Friday, July 31, 2015

Article by Dr. Anthony Petrosino is featured in the recent issue of the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach 8(2)

8th and Grand Sts- Hoboken, NY 2015
The article, Decentralized thinking and understanding of evolution in K-12 evolution education, is co-authored by Dr. Margaret Lucero (Santa Clara University- former STEM Education graduate student) and Michele Mann (current STEM Education doctoral student), and reports a study on high school biology teachers from the same department and how they taught key evolutionary concepts such as variation, selection, inheritance, deep time and decentralized thinking. Dr. Petrosino is a co-founder of the UTeach Program- currently being replicated in 50 colleges and universities in the United States.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

HoLa looks at Multi-Service Center for Expansion by Carlo Davis

St. Anne's Day- Hoboken, NJ (date unknown)
This from a recent story in the Hoboken Reporter by Carlo Davis concerning the Hola Dual Language School and additional space at the Hoboken Multi-Service Center. You can read the full article at the link above or at the end of this post. -Dr. Petrosino

The City Council has advanced an agreement allowing the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) to lease 1,183 square feet in the Multi-Service Center for its incoming seventh grade class.

If fully adopted at the next council meeting on Aug. 5, the lease could help answer the crucial question of where the new 21-student class, approved by the state Department of Education last year, will be housed.

The school currently rents out most of the Jerry Molloy Youth Center, another community building, from the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County, but is already at capacity in that space.

A lawsuit filed by the Hoboken Board of Education seeking to halt HoLa’s expansion still awaits a hearing in state appellate court, though it will not be able to prevent the seventh graders from matriculating in September.

Expanding up, or out?

For the past year and a half, supporters of HoLa and the traditional public school district have carried on a lively and sometimes contentious debate over the implications of the school’s expansion to seventh and eighth grade, often wading into the minutiae of population trends and funding algorithms. Precious little of that discussion has dwelled on the actual logistics of absorbing as many as 113 additional students into HoLa by 2018.

Last September, the City Council passed a resolution allowing HoLa and the Boys and Girls Club to seek an expansion of the Molloy Center before the Zoning Board.

The resolution was required because the Molloy Center is a city building, leased by the Boys and Girls Club for fifty years for a nominal annual fee of $2. By contrast, HoLa paid the Boys and Girls Club $338,608 for its use of the facility this past school year.

Architectural plans released last fall called for a new third floor and two rear additions accommodating 13 classrooms. With the building already so full that classes were held in temporary trailers this past school year, the rear additions would address only extant student population growth in grades K through 6.

The Multi-Service Center lease advanced on Monday would provide HoLa with 1,183 square feet of classroom space in what is currently a rec room filled with ping pong tables, plus additional office space. Rent would amount to $1,100 a month.

Hoboken’s under-20 population increased by 2,400 between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census, and HoLa is not the only local public school currently scrounging for more classroom space.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Christie Administration Announces Results from First Year of New Educator Evaluations

First Baptist Church- Hoboken, NJ
Trenton, NJ – The Department of Education today announced a report detailing the results from the first year of implementation of AchieveNJ, the state's new educator evaluation and support system. Starting in 2013-14, teachers and school leaders across the state were evaluated based on multiple measures of educator practice and student achievement, which provided more detailed and personalized feedback than ever before.

The report identified some important outcomes, including:

In past years, educators typically received a binary evaluation rating of "acceptable" or "not acceptable," often based on a perfunctory annual classroom visit by a supervisor. Now, teachers and leaders are receiving individualized feedback that recognizes excellence and helps districts tailor support for those who need it most. The state law that established new evaluations requires multiple measures including observations, student growth goals set by educators and supervisors, and, for some, student growth on state assessments.
As expected, the majority of New Jersey educators earned the top two of four possible ratings, Effective or Highly Effective, but districts now know much more about the outcomes of their work with students. In addition, approximately 2,900 teachers were identified as Ineffective or Partially Effective – and these teachers provided instruction to more than 180,000 New Jersey children last year. The law that created AchieveNJ requires those teachers to receive extra support and to demonstrate progress over time to earn or maintain tenure.
The report also provides evidence that teachers evaluated partially on student growth on the state standardized test (about 15% of all New Jersey teachers) were not at a relative disadvantage by the inclusion of this measure. Like teachers not receiving those scores, the vast majority of those earning "Student Growth Percentile" scores, which show the progress a student makes from one year to the next in comparison to academic peers across the state, were rated either Effective or Highly Effective. Moving forward, districts can examine growth data for trends along with other evaluation measures to improve decisions about individual, school, and district goals.

"The real story of the first year of AchieveNJ," said Peter Shulman, Assistant Commissioner of Education and Chief Talent Officer, "is that educators have risen to the challenge of improving feedback for all teachers and leaders. While one year of this new data is insufficient for identifying sustained trends or making sweeping conclusions about the state's teaching staff, we are proud of this significant improvement and the personalized support all educators are now receiving."

"I commend New Jersey educators for the hard work they've done to improve performance evaluations across the state," remarked Governor Christie. "As I've always said, we should be pleased with the excellent education so many of our children receive, but we must also recognize the areas where we need to do better. These early results reinforce our long-held beliefs and, more importantly, provide district leaders with concrete data to make more informed decisions about their staffs."

Education Commissioner David C. Hespe applauded local district leaders who helped successfully implement the new evaluations. "AchieveNJ was very purposefully designed by educators to ensure that those impacted by these policies and activities are the ones leading that work in each district," he explained. "The lessons and data points embedded in this report are meant to assist our districts and schools as they look to learn from and build upon their initial year of implementation."

The full report is available online. To learn more about AchieveNJ, visit

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today’s newest teachers face tough job odds, high turnover- PBS Newshour

Is it a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven't kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers. And that's if you get a job. Special correspondent for education John Merrow reports on the struggles for today's newly trained educators to find work and stay in the classroom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stay of HoLa Expansion Denied in NJ State Appellate Court; Seventh Graders can Matriculate in Fall - Hoboken Reporter

Bethlehem Shipyards, Hoboken NJ 1952

The fate of a lawsuit to block the expansion of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) to seventh and eighth grade is still up in the air, but the 21 students slated to form the inaugural seventh grade class will be able to matriculate this coming September. Victor Ashrafi, a judge with the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, virtually guaranteed that when he denied a motion to stay HoLa’s expansion this past Thursday.

The lawsuit was brought by the Hoboken Board of Education, which has argued that the state Department of Education (DOE) ignored HoLa’s allegedly segregated student makeup and its financial impact on the traditional school district when granting its expansion.

The state DOE requested a second chance to review HoLa’s enrollment data last November but ultimately upheld the expansion in March. That decision has been appealed in state court.

Prior to the state appellate court ruling this week, the state education commissioner also denied a motion to stay HoLa’s expansion in late May.

“We are glad to see the Appellate Court denied the Hoboken Board of Education’s latest attempt to hurt a great public school,” said Barbara Martinez, the president of HoLa’s Board of Trustees. “We hope that after having their frivolous claims shot down three separate times, the BOE puts an end to the unsuccessful litigation and instead focuses their energy on working constructively with the city’s public charter schools. This would be the responsible thing to do on behalf of all students.”

But the lawyer for the Hoboken school board, Eric Harrison, said the denial of the motion satisfied the board’s goal in seeking such an injunction, which was to prevent a situation in which any public school student, HoLa or otherwise, was left in a state of limbo.

“We’re glad to have certainty about what’s going to happen in September for everyone involved in the case, including the students in the HoLa seventh grade class,” said Harrison.

Harrison speculated that the appellate court could not identify an irreparable harm to the HoLa seventh graders, since they could transfer to another school if HoLa’s expansion was overturned.

For Full Story CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Understanding the Gap in Special Education Enrollments Between Charter and Traditional Public Schools (Winters, 2015)

Educational Researcher is one of the most prestigious research journals in the field (Impact Factor:2.527 |  Ranking:Education and Educational Research 9 out of 224). Here is a recent study on trying to understand the gap in special education enrollment between traditional public schools and charter public schools that took place in Denver, Colorado. You can read the Executive Summary HERE or read the Abstract that follows. For those wishing to obtain the full research article, here is the ERIC resource (or click HERE) and the full reference is: Winters, M. A. (2015) EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHERvol. 44 no. 4 228-236. A similar study (with similar results) took place in New York City a few years earlier. -Dr. Petrosino 

Abstract: A widely cited report by the federal Government Accountability Office found that charter schools enroll a significantly smaller percentage of students with disabilities than do traditional public schools. However, thus far no hard evidence exists to definitively explain or quantify the disparity between special education enrollment rates in charter and traditional public schools. This article uses student-level data from Denver, Colorado, to map the creation and growth of the special education gap in elementary and middle school grades. The gap begins because students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in gateway grades than are nondisabled students. However, the special education gap in Denver elementary schools more than doubles as students progress between kindergarten and the fifth grade. About half of the growth in the gap in elementary grades (46%) occurs because of classification differences across sectors. The remaining 54% of the growth in the gap in elementary grades is due to differences in student mobility across sectors. However, the gap does not primarily grow—and in fact tends to shrink—due to the movement of students with disabilities across sectors and out of the city’s school system.

Winters, M. A. (2015) EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHERvol. 44 no. 4 228-236.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Full Board Agenda- Hoboken School District June 30, 2015

Tuesday June 30, 2015 
Detailed Agenda 

7:00 P.M.

Consider making your voice heard about the Hola lawsuit:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Speaking Multiple Languages Benefits the Brain

Lighting- Hoboken, NJ 23 Jun 2015
Photo: Gary Hershorn
Many regular readers of this blog know that I am a co-founder of a 
Dual Language School in Hoboken, NJ. The program was originally intended to be part of the local public school district which I proposed as the then Assistant Superintendent but a local political group elected to the Board of Education rejected the idea of having a dual language program in their public schools. Today, six years later, the school has achieved statewide recognition, has won a number of awards, and has a waiting list a few hundred children long. The school district that rejected the dual language program? Well…the political group that rejected our dual language program and in full control of the local Board of Education is now engaged in a lawsuit claiming the school is taking too many students from the district(!), causing economic hardship, and would like to revoke both the renewal and expansion of the dual language school. 

Please watch this TedTalk video on the scientific research which examines how multiple languages benefits the brain. Its the kind of instruction we wanted in the school district and which is currently being implemented in Hoboken and in many other communities around the country. -Dr. Petrosino 

It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Modeling Ecosystems" Accepted for Publication in ScienceScope (Petrosino and Mann, in press)

Abstract: Models and modeling are present as both a crosscutting concept and a science and engineering practice in the NGSS (NRC, 2012, 2013). Many middle school classrooms come equipped with the three-dimensional models such as a plant cell, the model of DNA, a globe, and the diagram of the solar system.  Yet, there is a gap between the way scientists use models and how models are used in science classrooms.  Models are typically used in the classroom to teach a process in a static sense. Scientists often use models dynamically, to determine future events.  For instance, hydrologists study weather patterns to model the future supply of surface and ground water in an area, or NASA engineers build models of the Mars rover to predict how it will perform on Mars.  Models are not complete representations of the target phenomenon, and the strengths and limitations of the models need to be understood.  

The preceding paragraph is an abstract of a paper recently accepted for publication in Science Scope, a publication by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) -Dr. Petrosino 


Dear Dr. Petrosino:

It is a pleasure to accept your manuscript entitled "Modeling Ecosystems"  for publication in Science Scope.  The reviewers feel it will be valuable to our readers.

When your manuscript has been slated for a specific issue of Science Scope, an editor will contact you to discuss the editing process and will work with you to get your manuscript ready for publication. During editing we will likely ask you for additional information and to make some minor changes to the text of your manuscript based on the feedback from reviewers.  I have included their comments below for you to see and to anticipate how you can work with us to meet their requests  - but no action is needed at this time.

Please note we are now recognizing connections in manuscripts to elements of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS 2013). If your manuscript does not include these connections you will be ask to supply them during the editing process. This likely does not require major rewriting on your part, but should include direct citations from NGSS concerning your strategies/content/activity. Be specific as to the components of NGSS you are citing and embed your references in the text of your manuscript as well as in a stand alone chart. Identify standards, performance expectations, and disciplinary core ideas by reference number/code from NGSS.  Include any applicable science and engineering practices and cross cutting concepts as well.   Do not include all of the practices or cross cutting concepts; rather, select only those that are most germane to the activities identified in your manuscript. . Note that we no longer use references to NSES so do not include them in your text.  Limit references to the NRC K-12 Framework to information not covered in the NGSS.  Consult the website below to access the NGSS.

National Research Council (NRC). (2013). The Next Generation Science Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Currently, we are able to publish the majority of our manuscripts within 15-18 months of acceptance. If you have any questions about the status of your manuscript or the editing process, please e-mail me at ----.

Thank you for your submission to Science Scope. We look forward to sharing it with our readers.  I would be delighted to get any other middle level ideas you have.


Editor, Science Scope

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Breaking News: Appellate Court Denies Hoboken BOE Motion for a Stay Concerning Hola Expansion

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 the Appellate Court of the State of New Jersey denied the Hoboken Board of Education's motion to stay in a decision impacting the 7th and 8th grade expansion for the Hola Dual Language School in Hoboken, NJ. This marks the third straight legal defeat of the Hoboken Board of Education in their attempt to stop the 7th and 8th grade expansion of this award winning School:
As a model program district, the school (Hola) will serve as a resource for other school districts in the northern region and neighboring areas and will enable educators to witness firsthand exemplary practices in world languages instruction and assessment. It will also enable administrators and teachers to dialog about issues of mutual concern, the discuss the potential for future collaboration regarding curriculum development projects, or professional development initiatives. -NJ Dept. of Education 
Having lost twice previously before the State of New Jersey's Department of Education (also, click here), the Hoboken Board of Education filed an emergency motion with the Appellate Court to stay (the act of temporarily stopping a judicial proceeding through the order of a court) the 7th and 8th grade expansion while the issue is litigated in court. On Wednesday June 17, the court denied that request for a stay. 
In order to obtain a stay, a plaintiff (the Hoboken Board of Education in this situation, the party that initiates a lawsuit) must show that it is likely to win on the merits when the broader case is litigated before the Appellate Court, and must also show that more harm will come to it (the Hoboken Board of Education) than the defendant (Hola) if there is no stay. The decision on Wednesday suggests that the Appellate Court found the Hoboken Board of Education's arguments unpersuasive toward the merits and the harm
It is unclear at this point whether or if the Hoboken Board of Education will end its litigation at this juncture. Should they continue with their litigation, the next step would be a full hearing before the Appellate Court.  This process could take a number of months, come at some cost, and will likely assure continued unease within certain segments of the community. That being said, the continuation of litigation is certainly within the legal rights and options of the plaintiffs. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Charter Schools Increasingly More Efficient in Hoboken, NJ: Total Funding vs. Per Pupil Expenses from 2009 to 2015

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, June 11, 2015


WABC By Anthony Johnson
Thursday, June 11, 2015 04:48PM
HOBOKEN, N.J. (WABC) -- The video of a child being roughed up by a staff member at the Apple Montessori School in Hoboken has stunned many who saw this incident.

They can't believe an apparently frustrated worker shoved a 2-year-old down after having trouble putting on the child's hat.

"I was really shocked to see it and being an educator for over 43 years, I'm like, I'm appalled at the way they treated that child," said Larry Sciancalepore, a Hoboken resident.

The incident apparently happened almost one month ago.

But school officials say they just saw the shocking video Wednesday.

Hoboken Councilman Michael Russo says his child goes to the school and he wanted some answers.

"I just spoke to the ownership of the school, and they are doing everything possible to make sure that situation doesn't happen again. They've instituted some swift and immediate actions in the school," Councilman Russo said.

The school issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying, "The director and assistant director of the location, who had possession of the video on June 4, 2015, have been terminated for their mishandling of this incredibly serious situation. A teacher and a second teacher's aide that were present for the incident have also been terminated."

"If I was the parent of that child, I'd really be, I'd really be mad, angry," said Joseph Vetter, a Hoboken resident.