Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Utah Spends the Least, New York Spends Most and New Jersey is Third in Per-Student Spending: Census Report

Old St. Anne's Convent
The following story is condensed from a longer story by Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer for the Pew Charitable Trust. You can view article by clicking HERE

For the first time in nearly four decades, the amount of public money spent per student decreased slightly in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. New data show New York spends the most on each student and Utah, the least.
The 50 states and the District of Columbia spent an average $10,560 per student in 2011, down 0.4 percent from 2010, the Census Bureau said in its report,Public Education Finances: 2011.
Mississippi had the highest percentage of its total public school revenue coming from the federal government at 22.3 percent, followed by South Dakota (20.3 percent), Louisiana (18.7 percent), Alaska (17.8 percent), Florida (17.8 percent) and New Mexico (17.7 percent).
New Jersey had the lowest percentage of federal school money at 5.1 percent, followed by New Hampshire (6.5 percent), Vermont (7.1 percent), Massachusetts (7.8 percent), Minnesota (7.8 percent) and Connecticut (8.3 percent).
State governments provide the largest source of school revenue at $265.9 billion (44.4 percent of total school spending), followed by local governments at $259.5 billion (43.3 percent) and the federal government at $73.7 billion (12.3 percent). Property taxes made up 65.6 percent of public school money.
Total spending by public elementary and secondary school systems totaled $595.1 billion in 2011, down 1.1 percent from 2010. This is the second time total expenditures have shown a year-to-year decrease. The first was in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
The decline in per-student spending was the first since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data on an annual basis in 1977. 
The report includes detailed statistics on spending, such as instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits, at the national, state and school district levels.
Top per-student spenders: 1) New York ($19,076); 2) District of Columbia ($18,475); 3) Alaska ($16,674); 4) New Jersey ($15,968); and 5) Vermont ($15,925)
Bottom per-student spenders: 1) Utah ($6,212); 2) Idaho ($6,824); 3) Oklahoma ($7,587); 4) Arizona ($7,666); and 5) Mississippi ($7,928)

Public Elementary-Secondary Education Fiance Data- CLICK HERE 
Public Education Finances: 2011 (released May 2013): CLICK HERE

Picture: St. Anne's Convent (b. 1965)- now the new H.O.P.E.S Infant Care Center

7th Annual UTeach Conference

For the next 3 days 300+ colleagues from over 50 colleges and universities will be at the University of Austin to discuss replication efforts of a program I helped found entitled "UTeach"-- which is "transforming the way math and science pre-service teachers are trained and educated" according to President Obama. We recently received over $20 million from the Howard Hughes Foundation to add another 10 research universities for replication. "From small things....big things one day come" -B. Springsteen

Find out more by clicking HERE

Picture: "UTeach swag" 7th Annual Conference, Austin, TX 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Keys to Effective District Leadership...and the Consequences and Ramifications of Poor Leadership

Former Intrim Hoboken Superintendent
of Schools- Mr. Peter Carter (2009-2011)

I recently came across a very thoughtful piece on what it takes to be a thoughtful and effective educational leader in a school district-- essentially, what makes a good superintendent? The four characteristics are 1) Make the Rounds, Open, Relaxed Conversation, Town Hall Accessibility, and Establish a Satellite Office. And, as I reflected on these characteristics I could not help but be reminded of the former interim Superintendent of the Hoboken Schools, Mr. Peter Carter who said at his initial meeting with the faculty of the Hoboken School District in September 2009 where he stated (paraphrasing)... "When you see me, don't talk to me" Safe to say, Mr. Carter probably had different characteristics as a school leader that differed significantly from these 4 characteristics and characteristics I tried to establish in the district (see below). One of Mr. Carter's characteristics may have led to a recent settlement by the School Board and one of its former principals (Dr. Lorraine Cella) on harassment issues. ( note: After having her school named "Second Most Improved High School in the State of New Jersey" by New Jersey Monthly and being recognized in successive years by US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT as a Bronze Medal Award Winner, Dr. Cella was informed she would likely not be retained for the 2010-2011 school year). 

Peter Carter, of course, was the unanimous selection of the Kids First Board Majority of the Hoboken Board of Education and he served as superintendent from September 2009 to the Spring of 2011- a period where the Hoboken School District experienced the beginning of its well documented decline in state rankings, school violence, student population decline, increase in "school choice" students from Jersey City, the elimination of Adult Education resident at Hoboken High School (adults now need to travel to all parts of Hudson County), drop in ranking in NJ Monthly and US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, and increase in per pupil spending....culminating in the district being designated as a "district in need of improvement" by the New Jersey Department of Education in November of 2011. Leadership does matter.  -Dr. Petrosino 
The key to building relationships that will strengthen an educational leader's vision is being highly accessible and spending quality time talking and listening to teachers and support staff. This might seem like old news to veteran educators, but with email and social networking as the prevailing ways of communication, it is worth reminding leaders that there is no substitute for pressing the flesh.

Here are my four suggestions toward becoming a more effective leader.

1. Make the Rounds

Be a presence in schools each day. I make a point to start my morning in the hallways and then conduct my walks before the day gets ahead of me. Start the day in the office, and you're likely to end the day in the office (save for that weekly administration team meeting). An educational leader's work clock runs at least seven hours. How much time can one possibly spend in meetings and doing office paperwork? Just by cutting one to two hours out of my office day to spend a few minutes in each classroom and hallway of my small school district, I’ve learned more about the little (but often very important) things going on than I would have learned from email, phone calls or hearsay. Besides learning about the evolving culture of my schools, walking the hallways every day and being highly accessible has been key to showing everyone that I care about the school district at every level.

2. Open, Relaxed Conversation

Invite a school leader's cabinet to an early takeout dinner once per month. A conglomeration of parents and teachers sitting around Chinese food can lead to the same open, relaxed conversations we might have on the town soccer fields. A wonderful way to learn about what's really happening in the local community is to break bread (or egg rolls) in a casual setting on a regular basis.

3. Town Hall Accessibility

Hold vision town halls during which you share your short-, mid- and long-term goals in a conversation-style gathering. The meeting could be held in a classroom to set the context. You want to make it absolutely clear that your vision is all about children.

4. Establish a Satellite Office

I have a second, smaller office in another school district location. I took this cue from another American president, Woodrow Wilson, who heavily promoted a change in the way government operated by making frequent visits to Capitol Hill. He set up shop in the building's President's Room as often as three times per week to help him complete his work in the presence Congressional legislators. Wilson used the power of personality to engage the people on whom he depended to enact his proposals, and his satellite White House allowed for this engagement to happen naturally.

When I was the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Hoboken I began nearly everyday at one of the 6 schools in the district. Often I was at the Wallace School yard, sometimes I was at Connors, other times at Hoboken High School. The idea was simply to be around and accessible. I would often talk to parents, teachers, administrators and sometimes students. I would also make it a point to visit at least 1 school a day. This was part of the way I tried to MAKE THE ROUNDS. As anyone who worked with me knows, I always tried to create an OPEN, RELAXED CONVERSATION and atmosphere. Whether it was with the Curriculum Committee, or my leadership cabinet, or meetings with parents and people from the community. To complement this relaxed atmosphere, I tried to have TOWN HALL ACCESSIBILITY. In part this was accomplished daily by my blog which gave a detailed account of what was going on in the district on a weekly and often a daily timeline. In addition, I would make numerous updates to the public at Board of Education meetings and I held a dozen "open forums" with parents and the community on issues related around curriculum, assessment, and special programs in the district. Finally, I made a SATELLITE OFFICE in Brandt School which served as a place for the district to do professional development, meet with parents, work on curriculum, and generally engage in the work of the district in a relaxed and less formal atmosphere. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Selective memory (cont’d)

More issues concerning the Hoboken School Budget--- this is a letter from Board member Biancamano addressing a previous letter from fellow Board member Sobolov. I have included hyperlinks on some of the points made in the letter. -Dr. Petrosino 

Full Link to: Selective memory (cont’d)
May 05, 2013 | 86 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

I feel obligated to write a response to Mrs. Sobolov’s recent letter to your paper. Certainly Mrs. Sobolov is entitled to her opinion, but as I said in my previous letter, she should not use selective memory in basing those opinions. I again ask Mrs. Sobolov, why she wouldn’t put a 4 percent tax increase on the ballot? She certainly wrote many reasons why she voted to raise taxes, but did not discuss how or why she took the right away from the public to vote on what to do what their money. Oh that’s right, it “happened over a year ago”, so perhaps Mrs. Sobolov is hoping that everyone will have forgotten about it by now (same meeting where KIds First voted to mover the elections to November). Perhaps by “cold comfort” Mrs. Sobolov meant that since taxpayers cannot vote on the municipal budget here in Hoboken now they have no choice about a 4 percent increase in their school taxes either.

Mrs. Sobolov partially blames the Hola Charter School for raising taxes, but again I need to remind the public of her actions in the past. The Dual-Language program initially wanted to be part of the public school system but Mrs. Sobolov and many of her political allies were against this. Now the Dual-Language Hola Charter School currently has nearly 250 students – the majority of who could have been part of our public school for it wasn’t for the opposition from Mrs. Sobolov and her allies. That, too, happened more than a year ago so perhaps she would prefer that we just forget about it and take “cold comfort” from the fact that we have out-of-town students to fill some of the otherwise empty seats.

The board majority, specifically Mrs. Sobolov, say that they are very curious about what the board members who voted against a tax increase would do to cut the budget. Yet, a few years ago, Mrs. Sobolov and her allies voted to fire Paula Ohaus and Chen-Yen Hillenbrand even though hundreds of residents came out and the board minority including myself told them not to. Time and time again, the members of the Board Majority demonstrate that they do not value the other Board Members’ input if it differs from their opinion. Yet they want to hear my suggestions now? If I thought they were up to no good, I might think that they were looking for someone on whom to lay blame. But, perhaps they just forgot, again, the lack of respect they have shown in the past for my input.

Anyone can look at the district report card on the NJDOE website to see our actual enrollment figures and verify the information in my previous letter. You can see our test scores, you can see our costs. But perhaps we can all take “cold comfort” in knowing that Mrs. Sobolov tells us that the tax increase she voted for was “needed.”

Peter Biancamano
Hoboken Board of Education Member

Read more:Hudson Reporter - Selective memory cont’d

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why is per student cost in Hoboken so high?- Recent Letters to the Hoboken Reporter

President Theodore Roosevelt in Hoboken (1909)
There have been a number of Letters to the Editors in the Hoboken Reporter recently speaking about the per pupil costs in the Hoboken School District. I am including 2 thoughtful letters by Michael Fischetti which were published on April 28, 2013 and May 12, 2013. I am also including a "response" from someone who feels the per pupil costs were higher a few years ago. 

Clearly, some clarity needs to be brought to this situation. Per pupil costs are relatively easy to calculate but there are complicating factors which can become confusing to someone not fully acquainted with terminology. To a large part, this confusion has been leveraged by the Kids First Board of Education majority to make people think the Board is paying for all sorts of things and blaming the high cost per pupil on everything and everyone but themselves. 

Please enjoy these recents letters and posts on the topic of per pupil costs in the Hoboken Public Schools.  -Dr. Petrosino 


1) Why is per student cost in Hoboken so high?
Apr 28, 2013 | 248 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

Recently, the Hoboken BOE passed a budget for the coming year. It is about $64 million. It seems like a lot since the school district has about 2,100 students. Roughly, that amounts to over $30,000 per student per year. Some of the best private schools in the area do not charge that much for tuition and fees. By way of comparison here is how Hoboken compares to some other jurisdictions.

Hoboken: 2,100 students, $64 million, $30,000 per student; Weehawken: 1,250 students, $24 million, $19,000 per student; Glen Ridge: 1,800 students, $26 million, $13,000 per student; Montclair: 6,700 students, $118 million, $17,000 per student; Jersey City: 28,000 students, $660 million, $23,000 per student; Union City: 12,500 students, $220 million, $18,000 per student.

Regardless of the source of funding or size of the jurisdiction Hoboken spends more. Why?

Michael Fischetti

2) What is per student cost in Hoboken so high and why are the results so poor?
May 12, 2013 | 603 views | 3 3 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

When I sent in my letter to the editor a couple of weeks ago, I asked why per student cost was so high-over $30,000 per student. That was before I learned that Hoboken was second only to one other school district in New Jersey in cost per student, and that Hoboken ranks in the bottom 25 percent of New Jersey schools.

It is probably time to examine the governance structure and the quality of management when expenditures are so high and achievement is so low. Certainly, the people of Hoboken deserve better.

Michael Fischetti

Read more:Hudson Reporter - What is per student cost in Hoboken so high and why are the results so poor


May 12, 2013
Our pupil costs are high but I believe based on your original letter, your math is way off. You calculate the per pupil cost based on the BOE budget which includes funding for pre-school and charter schools but your pupil count doesn't include all those kids. You also should keep in mind the district spends well over $6mm on special ed students and I'd be curious to see how many districts spend on average over $3K per pupil on that line item. You should also ask yourself how much higher the costs would be if the people who ran the district 5 or so years ago were still in power. Many of the people they put on the payroll who never went near a classroom are no longer on the payroll. Go also look at the budgets and more detailed information. Go track down that audit from 2008 I believe. It was quite informative. There is a ton of information out there worth looking at and I encourage you to look at it all.

Read more:Hudson Reporter - What is per student cost in Hoboken so high and why are the results so poor

Picture Information: 

Roosevelt with crowd, Hoboken, N.J.

  • Digital ID: (digital file from original neg.) ggbain 03222
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-03222 (digital file from original neg.)
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hoboken Board of Education: May 14, 2013 Full Agenda

St. Anne's Church under construction- circa 1922
The following is the full agenda for the Tuesday, May 14th meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education. At 52+ pages long it is certainly a full agenda which will no doubt lead to some interesting discussions.

Two resolutions of note is RESOLUTION NO. FI-0021-12-13 which indicates the Hoboken Reporter will only be used in the future on an "as-needed" basis and will no longer be one of the official newspapers used by the Board of Education. Another resolution that is interesting is NO. FI-0022-12-13 which adopts Parliamentary Procedures for the Board meetings. If such a resolution is passed, it is highly advisable that Board members receive specific training in parliamentary procedure for meetings to be fully effective. Watching the procedures on local television or at meetings is far from proper use of parliamentary procedures with the biggest offenses coming from key Board leadership.

RESOLUTION NO. FI-0021-12-13
RESOLVED, that the Board of Education, upon recommendation of the Business Administrator,
approves the following:
To authorize the Jersey Journal and Star Ledger be adopted as the official newspapers to be used for the
advertisement of meetings and legal ads and all other necessary public notifications for the 2013-2014
school year and the Hoboken Reporter be used on an as-needed basis and hereby is submitted.

RESOLUTION NO. FI-0022-12-13
RESOLVED, that the Board of Education, upon recommendation of the Business Administrator,
approves to adopt Roberts Rules of Order as the official parliamentary procedure manual to be used to
conduct meetings and appoint the board secretary and board attorney to act as the parliamentarians for the
2013-2014 school year.

Agenda: Hoboken Board of Education Meeting May 14, 2013

Petrosino Interviewed on National Public Radio Concerning STEM Education

President Obama visits Bobby Garcia's Robotics Class
at Manor New Tech HS, Manor, TX
Recently, I was interviewed by Kate McGee of KUT News, and NPR affiliate concerning STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education and STEM careers. The interview coincided with a visit to Austin by President Obama to Manor New Tech High School, a school that I have been involved with since its formation in 2007 and centers on Project Based Instruction and meaningful disciplinary knowledge and is part of the New Tech Network of schools across the nation. Manor New Tech is a public non-charter school. 

You can read and listen to the flu article and the piece that ran on the radio by clicking here: As Obama's High School Visit Nears, Education Advocates Question Emphasis on STEM

The core of the interview centered on the value of a STEM education but also indicated that it may not be a panacea for all that is effecting our troubled economy. I would encourage you to read the full article and to listen to the broadcast. 

I will also post more about the President's visit to Manor New Tech High School in Manor, TX

-Dr. Petrosino 
President Obama's visit to Manor New Tech comes as the White House, the private sector and some education advocates continue to emphasize the importance of STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math). But some say there may be too much emphasis on STEM programs. 

“It’s one thing to understand physics; it’s another thing to understand why some concepts in physics are difficult for students to understand,” says Anthony Petrosino with the UTeach program. “We put leverage on both of those.”STEM programs have gained popularity in recent years as a way to address a perceived lack of qualified candidates for tech jobs.  

Petrosino says the more people know about science, math and technology, the better. But he doesn’t think STEM will fill all high-tech openings.

“There’s some colleagues at Rutgers, Harvard saying, ‘You know, we’re graduating at the college level a number of STEM grads, but they’re not getting the types of jobs, benefits, incomes we may expect,’” he says. “We always want to be carful not be caught up in the frenzy.”

Picture: Provided by Mr. Bobby Garcia, Manor New Tech HS, Manor, TX. President Obama visiting Robotics Class-- Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Instruction for Discovery Learning: Levels of Implementation Exhibited by a Sample of Algebra I Teachers

Hoboken Piers Roadhouse (date unknown)
The following is an abstract of a Master's thesis recently completed by a student of mine where she looked at inquiry mathematics across a number of different schools and different teachers in Central Texas. Very interesting study with some interesting implications. -Dr. Petrosino

Hoffman, Shannah

The University of Texas at Austin

Master of Arts

Math Education
Document Information

Instruction for Discovery Learning: Levels of Implementation Exhibited by a Sample of Algebra I Teachers

May 2013


discovery learning; inquiry-based learning; project-based instruction; teacher orientation; mathematics education; student surveys; classroom observation; school culture

One type of instruction that is of particular interest in STEM education is instruction that actively engages students in inquiry and discovery. The author develops an operational definition of instruction for discovery learning (IDL) that adopts some of the fundamental commonalities among many reform-oriented instructional frameworks such as inquiry-based and project-based instruction. Four teachers—who received their bachelor’s degree in mathematics and teacher certification from the same undergraduate teacher-preparation program—and their Algebra I classes were observed with the focus on how particular features of IDL were being implemented in their classrooms. To gain further perspective on classroom practices and interactions, student surveys were administered to a total of 142 students and each teacher was interviewed. The student surveys focused on student orientations toward IDL, attitudes toward mathematics, and their perspective of IDL implementation in their class. Student survey data was analyzed through ANOVA, post hoc tests were used to identify significant pair-wise differences between teachers for which the ANOVA identified significance, and a factor analysis was used to evaluate the component loadings for the survey questions. The surveys revealed significant differences between perceived activities in the classes (p<0.05), but did not show very significant differences between student orientations toward IDL. All four teachers expressed familiarity with and commitment to reform-oriented frameworks such as inquiry-based and project-based instruction, and certainly experienced inquiry-based learning as students themselves in their undergraduate program. However, only one teacher—the one teaching in a New Tech high school that was structured on the framework of project-based instruction (PBI)—showed consistent differences in both student perspectives of IDL and observed implementation of IDL. The author discusses the levels at which these teachers implemented IDL, the differences among student perceptions across the classes, teacher orientations toward mathematics and learning, and the importance of a supportive school culture and administration in order to fully implement IDL and influence both student and teacher orientations toward reform-oriented pedagogy.

Petrosino, Anthony (chair)

Daniels, Mark



  • Digital ID: (None) hhh
  • Reproduction Number: HAER NJ,9-HOBO,3--35
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Teachers' Orientations Towards and Awareness of Students' Evolutionary and Natural Selection Alternative Conceptions and Their Influence on Teaching Practice

Hoboken City Hall circa 1981
The following is information about a dissertation that was recently completed by my graduate student Margaret Lucero. Margaret did a series of studies on evolution at the secondary school level. She will graduate this month and begin a faculty position at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the Fall of 2013. -Dr. Petrosino 

Teachers' Orientations Towards and Awareness of Students' Evolutionary and Natural Selection Alternative Conceptions and Their Influence on Teaching Practice

May 2013


evolutionary theory; alternative conceptions; pedagogical content knowledge; subject matter knowledge

Evolution is the conceptual framework on which biology is based, but its components are not well understood by many individuals, and the topic is home to many deeply-held alternative conceptions. Nevertheless, eliciting alternative conceptions can be a valuable resource for both teaching and learning, but teachers often feel ill-equipped with how to elicit their students’ alternative conceptions and/or use them in an effective manner to deepen their students’ understanding of scientific concepts. Little research exists regarding how the daily demands and practices of a group of high school teachers from the same campus impact their students’ understanding of evolutionary concepts when being aware of, eliciting, and potentially using their students’ alternative conceptions as resources for learning. Using a conceptual framework that focuses on the relationship between teachers’ subject matter knowledge (SMK) and aspects of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), this set of studies reports a line of inquiry from a single site that researched how: 1) students from an urban high school learned various evolutionary and nature of science (NOS) concepts; 2) one group of biology teachers went about eliciting and using their students’ alternative conceptions on various evolutionary concepts during classroom instruction; and 3) another group of biology teachers planned and implemented an instructional unit on evolution when their students’ alternative conceptions were predicted and identified with a concept inventory, specifically the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS). Various data sources, including classroom observations and teacher interviews, were used to examine the teachers’ practices in the latter two studies. Results from the third (current) study revealed the teachers were well aware of their students’ natural selection alternative conceptions and this area of their PCK was not necessarily related to their SMK of the topic. Sustaining a kind of supportive learning environment where alternative conceptions were elicited and used for learning was a goal of the teachers, but they felt they could not capitalize on such opportunities for learning due to various personal and/or institutional constraints. Results also demonstrated that the teachers valued how the CINS probed student understanding and used its results strategically, and made several recommendations for high school use.


Main stairway of 1st floor - Hoboken City Hall, 86-98 Washington Street, Hoboken, Hudson County, NJ

  • Digital ID: (None) hhh
  • Reproduction Number: HABS NJ,9-HOBO,1--4
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA