Monday, December 28, 2009

Various and Recent Posts to

Between December 21st to 24th, I took part in some postings on www.hoboken411com. Hoboken 411 is a local blog that is utilized by many people connected to Hoboken, NJ in some manner. The thread began centering on the outcomes of the December Board of Education meeting. At some point, some inflammatory and baseless remarks were made about events that occurred in the Hoboken School District between 2007-09. What follows are some of my responses. Those interested in following the full thread can point there browser to Hoboken BoE Update. -Dr. Petrosino

note: My responses are in italics-- excerpts from postings are denoted by ">"

Thank you Skateparkmom for your kind words on behalf of the teachers and the work they did on the curriculum redesign process. I cannot say enough about the teachers dedication and hard work. 

If "poed" or "skateparkmom" want to keep their anonymity- so be it. I believe anonymity is a much bigger threat to productive discourse and critical analysis than any perceived threat of cyber-hackers but I respect that it is a matter of opinion. I also appreciate some people may feel their livelihood/jobs may be threatened if their identity becomes known. I won't raise it again. But, if and when I post here, I will do so without anonymity. 

Concerning the test scores---to say they "tanked" may be a little glib and overly simplistic. For instance, where the new curriculum was piloted, scores were very promising. In addition, there were some grades with significant increases. So, to just hand wave some of these issues and still characterize it as "tanked" puts one either on the offensive or defensive rather than in a mode of productive conversation. But, there are certainly areas where the district has clear challenges ahead. No argument.

One thing I do know---going after short term gains in test scores will likely be inconsistent with any pedagogy or curriculum that supports 21st Century Skills. By that I mean the integration of critical thinking, problem solving and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects such as mathematics, reading, science and history. Be cautious of advocating for "basics first"--there is a great amount of peer-reviewed literature that shows conclusively that you can learn the basics much better and with greater retention and more efficient retrieval via 21st Century Skills.

 I would suggest any parent of citizen who really wants to understand the tensions between high stakes testing and the quality of education to take a look at the following book by David Berlinear of Arizona State University and a colleague of his, Sharon Nichols. Please take a look at the following URL, consider reading/reviewing the book. I can guarantee you will look at the impact of high stakes testing on districts like Hoboken with a different perspective. You will view the issue of "10R's" in a whole different way. You will see the danger in looking at single indicators (i.e. test scores) as sole criteria for judging the quality of a teacher, grade, school, administrator, superintendent or district:

Review: "Co-authors Sharon Nichols and David Berliner review research regarding the strengths and weaknesses of testing in public schools, concluding that "high-stakes testing does not work." School leaders will recognize the cover of the text — students sitting in standard attire, row after row, taking a standardized test. This is not a picture of what a 21st century student should be.   

Nichols and Berliner use a social science principle, Campbell's Law. This principle states the more any quantitative social indicator is used for decision making, the more apt it will distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor.

Any leader in today's public schools can certainly identify with Campbell's Law. Whatever the acronym of the state test, the stakeholders, the news media and policymakers all shine the spotlight on the scores, not on the progress and development of the whole student.…"

I'll leave it there and hopefully some of you will have time to take a look at the book. 

Happy Holidays to All - especially you 'poed' and 'skateparkmom', whoever you two are! ;-)

All the best, -Anthony


Ah---Kennobserver---another chip off the old block. I'll try to make this quick...

1)  >Isn’t this the guy who was double-dipping in Texas, ripping off the Hoboken taxpayers who >thought he was >working for them full-time? 

In a word, no. I was not illegitimately compensated a second time for the same activity. 

2) >The NJ Monthly honor and the first US News & World Report bronze star were awarded for the 06-07 school >year, according to their websites.

And the second one was awarded for 2007-2008. Again, my point is simply there were positive going on. Not to hail it as a "gold standard". But, I reiterate, it was recognition that was unsolicited and independent. Frankly, I don't care who gets credit for it---just recognize it as an accomplishment and a solid step in a positive direction.

3) >he foisted a curriculum on the district that I bet will make it difficult for test scores to ever rise. He seems to >have an educational philosophy that might have been all the rage when he was in school 20 years ago but has long >since been discredited.

The curriculum is consistent with state and national standards. It was voted on without a single dissenting vote by the current Board of Education. It's consistent with the latest research in the field of learning, instruction, and curriculum theory support by the National Academies of Science and the National Research Council. How the curriculum gets implemented will be largely left to the Kids First majority on the Board of Education as they will be deciding on the educational leader for the district. The curriculum is completed and finalized. Implementation is in the hands of Kids First now

4)> It’s the problem of professors not keeping up with their field.

I don't like to talk about my professional expertise but I will--- Not keeping up with my field? I currently have 2 NSF grants totally over $15 million dollars. I have given lectures at Harvard, The University of Michigan, and the National Science Foundation...and presented my latest research at 2 international conferences and 2 national conferences. The Science and Math teacher preparation program I helped create, UTeach- is currently being utilized by over 20 universities in the United States and was funded by ExxonMobile for over $50 million dollars. I have dozens of peer reviewed research articles. As for my training? I have degrees from Columbia, Teachers College and Vanderbilt University- did a post doc at the University of Wisconsin and a faculty member at the University of Texas---ALL 4 are in the top 10 universities in the country. You can look it up sweetheart. What are you talking about???? Does aninimity allow you to make such baseless claims? I don't live in that world---but it must be nice. 

5) >he says the curriculum cost .03% of the past three years’ budgets.

I said it was less than 3/10 of 1% and I stand by that. 

6) >I’m sure we could’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and downloaded one of the many excellent >curriculums online.

And would the district have gotten 8500 hours of professional development with that download? And would that have gotten a full K-12 set of district created assessments that are needed for QSAC? And would you have a curriculum that over 1/3 of all district teachers understood, created, and felt invested in? And would that download have gotten teachers and administrators from all of our schools talking about their practice and what they wanted their students to learn? Can you download all that too? Please send us the URL...

7) > Luckily Kids First is starting to turn it around.

Things were well on the way and on a positive trajectory before the current Board Majority took control--- Using the most objective and independent assessment of district oversight- the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC)- during the last two years there was a 58.8%  increase in district scores in Instruction and Programs. Additionally, scores on NJQSAC were raised 70.5% in Fiscal Management, 100% in Governance and we achieved 80% passing scores in Operations and Personnel. I understand and am well aware of the recent audit findings---let's see if they have as much of a negative impact on the March 2010 QSAC scores in Fiscal Management as the current rhetoric on the topic warrants. I am confident that, while not trivial, the audit findings were not systemic. But, don't lose sight of the 70.5% gain that were made in the Fiscal Management QSAC score during the previous 2 years. ;-)

Cheers, -P


A reply to keenobserver from Post #91

>2) You say you don’t care who gets credit for the NJ Monthly and US News honors, but then why did you falsely claim credit >in the first place? In academia, I believe, a professor claiming credit for another’s accomplishment would be hauled in front >of a committee, or something. I think you owe the previous super an apology.

A baseless claim about taking credit. Please take a look at my original post on my blog iin December of 2008. The purpose of the post was simply to inform the public of this wonderful honor and recognition. I know enough about school reform that nothing happens in a few short months. I was very happy to see that Hoboken High received the recognition for a 2nd year in a row recently- so, at the very least, we were able to support advances already well on the way.

Your assertion of me engaging in plagiarism is malicious and without proper warrant. 

2) >all of your hard-won credentials merely indicate that you are out of touch with how real kids learn and how real education >takes place. You’re in the education club–you all believe the same things, give papers at each other’s conferences, review >each other’s articles and give taxpayer-funded grants to each other’s pet projects.

I was a vice principal for 3 years, a classroom teacher for 4 years---my work at the university regularly puts me regular and sustained contact with pre and in service teachers, principals, supervisors, and superintendents. My research takes place in real classrooms and is based on interventions in schools with high rates of students from low SES. I have worked in classrooms in Hoboken, Jersey City, Nashville, St. Louis, Madison, WI, and Austin, TX. I am engaged in both policy and practice from K-16 education. I just don't understand how you can make these claims without knowing what *I* do. From your comments, you do not seem to have an accurate view or knowledgeable base to make your claims. 

3) >One more thing: I know of no list that has your four universities in the top 10. The US News list ranks only Columbia in the >top 10.

Wrong again---from my blog:

The No. 1 ranking for Peabody is the highest ranking of a Vanderbilt graduate or professional school in the history of the U.S. News rankings. The school moved up from its No. 2 spot last year, passing Stanford.

1. Vanderbilt University

2. Stanford University

3. Teachers College, Columbia University

4. University of Oregon


6. Harvard University

7. Johns Hopkins University

7. Northwestern University

7. UC Berkeley

7. University of Texas at Austin

7. University of Wisconsin- Madison 

12. University of Washington

4) >I like the way you cleverly corrected your math mistake without admitting that you were wrong. In your earlier post you >typed .03, but you’ve now changed it to .003

.03% = .003 They are equal....they are the same. (correction .3%=.003)

Also, so we are clear---I indicated the total cost was LESS than 3/10 of 1%. And I will add, the cost was *significantly* less than 3/10 of 1%. So, let's be careful of attaching $$$ figures. But, to be clear and so misinformation does not begin---the total cost was significantly less than $500K. 

5) >as you noted, and since you were leading this effort and imparting your mistaken philosophy, I’d say all the money was >wasted. Why would we want teachers invested in a >curriculum that won’t do the job?

According to the State of New Jersey (whose standards we followed), the current interim superintendent who presented the curriculum to the Board of Education, and the unanimous agreement of the Hoboken Board of Education who did not cast a single dissenting vote- all think the new curriculum "will do the job" as you put it. Moreover, I would say a significant number of teachers and parents would disagree with you about your opinions on the curriculum. 

As I have said before, the test now is how well the Kids First majority will implement this new curriculum that has gained approval from so many different sectors. As has been noted as well-- I also gave the district a fairly detailed plan for implementation of both the curriculum and it's new programs. It's available for review at:

6) >I don’t know anything about QSAC–it seems like it measures bureaucratic processes that have little to do with the actual >education going on–so I’m glad to agree that you increased those scores.

Student test scores are factored into QSAC but so are other criteria. To some degree, it measures bureaucratic processes but that is not necessarily a bad or negative thing since QSAC really looks at district level processes that are either in place or in need of improvement. Anyone can find out more about QSAC at:

7) >The schools were not on a positive trajectory before Kids First took over. Before Raslowsky, test scores in all the schools in >most years compared rather favorably with many suburban districts. Sure, there were problems in some grades in some >years, but overall the schools >were doing a pretty decent job. Then Raslowsky and you took over and the collapse in scores >was sudden, swift and shocking.

When we started our administration, the basic premise was that this was a good district and we were invested in trying to get the district from "good to great". Scores were one measure of success and, you are correct, there were some clear evidence of a pretty good job. No argument at all. I do not agree with your conjecture that there was a "collapse in scores". Plot the scores over the past 5-6 years and view the trend lines. I think you will see a different story emerge. 

Also, I would suggest those sincerely interested in the challenges facing public education and making AYP (adequate yearly progress)- please take a look at this post:

You will see that it is almost inevitable that a *majority* of schools will not be making AYP unless some major changes are made to NCLB. This is not an excuse---but, it really pays to understand the challenges that we faced, the current interim faces and whoever is eventually chosen to be the permanent Superintendent of Hoboken or any other public school district. 

I hope my responses have helped clarify some of these issues. I do not want to make any personal attacks--sincerely. But, I do not feel the tone or the  unsupported conjectures made by 'keenobserver' are very productive or can lead to a productive dialogue. If these ad hominem attacks are the front line assaults and tactics made by Kids First supporters against any voice trying to clarify or explain- I have little faith in any sustain or systemic change occurring any time in the near future. 

All the best and Happy Holiday to everyone--

Cheers, -P

Dr. Anthony Petrosino

Former Asst to the Superintendent of Schools

Hoboken School District