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. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

N.Y. Education Dept.: 91.5% of teachers rated effective; 87 percent of principals were deemed highly effective or effective

Hanging out the laundry- Hoboken NJ (circa 1954)

The highly controversial testing of teachers produced few poor grades, the state said. Just 1 percent was deemed ineffective, and 4 percent were characterized as developing.
The results are for 126,829 teachers outside New York City; 91.5 percent were deemed effective or highly effective.
The results come after the state released new student assessment scores as part of the Common Core program last summer that showed just 31 percent of New York students in elementary and middle schools were proficient in math and reading.
"The results are striking," state Education Commissioner John King said in a statement. "The more accurate student proficiency rates on the new Common Core assessments did not negatively affect teacher ratings. It's clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core."
The state, however, only released broad results, not specific numbers by school district or region. It doesn't include New York City. It didn't include all teachers. More specific results will be released later this year.
The evaluation system started in 2012 as part of a new state law. Sixty percent of an educator's rating is based on observations in the classroom agreed to by the local union and the schools.
Twenty percent is based on student performance on grade 4-8 state tests. Local districts and unions decide the rest.
Principals were also tested. Nearly 87 percent of principals were deemed highly effective or effective.
"The purpose of the evaluation system is not to create a 'gotcha' environment," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement. "The goal is to improve teaching and learning by targeting professional development to make sure every student receives quality instruction."

Closed Systems: Ecosystem in a Bottle

As part of a class I teach on preparing elementary science teachers we do an activity called "ecosystem in a bottle." Its a fairly easy activity to set up and provides students with an ongoing project for their science classroom. The activity is consistent with many science and mathematics standards as well as some easily adoptable engineering and technology standards as well. The links before are my students ongoing blog journals for their group's ecosystem (each group consists of 2-3 students). Each group of pre-service teachers have added their own aspects to the journaling and you can see what a great job they are doing in modeling this activity for themselves and, in short time, for their own students use. Perhaps even more no time was a textbook used for this activity. 

Directions for Ecosystem in a Bottle: Click HERE
For a different type of Ecosystem in a Bottle: CLICK HERE

Best to take a look at each of these ongoing projects-- you can read the entries for each observation, view pictures, drawings, and dat readings: 

 Group 1:

 Group 2:

 Group 3:

 Group 4:

Group 5:

 Group 6:

 Group 7:

 Group 8:

Ecosystem in a Bottle

Friday, October 18, 2013

What has Kids First's campaign claim of "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" meant for Connor's Elementary School? The details may shock you.

Kids First incumbents seeking Re-Election
based on their claim of "continued educational
improvement for all children in the district"
The political group known as "Kids First" wants your vote so they can "continue educational improvement for all children in the district." We must assume this includes the students at Connors Elementary School located at 2nd and Monroe Street. Keeping in mind Kids First took full majority control of the school district in May of 2009, let's look at what has happened at Connors with a timeline of events. Also, to the many internet readers out there not from Hoboken, NJ, the following post may seem like a joke or a story on The Onion (a daily newspaper heavy of satire). But this is not satire, this is reality. This group has really made the claim of continuing educational improvement for all are the results as documented by State, Federal, and Independent educational organizations and entities...

After 31 months in control: The 2011-2012 Summary Report on Connors School known as the Collaborative Assessment for Planning and Achievement or "CAPA" Report indicates "challenging academic work has not been the focus of instruction. There is limited rigor." The report goes on to state, "there is no evidence that the school's current instructional strategies prepare students to achieve state and national standards." 

Similar results were obtained more formally by the 2012 NJ School Report Card. Click here for details which show clearly the school underperforming not only state averages but also schools in their own District Factor Group (DFG) rankings which are specifically intended to compare schools with similar socio-economic ranking

After 3 years in control: What did the 2013 NJ report Card have to say about how Kids First was doing with addressing the issues facing Connors School?

"This school's academic performance significantly lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance is about average when compared to its peers. The school's college and career readiness significantly lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness lags in comparison to its peers. This school's student growth performance significantly lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its student growth performance lags in comparison to its peers." -NJ Department of Education 
Improvement Status: Focus (lowest possible)
Rationale:  Lowest Subgroup Performance
Full Report: CLICK HERE 

Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly, after 53+ months of Kids First leadership, Connors Elementary School in Hoboken, NJ was recently ranked 1,418 out of 1,438 elementary schools in the state of New Jersey by an independent educational organization headed by former Governor Tom Kean

Connor's is a school that has seen a continuous turnover of principals under Kids First leadership. There have been 3 principals and numerous vice-principals. The administrative turnover rate is similar to the turnover experienced at Hoboken High School and with similar results. The impacts and consequences of high administrative turnover equates to poor Board leadership and severe academic and social consequences for the children of a city that must depend on public education for any hope of a better life.

Is this really anyone's definition of "continued educational improvement"? And, more importantly, what does it say about the credibility and accuracy of information coming from a Board majority that would make such a claim and put political slogans and propaganda ahead of information and clarity concerning the education of the children?

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Two Faculty Positions Open in STEM Education

Hoboken Flood- Circa 1950

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction, at The University of Texas at Austin, invites applications for two tenure-track positions in our STEM Education program, to begin Fall 2014. One position will be at the Assistant Professor level and the other position will be either at the Assistant or Associate level.


  • A doctorate in STEM Education, Mathematics or Science Education, Learning Sciences, or related field
  • Demonstrated excellence or potential for excellence in research and teaching


  • Ability to teach Elementary Math and/or Science Methods
  • Ability to teach in the UTeach program, a secondary level teacher preparation program
  • Ability to teach Quantitative Research Methods courses at the graduate level
  • Funded or externally fundable research program
  • Relevant teaching experience (K -12)
Areas of research specialization are open, but we anticipate that at least one position will focus on either elementary science and/or math. Additionally, we would value colleagues with expertise in research on teacher education, bilingual education, or use of technology in teaching and learning. Above all, we seek talented scholars to join a faculty committed to innovative and socially responsive research and teaching in graduate and undergraduate programs in STEM Education with strong ties to the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Engineering, over 50 full-time graduate students, two nationally recognized teacher certification programs, a large and well-funded Center for STEM Education, and a location in a diverse, rapidly growing, urban setting.  These positions offer a unique combination of opportunities for interdisciplinary inquiry, design-based research, program development, and impact on schools across the region and the nation. The successful candidates will join an active STEM Education faculty with a strong commitment to issues of equity in education, effective and innovative learning technology, and field-based teacher education.  
 Please submit a cover letter addressing the required and preferred qualifications, a curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching philosophy and research interests, and three letters of recommendation to the following email address: In the subject line or body of the email please indicate that the materials are intended for the attention of: Search Committee Chairs for STEM Education, Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb and Dr. Jill Marshall.
Review of applications will begin November 15, 2013. Applications will continue to be accepted until the positions are filled.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kids First's Campaign claim of "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" translates to Hoboken HS Graduation Rate of 74.53% (2nd lowest rate in Hudson County) while New Jersey Statewide HS Graduation Rate Rises 3.29% to 86.46% in Latest NJ Department of Education's Graduation Rate Data

Kids First incumbents seeking Re-Election
based on their claim of "continued educational
improvement for all children in the district"
The most recent NJ High School graduation rates were released recently by the New Jersey Department of Education. The data represents the final adjusted numbers for the 2012 high school graduating classes throughout the state. The state average graduation rate rose 3.29% from 83.17% in 2011 to 86.46% in 2012. Hoboken High School posted a 2012 high school graduation rate of 74.53%. This is a -7.46% drop from the 2011 Hoboken High School graduation rate of 81.98% and was the largest percentage drop in Hudson County. 

"The high school graduation rate is a measure of the health of American society and the skill level of its future workforce. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, each new cohort of Americans was more likely to graduate high school than the preceding one. This upward trend in secondary education increased worker productivity and fueled American economic growth" (Aaronson and Sullivan, 2001). 
Hoboken High School has had 4 principals since February of 2010 (!). In addition, there have been numerous Vice-Principals, each with equally short terms. This turnover, instability, lack of leadership, and high suspension rate can only contribute negatively to the high school's graduation rate. What is especially disturbing is Hoboken has dropped from the fourth to the second lowest graduation rate in Hudson County. 


Commentary: In reflecting on Aaronson and Sullivan's words, what does the current graduation rate say about the health and skill levels of the Hoboken students under the stewardship of the political group known as Kids First and the district's revolving door of administrators? Why has this data not been reported at any Board of Education meeting to date? Is Hoboken becoming a "good news only" school district where objective and independent data collected by the State of New Jersey is neither evaluated, analyzed, or reported? The district was certainly quick to report on some nominal gains on state testing recently. One certainly must wonder the reasons unflattering data such as the high school graduation rate are not being reported by the district. Whatever the reason(s)--- the data and the trend of the data is disturbing.   

For information on how high school graduation rate is calculated by the New Jersey Department of Education CLICK HERE. 

For State by State HS Graduation Rate CLICK HERE

*NOTE: this post uses ONLY New Jersey Department of Education officially released data that is posted online. District self report data has not been used.

Reference: Aaronson Daniel, Sullivan Daniel. Growth in Worker Quality. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Economic Perspectives. 2001;25(4):53–74.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kids First's Campaign claim of "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" translates to the traditional public schools of Hoboken having the highest rate of violence and vandalism in Hudson County and higher rates of violence and vandalism than the Atlantic City, Camden, Patterson and Newark School Districts

Kids First incumbents seeking Re-Election
based on their claim of "continued educational
improvement for all children in the district"
There is literally no end to the wonderful things that Kids First claims they have done since they first took full control of the Hoboken Public Schools back in 2009. Just read their campaign literature and you'll find that they want to "continue" the educational improvement they have initiated. It has already been shown that "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" translates to the high school being ranked 344th out of 352 high schools in NJ, a district designated a "District in Need of Improvement" for the first time in history by the State of New Jersey, and Connors Elementary School obtaining a ranking of 1,418 out of 1,438 elementary schools in NJ

Now there is even more data on the "continued educational improvement for all children in the district" but this time it comes in the form of the annual violence and vandalism report mandated by the New Jersey Department of Education. I'll leave it to others to decide whether the following data satisfies their notion of continued improvement. But, I believe these numbers are due in no small part to Kids First policy decisions that have led to high administrative turnover in the schools, high administrative turnover in the district, and not funding programs focusing on school safety.  -Dr. Petrosino

The 2011-2012 Commissioner’s Annual Report to the Education Committee of the Senate and General Assembly on Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Schools was released in October 2012 by Commissioner Christopher D. Cerf. 

The report indicates that total incidents of self-reported occurrences of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse, and bullying in the Hoboken City District are 320% above the Hudson County average and 210% above the State of New Jersey average. Except for the small East Newark School district (total student pop. 229), the Hoboken public schools have the highest number of incidents per student* in Hudson County (4.05 incidents per 100 students in the Hoboken Public Schools; County average 1.3 incidents per 100 students). Hoboken schools make up 2.19% of Hudson County's public school population yet account for 7% of the total incidents reported countywide. 

Around the state, Atlantic City (2.13 incidents per 100 students), Camden (1.6 incidents per 100 students), Newark (.9 incidents per 100 students), and Paterson (1.0 incidents per 100 students) school districts reported less incidents per 100 students than Hoboken while Asbury Park (10.13 incidents per 100 students) reported significantly higher. Bullying accounted for less of a percentage of total incidents in Hoboken (21.4%) than Hudson County (36.1%) and statewide (46.0%). 

Hudson County Vocational School had the least number of incidents in Hudson County with .07 incidents per 100 students.  

* Keep in mind, you cannot go by totals only. You need to account for the size of the district as well (incidents per student). If you do not, the bigger districts will almost always have more total number of incidents. Generally, "incidents per 100 students" is a reasonable and acceptable way to communicate results such as these in educational research and policy.  

                                                                                    # # #

Full report:

DISTRICT (Hudson) Students in 
Total Violence and Vandalism Acts Violence and Vandalism per pupil Violence and Vandalism Incidents per 100 pupils

1272 1 0.001 0.08
W. NEW YORK  7805 37 0.005 0.47
WEEHAWKEN  1232 8 0.006 0.65
BAYONNE CITY 9418 74 0.008 0.79
NORTH BERGEN  7819 71 0.009 0.91
JERSEY CITY 27394 353 0.013 1.29
KEARNY  5920 85 0.014 1.44
SECAUCUS  2156 32 0.015 1.48
UNION CITY 10800 179 0.017 1.66
HARRISON  2031 45 0.022 2.22
GUTTENBERG  931 22 0.024 2.36
HOBOKEN  1726 70 0.041 4.06
EAST NEWARK  229 22 0.096 9.61

Violence and Vandalism Incident per 100 students
Asbury Park 
Atlantic City

Here is the latest data from 2012-2013...totals for 2012-13 (69) are not significantly different that 2011-12 (70).

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job..." 

Photo: Published in an online story by The Jersey Journal/NJ.COM by Charles Hack, September 21, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting - October 8, 2013: Release of 2012-2013 Violence and Vandalism Report Among Other Items

Still from "Boardwalk Empire" (see below)

Tonight's meeting will be the last meeting before the Hoboken Board of Education elections.

Interactive agenda can be found at:

District Annual Violence and Vandalism Report for 2012-2013 will be presented at this meeting. For a view of the report see below or  CLICK HERE

How did the Hoboken School District under the Kids First majority Board of Education do on the New Jersey Violence and Vandalism Reports from 2009-10 to 2011-2012? Click here for chart and results. 

How does the Hoboken School District under the Kids First majority Board of Education compare to other districts in Hudson County and around the State of New Jersey from 2009-10 to 2011-2012? Click here for chart and results.  

Picture: Still from Boardwalk Empire (added by Opark 77)