Monday, December 16, 2013

How Much Do We Pay Public School Teachers?

2013 State Champions
Hoboken Red Wings
Photo: Hoboken Reporter 
Jon Boeckenstedt recently created a very interesting post. This is NCES Data from the 2013 Digest of Education Statistics (CLICK HERE), showing teacher salaries over time by state. The view defaults to Constant (inflation adjusted) dollars and 2013, but you can choose any year and nominal (not adjusted for inflation) dollars if you'd like.  The map color codes for the year selected so you can see the range, and the bar chart shows the state-by-state breakout; the weighted US average on is shown on the bar chart in blue.

Some interesting numbers: 
Highest: $75,279 (New York)
Lowest: $39,580 (South Dakota)
Average: $56,383 (50 States)
Texas: $48,110 
New Jersey: $68,797

These numbers do not take into account cost of living differences in these various states, neither do these numbers take into account years of service. Finally, these numbers do not take into account full benefits packages for teachers such as health care, pensions, etc... Nonetheless, it is a gross measure of state by state differences around the country and is a fairly useful tool when its limitations are recognized. 

See the NCES table for notes about interpreting the data.

Click Figure to Enlarge- Interactive Map CLICK HERE

Washington Post Article on this topic: CLICK HERE 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hola is a reason to move to Hoboken and to stay in Hoboken - Letter to the Editor by Valarie H. McPherson

A class using Scratch- a STEM Programming language created
at MIT for development of computational problem solving
skills for young children. Hola Dual Language School,

Continuing with the theme of dual language posts for the past week or so, here is a recent letter to the editor to the Hoboken Reporter concerning advocacy for a dual language charter school in Hoboken, NJ. Hola is an innovative school that is committed to dual language as well as STEM education. The letter summarizes a number of general issues concerning dual language programs as well as some unique issues within the City of Hoboken. Another interesting letter also appeared in the Hoboken Reporter by 2 parents of the traditional public school district. The content of that letter centered much more on funding issues than on the relative merits of a dual language charter school. Nonetheless, interested followers of this blog might find the letter of interest. -Dr. Petrosino 

Dear Editor: The following is an open letter to from Valarie H. McPherson

As a resident of Hoboken and parent of 2 children in Hola, I am publicly requesting that you show your support of Hola by submitting a letter to the Department of Education supporting both the renewal of the charter and the expansion to 8th grade. Your appearance on Univision is not enough to demonstrate your support of the school. Instead of publicity, please use your role as mayor to make a request to the DOE - this is the most effective tool in your arsenal to assist the school, the community and the children. Hola is a reason to move to Hoboken and to stay in Hoboken. In the global world in which we live, it is vital that our children are competitive. Most citizens of other countries are fluent in more than one language. Nowadays, our kids must be able to compete globally. 

I am an immigration attorney. I assist companies with the transfer and hiring of international employees. I truly understand the competitive global environment today – and it will only continue to become more global. I also see that foreign national employees are choosing not to pursue the green card – and are giving up the green card – because there are more opportunities in other countries. We cannot let the “sun set” on the USA. In order to continue to remain competitive in the global environment; our schools need to really teach languages as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses. Otherwise, our children and the country will not be able to maintain the prominence in the world that we now enjoy. The Hoboken School Board, instead of dampening innovation and creative educational opportunities, should be looking to Hola as a model and inspiration for their own programming. Thank you for your support. – Gracias para su apoyo. 

Valarie H. McPherson

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Hola is a reason to move to Hoboken and to stay in Hoboken 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Power of the Dual Language/Bilingual Brain By Jeffrey Kluger (TIME magazine)

Parents in Hoboken, NJ attend a Board of Education Meeting to
discuss Dual Language Education

(photo: Hoboken Reporter 11/17/13)
In July of 2013, Time magazine did a feature story on dual language education. The article is included here and provides an excellent overview of dual language education in the United States. The bilingual brain is not necessarily a smarter brain, but it is proving to be a more flexible, more resourceful one. In a polyglot world, that's a lesson that a largely monoglot country like the U.S. ignores at its peril. "Monolingualism," says Gregg Roberts, a language-immersion specialist with the Utah state office of education, "is the illiteracy of the 21st century." When it comes to language, there's no such thing as starting too early--and it turns out the brain can be bilingual even before birth. The human auditory system is functional from the third trimester on, and the loudest thing an in utero baby hears is its mother's voice, speaking whatever language or languages she knows. Those sounds, with their characteristic rhythms and phonemes, are poured straight into the baby's brain and become comfortingly familiar.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dual language 'boosts brain power' - Learning a second language can boost brain power, scientists believe.

Differences were seen in the brainstem (colored orange
in this picture) Photo Credit: BBC.UK online

Speaking two languages profoundly affects the brain and changes how the nervous system responds to sound, lab tests revealed.

Experts say the work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides "biological" evidence of this (see full title and abstract of paper at the end of this post). 
For the study, the team monitored the brain responses of 48 healthy student volunteers - which included 23 who were bilingual - to different sounds.
They used scalp electrodes to trace the pattern of brainwaves.
Under quiet, laboratory conditions, both groups - the bilingual and the English-only-speaking students - responded similarly.
But against a backdrop of noisy chatter, the bilingual group were far superior at processing sounds.
They were better able to tune in to the important information - the speaker's voice - and block out other distracting noises - the background chatter.
'Powerful' benefits
And these differences were visible in the brain. The bilingualists' brainstem responses were heightened.
Prof Nina Kraus, who led the research, said: "The bilingual's enhanced experience with sound results in an auditory system that is highly efficient, flexible and focused in its automatic sound processing, especially in challenging or novel listening conditions."
Co-author Viorica Marian said: "People do crossword puzzles and other activities to keep their minds sharp. But the advantages we've discovered in dual language speakers come automatically simply from knowing and using two languages.
"It seems that the benefits of bilingualism are particularly powerful and broad, and include attention, inhibition and encoding of sound."
Musicians appear to gain a similar benefit when rehearsing, say the researchers.
Past research has also suggested that being bilingual might help ward off dementia in older subjects. 


Bilingualism profoundly affects the brain, yielding functional and structural changes in cortical regions dedicated to language processing and executive function [Crinion J, et al. (2006) Science 312:1537–1540; Kim KHS, et al. (1997) Nature 388:171–174]. Comparatively, musical training, another type of sensory enrichment, translates to expertise in cognitive processing and refined biological processing of sound in both cortical and subcortical structures. Therefore, we asked whether bilingualism can also promote experience-dependent plasticity in subcortical auditory processing. We found that adolescent bilinguals, listening to the speech syllable [da], encoded the stimulus more robustly than age-matched monolinguals. Specifically, bilinguals showed enhanced encoding of the fundamental frequency, a feature known to underlie pitch perception and grouping of auditory objects. This enhancement was associated with executive function advantages. Thus, through experience-related tuning of attention, the bilingual auditory system becomes highly efficient in automatically processing sound. This study provides biological evidence for system-wide neural plasticity in auditory experts that facilitates a tight coupling of sensory and cognitive functions.

5 Myths About Bilingual/Dual Language Education for Children

Dual Language Classroom- Hoboken, NJ (2013)
For all the advantages they have bilingual kids—or their parents perhaps—must contend with a lot of myths about their ability to speak two or more languages. One-language-only speakers create myths and tell untruths about bilingual kids and spread them wide, as if they were forest fires, to members of the group. In general, there are five myths, false notions, they have honed in order to undermine the benefits of raising bilingual kids. The following summary is based on research and was summarized very well by Delfin Carbonell Basset. 

  1. A bilingual kid’s brain will get confused with so many different words in different languages. The learning of two tongues from the onset will delay a child’s communication skills. Nonesense. We know that language input starts from the very day the person is born, and the brain, given its plasticity, will adapt to whatever it is exposed to. The more stimuli the better for the mind, and children can tell the difference from one language to another very soon. No confusion ever.
  2. A bilingual kid’s cognitive development will be affected. Many studies show the contrary effect, and it stands to reason because two-language children have the advantage over one-language children, who have only one communication tool and thus less stimulus for neuronal development. This misconception has deprived millions in the United States of the blessings of two-language education.
  1. A child must start being bilingual from day one or else she won’t make it. Of course this is the best under perfect conditions but perfect conditions and situations are few and far between, as we all know. It is never too late to expose a child to another language. The possibilities of the brain acquiring speech are still unknown but they are boundless. It is never too late for any one, at any age, to learn another language. In fact, the older you are, the more cognitive benefits, to the point that many health care professionals urge elderly people to study another language in order to keep mentally fit and alert.
  2. Some children refuse to learn two languages and they stick to one. And some children refuse to eat vegetables and fish and prefer chocolate. This possible situation does occur and this is where the parents’ and teachers’ strong wills come into play. They must stick to their plan come wind or high water, and use the two languages no matter what.
  3. The United States is a one-language country. Many languages are spoken in this country and many people do not speak English. There are millions of people who are bilingual, completely or to some degree. The United States has now the possibility of becoming bilingual in English and Spanish and those who speak both owe it to their children to expose them to those languages, or at least try to.

    Additional information for young children can be viewed by clicking HERE

Friday, December 6, 2013

PBL Institute Announced--- June 16-20, 2014

The following note was sent to me by my friend and colleague Steve Zipkes who is the principal of Manor New Tech in Manor, TX. His school is a national leader in project based learning, even being visited earlier in 2013 by President Obama. I would suggest those interested in project based learning consider attending his proposed workshop for summer 2013. -Dr. Petrosino 

Greetings My Friends, 

I am bringing you exciting news! After years of requests, Think Forward Project Based Learning has now expanded and will be conducting the first "Think Forward PBL Summit @ Manor New Tech" this summer. We will be offering 3 strands for practitioners and leaders alike. This Summit is not your ordinary sit and get. Put on your scuba gear because we are going deeper.  All participants will be deep diving into PBL, creating, authoring and presenting a project at the end of the 4 days.

If you have ever felt the need to really learn the processes of PBL from practitioners who have lived 100% PBL over the last 7 years (averaging 50-100+ projects each), want to take your knowledge of PBL deeper, or are a leader wanting to figure out how to create structures for PBL success, this is for you.

The attached flyer has hyperlinks for more information and registration. We look forward to seeing you this summer.



Steven Zipkes, M.Ed. 
Manor New Technology High
 Distinguished Educator

  PBI Summit Manor,TX

Monday, November 25, 2013

Daily Quizzes Improve Grades- Especially for College Students From Low SES Populations

Original Wallace School, Hoboken NJ

A hallmark of my Jesuit education was daily quizzes. Mostly in Latin classes but not necessarily exclusively. Now comes an excellent study on the impact of daily quizzes on student achievement. While the study was conducted with college age students, there is no reason why the results should not generalize to broader populations (i.e. younger students). According to a published story in the Daily Texan by Wynne Davis as well as the New York Times, psychology professors Samuel Gosling and James Pennebaker have found that students perform better in an online classroom with daily “benchmark” quizzes rather than a traditional classroom with monumental midterms. UT has transitioned some courses to an online platform, developed by the two professors, named Texas Online World of Educational Research, in which students can participate online through broadcasted lectures that are formatted much like a television show. This is their third semester teaching with the new method.
“We started daily testing people, and we thought maybe it improves performance, and we found that it does improve performance in students, especially in students with low socioeconomic backgrounds. The idea is that if they bring their laptops in, we can give them personalized feedback based on their responses … to integrate many of those things that work well in an intimate class and try to scale those up for the big classes.” -Samuel Gosling
After using the new program, the professors compared the students’ performances to years past and saw a few major differences, Pennebaker said.

Copyright PLoS ONE
“First, students did better on the tests than in previous years when we used a conventional teaching approach,” Pennebaker said. “Second, our students made high grades in their other courses both that same semester and the semester afterwards. Third, our new method reduced the traditional achievement gap between those from upper middle and lower middle class students.
Summary: Grading college students on quizzes given at the beginning of every class, rather than on midterms or a final exam, increases both attendance and overall performance.
Original Research Article: CLICK HERE 
Citation: Pennebaker JW, Gosling SD, Ferrell JD (2013) Daily Online Testing in Large Classes: Boosting College Performance while Reducing Achievement Gaps. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79774. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079774

Friday, November 15, 2013

Unequal Progress on Standardized Tests

Source: US Center for Education Statistics and NY Times 
A recent story in the NY Times by Motoko Rich entitled "U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains" is worth a read in light of the continuous claims of American education failing and U.S. students falling behind other countries. -Dr. Petrosino

American fourth and eighth graders showed incremental gains in reading and math this year, but achievement gaps between whites and blacks, whites and Hispanics, and low-income and more affluent students stubbornly persist, data released by the Education Department on Thursday showed. The results of the tests — administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card — continued an upward trend in both areas over the past two decades. But still, far less than half of the nation’s students are performing at a level deemed proficient in either math or reading.
“There are some positive results here, which we were heartened to see,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exams. “But places where we had hoped to see improvement, we didn’t.”
Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone briefing that schools were having to expend too much energy to bring underprivileged students up to the level of more affluent peers. He urged more focus on the years before formal schooling begins, citing President Obama’s proposal to help states finance preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds. “Why do we want to stay in the catch-up business?” Mr. Duncan asked. 
The average fourth-grade math score this year was 242 on a scale of 500, up from 241 in 2011, the last time the federal assessment results were released. The average eighth-grade math score was 285, up from 284 two years ago.
In reading, the average fourth-grade score edged up slightly to 222 from 221 two years ago, while the average eighth-grade score rose to 268 from 265. About 400,000 fourth graders and 350,000 eighth graders took the exams; the results represent both public and private schools.

Read Full Article: CLICK HERE

Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 NAEP: NEW JERSEY SOLIDIFIES TOP STATE RANKING-NJ’s public education system is among the highest performing in the nation.

Erie-Lakawanna Terminal Hoboken, NJ circa 1950's

According to the Education Law Center, the 2013 results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been released, and New Jersey once again stands as a top performer among participating states. Here’s how New Jersey’s performance stacks up against other states on the test known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
Overall, NJ students rank high compared with students in other states:
  • 4th Grade Math: only 3 states have higher scores than NJ
  • 4th Grade Reading: no states score higher than NJ
  • 8th Grade Math: only 1 state scores higher than NJ
  • 8th Grade Reading: no states score higher than NJ
NJ’s low-income students also perform well when compared with low-income students in other states:
  • 4th Grade Math: only 9 states have higher scores than NJ
  • 4th Grade Reading: only 1 state scores higher than NJ
  • 8th Grade Math: no states score higher than NJ
  • 8th Grade Reading: no states score higher than NJ
Comparing NJ’s 2011 and 2013 NAEP results, 4th and 8th grade scores were unchanged in both math and reading for all students and most race and income subgroups, except for:
  • a significant 9 point gain for Hispanic 8th graders in math;
  • a significant 6 point gain for low-income 8th graders in reading.
These results again demonstrate that NJ’s public education system is among the highest performing in the nation.
“I hope these results will end the false narrative of public school failure too often heard from politicians who should know better,” said David Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director. “The results also show that we still have a lot of work to do, particularly with our most at-risk students. Let’s use these results to redouble our commitment to New Jersey’s recipe for success: provide fair school funding for all districts, expand preschool across the state, and support local educators and parents in the hard work of school improvement, especially in our highest poverty communities.”

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich- NY Times

Columbus Park Hoboken NJ circa 1930's
The following article discusses some of the more finer points about public education and the association of income and wealth has to do with educational attainment. A good read. -Dr. Petrosino 

“There aren’t many things that are more important to that idea of economic mobility — the idea that you can make it if you try — than a good education,” President Obama told students at the State University of New York in Buffalo in August.

It is hardly a partisan belief. About a decade ago, on signing the No Child Left Behind ActPresident George W. Bush argued that the nation’s biggest challenge was to ensure that “every single child, regardless of where they live, how they’re raised, the income level of their family, every child receive a first-class education in America.”
This consensus is comforting. It provides a solution everyone can believe in, whether the problem is income inequality, racial marginalization or the stagnation of the middle class. But it raises a perplexing question, too. If education is a poor child’s best shot at rising up the ladder of prosperity, why do public resources devoted to education lean so decisively in favor of the better off?
Money, to be sure, is not a silver bullet that will automatically lift the test scores of poor American children and close performance gaps. How the money is deployed is absolutely crucial.
Still, the disparity matters a lot. Social and economic deprivation has a particularly strong impact on student performance in the United States. Differences in socio-economic status account for 17 percent of the variation in test scores, according to O.E.C.D. researchers, compared to 9 percent in Canada or Japan. In New York, according to Peter Applebee, an expert on education finance at the United Teacher’s union, only 18 percent of students in the poorest 10 percent of school districts scored above proficiency level in math last year. In the richest tenth, 45 percent did.
These gaps will be hard to close until the lopsided funding of education changes. As income and wealth continue to flow to the richest families in the richest neighborhoods, public education appears to be more of a force contributing to inequality of income and opportunity, rather than helping to relieve it.

Read full article by CLICKING HERE

Friday, November 1, 2013

What is the Approximate Disaggregated Cost per Student for Children Enrolled in the Hoboken Public Schools? Answer: $10,413 (Charter), $13,659 (PreK) and $28,937 (Hoboken District Public Schools)

2013-2014 Hoboken Public School Budget Overview
(student enrollment numbers +/- 3 students)
The $64 Million Dollar Question of late appears to be, what is the cost per student in the Hoboken School District? Evidently this is causing some debate, arguments, and disagreements. The topic came up in a recent candidates debate and there have been a number of "letters to the editors" in local area newspapers and online forums and reported by local media

Calculating per pupil costs is not as complicated as some make it appear and not as simple as some make think. In general, the calculation involves the district's total expenditures divided by the district's total number of students

According to the 2013-2014 Hoboken Board of Education Budget Overview total revenues were equal to $64,300,000. This is the total revenue for the Hoboken District Pubic School plus the Hoboken charter schools, plus the State Mandated and Funded PreK program.  While estimates seem to vary, a general consensus for total number of students serviced by the public schools seems to be 3,100. Unfortunately, this would not give us an accurate per pupil cost since these three entities (the Hoboken School District, the charter schools, and the PreK program) operate in different buildings, with different resources, different salary guides, and consist of different districts and providers. It makes much more sense and is more accurate to parse the numbers so that revenues are matched with the appropriate entity-- charter schools, the PreK program and finally the Hoboken School District. 

Charter School Per Pupil Costs

A review of the official NJ School Performance Report website indicates that there are 757 students attending charter schools in Hoboken. Let's round this off to 750 since this is not an exact science. According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $7,810,000 directed to Hoboken's charter school. This works out to about $10,413 per charter school student in Hoboken

State Mandated and Funded PreK Program Per Pupil Costs

There are 746 children enrolled in the State mandated PreK program in Hoboken. According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $10,190,000 directed to Hoboken's State Mandated and Funded PreK Program. This program is executed primarily via contracted providers such as Catapult (contract terminated 2013), HOPES, CAP, Inc., and Mile Square Early Learning.This works out to about $13,659 per PreK Program student

Hoboken District Public Schools Per Pupil Costs

There are about 1600 students enrolled in the Hoboken Public Schools if you take the number of 3,100 to be true and if you take away the 750 charter school students and the 746 PreK children (Again, not an exact science but roughly 3,100 students - 1500 students = 1600 students). According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $46,300,000 directed toward the Hoboken District Public Schools. This works out to about $28,937 per Hoboken District Public School student

If we wanted to round this out, I think it would be fair to say charter schools spend about $10,500 per student, PreK spends about $14,000 per student, and the Hoboken District Pupil Schools spend about $29,000 per student. 

Admittedly, this is a simple calculation but it does something that is very important. It disaggregates the total budget into its constituent parts and gives us a comparative and proportional sense of the relative costs per student in Hoboken. Once per student costs are accurately estimated, more informed policy decisions can be made by politicians, taxpayers, and voters concerning costs and outcomes of their educational dollar. 

How does this compare? According to an official release on April 12, 2013 by the State of New Jersey Department of Education, there is an average of $18,047 spent per pupil in the state. In fact, by clicking here you can view an interactive map of per pupil spending for the entire state of New Jersey. The State's calculation for "cost per student" uses a more complicated and multi-factor model and does not always correspond with the fairly straight forward statistic used by some agencies and entities.

According to some policymakers, "cost per student" is not always the best statistic for evaluating the cost of education. There are certain issues with using that rubric that do not always scale well and there are requirements certain schools and districts have that others do not. Nonetheless, like a pitcher's ERA in baseball, "cost per student" is a statistic that seems to resonate with most people when talking about educational funding. Unlike a pitcher's ERA, there is some discussion and debate concerning what factors to consider in its calculation. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hoboken School District's Violence and Vandalism Summary Report: How Some Districts Use Raw Numbers Rather Than Rates as an example of a common issue in Analyzing and Reporting of Critical Data

Note: error bars based on standard deviation of rates
An example used in my Knowing and Learning course ....Recently, the Hoboken Board of Education released a document comparing the last 5 years of Violence and Vandalism Reports for the Hoboken School District (see below). Unfortunately, this document reports only the raw number of incidents without taking into account the total number of students or supplying a rate (i.e. "incidents per 100 students"). Supplying a rate would make the data easier to compare across years. Attached are the actual data for the district from the 2008-09 school year to the 2012-13 school year, the same years reported on the Board of Education document. One may discuss, argue, or debate whether the incidents per 100 students is getting better or getting worse under Kids First but the chart provides a more accurate way to made a data driven decision. One thing is clear, the "drop" is not as dramatic when you look at rates instead of raw number of incidents. To be clear, I am not assuming anyone currently doing statistics in the Hoboken School District is cognizant enough to be making conscious decisions to deceive. Rather this is much more likely an example of the lack of expertise in the district in effectively gathering and analyzing data and presenting results to the public.

Even though the rate increased in 2012-13 (4.2656 incidents per 100 students) from 2011-2012 (4.055 incidents per 100 students) the official district document reads: "The report shows a significant drop in the number of incidents over five years." A look at the "per 100" rates indicates no such "significant drop"at all and in fact the rates of violence and vandalism peaked during the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years (Carter/Rusak/Toback/Kids First). Moreover, 2012-2013 saw a slight RISE in the violence and vandalism rate compared to the previous year.
"Rates take into account the size of the population, so comparison can be made across different population groups. By using rates instead of raw numbers, the occurrence of violence and vandalism in one group or cohort can be fairly compared with another."  -Material in any Introduction to Statistics Course 
Furthermore, when you add error bars to the charts (see chart above), you realize the claims of "significantly less" are even less credible and accurate. 
Note the difference when raw numbers are reported rather than rates and standard deviations. The above raw number chart gives the impression things are getting a lot better when its not necessarily the case when compared to the rates chart at the top of this post. Raw numbers do not take into account population size and make it impossible to compare across yearly cohorts in a statistically accurate manner. 
In other posts I have indicated that comparable data (school year 2011-12) around New Jersey is Atlantic City (2.13 incidents per 100 students), Camden (1.6 incidents per 100 students), Newark (.9 incidents per 100 students), and Patterson (1.0 incidents per 100 students).

note: While a new category was added to the EEVRS report in 2011-12 (HIB- Harassment, Intimidation, and Bulling), these incidents were previously responsibly reported under other categories on the form. The fact that the state created a new category to identify these incidents do not mean the incidents were not previously tallied

Data Used in Analysis 

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Enroll 1873 1954 1816 1726 1641
Incidents  91 101 97 70 70
per 100  4.858 5.168 5.3414 4.055 4.2656

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Total student attendance during Kids First leadership of the Hoboken School District (2009-10 to 2012-13)

Note: y-axis not represented from point of origin
How many students are in our schools? A seemingly easy question but sometimes not an easy answer to get that is clear and verifiable with state and district reported data (as opposed to verbal estimates, educated guesses, or political and campaign rhetoric). I was interested in this question recently and found the question challenging to answer. 

What is especially challenging is navigating multiple data sources, and conflicting messages that district enrollment is increasing and messages that district enrollment is declining. Add to this the confusion of whether you add Pre K students, students sent out of district, special education students, or school choice students and the issue can be daunting. Without a clear delineation by these categories, it becomes very difficult and confusing. This is especially true when it is in the best interests of one group to say "our schools are growing" and in the interests of another group to point to declining enrollment as an indicator of declining faith in the leadership of a community's public schools.

Whether Kids First's policies and decisions impacting instruction, programs, finances, governancetest scoresgraduation ratesviolence and vandalism numbers, curriculum or how some teachers have been treated can be directly related to the downward trend in total K-12 student attendance in the school district is difficult to prove. But, a quick summary indicates:

It is clear is that current educational policies and decisions coupled with academic outcomes and results under Kids First are not leading to increased public school enrollment. Moreover, in a city with significant population growth (up 29% since '00) and during a time of an historic economic downturn (2 factors that would lead to expected increases in public school enrollment) the trend line for total K-12 public school enrollment is negative and decreasing. 
What do we know? We know Hoboken has been an explosive growth in population over the last census. The 2000 census counted 38,577 people while the 2012 census counted 50,005 people or a 29% increase in population. So, the city is not experiencing a population decline.

Regular readers of my website will note that the 2009-10 attendance numbers indicate the total K-12 student attendance in the district that the political group known as Kids First inherited as they began their oversight of the district. While the 2013-2014 new budget summary offered by the Hoboken School District is nicely done and very colorful, it leaves out some information previous reports contained including student population total. I expect to have 2013-14 estimated data once the official October 15 attendance numbers are reported and published by the State of NJ's Dept. of Education. I have included url's to the NJ Department of Education sources for all data with active links.

I have looked at official NJ Department of Education data and have come up with the following numbers. These numbers come from the State of NJ Report Cards and the new Performance Reports. Moreover, I have tried to identify only the K-12 student population.

Can there be other reasons for the decline in enrollment? Perhaps so. But what is clear is that enrollment is not increasing even during a time of significant population growth in the city and a time of economic challenges for many. 

State Reported K-12 District Enrollment: Hoboken School District 

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Brandt 55 58
Calabro 137 136
Connors  270 268
Wallace 680 633
HHS 674 635
Total  2029 1816 1730 1641

2009-10 attendance data: (Subtotal - Pupils On Roll 2298)
2010-11/2011-2012 attendance data:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What has Kids First's campaign claim of "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" meant for QSAC Scores on Instruction and Program? Instruction and Program scores have dropped from a high of 87% Pre-Kids First leadership to 68% (failing) according to the NJ Dept. of Education

In February 2013 the most recent Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) results were released for the Hoboken School District. QSAC is an independent district assessment that is monitored by the State of New Jersey's Department of Education and is both independent and objective. Unfortunately, Instruction and Program, THE most important and diverse indicator of competence in curriculum, programs, and professional development opportunities for the entire district, is a problematic and increasingly embarrassing area for the district under Kids First. The latest QSAC Instruction and Program area has the district receiving a failing score of 68%, down from the previous failing score of 69% over a year ago (80% is passing). This is especially disconcerting since the first full QSAC assessment after the district's curriculum writing assignment was completed in the school district led to a score of 87%. Falling from 87% to 68% in a few short years is no surprise given the turnover of building principals, turnover of superintendents and assistant superintendents (many who were interims) and academic directors, the failure to implement the revised Hoboken Curriculum and the clear failure of Board leadership in curriculum and instruction under the Kids First political group.  

The other DPR's (Fiscal, Governance, Operations, and Personnel) gains have been maintained. 

Kids First literature indicates pride in their efforts in Instruction and Program as they state how they have advocated and supported new text books, trying to make the argument that past textbooks were inadequate. Having no experience or expertise in Curriculum or Instruction, this is a common assumption to make. Unfortunately, as Kids First has concentrated on relatively superficial aspects of education such as traditional textbooks, smart boards, and laptops (things that are easy to purchase and are fine educational tools but whose acquisition has little statistical correlation with learning when not accompanied with corresponding meaningful professional development)....test scores and QSAC scores have plummeted.The graph of the QSAC Instruction and Program scores clearly show that leadership matters, that policy matters, and indicates how quickly gains and improvements can be lost when apparently well intentioned yet ill informed and incompetent people assume leadership roles in a school district. 

Why is this happening? The cause cannot be attributed to a single factor. Rather it is a systemic problem that indicates failure of the district as a complex adaptive system. Consider some of the decisions made in the past few years by Kids First: failure to implement the new curriculum, elimination of the Saturday U Program, a reduction in emphasis on the Johns Hopkins Program, adoption of Advanced Placement despite growing research indicating its problematic nature (Click here for more info), eliminating the Alternative High School, bringing 8th graders into the high school and expanding it to grades 8-12. Subsequent expansion of the high school to 7-12 by bringing in 7th graders. Increasing emphasis on test preparation. 4 principals in the high school in 3 years. 4 principals in Wallace school in 3 years. 3 principals in Connors over 3 years. 3 different assistant superintendents over 3 years. Numerous assistant principals in ALL of these schools. Most troubling is an increasing disconnect in faith and confidence in school and district leadership by the teaching staff. A district that is in constant instructional and programmatic educational flux cannot possibly be effectively reflective and responsive to the needs of its organization. 

According to the letter from the Commissioner of Education, the school district failed in a number of areas in Instruction and Program: 
Included in your district’s DPR file is a template for your district improvement plan (DIP).  Please develop your District Improvement Plan (DIP) to address the failed DPR indicators highlighted in yellow below: DPR: Instruction and Program 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 
So, this becomes yet another example that challenges the contention of "continued educational improvement for all children" made by the political group known as Kids First. Only a group with an Orwellian sense of language and communication could possibly declare that a QSAC decline from 87% to 68% would indicate continued educational improvement for all children. Objective and non partisan evaluation by the New Jersey Department of Education appears to agree. 

The following documents articulate the specific areas where previous gains were lost and where improvement must be made.