Friday, February 27, 2009

Venus and Moon in Rare Dance

On Friday night, Feb. 27, a lovely crescent moon will appear to snuggle up close to Venus, particularly for skywatchers across the Western Hemisphere. It will make for an eye-catching scene as the two brightest sky objects of the night dominate the early evening scene for about three hours after sundown; even those who do not normally look up will likely have their attention drawn to this "dynamic duo" during their normal commute home from work or school. What will make this array especially attractive is the fact that it will look almost three-dimensional; the moon will look almost like an eerily illuminated blue and yellow Christmas ball hovering next to the brilliant-white diamond that is Venus. Sadly, this will be the last in the current series of evening get-togethers between the moon and Venus, for during March Venus will slide rapidly down into the sunset glow and by month's end will disappear from our evening sky until the spring of 2010.

Picture: Venus and the Moon as photographed by Abe Megahead- Feb 27, 2009  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cassessa Speaks to Principals

Today, Mr. Vincent Cassessa district coordinator for for NJASK and a member of the Hoboken Curriculum Committee, spoke to district administrators at Demarest High School. Mr. Cassessa spoke on a number of topics including: Assessment Update, Hudson County Professional Development Consortium, Test Score Analysis, Math Assessment (Grades 3-8), Journal Use, Word Walls, Holistic Scoring Guides, After School Programs, and the use and development of Rubrics. Mr. Cassessa also provided the building principals with valuable State and County handouts on Activities and Strategies for New Jersey ASK Mathematics and Language Arts content areas. Mr. Cassessa is a valued member of the Hoboken School District faculty and has been on numerous State advisory groups over the years centering on accountability testing in K-8 education.

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Myths About Education Reform

The following is an article that will be published this weekend in the Washington Post. Again, it's a thought provoking piece that looks at educational reform from a national level although clearly has implications at the State and District level as well. I have added hyperlinks to many of the proper names used to ease quick look up of some organizations or people mentioned in the article. The Washington Post is the newspaper with the largest circulation in Washington, D.C., and is the city's oldest paper, founded in 1877. It has a particular emphasis on national politics and international affairs, and being a newspaper of record. The Washington Post is known for its liberal stance on political and social issues.

Washington Post
Sunday, February 22, 2009

To borrow from the old quip on giving up smoking: Fixing public schools is easy -- we've done it hundreds of times. Even with the billions of dollars in economic stimulus aid, public schools stand no chance of getting better until we dispel some empty theories about how to help them.

1. We know how to fix public schools; we just lack the political will to finish the job.

Wrong. For the past 25 years, K-12 education has been at or near the top of most politicians' domestic agendas. Candidates vie to become the "education" president, governor or mayor. The public cries out for better schools and is even willing to pay higher taxes to get them.

There is no shortage of strategies for education reform, either. The most famous (or infamous) is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, with its federal mandates for rigorous student testing. School districts across the country have been flooded with other initiatives, too. Conservatives generally advocate breaking up teacher unions and privatization, while liberals call for more money, less testing and greater teacher autonomy. But nothing has succeeded. In 2006, experts at the Harvard-based Public Education Leadership Project concluded that all these efforts, including NCLB, "have failed to produce a single high-performing urban school system."

2. Teachers know best how to teach kids; policymakers should leave them alone.

Not necessarily. Sure, teaching can be an art. But educators should also approach their profession as a science when empirical evidence proves certain methods to be more effective than others.

Many teachers "subscribe to an extremely peculiar view of professionalism," as school management expert Richard Elmore has written. When the Council of Urban Boards of Education surveyed American teachers in 2007, more than two-thirds said that they didn't need more professional training. An education professor in Maryland criticized the state board of education's expectation that local school districts should use more state funding on teacher training: "I am sorry," she wrote in the Baltimore Sun, "that the board doesn't seem to recognize that our teachers are educated professionals, not 'trained' laborers."

This resistance to research is drummed into educators at teacher colleges, which devalue scientific findings. Coursework often encourages teachers to do their own thing in their own way -- and even presents the decision about how to teach reading "as a personal [one] to be decided by the aspiring teacher," according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But if we set boundaries on what and how teachers teach, won't we slide down a slippery slope to the nationalization of research-backed practices? Yes, we might. But that isn't a bad thing -- see Myth No. 3.

3. The federal government meddles too much in the affairs of local schools.

Actually, the feds don't go far enough. Even NCLB, attacked as an effort to wrest power from local government, allowed all 50 states to set their own standards. But really, why should a passing math score vary from one school district to another? Because of NCLB's loopholes, many states have dumbed down tests to make their schools look better than they are.

The United States is one of only a few developed nations clinging to the idea of local control of education. Most European countries, as well as Japan, have national standards and curriculums. Their schools also rely mainly on national funding, while ours receive less than 10 percent of their revenue from the federal government. With the stimulus package, that share will probably top 15 percent by 2011 -- a sizable increase, but it won't eradicate the "savage inequalities," as author Jonathan Kozol called them, between the opportunities available to impoverished children in large cities and those offered to kids from richer communities. U.S. education officials need to use federal funding to reward districts that raise standards and help put American schools on a par with their international competitors.

4. Teacher unions are the enemy.

Okay, they're not without fault. But neither are they the villains in the tale of school failure.

Many politicians and educators would have you believe that unions are politically powerful obstructionists who protect incompetent teachers. Former U.S. education secretary Rod Paige went so far as to call the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, a "terrorist organization." Political conservatives are attracted to charters, vouchers and privatization in part because they would break the unions' power, and even some liberals have grown critical of the groups' influence; Barack Obama mildly rebuked the unions during his presidential campaign for their opposition to merit pay for teachers and limits on tenure.

But the evidence doesn't support the harshest allegation: that union contracts make it nearly impossible to fire unsatisfactory teachers. School administrators have plenty of disciplinary authority, but surveys of principals show that they often don't exercise it -- not because of union rules, but out of a sense of collegiality and because of bureaucratic inertia. Last year, the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzed the contracts in the nation's 50 largest school districts. For most of them, the institute concluded, "the depiction of [collective-bargaining agreements] as an all-powerful, insurmountable barrier to reform may be overstated." What's needed is less scapegoating unions and more gumption on the part of education policymakers and administrators.

5. There's no place in education for politics.

In fact, politicians are exactly the people who should take charge of struggling public schools. Historically, mayors have hidden behind elected or appointed school boards, afraid of being blamed for the dreadful condition of their cities' classrooms. But the school boards' "non-political," insular governance has been a disaster. The system must be changed, with mayors put in charge and school boards abolished.

That is what has happened under mayors Michael R. Bloomberg in New York City and Adrian M. Fenty in Washington. They were behind legislation eliminating or weakening the local boards and assumed hands-on leadership, bringing in non-traditional superintendents and challenging teacher unions. It's too soon to say whether their school systems will be transformed. But things are changing fast, and the mayors are getting good marks for overturning the status quo. That's the first step toward replacing myths about school reform with real success stories.

Washington Post
Sunday, February 22, 2009; Page B03

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Bernie Madoff Can Teach Us about Accountability in Education

This is an essay written by a friend and colleague of mine (Dr. Walter Stroup) who draws some parallels between the investment practices of Bernie Madoff and some of the controversies surrounding certain accountability declarations in K-12 educational school reform. While the essay centers on mathematics and science education, it can be applied to all subject areas. I believe it is thought provoking at the very least and stimulating as we each grapple collectively with the past 8 years and the times ahead in many different areas of our lives. Also, in light of recent discussions, debates, and questions about test scores in our own district, perhaps this essay may help in framing some of the issues we are all struggling to address. A final version of this essay was published in EDUCATION WEEK on March 13, 2009(online) and on March 18, 2009 (print).

What Bernie Madoff Can Teach Us about Accountability in Education

Mindful of H.L. Mencken's observation that, "for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong," the new Obama administration should avoid making the mistake of previous administrations in equating accountability in education with high-stakes test scores. There is increasing evidence that flaws in current test design should all but disqualify their continued use as metrics of accountability, especially in science and mathematics education.

To help us head off a potential collapse of trust in public education comparable in scale to the collapse of trust in our financial system, we might look to draw parallels from what we are learning with the economy. In particular, the closure of Bernie Madoff's fraudulent investment firm stands to teach us at least four basic lessons we might use in reflecting on the role high-stakes testing has in driving current education reform.

A first lesson is that the most compelling evidence for something being wrong is often hidden in plain view. Consistent investment returns of ten percent or more can't be real, and they weren't. Similarly in education, there is mounting evidence in plain view that our current approach to high-stakes test design can't tell us what we need to know in order to drive education reform.

Separate from whether any one test can give a complete picture of what a student knows or what he or she has learned in a given year - where the answer is obviously "no" - there is the more precise question of whether, empirically, the tests work as good measures of what a teacher has done during a given school year? The answer to the latter question is also "no."

Using student scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) our university-based research group has analyzed both the effectiveness of some specific reform projects in mathematics as well as year-to-year scores from the entire state in science, mathematics, social studies and English. For the most part, we found the TAKS tests to be what W. James Popham from Stanford University calls "insensitive to instruction."

This means that even in situations where sensitivity to instruction is most implicated - e.g., situations where there is a sustained, aggressive, high-quality, and content-focused intervention - most of a student's score (more than seventy percent of the variance) on the high-stakes TAKS test is predicted by the pervious year's math scores (with, at most, only 7-8% of the variance related to the intervention). We have checked with colleagues involved in mathematics interventions from around the country and their results with similar tests are comparable. We also found the predictive power of previous math scores holds up over a number of years of math testing, not just for the year prior.

We then did a series of cross-disciplinary comparisons where the results might be expected to be the most distinct: Math scores versus English, science, or social studies scores. What we again found were similarly high levels of test scores predicting other test scores in ways that are very likely to overwhelm the effects that any teacher could be expected to have in any given year.

For reform-oriented accountability to work, test scores need to be highly sensitive to what educators do. Instead we have tests made up of items selected for their ability to consistently sort students, year-in and year-out, in the same order relative to an increasingly cross-test, cross-year, and even cross-domain psychometric "profile" (i.e., the location of students, in terms of an ability construct, on a logistic curve) developed by the testing organizations.

Needless to say, these results are highly problematic for reform.

A second important lesson Madoff teaches us is that for misrepresentation to work at a large scale, our desires and, even more so, our fears need to be played to, often by appeals to highly specialized forms of expertise or insider knowledge.

Perhaps no single piece of recent domestic legislation speaks more directly to our hopes and fears as a nation than the goals of the No Child Left Behind legislation to improve both equity and the levels of excellence in education.

The fact, then, that these largely self-referential and self-confirming testing profiles align so consistently with existing inequities related to socio-economic status, race, or first language only serves to underscore how problematic our findings are. That the math tests in Texas are now being validated, in the name of predicting "college readiness," with what historically have been tests of "aptitude" (e.g., the SAT) with comparably problematic outcomes along these same dimensions, makes it even more likely our high-stakes tests in mathematics and science are to re-inscribe precisely the sorts of inequities the No Child Left Behind legislation was ostensibly meant to address.

Making matters worse, in an era when accountability hinges on improving scores, changing a student's placement on this self-referential profile - by teaching test-taking or test-breaking skills - is likely to be at least as effective as teaching the actual content better. Minimum exposure to content plus heavy test preparation, especially in schools that are underperforming, might very well turn out to be an "optimal" gaming strategy for improving scores. Anyone who has spent time recently in schools feeling pressure to improve test scores can attest to a dramatically heightened attention to test-taking skills at a level that might even make the employees of test-preparation companies, like Stanley KaplanTM, blush. The consequences of teaching "test taking," as opposed to substantive math or science, are likely to be profound in their long term implications, especially for children attending schools currently deemed underperforming.

A third lesson Madoff teaches us is that if you want to forestall the day of reckoning, make sure you are in charge of both generating and then interpreting your own metrics.

Currently only a handful of private organizations and companies operating in the United States have the large banks of proprietary items developed, and calibrated, in terms of fit with their own internal statistical profiles. Consequently, only these organizations have the ability to produce tests that can be used to evaluate our movement toward the psychometrically defined goals of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Test publishers are essential both to ongoing test construction and to the interpretation of the results for nearly all of the high-stakes tests developed in the country.

With affiliates of these same publishers also controlling the lion's share of the textbook market here in Texas and around the country, one might legitimately begin to wonder how, when it comes to the academic side of schooling (as opposed to school financing), anyone would continue to describe the US education system as locally, or even publicly, controlled.

The fourth lesson Madoff teaches us is to surround oneself with true believers. Reputations have to be on the line and this will make coming to grips with what is really going on that much harder. Some have speculated that even Bernie Madoff, at some early point, might have believed in his own seeming successes.

Those of us deeply involved in reforming science and mathematics education, and who might have once wanted to believe in the potential of testing as a blunt but perhaps necessary instrument of reform, are now forced to come to grips with the full implications of the tests being "insensitive to instruction" in a way that vastly diminishes the role they can hope to have as instruments of reform. We were wrong to help sell the idea of placing so much trust in institutions that, in retrospect, stood to benefit the most monetarily from our continued willingness to suspend disbelief.

Our professional reputations are indeed on the line, making this the toughest lesson the collapse of the Bernie Madoff empire may have to teach. We hope the new administration can learn from our mistakes well before belief in public education's ability to serve the purposes of a just, economically robust and democratic society is lost.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Making AYP under NCLB- Increasingly Improbable as Nation Approaches 2014

There has been much discussion about some of Hoboken's K-8 school's not achieving adequate yearly progress (AYP) as mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. To be sure, this is certainly an issue we must address with sound instruction, new curriculum and individualized instruction when appropriate and needed. However, it is also vital to understand some of the mathematically impossible aspects which all schools in the city, state, country face in trying to meet AYP by the year 2014 (again, as mandated in NCLB). In my opinion, there is no reason to believe that the issues facing California will be unique to California and the increasing improbability of ANY state meeting 100% AYP by 2014 is assured. This is not to say that all aspects of NCLB have not had some positive impacts--but the accelerated rate by which states must raise yearly thresholds to reach 100% by 2014 is now unrealistic. In part, this was due to low early thresholds that were instituted at the beginning of 2002 when NCLB was first enacted. 

Please spend some time reviewing this summary of a study done in California recently by a team of researchers. The results were published in SCIENCE magazine---one of the premier research journals in the world on scientific research. I believe it provides some interesting insights to the statistically impossible AYP thresholds that are about to kick in within the next 18-36 months. My hope is that the current administration pushes back the 2014 100% target date by at least 5 years. Currently, there is no formal discussions concerning this issue.  

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) used state assessment data reported for the school years 2002-2003 through 2006-2007 to project the growth in student proficiency through 2014. Data was drawn from more than 4,900 California elementary schools. The researchers used three different growth models (represented by the blue, grey and green lines) to project average annual growth in proficiency for mathematics (solid lines) and English language arts (dotted lines). Models are plotted out to 2014 to illustrate that the available data (through 2007) does not indicate the accelerated growth in proficiency required to meet legislated goals of NCLB. California's benchmarks for adequate yearly progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind are shown in the red lines (New Jersey's benchmarks are similar but not exactly the same--but close enough to draw a valid comparison). More information on this research appears in the Sept. 26, 2008, edition of Science magazine. (Credit: University of California, Riverside)

The researchers report in the Sept. 26 issue of Science that mathematical models they used in their analysis predict that nearly all elementary schools in California will fail to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for proficiency by 2014, the year when all students in the nation need to be proficient in ELA and mathematics, per the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" (NCLB).

Under NCLB, AYP measures a school's progress toward meeting the goal of having 100 percent of students meet academic standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics. AYP constitutes a series of calculated academic performance factors for each state, local education agency, school, and numerically significant student subgroup within a school.

Please post your comments or e-mail me directly if you have any questions concerning this post at

Click on picture to enlarge.

For more detailed information please see this article in ScienceDaily.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning Across the Curriculum with the Arts-

Thanks to Ms. Michele McGreivey of the Curriculum Committee for bringing this to the attention of everyone. You can find more details to the story by clicking HERE.

Release Date: 1/26/2009
Running Time: 9 min.
© 2009 The George Lucas Educational Foundation (All rights reserved).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dr. Petrosino- Reflections on a Dual Language Program

On the evening of Tuesday February 10, the Board of Education voted against a proposal (4-3) to implement a dual language immersion program for the Hoboken School District by September, 2009.

In my opinion, a dual language program where literacy and content are taught in two languages would have been an exciting and educationally sound option for a significant number of children and their families in the City of Hoboken. Such a program would have started in kindergarten and extend into middle school similar to other dual language programs in the state and country. This program aimed for bilingualism (the ability to speak fluently in two languages), biliteracy (the ability to read and write in two languages), academic achievement equal to that of students in non-dual language programs, and cross-cultural competence.

Why Spanish?
Participation would have been voluntary and would have occurred in Spanish. Spanish was chosen for a number of reasons including (but not limited to) the fact that 400 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it the world's second (or third) most spoken language, depending on the sources. Spanish is growing increasingly popular as a second or third language in a number of countries due to logistical, economic, and touristic interest towards the many nations which chiefly use Spanish as the primary language. This phenomenon is most notable in Brazil, the United States, Italy, France, Portugal, and much of the Anglosphere in general. The role of Spanish in the ethnic fabric of the City of Hoboken and the relative ease of availability of highly qualified teachers in the area.

Surveying Community Interest
The Hola proposal was a well researched, well designed, well vetted program. Jennifer Hindman Sargent and Camille Korschun Bustillo put together an Advisory Board that had expertise in research and development, academic scholarship, and district level education at the administrative and teaching levels. They held public meetings and did an exemplary job of informing the community. They used a stratified distributed sampling technique to get a reasonable estimate of community interest for such a program. What does this mean? When sub-populations vary considerably, it is advantageous to sample each subpopulation independently. Stratification is the process of grouping members of the population into relatively homogeneous subgroups before sampling. There are some advantages and disadvantages to using this technique. In my professional opinion, the advantages (focuses on important subpopulations and ignores irrelevant ones, allows use of different sampling techniques for different subpopulations, improves the accuracy of estimation, efficient in terms of cost and effort) outweighed the disadvantages (difficult to select relevant stratification variables, expense, requires accurate information about the population. I have chaired about 6 PhD dissertations and have served on the dissertation committee of a couple of dozen other defenses in the social sciences. The sampling and survey techniques used by the Hola group were more than satisfactory for criteria that I would characterize as a quality research project at a Tier 1 research university in the social sciences. Moreover, it was and continues to be my opinion that the results were reliable. When you sample a population, you do not need to ask each and every member to take a survey. To be sure, the process of polling/surveying is often mysterious, particularly to those who do not see how the views of 1,000 people can represent those of hundreds of millions as it does daily with “Gallup Polls”. Hola’s survey was obviously not as sophisticated as an agency that has millions of dollars and hundreds of psychometricians at their disposal, but in my opinion it was done with rigor, quality and integrity.

Initial Meetings
I have been meeting with them since May of 2008 and my professional respect for them as thoughtful and reflective individuals who turned their interests and passion into a viable and tangible roadmap for district implementation has only grown. I met with them for the first time at Connors School and was impressed (I encourage those of you interested to read the past posts on the Hola program on this blog). Contrary to some opinions, Ms. Sargent, Ms. Bustillo and I were not always in agreement. I thought each meeting would be our last for at least the first 2 or 3 meetings but after each meeting -when I would ask them to either get some additional data or provide some additional articulation of their plan- they came back with double and triple the quantity and quality of effort that I would have hesitated to expect from my most valued colleagues.

A Vision and the Forging of a Partnership
They had a vision of what they wanted--certainly. But they were willing to work within the constraints and limitations of our district. They compromised on their original vision but never on their ideals or principals. They set the bar high on private citizen- public school professional interaction. Ms. Sargent and Ms. Bustillo summarized the existing literature by writing original text; they gathered, analyzed, and presented original data; they met with and put together an expert advisory board; they knocked on doors, attended meetings, and handed out pamphlets. I reiterate, they set the bar high for another group to present the district with as thoughtful and articulate plan. They put together a proposal that a Director from the New Jersey Department of Education in World Languages told me personally they read "cover to cover" and found to be thoughtful and well done and wished the administration good luck in moving forward and even suggested possible funding sources although was also quick to point out the comparative low cost of implementation.

Dual Language and the Revised Curriculum
A dual language immersion program would have not been problematic in the least with the curriculum revision project I’m currently overseeing. The reason is simply that the curriculum outlines the content, scope and sequence of instruction- what language it is delivered in is not problematic. A good curriculum, whether it is delivered in English, Spanish, German, Arabic, Hebrew, or any other language is not inherently “better” in one language than another. I do not mean to be flippant about this concern. I just do not think it was problematic. Furthermore, Hola met with World Language teachers on a number of occasions during my curriculum development sessions and their was wonderful interaction between everyone concerned.

District Planning for Implementing Dual Language and other Programs
Would a dual language program have been unproblematic to enact? Certainly not. Would there have been challenges? Certainly. However, it is my opinion that the problems remaining to be solved were implementation challenges and to a large degree, implementation problems are only fully addressed once a program is approved and the implementation process begins. There are some resources you simply cannot leverage until formal approval is granted. The district was allocating almost 10 months to address implementation independent of the previous 7 months of talks and discussions. That’s almost a year and a half from initial contact to possible 1st day of class. In my opinion, we were conducting due diligence. I feel confident we would have been in good position to implement the program in accordance to all State of New Jersey regulations.

For instance, we implemented Tools of the Mind within 8-9 months, Read 180 with 3 months, LitLife with 2 months, SRI with about 8 months of planning respectfully. Each had varying degrees of initial implementation problems and each were more than adequately addressed in my opinion. And, to be honest, problems still arise. This is the nature of program implementation- it exists in a dynamic, real time, controlled but sometimes unpredictable environment. Part of my professional background is the training and qualifications to gather the proper resources to problem solve these programatic challenges. While not overseeing the dual language program directly (as the lead administrator for instance), my responsibilities to the district oversee all curricula and instructional matters. Hola would have been ultimately under my oversight.

Dual Language and the PreK-12 Arc of Curriculum and Instructional Plans
Personally and candidly, I think it would be a challenge for anyone to find a program proposed or implemented in this district in the past decade that had any MORE planning and preparation behind it than Hola. I do not feel that Hola was a mistake, ill-conceived, unprepared, too expensive, irresponsible or would have diverted resources or attention from any of the district’s students. Waiting for all schools to make AYP before implementing such a program is short sighted and negates the fundamental position that a dual language program actually increases literacy and would have been part of a long term systemic approach to addressing quality instruction and ultimately test scores. A district must have short and long terms goals and must pay attention to the entire PreK-12 arc of curriculum and instruction rather than any isolated portion. All must work in synergy. Hola was intended as a foundational long term systemic program and fit into that arc.

My Scholarly Interest and My District Administrator Failure
I find the interest Hola stirred, the dialogue it produced, the media coverage it received and the debates it generated as incredibility interesting as an academic and professor interested in public policy and curriculum reform. Kliebard in his classic book "The Struggle for the American Curriculum" (used in our curriculum project) identifies four relatively stable and distinct “interest groups” that have competed for over nine decades for control of the schools through the curriculum. The Hola debate (for the most part) pitted Social efficiency supporters and Social meliorists against each other. These groups have fundamental and perhaps even irreconceivable differences when it comes to educational philosophy. Throw in other local factors such as the deepening recession, political uncertainly, and a community struggling with residual impacts of gentrification and resulting income disparity and one simply cannot divorce the Hola debate from a particular time and place. But as a district administrator I cannot help but feel a sense of failure at my own inability to make the proper curricula and instructional arguments that would have given each Board of Education member as well as every parent and community member the confidence and optimism I had for this program. Of course, people are free to disagree and a good number of citizens and Board members did. Opposition to the dual language program was organized, motivated, and articulate. The results are clear and the proposal for a dual language program in September, 2009 has been decided. 

To Ms. Sargent and Ms. Bustillo and the numerous colleagues, community, and family members that expended great personal and professional effort to create this unique partnership- I sincerely thank you and hope you find some consolation in establishing a new model by which public-private partnerships may be forged in the future as we collectively address vital district instructional and curricula issues. I consider you both professional colleagues and have no doubt in the expertise you have acquired in becoming strong advocates for dual language education, implementation, and acquisition.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is a "failing school" under NCLB?

The following post was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future district administrators. I have made a slight modification to the post in which I replaced ISTEP (a high stakes accountability test in Indiana) for NJASK (the New Jersey analog). I believe this post is thoughtful and offers a fair perspective on what is meant by this designation by NCLB. -Dr. Petrosino

What is a "failing school" under NCLB?
Recent news releases continue to publicize the "failing schools" under the federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). What is a "failing school" under this law?

Essentially there are 37 ways for a school to "fail" and one way to succeed. To start with, the definition of "failing" is misleading. Under the law, "failing" means the school didn't meet its progress goals that go up each year until the goal is 100% in 2013-2014.

A school must meet its goal of all children passing NJASK tests by 2013-2014 and it must continue to have more students pass each year in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

In order for a school to avoid "failing" it also must have all subpopulations make progress till it makes 100%.

What are the subpopulations? Special Education students, Poverty students, Limited English students, White students, Asian students, African American students, Hispanic students, Native American students etc.

If any of these populations do not make their AYP towards 100%, than the entire school is labeled "failing."

Example: Let's say that everyone in the school passed the NJASK tests except some Special Needs students with diagnosed handicaps. And let's say their AYP goal was 80% but only 75% of the Special Needs students taking NJASK, passed it. In this scenario, the entire school would "fail."

By 2013-2014 most schools in America will be labeled "failing." Achieving perfection is certainly a noble goal to shoot for. However, labeling the entire school as a "failure" is misleading, and even disingenuous.

Picture: Dr. Mark Stock

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Technology Special Curriculum Session I and II

On Tuesday, the Technology Committee (including Ms. Gomez and McGreivey) continued documenting the technology standards in language arts documenting technology standards in science. The members are documenting the standards in use and are also indicating where slight modifications in unit plans could meet the technology standards. The group's documentation is being recorded in an Excel spreadsheet. As of the end of the day on Tuesday, February 10, the group has completed grades 1-5 in science and grades 1-4 in language arts. By Wednesday, the group intends to get through grade 8 in language arts and grade 9 in science. Ms. Robin Piccapietra will join us tomorrow and we can start her on another content area such as math or social studies.

Mathematics Special Curriculum Committee Meeting II

Today the Mathematics group finalized the curriculum for grades 1-8. We also have begun to review our compliance with State of NJ standards for grades 9-12. There are some isolated instances where standards are not being met by the high school courses (mostly in the area of statistics, data analysis and probability) so we develop a curricula strategy to figure out how best to meet these standards. Tomorrow, we plan to finalize the entire curriculum so that it can be sent out for external review. In addition we spoke with Dr. Petrosino today concerning strategies for assuring that IB Diploma students are in compliance with mathematics requirements for completion of their program. A promising option appears to be taking Algebra and Geometry in the same academic year. This is an approach that was discussed at a recent national meeting of the IB Program in Houston, TX and understand that that Dr. Petrosino and other administrators will look into this issue in more detail.

Picture: Kindergarten class in Sadie F. Leinkaulf School (No. 8). Ms. Franke and Ms. Mauretta (circa 1957)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mathematics Special Curriculum Committee Meeting I

The Mathematics Group (Mary Sifonios, Barbara Teller, Howard McKenzie, Mark Schartner, Lou Taglieri) report that all the curriculum writing is complete for the District Mathematics curriculum. The task for this week is to make certain that all core curriculum content standards are met. As a group they reviewed grades 1-8 today and found what standards still need to be addressed. Also, the group began to collect the PYP (Primary Years Program), MYP (Middle Years Program) and Big Idea sheets for grades 1 -12 and placing then in order in a binder. For Tuesday, the group plans to continue reviewing the core curriculum content standard for grades 9-12. If standards are not addressed we will place them in the proper unit to make sure that they are addressed in the curriculum.

Picture: Brandt Graduating Class of 1966

Thursday, February 5, 2009

District Wide Institute Day- January 29, 2009

January 29th was Institute Day around the district with all Hoboken faculty attending at least 1 workshop (generally between the hours of 1:30pm and 4pm). Workshops included the "Tools of the Mind" program, the Reading Inventory, LitLife and others. A brief overview follows:

The following is a list of staff members that attended the "Tools of the Mind" Institute Day at the Brandt Professional Development Center on Jan. 29, 2009. The professional development day was specifically aimed at district Kindergarten teachers for implementation to begin during the 2009-2010 academic school year: Jill Littzi, Elizabeth Schwartz, Anna Maria Simone, Katrina Sturdivant, Lea DiVincent, Meagan Alt, Adriana Coppola, Romy Marchesani, Beth Tomlinson, Rosemary Purwin, Donna Yula, Ada Roman, Victoria Aligo, Nancy Bini, Kim Taraboccia, Amy Casciano, Jessica Peters, Edith Vega, Dr. Anthony Petrosino

The Tools of the Mind program has been developed with the following premises: 1) The Leading Activity unique to preschool and kindergarten should be a key activity within the child’s day. 2) Cognitive and social-emotional self-regulation or executive function is taught in special activities or embedded in content activities. 3) Activity content should be research-based and designed to meet all state and national standards in literacy and mathematics and to cover all developmental domains. 4) Instructional strategies used in Tools are a combination of child-initiated activities, cooperative paired learning, teacher scaffolding and explicit instruction, individualization through multiple levels of scaffolding, and on-going use of assessment data to tailor interactions to meet individual needs.

Litlife Workshop
Sharlette Cullen, Jacqueline Cordero, Marianne Insinga, Dan Fagan, John Maresca, Stephanie Garcia, Stacy Ntansah, Elise Granovsky, Tammi Oberstein, Kristin Kubinsky, Veronica Ramos, Rosemarie Lo Presti, Camille Ryan, Frank Mazzone, Maria Salvetta, Josephine Mazzone, Kelly Sogluizzo, Jonathan Peterson, Jennifer Suyat, Veronica Scappatori, Christy Vespa, Janice Shikhman, Francine Yu, Rosanne Versaci, Maria Morales – VP, Jennifer Wetzel, Frank Rizzo, Patricia Belifore

Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI/Read 180) Workshop
Robert Carullo, Nicolas Calbrese, Ben Cueto, Andrea Canonoico, Tara Donnelly, Saverio Cantatore, Anabel Gomez, Gabriela Garcia-Taglieri, Amanda Jervis, Michael Jacobson, Sandra Sansevere, Vanessa Phalen, Martin Shannon, Patricia Poore, Luis Taglieri, William Rutherford, Kenneth Turso, Gwendolyn White, Kathleen Kelly-Ynoa

Small Group Targeted Instruction Workshop
Michele La Grasta, Joseph DePinto, Angela Rivera, Jennifer Dunst, Irene Murnane, Loreto Martinez, Rea Ann DeAquino, Adela Sanchez, Sharon Cantone, Veronica Valente, Felicia Sacci, Linda Fitzgibbons, Raphie Peluso, Yesenia Flores, Jaely Riccardi, Iluminada Frene

Writing Strategies
Ilene Vanghan, Jean Bollhardt, Reymond Donovan, Salvatore Manente, Luz Durando, Josephine De Gennaro, Cara Killen, Gwendolyn Rodriguez, Rosanna Lucignano, Carmella Pasculli, Alexis Reidy, Mary Schmidt, Kathleen Kelly, Patricia Williams, Denise Donnelly, John Bussanich, Linda F. Erbe

Psychological & Emotional Implications of Working With Students with Disabilities
Louise Boscia, Judith Poalucci, F. Canino, Kimberly Dunne, Rosita Crespo, Lynn Fusco, Frank D’Amelio, Tasha Leggard, Saima Farooq, Dominque Lisa, Shaun Kolmer, Bess Mitsakos, Annette Lisa, Rosangela Perez, Catherine Macis, Loretta Rhodes, Robert Meyers, John Salvetta, Roseanne Musella, Virginia Wingert, Anthony Raccuia, TaniaTrinidad-Payamps, Cheng-Yen Hillebbrand, Loc Dao

picture: SRI workshop held at Wallace School Computer Center

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Music Special Curriculum Session I

Ms. Stephanie Safko reports that today almost all High School units were completed. There are two units left, and then the HS curriculum is completed for MYP 6-12. Tomorrow, the group will work on the PYPs K-5. 

Music provides a powerful form of expression for the human spirit which can bring richness to every person's life. The unique combination of intellect, artistry, and feelingfullness required for musical expression distinguish it from other human endeavors, and ranks music among the highest of cultural accomplishments. Music has been an important part of education since at least the time of ancient Greece, and it continues to be a central subject in school curricula

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Revised Special Session Schedule

Dr. Petrosino has made some slight modifications to the original Special Sessions of the Curriculum Committee Schedule. To date, the special sessions have been a success as documented on this website and the committee is on target for a Feb 15 first draft completion deadline. 

*click on table to enlarge

Monday, February 2, 2009

Science Curriculum Update Special Session II 2/2/09

A busy but productive day for the Science curriculum group. Today, the Science group met at the Brandt Professional Development Center as part of the Special Curriculum Session. Ms. Kelly Sogluizzo reports the following accomplishments: Completed the Big Idea for Grade 11, Units 1 and 2; Started Unit 3 Big Idea; Completed Units 1-3 Planners; Revised assessments for Grade 11, Units 1-3; Updated corresponding standards; Completed all revisions for Grade 3, Big Ideas and Planners; Completed all revisions for Grade 4, Big Ideas and Planners; Initiated revisions for Grade 5, Big Ideas and Planners; Updated mapping for Grades 1-5; Updated corresponding standards.

In addition the Goals for Tomorrow's meeting includes: Continue Grade 11 modifications; Complete Big Idea for Units 3-7; Complete revisions for Grade 5, Big Ideas and Planners; Initiate the modifications on the L-Drive for Grades 1-5.

We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for Grades 1-5. We may need some extra time to complete the revisions on the L-Drive; we have all the written corrections that need to be put into the system. Grades 6-9 are complete and are on the L-Drive. Grade 10 is complete, but not typed on the L-Drive. Grade 11 is being revised and then needs to be typed on the L-Drive. Grade 12 is complete, but the assessments need revision and the Big Ideas need to be completed.