped by neoliberal “reforms” that Ms. Brown supports. These reforms are stifling creativity with the never-ending onslaught of high-stakes testing and are demoralizing and deskilling teachers. They are perpetuating structural and institutional racism when they support charter programs that increasesegregation and contribute to the preschool-to-prison pipeline. What needs to change for the “status quo” to improve is reformers like Ms. Brown who, as Colbert put it, “plays the good-for-child card” in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“It takes on average 830 days to fire a teacher who’s been found to be incompetent.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
This statistic, which Ms. Brown peppers in all of her speeches, appears to be from a research brief of the New York State School Boards Association. This brief was based on the results of a self-report survey to which only 59% of districts responded and in which New York City (the largest district) was not even included. Jessica Glazer has written about whether or not the numbers are even accurate, and Bruce Baker points out, importantly, that quality may vary significantly between districts. Further, since the data was collected, after 2008, the state made efforts to reform tenure laws, changing the minimum years from two to three. Now, according to one report, only a slim majority of teachers receive tenure on the first attempt, and, in 2013, disciplinary cases took, on average, only 177 days statewide.
Additionally, I question Ms. Campbell’s use of one study (that used data between 5-10 years old) as her primary empirical evidence for such a drastic campaign against teachers’ rights. This research examined the context in only one state and left out the most populous city in the state, yet Ms. Campbell argues it is generalizable enough to be used as evidence for bringing her campaign across the country. To make the argument that these results are true for whole nation is misinformed at best and dangerous at worst.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“This is not about blaming teachers… I am blaming the teachers unions because they’re fighting attempts to change laws that are anachronistic, that everybody thinks need to change. ”
 WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
Those teachers unions she’s blaming? Guess who makes up the membership of those unions? That’s right: teachers. There is no way around it. Whether she wants to admit or not, because she knows the bad press that would result, Ms. Brown is clearly blaming teachers. Also, not “everyone” thinks teacher tenure laws are outdated. Clearly, the protestors outside The Colbert Report do not, as they held signs saying, “Campbell doesn’t speak for me.” Those tweeting #questionsforcampbell before the show aired were also obviously in disagreement.
In other interviews, Ms. Brown has said “tenure is permanent lifetime employment.” This is an incorrect definition of teacher tenure, and both anecdotal and research evidence demonstrates that teachers with tenure are still terminated. Tenure has little to do with protecting “bad” teachers. As educational historian Diane D’Amico writes about the history of teacher tenure, “teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to.” Should a teacher who has been found to be incompetent work with children? Of course not. That is not what Ms. Brown’s opponents are arguing. It is, despite Ms. Brown’s claims to the contrary, really about due process. Job security means that teachers are entitled to a fair trial if they are wrongfully terminated, say for standing up for students’ rights or whistleblowing about inequitable treatment of themselves and others.
WHAT BROWN SAID:
“It comes down to what your priorities are, and if public education is about kids, then every decision we make should be focused on the question of ‘is this good for a child?’ And that should be the driving focus and the priority when we decide what our policies should be and what our laws should be.”
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS:
Ms. Brown, we agree on this. I wholeheartedly concur that educational policies should be determined by what is best for children. What I remain unconvinced about, however, is how eliminating teachers’ rights is what is best for children. We know that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. So is an environment of demoralized and unsupported teachers who are fearful to speak up the environment in which we want our students learning?
I would also ask Ms. Brown her own question: Is it good for a child if those making the policies have no understanding of what is happening in the classroom and have never been teachers or administrators? This would be hard for Ms. Brown to answer, I imagine, because on the team and Boards at the Partnership for Educational Justice, there appears to be only one person with any in-school teaching or administrative experience. Instead, their biographies read like a Who’s Who of protégés of philanthropists and organizations that are well-known for education “reform.” These connections include Teach For America, StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee, Eli Broad, and Chris Christie, to name a few.
Is it good for a child if organizations committed to “reclaiming the promise of public education” demonize teachers in the process?
On the contrary, what research actually shows is best for children is teachers with long-term and sustained preparation in content and pedagogy; an equitable education that is not segregated by race and socioeconomic status; and student-centered, hands-on pedagogy thatsustains students’ cultures and challenges them to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. None of this has anything to do with teacher tenure laws. None. If we keep blaming teachers, we are missing the bigger picture.
As Albert Camus wrote, “Good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” Whatever Ms. Brown’s intentions are, they lack an understanding of both the current landscape of teaching in high-needs schools and of educational research. It’s time to get some facts straight.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops - WNYC News

Mothballed laptops locked inside a storage closet at Hoboken Junior Senior 
High School. School staff will inventory them and 
hire a recyclingcompany to discard them. (Jill Barshay) 
Once again the Hoboken School District under the leadership of the political group known as "Kids First" makes national news. This time with their "innovative" laptop program that has been an utter failure. From the beginning, the Board did not allocate enough resources for professional development, training, and effective ways to incorporate laptops into the day to day operation of a school. Additionally, it was well known at the time that laptop programs are expensive, demand many resources, and were never really shown to be very effective. Of course, laptops give the appearance of rigor and quality and were hailed as innovative and cutting edge by a number of board members and district administrators. However, as the article points out, most of the administrators around when the laptop program was initiated are now gone. Another consequence of the instability in administrative leadership in the district (i.e. 5 interim or full time superintendents in 5 years). -Dr. Petrosino 

Inside Hoboken’s combined junior-senior high school is a storage closet. Behind the locked door, some mothballed laptop computers are strewn among brown cardboard boxes. Others are stacked one atop another. Dozens more are stored on mobile computer carts, many of them on their last legs.


That’s all that remains from a failed experiment to assign every student a laptop at Hoboken Junior Senior High School. It began five years ago with an unexpected windfall of stimulus money from Washington, D.C., and good intentions to help the district’s students, the majority of whom are under or near the poverty line, keep up with their wealthier peers. But Hoboken faced problem after problem and is abandoning the laptops entirely this summer.

“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. “It became unsustainable.”

None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there. Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.

Despite tight budgets, superintendents and principals around the country are cobbling together whatever dollars they can to buy more computers for their classrooms. This year alone, schools are projected to spend almost $10 billion on education technology, a $240-million increase from 2013, according to the Center for Digital Education. Educational technology holds the promise of individualizing instruction, and some school systems, like Mooresville, N.C., and Cullman, Ala., have shown impressive student learning gains. But districts like Los Angeles and Fort Bend, Texas, which jumped on the tech trend without careful planning, had problems when they gave a laptop or tablet to every student and are scrapping them, too.

By the time Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer, arrived in Hoboken’s school system in 2011, every seventh, eighth and ninth grader had a laptop. Each year, a new crop of seventh graders were outfitted. Crocamo’s small tech staff was quickly overwhelmed with repairs.

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”
Crocamo’s time was also eaten up with theft. Despite the anti-theft tracking software he installed, some laptops were never found. Crocamo had to file police reports and even testify in court.
Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.
“There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.

All this security software also bogged down the computers. Teachers complained it took 20 minutes for them to boot up, only to crash afterwards. Often, there was too little memory left on the small netbooks to run the educational software.

Hoboken math coach Howard McKenzie says he also had problems with the software itself.
“We wanted to run a program for graphing calculators, but it didn’t work very well; it was very sticky,” said McKenzie “We kind of scrapped it.”

Ultimately, the math teacher just showed it to the class on a Smart Board, an interactive whiteboard.
Superintendent Toback admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.
Michael Ranieri, a junior at Hoboken’s high school, aspires to be an electrical engineer. He said when he did use the computers for schoolwork, it was mostly for word processing and internet browsing. He would write an essay on the laptop for English class, for example, or research information using Google.

“We didn’t really do much on the computer,” said Ranieri. “So we kind of just did games to mess around when we had free time. I remember, really big, was Crazy Taxis that we used to play. If we found solitaire on line, we used to play it.”
Ranieri said he was relieved to be free of the stress of keeping track of his laptop. Families had to sign papers agreeing to be financially responsible if the computers were lost. Every week Ranieri roamed his classrooms looking for his.

“It was usually under my desk in English class,” he said.
Superintendent Toback inherited the laptop program when he arrived in 2011. At first, he tried to keep it going, but he faced skyrocketing costs, which hadn’t been budgeted for. The $500 laptops lasted only two years and then needed to be replaced. New laptops with more capacity for running educational software would cost $1,000 each, Toback said. Additionally, licenses for the security software alone were running more than $100,000 and needed to be renewed every two years.

And the final kicker: the whole town was jamming the high school’s wireless network.
“A lot of people knew the username and password,” Toback said. “So a lot of people were able to walk by the building and they would get wireless access. Over a period of years, you had thousands of people. It bogged it down, it made it unusable.”

Allison Powell said Hoboken’s headaches are not unusual. Powell is a vice president for state and district services at iNacol, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, where she works with school leaders on how to use computers to personalize instruction by delivering different lessons to each child.

But Powell said many schools continue to make Hoboken’s mistake of shopping for technology without a plan to make teaching in the classroom more effective.
“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” Powell said.

This summer, Hoboken school staff will go through the laptops one by one, writing down the serial numbers and drafting a resolution for the school board to approve their destruction.
Then they’ll seek bids from recycling companies to figure out how much it will cost Hoboken to throw them away.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet at Teachers College, Columbia University. Read more about how schools are bringing technology into the classroom.