Friday, August 27, 2010

N.J. 'Race to the Top' application wrong-year error is revealed in federal documents

TRENTON — New Jersey fell three points short of being one of the 10 finalists selected for hundreds of millions in federal education funding through the Obama administration's Race to the Top education grant program.
While the state scored high and low on a wide range of topics — including 10 points lost for lack of data systems to improve education — one 5-point answer was answered in error.

The state received nearly full points for its answer on the identical question on the application submitted for the first round of funding by the Corzine administration.

Here's a look at the question and answer, as well as the comments from reviewer's grading sheets, obtained Tuesday by The Star-Ledger and expected to be released today by the U.S. Department of Education.
The question answered in error is on PDF page 260 (see application), and the problematic answer is on PDF page 261. They read:
Q: The extent to which— (i) The percentage of the total revenues available to the State (as defined in this notice) that were used to support elementary, secondary, and public higher education for FY 2009 was greater than or equal to the percentage of the total revenues available to the State (as defined in this notice) that were used to support elementary, secondary, and public higher education for FY 2008

In fiscal year 2011, despite huge budget strains, the Governor is proposing an increase in state revenue-based support for education by 2.2% ($238 million). As proposed, preschool-12 education spending as a percentage of the state budget will be 35.4%. Federal ARRA funding will not be available to school districts in FY 2011, but the Governor and the executive team remain committed to funding education even as state revenue-based support for most other areas of state spending has been cut. This demonstrates that, despite severe fiscal challenges, the leadership in the state of New Jersey remains committed to education.

Read Full Article HERE---

Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 8:44 AM
Lisa Fleisher/Statehouse Bureau

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Mosque in Lower Manhattan

This clip with Jon Stewart and the Mayor of New York City is both entertaining and very insightful as they discuss the mosque and the World Trade Center. Essential viewing for any US History or Civics class....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hola Charter School Officially Opens

On Friday, August 27, 8:30-9:30am, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will inaugurate the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa). After several years of planning and a rigorous application process, HoLa will welcome 132 K-2 students to its free, full-time Spanish-English dual language elementary school in September. A grade will be added each year until the school extends to 5th grade.

HoLa offers a comprehensive curriculum delivered in both Spanish and English by teachers trained in innovative strategies specific to dual language education, with the goals of academic excellence and bilingualism for all students, regardless of language background. The school features an emphasis on the arts, an experiential approach, and a multicultural perspective. Studies show that students in dual language programs tend to outperform their monolingual peers academically.

HoLa’s Director, María Acosta, holds two Masters, one in School Administration and the other in Bilingual Education. For the past five years she has been the Assistant Principal at the Lenape Meadows Elementary School in Mahwah, NJ. Ms. Acosta has also served as both Master Teacher and World Languages Supervisor, and has developed curricula for grades K through 8. Ms. Acosta has been a presenter at various local and state conferences on teaching techniques in a world language classroom. “We are very excited to unveil this dynamic program which will allow our students to master a challenging curriculum, as well as fluency in Spanish and English,” said Ms. Acosta.

The school will be located at 123 Jefferson Street, home of the Boys and Girls Club of Hoboken. HoLa has undertaken extensive renovations to the building over the past year in preparation for its use as a school. After school hours, regular programming at the Boys and Girls Club will continue as usual. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School and believe that the school will complement the services we currently provide the community,” said Gary Greenberg, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County.

A charter school is a public school open to all students on a space-available basis and operated independently of the district board of education. All appropriately-aged Hoboken residents may apply, regardless of language skills or previous exposure to Spanish or English. If the number of applicants exceeds available spots in a given year, a public lottery will be held in January.

Charter schools have become a central component of the President’s Race to the Top initiative, an effort to reform the U.S. education system and narrow the achievement gap. Furthermore, President Obama has encouraged a focus on bilingualism. “We should have every child speaking more than one language,” he said in 2008. “We should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they’re 5, or 6, or 7 than when they’re 46, like me.”

For more information about the school, please visit

To read the press release in Spanish click read more below:



La escuela de dos idiomas de Hoboken celebra su inauguración

Habrá una ceremonia para inaugurar HoLa, la escuela charter de dos idiomas de Hoboken viernes, el 27 de agosto entre las 8:30-9:30 de la mañana. Después de años de preparación y un proceso riguroso de solicitud, HoLa abrirá las puertas a 132 estudiantes de K-2o grado para que se matriculen en esta escuela pública y gratis. Se añadirá un grado por año hasta el 5o grado.

HoLa ofrece un currículo tradicional básico impartido en español e ingles por maestros adiestrados en estrategias particulares a la doble inmersión, con las metas de excelencia académica y bilingüismo para todos sus alumnos, sean cual sean sus idiomas natales. Los estudiantes adquieren conocimientos y habilidades en todas las áreas principales de contenido mediante la instrucción en ambas lenguas. Además este programa ofrece un énfasis en los artes, un acercamiento experimental y una perspectiva multicultural. Los estudios académicos muestran que los estudiantes de doble inmersión tienden a salir mejor que los matriculados en programas monolingües.

La directora de HoLa, María Acosta, tiene dos Masters, una en la administración de escuelas y la otra en la educación bilingüe. Durante los últimos cinco años ha sido la asistente directora en la escuela primaria Lenape Meadows de Mahwah, NJ. Además Sra. Acosta ha servido como maestra de docencia y supervisora del programa de la enseñanza de lenguas, y ha desarrollado el currículo lingüístico para los grados K-8. La Sra. Acosta ha dado ponencias en varios congresos acerca de la docencia de los idiomas. “Nos emociona el estreno de este programa dinámica que permitirá que nuestros alumnos alcancen el dominio total de un currículo exigente, además de adquirir dos idiomas” dijo Sra. Acosta.

La escuela estará en 123 Jefferson Street, compartiendo el mismo edificio con el Boys and Girls Club de Hoboken. HoLa ha llevado a cabo unas renovaciones extensivas al edificio para preparar para su uso como escuela. Después de las horas escolares, los programas normales del Boys and Girls Club resumirán. “Estamos encantados de colaborar con HoLa, y creemos que la escuela complementará los servicios que actualmente proveemos a la comunidad” comentó Gary Greenberg, el director ejecutivo del Boys and Girls Club de Hudson County.

Una escuela charter es una escuela pública abierta a todos los estudiantes según las plazas disponibles. Todos los niños de la edad indicada pueden solicitar una plaza, sea cual sea el idioma que hablan en casa. Si el número de solicitudes recibidas excediese al número de plazas existentes se celebraría un sorteo público en enero para asignar dichas plazas.

La escuelas charter han jugado un papel principal en la iniciativa “Race to the Top” del presidente Obama, un intento de reformar el sistema educativo estadounidense y promover el éxito académico para todos. Además, el presidente Obama ha destacado la importancia de promocionar el bilingüismo en los EEUU. “Deberíamos exigir que todos los niños sean bilingües” dijo el 2008. “Necesitamos fomentar el estudio de los idiomas desde una edad temprana, porque son más fáciles de adquirir cuando uno tiene 5,6, o 7 años que cuando uno tenga 46, como yo”.

Para aprender más acerca de HoLa, por favor acuda a

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pension Fraud by New Jersey Is Cited by S.E.C. / By Mary Williams Walsh- NY Times

The following summary of an article looks at the very serious issues facing teachers, police, firefighters, and other state workers in the State of New Jersey as well as other states with large pension systems. It is important to understand that the current emergency with the NJ State Pension system is not due to "excessive" benefits-- but rather, simply that the State of New Jersey has systematically, consciously, and inappropriately, failed to MATCH the funds put into the system that the public workers of New Jersey put in every pay check due to payroll withholdings. And, consequently falsely reported "all is well" to the SEC. It is the bi-partisan failure of the politicians to properly fund the pension system that has led to the current situation. To say this is inexcusable is obvious, to say it is fraud, as does the United States Security and Exchange Commission, is much more accurate. -Dr. Petrosino

Federal regulators accused the State of New Jersey of securities fraud on Wednesday for claiming it had been properly funding public workers’ pensions when it was not.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said the action was its first ever against a state, and only its second against any government over the handling of a public pension fund. The first was the city of San Diego. The S.E.C. said its action was meant to dissuade other governments and their advisers from hiding bad fiscal news in a fog of pension numbers. Actuaries, for instance, have been raising questions about the framework Illinois has laid out for bolstering its pension funds. In New York, California and other places, financial advisers have told lawmakers that benefits could be sweetened at virtually no cost, only to be proved wrong once those benefits were adopted.

The commission said that from 2001 to 2007, New Jersey claimed to have money set aside in a “benefit enhancement fund” as part of a “five-year plan” to pay for new benefits for teachers and general state employees. In fact, the fund was an accounting illusion and no such money was available. The misstatements began during the Republican administration of Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco and continued under Democratic administrations, including those of James McGreevey and Jon Corzine.

By the time Gov. Chris Christie took office this year, the pension funds had been deprived of contributions for so long that it had become near impossible to catch up. The state needs to come up with billions of dollars every year, something it cannot do without raising taxes, cutting public services or going even deeper into debt. Governor Christie has been forcing cuts in education spending and other areas in hopes of improving the state’s finances.

Read the full story by clicking HERE

Saturday, August 21, 2010


"When I served as superintendent for seven years in Arlington, Virginia, the school board evaluated me annually. Boards members and I designed the evaluation. We agreed upon the criteria and the multiple measures to be used in reaching conclusions about my performance as school chief. While the discussions were private, the school board released to the public their judgment of my performance and my salary for the coming year. Because I was a highly visible public employee, taxpayers provided the funds to operate the schools, and I participated in the design of the evaluation, I had no reservations about the process or making the results public."

via Using Test Scores To Out Ineffective Teachers « Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.

Picture: Larry Cuban

Education Department Deals Out Big Awards

The following was reported by Sam Dillon of the NY Times on August 5, 2010. Last month, the Senate subcommittee that allocates federal education money weighed in on one such promising innovation, slicing, by more than 90 percent, the $210 million that President Obama requested for next year for his Promise Neighborhoods initiative. -Dr. Petrosino

Teach for America, the nonprofit group that recruits elite college students to teach in public schools, and the KIPP Foundation, which runs a nationwide network of charter schools, were big winners in a $650 million federal grant competition known as Investing in Innovation, theDepartment of Education said Wednesday.

Each group won $50 million. Two others won large awards for proposals the department said were backed by significant evidence of success with students.

The Success for All Foundation, a Baltimore group that helps to turn around struggling elementary schools, won $49 million. And Ohio State University, partnered with several other universities, was awarded $46 million to train some 3,750 teachers in the Reading Recovery approach, which focuses on struggling first-grade students.

The department awarded the remaining $455 million in smaller amounts to 45 other nonprofit groups and school districts. About 1,700 groups applied for grants, the department said.

Congress financed the innovation grant competition in last year’s economic stimulus, along with the larger, better-known, $4.2 billion competition known as Race to the Top, in which states have put forward proposals for shaking up their school systems.

The innovation competition, in contrast, was open to nonprofit organizations and local school districts.

The $650 million was given out in awards of three levels. The four largest awards of nearly $50 million each went to groups proposing to greatly expand programs, like Teach for America and the KIPP charters, that the department viewed has having been proved successful.

Fifteen second-tier awards of up to $30 million each went to groups with somewhat less-established programs, hoping to solidify their track record and expand. The winners of these so-called validation awards included the Smithsonian Institution, which won about $26 million for a proposal to advance “inquiry oriented” science education in hundreds of school districts, and Johns Hopkins University, which was given $30 million to advance its work in overhauling high schools with such dismal graduation rates that the university has identified them as dropout factories.

The smallest awards went to organizations proposing what were basically brainstorms: 30 groups that put forward reasonable ideas that sounded intriguing, however untested, won grants of up to $5 million. Winners included the Jefferson County Schools in Louisville, which proposed increasing the instruction time devoted to students in six low-performing high schools by 30 percent, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, for a plan to provide extra literacy tutoring and after-school help to hundreds of struggling young readers.

As the department developed the innovation competition, it heard considerable criticism that rural school districts were at a significant disadvantage because developing a sophisticated grant proposal was said to be beyond the reach of tiny, remote districts with only a handful of administrators. Hundreds of remote districts have only one school. The department also heard complaints that as the innovation competition, Race to the Top, and other programs have unfolded, little attention has been given to early childhood education.

In the 105-point scoring rubric under which the department judged the innovation proposals, those that could benefit rural schools and those in the early childhood arena were given bonus points, officials said.

In a conference call on Wednesday evening, James Shelton, a deputy assistant secretary of education, defended the fairness of the competition with regard to rural schools and early learning initiatives. In a release, the department said that more than a third of the winning proposals were intended to serve rural schools and more than a quarter were in some way aimed at improving early learning.

Still, some early learning advocates were not impressed. Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for early learning initiatives, said that although two groups that focus on early childhood won $5 million awards, she saw little else that advanced pre-kindergarten education.

“I see almost nothing for early ed,” Ms. Grumman said. “Despite a whole lot of talk that we’ve now heard for the last two years coming out of the administration and the Department of Education about integrating early education into K-12 for better student outcomes — once again it’s sounding like just so much empty rhetoric.”

In order to qualify for the awards, all the winning groups must obtain 20 percent matching pledges from foundations or other private sector donors by Sept. 8, the department said. Each of the groups that won $50 million, for instance, must persuade private donors to give an additional $10 million to support their projects.

In the first round of Race to the Top, Tennessee won $500 million and Delaware $100 million. The department says it will divide the $3.4 billion that remains next month among about a dozen states.

Picture: an unexpected development recently

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yale gets an F? New assessment of colleges' required education grades more than 700 colleges and universities on what classes they require students to take. Just over a third of the schools earned an A or B in the assessment of required education. grades more than 700 colleges and universities on their general education requirements.

Just over a third of the schools earned an A or B, meaning that they require certain types of classes in at least four of seven key areas, ranging from literature to economics to mathematics.

“We hope this will be a wake-up call that colleges are asking for lots of money and a major sacrifice by families, but in too many places they have really abdicated their responsibility to direct students to what they need to learn for success after graduation,” says Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a nonprofit in Washington that promotes such required education and made the assessments.

See how colleges and universities in New Jersey rank by clicking HERE.

See how colleges and universities in New York rank by clicking HERE.

See how college and universities in Texas rank by clicking HERE.

See how colleges and universities in your state by clicking HERE.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hoboken Police Unions Respond To Layoff and Demotion Plan

From the Hoboken reporter---D.B.Ross, Jr., Esq., attorney for the Hoboken PBA and PSOA, has issued a statement of position regarding the proposed layoffs and demotions in the Hoboken Police Department. It is essential that the residents, taxpayers, local business people and city officials fully understand the facts before the lives of 37 police officers are irreparably altered and the level of police services is substantially reduced. At the center of this matter of vital importance to Hoboken is the true motivation of the City – is it fiscal responsibility or animosity toward the police department?
The Hoboken Policemen’s Benevolent Association and Police Superior Officers’ Association urge every resident, taxpayer, local business person and city official to give careful consideration to the following:
1) If there are 19 demotions, the City may save $220,000 and 18 layoffs may save $990,000 in salary and benefits for a total of $1.21 million. That’s a $75 per year savings for each of the City’s 16,000 taxpayers. That equates to approximately $1.50 per week. If this cut in policing causes a crime increase, property values will decline much more than $75. Some who would destroy the department made claims on their websites earlier this year that the police demotions would save $5.2 million. That is simply not true. As stated, the fact is that the savings would approximate only $220,000.
2) The Mayor has asserted since her first mayoral campaign in the Spring of 2009 that demotions would take police officers away from their desks and put them on the streets. She has further represented that layoffs and demotions will not reduce the numbers of officers patrolling the streets. It must be observed that 15 of the 19 officers being demoted perform their supervisory duties on the streets while on patrol. Only 4 of the 19 are in administrative/staff positions. Laying off 18 officers and possibly putting four more officers on the streets is still a NET LOSS of 14 officers working on the streets of Hoboken.
3) The ratio of patrol officers to supervisors is a subject that has been grossly misreported during recent years. Patrol to supervisor ratios are tabulated by calculating first line supervisors to patrol officers. Administrators, managers and other upper level supervisors are excluded from these ratios.. For example, the Chief does not supervise the dispatchers. An Army General does not supervise those who recently completed basic training. A CEO in a company does not supervise the mailroom. We have 97 patrolmen and 30 sergeants which is a 3.3 to 1 ratio. The table of organization calls for 120 patrol officers and 30 sergeants. That is a 4 to 1 ratio. Every police administration book suggests anywhere from a 3 to 5 officer to 1 supervisor ratio. We are well within that range. However, the Mayor and Director Alicea insist on suggesting that we have a 2 to 1 ratio number. This is obviously intended to rally residents against us. Alicea went further and commented online that they are following the police audit’s recommendation of a 4 to 1 ratio. That is simply and undeniably false. The City’s audit calls for 60 patrol officers and 26 sergeants–a 2.2 to 1 ratio. Based on that premise, the auditor, former Maplewood Chief Richardella is lowering our ratio, which means he concluded that the department is not “top heavy.”
4) On the same day that Mayor Zimmer announced layoffs, spokesman Juan Melli received a $15,000 raise and Mayoral Aide Daniel Bryan received a $12,000 raise.
5) Hoboken’s Parking Utilities have been hiring new employees regularly and ordering expensive equipment while the police department has suffered cuts to offset those costs. Where are the City’s priorities?
6) Attrition brings a gradual decline in staffing numbers so that there is no sudden impact on the level of public safety. If the City’s plan is implemented 37 officers will be laid off or demoted. In short, 24% of the department will be affected by the cuts.
7) The Memorandum of Agreement which was negotiated with and approved by the State Fiscal Monitor after more than two years of difficult but good faith negotiations would have resulted in 9 givebacks, including a change in healthcare coverage, change in prescription coverage, a reduction in salary differentials at the supervisory and managerial levels, and elimination of many days off. These changes would have saved the City nearly a million dollars per year. Why did the mayor and REVOLT so vigorously oppose an agreement that was settled with a state monitor? One can only conclude that they were motivated by a lack of knowledge and animosity towards the police. So here we sit nearly a year later in binding interest arbitration, creating more legal costs for the taxpayers, an agreement that will not be concluded for another year or two, facing 4 to 5 years worth of retroactive payments, no changes in healthcare, and 37 officers being cut instead. Again, where are the City’s priorities?
8 ) We understand that the Rockefeller group has been trying to make contact with the Mayor since November without a response. Their development would likely bring an additional $9 million dollars in
tax revenue to Hoboken. It appears that Rockefeller was compelled to go to the media due to the lack of response by Mayor Zimmer.
9) The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and 4th of July were events in which our officers acted professionally and proficiently. There has not been to this date one note of recognition by the Mayor. Both days
resulted in incidents where the HPD was forced to request more than 50 officers for mutual aid because there were insufficient HPD personnel working due to budget cuts. On St. Patrick’s Parade Day, HPD officers issued over $300,000 worth of fines that have been collected to date, with many cases still not resolved. The combined total cost for police overtime was $150,000.
10) The Hoboken population appears to far exceed the 38,000 reported in the 2000 Census. There are 28,000 residential units in the city and few would conclude that the ratio is less than 1.5 persons per unit. There are 16,000 property owners. Also, there are 130,000 commuters daily when considering all modes of transportation through the City.
11) Again, if the plan is implemented, our total number of officers will go from 153 to 135. We were at 185 six years ago, which helped the department to reduce our violent crime index and to operate our
specialized units such as community policing, school resource officers, anti-crime units, traffic bureau, housing bureau, P.A.L., and bike patrol unit just to name a few. We may be headed to a level that is 27% lower than in the early 2000s. It ignores reality to think that service levels will not suffer when such draconian cuts are made.
12) The Public safety Committee Chairman is Mr. Ravi Bhalla. Since assuming that position, he has never met with any police union official.
13) Juan Melli states in the Hoboken Reporter that he disputes PBA President Lombardi’s comments because we have to understand that the city is “a hard-working family and tough choices had to be made.” We suppose that it was an equally tough choice for him to accept a $15,000 raise during thesame week.
14) The police audit calls for the elimination of the Public Safety Director’s position. That has yet to occur and we doubt that it will ever occur.
15) Have City officials and certain residents chosen to ignore the violent crime indices of Jersey City and Union City as compared with Hoboken? While Jersey City and Union City hire more cops (which
may have the effect of displacing crime because it can never be eliminated), the city that boarders to the east, north and south of those cities (Hoboken) is cutting police. Is this really in the best interest of Hoboken’s residents and taxpayers?
16) The HPD has confronted a difficult public perception problem due to the SWAT/Hooters case. That incident occurred five years ago and the two people held responsible for the incident are no longer with the department. It is time for members of the administration and a certain few members of the public to move on and move away from their anti-police agenda.
17) On Wednesday, July 14, 2010, the PBA presented each member of the City Council with its own professional analysis from Northeast Labor Consultants which clearly points out many factual data errors, miscalculations and omissions in the state audit. It appears that the Mayor, City Council members, Business Administrator, Public Safety Director and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Bhalla have purposely and deliberately ignored the PBA expert’s findings and recommendations. At the council meeting, PBA Present Lombardi pleaded with the council members and the mayor to read the report and contact him with any questions or concerns. This has not happened. It is becoming apparent that the Mayor will proceed with police layoffs and demotions, regardless of what actual factual data is presented to her. As Mr. Lombardi has stated, “cuts are what she wants, but not what the city needs.” The PBA and PSOA are convinced that these actions were motivated by personal and political animosity toward the police unions and their members – not by fiscal necessity.