Friday, July 18, 2014

Hoboken Selects New Interim Superintendent - 5th superintendent under Kids First in the past 5 years

Update: On Thursday July 17 the Hoboken BOE picked a retired suburban male to be the interim Superintendent. In true fashion, Kids First bypassed their own minority assistant superintendent in favor of a non-minority to run a mostly minority district. More details to follow. 

This is the 5th superintendent under Kids First in the past 5 years.....

Here is what is being said on Hoboken Patch about this appointment

OOC July 17, 2014 at 11:05 PM
Update: Tonight the BOE picked a retired suburban guy to be the interim Superintendent. In true fashion, Kids First bypassed it's minority assistant superintendent in favor of a non-minority to run a mostly minority district. Here we go folks. The circus is about to add a new clown.
BBG  July 18, 2014 at 01:29 PM
Happy to see my cohorts are trashing the BOE, I would have made a better BOE member but I lost. I hope nobody figures out my new name either, it should hide my identity well.
OOC July 19, 2014 at 04:30 PM
In true Kids First "do as I say, not as I do" fashion, they met behind closed doors on three separate occasions, totally excluding any public input or discussion and selected a retired double dipper to lead the Public Schools for two years. It's amazing how Kids First can look the other way when it is to their advantage to skirt their own self proclaimed "transparency". Was it the fact that they hired someone who has absolutely no urban education experience that made them want to avoid the public? Was it the fact that they wanted to hide that the guy will be collecting a public pension and getting over $600.00 a day from the taxpayers? Maybe it's the fact that the guy never worked in an Abbott District? Or was it the fact that they bypassed a minority assistant Superintendent in favor of a guy who never worked in a District serving mostly minority students? Could it be that they just want to hide the continued chaos they cause by promoting the constant revolving door of Superintendents and Business Administrators? Kids First sure does know how to operate behind closed doors while pretending to be the real "Reformers". Seems to me that the micromanagement of the District by Kids First keeps chasing away superintendents and Business Administrators. Really, who wants to deal with the chaos except maybe a guy who will now come close to doubling his take from the public dole? Good job, Kids First!!! Can't wait to see the next School Report Card and QSAC results.
CH July 20, 2014 at 05:45 PM
Outofcontrol, Could you fill in some info? How many people applied for the interim position? What were their names? What is the name the person they selected? Did the current assistant apply for the position?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hoboken Board of Education- AGENDA (SPECIAL SESSION) Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Hoboken Heights", Ernest Lawson, circa 1905
7:00 P.M.

This is the second SPECIAL SESSION planned for this week (previous planned special session was on Tuesday, July 15). Any updates or additional details will be posted when made available. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Community Eligibility Option (CEO) - Breakfast and Lunch for ALL Students

Dedication of 14th Street Viaduct by Freeholder Romano
Hoboken, NJ July, 2014 

Community eligibility is the newest opportunity for schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. It increases participation by children in the school meal programs, reduces labor costs for schools, and increases federal revenues. In short, it allows for a healthier student body and a healthier school meal budget.
Included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, community eligibility completely eliminates paper applications. Instead, schools are reimbursed through a formula based on the number of “identified students” – those certified without application for free school meals because they are in foster care or Head Start, are homeless, migrant or living in households that receive SNAP/Food Stamps, TANF cash assistance or the Food Distribution on Indian Reservation benefits. Under the Community Eligibility Option program many qualifying school districts can offer free breakfast and lunch to ALL district students. Chicago has just adopted the program as has Detroit and other cities across the country. -Dr. Petrosino 

Under a relatively new program called the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) all school meals will be free starting in September 2014, the district confirmed to WBEZ Thursday.
This September, however, will be the first time "well-off" schools join the program as well. Entirely free meals reduce the labor of cash collection and tracking which students have to pay full and reduced prices for their food. This tiered system (with incentives for schools reporting higher poverty levels) led to fraud among CPS employees in the past.
“This transition will also allow us to improve quality of food and infrastructure in our lunchrooms, allowing us to redirect the dollars we no longer have to subsidize back to the classroom,” the district said in an email to WBEZ Thursday.
Under the CEO program, the federal government reimburses the district based on its percentage of low-income students, and CPS officials say that the continued rollout of the program has already meant savings.
“Our predominantly high [low-income] population—nearly 90 percent—allows us to meet the threshold to ensure that reimbursement rates won’t cost the district revenue,” a CPS spokeswoman said in the email . “In FY14, due to our expanded participation in the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) program (from 200 to 400 schools this year), we no longer had to subsidize the program with general fund dollars. We've also received a larger blended reimbursement this year of $2.93, up from $2.76 last year.”
CPS representatives also says a swipe card payment system will be rolled out for all students in the district by the end of 2014.
More Information: CLICK HERE 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Becoming an expert takes more than practice

Hoboken, NJ June, 2014
Practice doesn't make it perfect.
Deliberate practice may have less influence in building expertise than previously thought, according to an analysis by researchers at Princeton University, Michigan State University and Rice University.
Scientists have been studying and debating whether experts are "born" or "made" since the mid-1800s. In recent years, deliberate practice has received considerable attention in these debates, while innate ability has been pushed to the side.
The recent focus on deliberate practice is due in part to the "10,000-hour rule" coined in Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book "Outliers," which says that amount of practice is the key to success in any field.
The new research, from psychological scientist Brooke Macnamara of Princeton and colleagues, offers a counterpoint to this recent trend, suggesting that the amount of practice accumulated over time does not seem to play a huge role in accounting for individual differences in skill or performance in domains including music, games, sports, professions and education.

deliberate practice graph
Overall, deliberate practice — activities designed with the goal of improving performance — accounted for only about 12 percent of individual differences observed in performance.
"Deliberate practice is unquestionably important, but not nearly as important as proponents of the view have claimed," said Macnamara, who received her Ph.D. from Princeton in June. As of July 1, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Case Western Reserve University.
The new analysis by Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State and Frederick Oswald of Rice is the subject of their paper, "Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education and Professions: A Meta-Analysis," published online Monday, July 1, by the journal Psychological Science.
The researchers scoured the scientific literature for studies examining practice and performance in the different domains.
Of the many studies they found, 88 met specific criteria, including a measure of accumulated practice and a measure of performance, and an estimate of the magnitude of the observed effect. The selected studies had a total sample size of 11,135 participants. The researchers took those studies and performed a "meta-analysis," pooling all of the data from the studies to examine whether specific patterns emerged.
Nearly all of the studies showed a positive relationship between practice and performance: the more people reported having practice, the higher their level of performance in their specific domain.
The domain itself seemed to make a difference. Practice accounted for about 26 percent of individual differences in performance for games, such as chess and Scrabble; about 21 percent of individual differences in music, such the piano and violin; and about 18 percent of individual differences in sports, such as soccer and wrestling.
But it only accounted for about 4 percent of individual differences in education, such as an undergraduate psychology class, and less than 1 percent of individual differences in performance in professions, such as soccer refereeing and computer programming.
Furthermore, the findings showed that the effect of practice on performance was weaker when practice and performance were measured in more precise ways, such as using practice time logs and standardized measures of performance.
"There is no doubt that deliberate practice is important, from both a statistical and a theoretical perspective. It is just less important than has been argued," Macnamara said. "For scientists, the important question now, is what else matters?"
Macnamara and colleagues speculate that the age at which a person becomes involved in an activity may matter, and that certain cognitive abilities (such as working memory) may also play an influential role. The researchers are planning another meta-analysis focused specifically on practice and sports to better understand the role of these and other factors.
David Lubinski, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University who has studied talent identification and development, said the researchers' work highlights the importance of accounting for ability, commitment and opportunity to explain individual differences in human performance.
"Although overly stressing one of these critical components may attract attention, the authors show why all three are required for a comprehensive understanding of human performance," he said. "The view that essentially anyone can do essentially anything is not scientifically defensible."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Superintendent of Madison, CT on school reform: ‘It is not working’

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has just asked for a “pause” in implementation of a controversial new teacher evaluation system that uses student standardized test scores to assess teachers as well creation of a task force to study the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Is “a pause” the answer?
You might think Malloy did this because of the growing opposition to both in his state, but blogger Jonathan Pelto points out here that he did it not because he really believes there is a problem with the school reforms but because he is trying to assure his re-election this November and can read the political tea leaves.
Whatever Malloy’s motives, here’s a powerful letter that Madison Schools Superintendent Tom Scarice wrote to state legislators explaining why Malloy’s “pause” isn’t the answer to the real problems. Incidentally, teachers, parents, community members, educators and others in his district together approved a teacher evaluation plan that does not include the use test scores. The state hasn’t approved it yet but the district is using it anyway.

Senator Edward Meyer
Legislative Office Building, Room 3200
Hartford, CT 06106
Representative Noreen Kokoruda Legislative Office Building, Room 4200
State of Connecticut
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Senator Meyer and Representative Kokoruda:
As a superintendent of schools it is incumbent upon me to ground my work with my local board of education. My work must be grounded in two areas: in accurately framing problems to solve, and most importantly, in proposing solutions grounded in evidence, research, and legitimate literature to support a particular direction. Any other approach would be irresponsible and I’m certain my board would reject such shortcuts and hold me accountable.
In our profession, we have the fortune of volumes of literature and research on our practices. We have evidence to guide our decision making to make responsible decisions in solving our problems of practice. This is not unlike the field of medicine or engineering. To ignore this evidence, in my estimation, is irresponsible.
Legislators across the state have heard from, and will continue to hear loudly from, educators about what is referred to as education reforms. Webster defines “reform” as “a method to change into an improved condition.” I believe that legislators will continue to hear from the thousands of educators across the state because the reforms, in that sense, are not resulting in an improved condition. In fact, a case can be made that the conditions have worsened.
To be fair, the reforms did, in fact, shine a light on the role of evaluation in raising the performance of our workforce. There were cases of a dereliction of duty in the evaluation of professional staff. This is unacceptable and was not the norm for all school districts.
However, I would like to make the case that these reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research, the evidence that supports professional decision-making, like a doctor or engineer. It is simply a matter of substance. The evidence is clear in schools across the state. It is not working.
We have spent the better part of the last 12 years with a test-based accountability movement that has not led to better results or better conditions for children. What it has led to is a general malaise among our profession, one that has accepted a narrowing of the curriculum, a teaching to the test mentality, and a poorly constructed redefinition of what a good education is. Today, a good education is narrowly defined as good test scores. What it has led to is a culture of compliance in our schools.
We have doubled-down on the failed practices of No Child Left Behind. Not only do we subscribe to a test and punish mentality for school districts, we have now drilled that mentality down to the individual teacher level.
We have an opportunity to listen to the teachers, administrators, parents, and even the students, to make the necessary course corrections. We know what is coming. We’ve seen it happen in other states. We can easily look at the literature and predict how this story ends. New York, Kentucky and so forth, these states are about one year ahead of Connecticut. Why would we think it will end any differently for our state? We can take action to prevent the inevitable.
We have an opportunity. You as legislators have an opportunity. Our students and communities are counting on us.
I am pleased to see that the Governor has asserted his authority to address this deeply rooted problem. But we cannot stop there.
I ask the following:
1. Do not be lulled into solutions that promote “delay.” Although the problem is being framed as an issue of implementation timelines and volume, I contend that this is much more about substance than delays. Revisit the substance of these reforms, particularly the rigidity of the teacher evaluation guidelines.
2. As you revisit the substance, demand the evidence and research that grounds the reforms, just as a board of education would demand of a superintendent. You will find, as I have, that the current reforms are simply not grounded in research. As legislators, demand the evidence, particularly the literature that illustrates the damaging effects of high stakes test scores in teacher evaluations. Demand the evidence that demonstrates that this approach is valid and will withstand legal scrutiny. Demanding evidence is how every local board of education holds their administrators accountable.
3. Build on the Governor’s first steps and create even greater flexibility for local districts to innovate and create. This is 2014…standardizing our work across all schools is not the answer. That’s the factory / assembly line mentality that got public schools into this mess. We need a diversity of thought, similar to a “crowd sourcing” approach, if we are to solve the problems of the 21st century. Above all, commit to the principle that “one size fits all” does not work. We would never accept that from individual teachers in their work with students, why should we accept “one size fits all” for very different school districts across the state? There are indeed alternative approaches that fit the context and needs of individual districts. I would be happy to provide with you with our example. You, as legislators, can create the space for innovation to thrive. Promote innovation, not mere compliance.
4. Revisit the No Child Left Behind waiver that was filed with the U. S. Department of Education. This is consistently presented as the trump card in any discussion involving modifications to the reform package passed a couple of years ago. We’ve been told that we cannot make changes because of promises made to the federal government. Was there a lower threshold for compliance with the No Child Left Behind waiver? Can we take a more aggressive approach for our state and not be dictated to by the federal government to this degree? This resonates at the local level and ought to at least be considered.
5. Finally, do not be a cynic, but be a skeptic about the common core. How can this be done?
*Demand the evidence to support whether or not the standards are age-appropriate for our youngest learners. Demand the input of early childhood experts like the 500+ nationally recognized early childhood professionals who signed a joint statement expressing “grave concerns” about the K-3 standards. Or perhaps seek input right here in Connecticut from the early childhood experts at the Geselle Institute in New Haven.
*Demand the evidence that supports that every child should master the same benchmarks every year when we know that all children develop at different rates.
*Demand an accurate accounting of the current and, more importantly, future costs of implementing the common core and the new Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing system.
*Demand the evidence that supports coupling the common core to unproven tests. In just weeks, many students will sit for these new tests. They will serve as subjects to “test out the test.” It is quite possible that you will hear even more from parents after the tests are administered. Be proactive and seek these answers in advance of the inevitable questions you will be asked.
I want to close by stating that I personally have between eighteen to twenty more years to serve in this state and I look at these problems in a very long-term sense. What can we do now, not for this year or next, but in the long-term to be the shining example for the rest of the country that Connecticut’s public education system once was considered? I’m committed to this work and I will continue that commitment for nearly two more decades.
I ask you to seize this opportunity. Thank you.
Thomas R. Scarice

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hoboken High School graduates told to appreciate every moment By Amanda Eisenberg/The Jersey Journal

Students graduate from Hoboken Junior/ Senior High School,
Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Chase Gaewski/The Jersey Journal

Hoboken High School students listened thoughtfully to principal Robin Piccapietra as she reminded her graduates to be their own advocate, be on time, challenge themselves and be kind to others. Valedictorian Leslie Markevitch said "Try to appreciate every moment it took, leading up to this moment; graduation," Markevitch said. The soon-to-be Bucknell student shared her story with her classmates and their families that took place four years earlier.
She and her family were hit by "a drunk and high driver," and the car was totaled, Markevitch said. "That moment taught me to make the most of opportunities available," the valedictorian continued. "Take a moment to appreciate this moment."
Full article: CLICK HERE 
Chase Gaewski/The Jersey Journal
Chase Gaewski/The Jersey Journal

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

News from The College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin

We're very proud of our faculty who mentor and groom excellent future scholars. We just learned that two of Dr. ANTHONY PETROSINO'S recent doctoral students - Dr. VANESSA SVIHLA at the Univ of New Mexico and Dr.CANDACE WALKINGTON at Southern Methodist University - won prestigious National Academy of Education Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowships.This Fellowship is one of the highest national honors given to education scholars. To read more about the work that Svihla began here at UT with Petrosino and is continuing in her current position, you can go to Dr. Petrosino's blog at You can find out more about Walkington's work - which also was launched under Petrosino's mentorship - at Big congratulations to all three of them!

The COLLEGE OF EDUCATION at The UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN is ranked among the top 10 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, as are several of its departments and programs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Teach the Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers By: Elaine K. McEwan

Elysian Park War Memorial
Hoboken, NJ 
If the struggling readers in your content classroom routinely miss the point when "reading" content text, consider teaching them one or more of the seven cognitive strategies of highly effective readers. Cognitive strategies are the mental processes used by skilled readers to extract and construct meaning from text and to create knowledge structures in long-term memory. When these strategies are directly taught to and modeled for struggling readers, their comprehension and retention improve.

Struggling students often mistakenly believe they are reading when they are actually engaged in what researchers call mindless reading (Schooler, Reichle, & Halpern, 2004), zoning out while staring at the printed page. The opposite of mindless reading is the processing of text by highly effective readers using cognitive strategies. These strategies are described in a fascinating qualitative study that asked expert readers to think aloud regarding what was happening in their minds while they were reading. The lengthy scripts recording these spoken thoughts (i.e., think-alouds) are called verbal protocols (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). These protocols were categorized and analyzed by researchers to answer specific questions, such as, What is the influence of prior knowledge on expert readers' strategies as they determine the main idea of a text? (Afflerbach, 1990b).

The protocols provide accurate "snapshots" and even "videos" of the ever-changing mental landscape that expert readers construct during reading. Researchers have concluded that reading is "constructively responsive-that is, good readers are always changing their processing in response to the text they are reading" (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995, p. 2). Instructional Aid 1.1 defines the seven cognitive strategies of highly effective readers, and Instructional Aid 1.2 provides a lesson plan template for teaching a cognitive strategy.

Instructional aids

Instructional Aid 1.1: Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers

Activating"Priming the cognitive pump" in order to recall relevent prior knowledge and experiences from long-term memory in order to extract and construct meaning from text
InferringBringing together what is spoken (written) in the text, what is unspoken (unwritten) in the text, and what is already known by the reader in order to extract and construct meaning from the text
Monitoring-ClarifyingThinking about how and what one is reading, both during and after the act of reading, for purposes of determining if one is comprehending the text combined with the ability to clarify and fix up any mix-ups
QuestioningEngaging in learning dialogues with text (authors), peers, and teachers through self-questioning, question generation, and question answering
Searching-SelectingSearching a variety of sources in order to select appropriate information to answer questions, define words and terms, clarify misunderstandings, solve problems, or gather information
SummarizingRestating the meaning of text in one's own words — different words from those used in the original text
Visualizing-OrganizingConstructing a mental image or graphic organizer for the purpose of extracting and constructing meaning from the text

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Data Analysis Shows No Evidence of Segregative Impact of Charter Schools on Traditional Schools in Hoboken, New Jersey

8th Grade Graduating Class of 1964
Sacred Heart Academy, Hoboken NJ
Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion- often heated-- about the segregative impact of charter schools on the existing public school system. This discussion has taken place at the national, state, and local level in the United States for the last couple of years.

One such discussion is currently taking place in Hoboken, NJ. A small, local charter school recently received approval for renewal as well as expansion of its existing charter. In NJ, charter schools undergo a through review in order to renew their charter every 5 years. In addition to the renewal, Hola requested expansion to the 8th grade from the current K-6 formation. The State of New Jersey approved both requests in early March of this year

For various reasons, the Hoboken Board of Education decided to protest the decision and has subsequently entered into a legal petition/"lawsuit" in order for the renewal and expansion decisions to be revoked. (note: For alleged legal reasons the renewal and expansion decisions have had to be linked and joined according to some members of the Hoboken Board of Education. Interpretations vary.)

One of the primary arguments made by the Hoboken Board of Education is the financial toll charter schools are having on existing, traditional public schools in Hoboken and in New Jersey. This post will not address that issue.  Another main argument is that the charter schools are having a "segregative" impact on the traditional public schools in Hoboken prompting some elected officials to refer to charter schools impact in Hoboken as causing "white flight." This post will attempt to address the segregative issue only and distance itself from any inflammatory rhetoric. 

Various data have been presented on both sides of the issue either supporting or attacking the conjecture of charter schools segregative impact on the traditional public schools in the City of Hoboken, NJ. Unfortunately, most of the data reported has been relatively short term data (1-3 years of data) and little to no attempt has been made to take a more longitudinal examination of the historical low income percentage enrollment in the school district. 

I have been able to obtain from the New Jersey Department of Education/Office of Finance the 1997-2013 "October 15th" Reports or the Application For State School Aid (ASSA). In order to be as consistent as possible, for my analysis I used what is commonly considered the "Line 39" data for FULL ON ROLL as well as RES LOW INCOME to obtain a fair approximation of the percentage of low income students attending the traditional Hoboken Public Schools. This method allows for excellent consistency over the many years of data and gives a good estimate of the proportional percentages.

When this data is plotted we observe an interesting trend-- the percentage of low income students attending the traditional Hoboken Public Schools exhibits a distinct downward trend over the past 16 years. If charter schools were having a segregative effect on the public schools, we would expect to see an upward trend in the percentage of low income students attending the traditional Hoboken Public Schools. I present the data in graphic form for ease of examination. 
Click to Enlarge 
No doubt, this will not be the final word on the topic. That is not the intent of this post. And plotting such data is not the only way to support or disprove the conjecture. But I do think this analysis offers some compelling evidence that the addition of charter schools into Hoboken has not had a tangible segregative impact in terms of low income student enrollment on the traditional public schools. This may be due in large part to historic high low income enrollment in Hoboken's public schools going back many years.  On a related note, it appears that any claim of a possible segregative effect of charters on the traditional public school enrollment in Hoboken NJ has failed to take into account the historical "set point" of the district which appears to be in the neighborhood of about 60.76% low income enrollment with a standard deviation of about 5.52%. There are also a number of city wide demographic trends occurring that may be impacting these percentages-- a general but persistent rise in the average family income over time in Hoboken is certainly proven by census data. Such a trend should be possible to observe over a 15+ year period. Additional analysis with more historical data should be forthcoming. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dr. Mark Toback Resigns

Letter to Community from Dr. Mark Toback
June 13, 2014
Dear Residents,
Last night, the Wayne Township Board of Education appointed me to serve as their new superintendent of schools. While I am honored by their endorsement and confidence, I must admit that leaving Hoboken will be bittersweet, due to the many relationships built here over the past few years. Working with a dedicated staff, a talented administrative team, supportive parents, and a thoughtful group of school board members has been rewarding in so many ways.

The Hoboken Public Schools are a wonderful example of what is possible when a community redefines what it expects from the schools. By establishing higher expectations, and then investing in our schools at a level that matches our ambition, we have made significant progress in many areas. Substantial improvements in academic performance, school climate, safety, parental involvement, communication, technology and facilities are visible results of our new expectations. All of these changes will serve as a solid foundation for the work of the next school district leader.

It would be inappropriate for me not to express my appreciation for the support of the Hoboken Board of Education. Working as a trustee is possibly the most thankless volunteer community service job a citizen could undertake. On top of being thankless, it can be quite stressful due to many difficult decisions that must be made. The support from the trustees of your elected Hoboken Board of Education allowed for many positive changes to take place and continues to be a positive influence on the school system.

I will look back fondly on my days of service to this city and I remain appreciative of the opportunity to work as your educational leader. While some residents may not have agreed with me from time to time, know that my primary focus with any decision was the students attending our schools.

I have heard long-time residents and employees say “Once a Redwing, Always a Redwing." As I move along in my profession, I will always be proud to be counted as a Hoboken Redwing.


Mark Toback

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

UPDATED "I'm telling you...what we were given and what has been built up in this district since 2009 has been amazing…" -HBOE Trustee Ruth McAllister (Part II- a "District in Need of Improvement")

A key component of "the Big Lie" is to convince people things were much worse before you got there and that there has been improvement since you arrived. Hoboken Board of Education member McAllister has ended recent Board meetings by telling the audience how bad things were "in 2009" and how "amazing" things are now. Recall, there was a previous post (Part I) examining some aspects of McAllister's claims. This time, let us look at the documentation and consequences of the "DINI" status of the district. 

Thirty months (30) after taking full control of the Hoboken Board of Education (May 2009-November 2011) and having full oversight of the Hoboken Public Schools, Ms. McAllister, her Kids First Board majority, and the Parents and Guardians of the School Children of Hoboken received a letter (see below) from the superintendent of schools informing them that the entire Hoboken School District was now classified as a District in Need of Improvement or a "DINI". A designation which the district never received before. 

The classification was because after two and an half years of Ms. McAllister and Kids First leadership, "the district did not make AYP (adequate yearly progress) in all grade spans within the district - elementary (grades 3-5) middle school (grades 6-8), and high school- for two consecutive years in either content area"

Ms. McAllister and her Board colleagues were in majority control for part of the 2008-2009 school year and for the entire 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years before receiving this designation in November of 2011. Therefore, it is difficult (but not impossible as we have seen) for her to blame previous administrations for this unfortunate designation by the State of New Jersey in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education.  

How does this happen? While it doesn't happen over night, it does happen quickly. Recall Ms. McAllister and her colleagues made sure the district's award winning High School principal was not welcomed any longer (and you "settle" on the resulting lawsuit). You receive claims of harassment by award winning teachers. You hire a series of retired, interim superintendent of schools, assistant superintendent of schools, high school principal, and business administrators all with no knowledge and questionable commitment to the City or to the district. You decide that the future of the district lies in administrators from Newark and Keyport and you fail to successfully implement an updated K-12 curriculum with corresponding planning guides and district assessments. Finally, you hire a superintendent from a 1 school district/vocational high school that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress in the last full year before his departure and lead a district identified for improvement by the NJDOE (DINI 1) (click here for verification; and here). The teachers are not at fault. The designation of a district in need of improvement is the result of poor decisions and poor leadership at the district and Board levels. Not amazing at all. Period. 

For Ms. McAllister and her colleagues this designation may be another example of the"amazing progress" of the district under their leadership. More likely, it may be yet another series of unfortunate facts that Ms. McAllister and Kids First just wishes were not known and vilifies anyone who brings such facts to the public's attention. 

Board Trustee McAllister is certainly entitled to her opinion of the condition of the district in 2009 and today. But, personally, I would think her time would be better spent looking at ways to remediate the current situation in the district rather than present ill-informed, biased, and fallacious tales of the district she and her Kids First members inherited in 2009 and the "amazing" things that have happened subsequently. 

See Part I for the "amazing" things Ms. McAllister claims has been accomplished by clicking HERE

The full "DINI" letter can be viewed by clicking here

Text of Trustee's McAllister's statement in March 2014: 

(56:20) Your biggest item is always personnel, it always it. So when we entered into this budget cycle and we knew that it was going to be tight most of us knew what it was going to mean and for those….pause….Mr. Enrico and for the teachers who are going to watch this and school employees who are going to watch this I just hope  the next couple of weeks aren't too rough because a lot of people are going to be worried and a lot of people are going to be scared and..I think that..I was always raised that know…you temper your attitude and your demenaor to the appropriate for the occassion and quite frankly that means you are not gleeful at a funeral and when there's a situation where people's jobs are on the line..people who have skill sets that really don't meet a wide variety of career choices that…a…sarcasm and insipedness is an inappropriate way to discuss any item. So…with that I'd also like to mention what actually has happened in this district over the last five years. I was elected in April of 2009. Prior to April of 2009 there was a hugh..and the whole reason why I ran was because of the whole "to do" about spending a tremendous amount of money on a new program. And the first thing I did in April of 2009…ah…(gestures to the audience) other board members (gestures to the audience) that are no longer (gestures to the audience) are here was that we had to approve layoffs. So we actually had a Board of Education that was in place and a superintendent that was in place that was talking about an expenditure of $750,000 on a program that didn't even happen when they knew full well that there was going to be a list of layoffs. There were also 525 employees in the district at that time in the district not there's 400 employees. And you know those weren't teachers between that 525 number and what we have here but that list of teachers for layoffs that were put before us in April of 2009 were all teachers and we spent the next (gestures) year and a half- whatever it was-- laying off non classroom personnel that were unnecessary. That's what was here before 2009. That's what was going on in this district in April of 2009. And no disrespect for any teachers that worked on the curriculum project before 2009 because as a business person I know that the leadership on the project is what determines the quality of the work and the Hoboken Curriculum Project that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on prior to April of 2009 was unusable when we had a certified person in here looking at the curriculum and we have spent the last…10, 11, 12, 13….we pretty much spent the last works rewriting work that was done and once again absolutely should not be a discredit to the teachers that were working on the original project becasue the leadership is what determines whether or not what is created is usable. So this was the kind of thing that we walked in on in April of 2009….what was here when I got here were hard working teachers working in silos without strong administration behind them because their administration couldn't do what they needed them to do because they were told what to do. So, teachers working hard without materials and without…and doing the best job they possible could. I'm telling you what we were given and what has been built up in this district since 2009 has been amazing…and what I get in teachers thanking me now, thanking me for the supplies, happy because they've learned what it means to have a good administration- that they have mentors in place to help them and that's what has changed. To come up with so little experience in district and talk of nothing is being done is shameful…and to me why anyone who has been speaking like that about this district…why would they move their child into this district, it just doesn't make any sense….so I'm suspect, just like the other explosion I had if this counts as an explosion 

Rethinking the Visually Interesting Kindergarten Classroom- WHEN TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING MAY BE BAD

Hoboken, NJ Circa late 1930's
photo: David Pirmann
Imagine a kindergarten classroom. Picture the vividly colored scalloped borders on the walls, the dancing letters, maybe some charming cartoon barnyard animals holding up “Welcome to School!” signs. That bright, cheery look has become a familiar sight in classrooms across the country, one that has only grown over the last few decades, fed by the proliferation of educational supply stores. But to what effect?

A new study looked at whether such classrooms encourage, or actually distract from, learning. The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.
The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.
“So many things affect academic outcomes that are not under our control,” said Anna V. Fisher, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon and the lead author of the study, which was published in Psychological Science. “But the classroom’s visual environment is under the direct control of the teachers. They’re trying their best in the absence of empirically validated guidelines.” -NY Times

Heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children

May 27, 2014
Carnegie Mellon University
Maps, number lines, shapes, artwork and other materials tend to cover elementary classroom walls. However, new research shows that too much of a good thing may end up disrupting attention and learning in young children.

Visual Environment, Attention Allocation, and Learning in Young Children

When Too Much of a Good Thing May Be Bad

  1. Anna V. Fisher1
  2. Karrie E. Godwin1
  3. Howard Seltman2
  1. 1Department of Psychology
  2. 2Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University
  1. Anna V. Fisher, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Psychology, 335-I Baker Hall, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213 E-mail:
  1. Author Contributions A. V. Fisher was responsible for the conceptualization of the study and contributed to study design and data analyses. K. E. Godwin contributed to the conceptualization and design of the study and to data analyses, and she created the study materials and trained the coders. H. Seltman conducted the mediation analysis. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.


A large body of evidence supports the importance of focused attention for encoding and task performance. Yet young children with immature regulation of focused attention are often placed in elementary-school classrooms containing many displays that are not relevant to ongoing instruction. We investigated whether such displays can affect children’s ability to maintain focused attention during instruction and to learn the lesson content. We placed kindergarten children in a laboratory classroom for six introductory science lessons, and we experimentally manipulated the visual environment in the classroom. Children were more distracted by the visual environment, spent more time off task, and demonstrated smaller learning gains when the walls were highly decorated than when the decorations were removed.   

Journal Reference:
  1. A. V. Fisher, K. E. Godwin, H. Seltman. Visual Environment, Attention Allocation, and Learning in Young Children: When Too Much of a Good Thing May Be Bad. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614533801