Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Charters Not Outperforming Nation’s Traditional Public Schools but Improving report says-

Dry Dock Construction at Sinatra Park, Hoboken NJ- June 2013
The question that many people seem to want to know, especially in the educational policy arena, is whether charter schools provide more effective instruction or student outcomes than traditional public school education. While the debate is likely to go on for sometime, a new report out of Stanford University will likely shed some useful information on this important topic. It is important to realize that this is a "big data" study and comparing charters vs traditional schools on a statewide and national basis and not on an individual basis. Any individual school can be better or worse than any other individual or type of schools. However, when we look in the aggregate, trends and general assumptions can be made with more confidence. -Dr. Petrosino 

The nation’s public charter schools are growing more effective but most do not produce better academic results when compared with traditional public schools, according to a report released Tuesday

For Full Report click HERE
For Executive Summary click HERE

Researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes looked at test data from charter schools in 26 states and the District and found that 25 percent of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading while 29 percent of charters delivered stronger results in math. That marked an improvement over a similar 2009 study by the same research team.
But 56 percent of the charters produced no significant difference in reading and 19 percent had worse results than traditional public schools. In math, 40 percent produced no significant difference and 31 percent were significantly worse than regular public schools.
Greater numbers of minority and poor students with academic deficits are attending public charter schools now than in 2009, said Margaret Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes. That would seem to contradict a widely repeated criticism that charters attract motivated families while public schools are left to absorb the most challenged students, she said.
The study found that poor children, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, made the greatest gains in charters while children who are not poor — no matter their race — gained nothing or even performed worse than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Hispanic students who are English language learners also made gains in reading and math in charter schools.
The report was also discussed in the New York Times, and Huffington Post, among other media outlets.  

Full article can be accessed by clicking HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agenda: Hoboken Board of Education Meeting- June 25, 2013

The following is the agenda for the Hoboken Board of Education Meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 25th at 7pm at 1115 Clinton Street.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Releases New Report: The Heart of the Matter- "general sense that the humanities and social sciences are under attack "

4th Street Park (Church Square Park)- June 2013, Hoboken NJ
From states considering differential tuition that would be punitive toward the humanities to talk of tying state funding to the production of “high-demand” degrees, there’s a general sense that the humanities and social sciences are under attack. But a new report out today argues that they play a vital role in growing an informed, career-oriented population equipped for leadership in an increasingly interconnected world.

“At the very moment when China and some European nations are seeking to replicate our model of broad education in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences as a stimulus to innovation and a source of social cohesion,” the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ “The Heart of the Matter” report reads, “we are instead narrowing our focus and abandoning our sense of what education has been and should continue to be – our sense of what makes America great.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Republican-led House committee passes new federal education bill

5th and Willow Avenue- Circa 1967
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted along party lines, 23 to 16, on a bill to replace No Child Left Behind, the George W. Bush-era law that marked a significant expansion of federal authority in local school matters.
In passing the bill, Republicans took a clear turn away from Bush’s philosophy that states receiving billions of dollars each year in federal aid should be accountable to Washington.
The House action comes after Democrats in the Senate passed their own bill in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that would maintain much of the federal oversight of public education.
The question is whether House Republicans and Senate Democrats can find consensus on a single bill, something many observers say seems unlikely.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NJ Department of Education Censures Another Batch of Charter Schools- Nearly 25% of New Jersey's charters are on watch list

This is a very good article by John Mooney of NJSpotLight-- Full article can be accessed by clicking HERE.

With little attention, the Christie administration yesterday said it has put another three charter schools on probation and issued warning letters to 11 others as it seeks to further raise standards for the alternative schools.

The decisions came after a statewide review of charter performance, an effort that is expected to culminate in new assessments for each school this summer.

There are more than 80 charter schools in New Jersey; the new list means that close to a quarter are now on some form of state watch. Ten charter schools had already been on probation.
"We take accountability seriously -- whether the school is a charter school or a district school -- and this is what accountability looks like, we expect that all schools on probation will address their deficiencies and improve. But if they don't, we will close the school and ensure that any option we offer to a New Jersey student is a high-quality one." -Justin Barra, the department's chief policy and external affairs officer
The following schools were placed on probation or notified of problems for a variety of academic, governance, and financial reasons, officials said.
New probation:
Warning letters:
Meanwhile, the department also announced yesterday that it has advanced 13 of 34 applicants for the next round in the charter process, for schools opening in 2014. Among those not moving ahead is a virtual charter school proposed for Lakewood.
With decisions to be announced in September, those moving to the second phase:
  • Center Oak Charter School, Pemberton
  • Community Advancement Charter School, Camden
  • Creative Visions Charter School, region consisting of Glassboro, Pitman, Wenonah, West Deptford, East Greenwich, Harrison, Mantua, Deptford, and Washington Township
  • Great Futures Charter High School for the Health Sciences, Jersey City
  • International Academy of Trenton, Trenton/Ewing
  • Mathematical Innovation Generates Higher Technology (MIGHT) Leadership Charter School, Paterson
  • New Jersey Institute of Fashion and Technology Charter School, Newark
  • Ray Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School, Elizabeth / Roselle
  • Regional Pneuma Academy Charter School, Asbury Park / Neptune Township
  • Rivergate Academy Charter School, Bridgeton, Fairfield Township
  • Science, Business and Technology, Irvington
  • The District Charter School, Winslow/Chesilhurst
  • Trenton STEM-to-Civics Charter School, Trenton.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Exercise and Academic Performance for K-12 Students- Editorial from NY Times and Report from the National Academy of the Sciences

Madison Street Park, founded 1991
The following is a thoughtful editorial from the NY Times on May 24, 2013. This editorial is a response to years of de-emphasizing of recess, gym, and general physical education taking place in American schools over the last decade. Now, there's increasing evidence of not only the physical benefits of exercise but also evidence of cognitive and academic improvement from physical activities. -Dr. Petrosino 

As schools everywhere strive to improve the academic performance of their students, many have cut physical education and recess periods to leave more time for sedentary classroom instruction. A sensible new report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how shortsighted this trend can be. It found that exercise can significantly improve children’s cognitive abilities and their academic performance, as well as their health.
Students who exercise have lower body fat, greater muscular strength, and better cardiovascular and mental health. While admitting that the studies are limited, a panel of experts assembled by the institute says that “a growing body of evidence” suggests children who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children. They also perform better on standardized academic tests.
Academic performance is influenced by factors like parental involvement and socioeconomic status, but the panel reported that active children tended to have stronger performance, especially in reading and mathematics. It believes that the benefits of exercise during the school day outweigh the benefits from increasing class time.
The report recommends that all students get at least 60 minutes a day of vigorous or moderate physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk. Only about half of all school-age children meet this guideline, according to the panel. The way to increase exercise is to promote physical education classes, recess and classroom breaks during the school day; encouraging after-school sports and walking or biking to school when feasible would also help. Physical activity should be a core educational concern, not a dispensable option.
For full report brief click HERE-- Full PDF click HERE
Picture: Madison Park located on Third and Madison St in Hoboken, founded in 1991. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting

Half-Staff- June, 2013
The Hoboken Board of Education will meet on Tuesday June 11, 2013 at 7PM. The meeting will take place at 1115 Clinton Street. There is a full 48 page agenda for this evening's meeting.  Included on the agenda are fairly extensive temporary summer appointments for summer curriculum writing. Nice to see that many people involved with the original Hoboken Curriculum Project are still engaged in curriculum development and revision. This is an indication of the professional development that took place during the Hoboken Curriculum Project and not simply "curriculum writing."

Another interesting part of the agenda is Resolution No. GP-0018-12-13 No. 21 which is the announcing and approval of the Cella Family Award targeted for a graduating senior who is pursuing a career in education or a field that advocates for children.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that Dr. Lorraine Cella was the principal of Hoboken High School from 2007-20010 when the school received back to back Bronze Medal Awards from US News and World Report and was recognized as the 2nd Most Improved High School in the State of New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly. Unfortunately, this was not up to the standards of Kids First and then interim Superintendent Peter Carter. Dr. Cella was abruptly removed from her position in a very controversial manner which eventually led to a lawsuit based on harassment that was recently settled out of court. Dr. Cella was approaching her tenure year in Hoboken at the time of the incident which led to the lawsuit. Since Dr. Cella's departure from the Hoboken School District, Hoboken High School has dropped to the bottom 50 high schools in the State of New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly.

But, according to Hoboken Board of Education President Leon Gold in 2011, he's "proud of the district's success" (CLICK HERE) and in 2013 insists that the Hoboken Schools are improving (CLICK HERE). Unfortunately, the Department of Education for the State of New Jersey doesn't see things the same way and in 2011 declared the Hoboken School District a "District in Need of Improvement" for the first time in its history.

Furthermore under Leon Gold and Kids First the Hoboken School District was designated the "least attractive school district" in the United States of America as reported and vetted in the Wall Street Journal in August of 2012,  

Mr. Gold's assurances of "success" and "improvement" can be objectively and independently examined by a simple review of the New Jersey Performance Reports released in April of 2013:

Hoboken High School- Click here
Calabro- Click here
Connors- Click here
Wallace- Click here 

In a recent letter to the Hoboken Reporter, former Hoboken Board of Education member Maureen Sullivan summarizes the Department of Education's description of Hoboken's high school where things appear to be a little different than the picture Mr. Gold paints:
“This school's (Hoboken High School) academic performance significantly lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance lags in comparison to its peers,” which include high schools in Camden, Newark and Paterson
Well, congratulations to Dr. Cella for concentrating on the positive aspects of her time here in Hoboken and for being so generous in the creation of her scholarship fund.

And to be clear-- any critique should not be seen as anything negative concerning the students, families, or teachers of the Hoboken School District. I know first hand of their quality and their dedication. Rather, it is directed at the administrative and leadership decisions made over the last 4 years by the political group known as Kids First and the unfortunate consequences of their stewardship of the Hoboken Public Schools.

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Hoboken schools outspend comparable districts

  June 11, 2013 Agenda for Public Meeting

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Statistical Analysis Shows Out of District Placements in Hoboken City Schools Under Kids First/Carter/Toback Leadership is Much Higher Than Years Before

Click to Enlarge 
New Jersey’s standing as the nation’s leader in the number of students with disabilities who are sent to out-of-district schools continues to generate debate over the costs and benefitsHowever, the point is not to pit out-of-district against in-district programs. New Jersey provides a lot of services, and that is what is needed, getting the services to the children when they need them.

However, the arguments over in-district and out-of-district placements is not going away in New Jersey, especially considering that New Jersey has the highest rate in the country, with close to 8 percent of all students classified with disabilities in outside placements. 
Research shows that, for most students, being educated in the regular classroom with students who do not have disabilities has the best academic and social outcomes. Indeed, numerous studies indicate that students with disabilities who are educated in classes with their typical peers are more successful than those educated in non-inclusive settings.

Furthermore, students in these placements spend many hours being transported to and from their out-of-district placement and have little or no opportunity to interact with students who do not have disabilities. They also do not learn how to navigate their home community and do not develop friendships or relationships that will allow them to have a meaningful, productive employment and social life after high school. For student with disabilities as well as typical students, the benefits of inclusion include gains in social competence, increased tolerance, acceptance, and respect for diversity. Finally, integrated classes are also more cost effective. 

While it appears that research shows that the private special-ed schools are at least working for the students they serve, the costs are especially high. Which brings us to the case of Hoboken...
A look at the graph will show the steady increase in out-of-district placements that have occurred in Hoboken even as the district has created in district autism center and student population has certainly not increased proportionally. What is more interesting is that the rise coincides with the leadership of the Kids First political group (see picture).

Some of the members of the political group known as "Kids First" who have been in control of the Hoboken City Schools for the past 4 years and have overseen an unprecedented decline in quality of education (objectively measured by the State of New Jersey and the Federal Government) as well as an increase in district costs from $59.1 million to $64 million. 
At a yearly rate of $30,000-$100,000+ per student, it would be informative to know what exactly is going on. Why is the school district unable to provide fair and equitable education for these students? With almost 30 out of district placements, would it not be cost effective to provide services in district? Are ALL these cases beyond the expertise of district resources and expertise? (if so fine, but its worth an explanation). Are these placements permanent out-of-district placements or temporary placements? Are the families being granted out of district placements representative of the school district population? Or are placements being over-represented by certain sub groups? Has there been a change in district policy concerning out of district placements? 

Is this increase in out-of-district placements occurring by chance? One way to determine whether this is occurring by chance is to do a statistical test. In this instance, I ran a fairly standard Student's t-test making the proper assumptions of the two samples

Here are the results: 

P value and statistical significance:
  The two-tailed P value equals 0.0003
  By conventional criteria, this difference is considered to be extremely statistically significant.

Confidence interval:
  The mean of Prior to Kids First minus Kids First equals -13.00
  95% confidence interval of this difference: From -17.35 to -8.65

Intermediate values used in calculations:
  t = 7.3054
  df = 6
  standard error of difference = 1.780 
  Group  Prior to Kids First    Kids First  

The data shows there is a statistically significant difference between private placements under Kids First and that there is less than a 1/1000 chance that this difference is due to randomness. 

Clearly, there are situations and circumstances where the decision for out-of-district placement is correct and appropriate. But this sharp increase over the past 4 years is not occurring due to chance and at least warrants a discussion and explanation for what is actually going on concerning out-of-district placements. 

Correlations do not necessarily mean causation and there are certainly multiple factors at play. Nonetheless, there has been little to no discussion on the circumstances leading to the relatively rapid rise of out of district placements and possible policies or circumstances underlying the increase. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Moving for a Better Mind - Research shows a link between physical activity, fitness and brain function

Darla Castelli
University of Texas at Austin
This original story was written by Kay Randall, College of Education University of Texas at Austin. Here are excerpts from an original article. The full text and a wonderful video can be found by clicking HERE. -Dr. Petrosino 

“There’s substantial scientific proof that physical activity improves children’s physical health and offers health benefits that continue through adulthood,” says Darla Castelli, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and a national expert on physical education.
“We’re amassing strong data that show a change in level of physical health and fitness leads to a change in cognitive health. Ideally, these findings will help bump physical education from the category of ‘optional’ to ‘absolutely essential’,” she adds.
Castelli contributed to a report issued May 23 by the Institute of Medicine that says schools should play a key role in ensuring all students have the opportunity to engage in at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity each day. Harold W. Kohl III, Castelli's colleague in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, was chair of the committee that wrote the report. Read a USA Today story about the report.
Castelli is hopeful that her research on the link between physical fitness and cognitive health will spur communities and schools to press for reforms.
“It’s been proven that sitting and doing nothing is terrible for our bodies,” said Castelli. “That includes the brain. With the data we now have, I’m hopeful that parents and communities will speak up and demand that adequate amounts of high-quality physical education be part of every single school day. The fact is that the quality of a child’s academic work in all of the other classes depends on it.”

A version of this story originally appeared on the College of Education’s website.
To reduce childhood obesity and help children realize their academic potential, Castelli recommends:
  • ensuring that children engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day
  • providing time for structured physical activity as well as informal physical activity (play)
  • measuring the physical activity intensity
  • embedding physical activity in the overall school curriculum
  • allowing physical activity breaks at least every 60 minutes during the school day, even more for young children
  • providing highly trained physical education teachers who also serve as Physical Activity Leaders (PALs)
  • offering professional development training for educators and administrators
  • ensuring physical activity opportunities before and after school

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Special Mid Week Noontime Hoboken Board of Education Meeting on Violence and Harassment: June 5, 2013

Hoboken, County, and State Comparisons on Violence
and Vandalism Reports
There is a special Hoboken Board of Education meeting set for Wednesday afternoon at noon at A. J. Demarest School. The topic centers on harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Under the Kids First political group's leadership, harassment, intimidation, and bullying has been a little reported or discussed issue  (see graph to for comparison data). 
For instance, according to the latest New Jersey Violence and Vandalism Reports (released Summer 2012), the Hoboken Schools have more violent incidents per capita than Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, or Patterson. And you can easily see how Hoboken compares with Hudson County and State of NJ averages. 

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 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). The Hudson County average is 1.3 incidents per 100 students. No other school district in Hudson County surpasses 2.4 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. Much more than proportional expectations. 

Around the state, Atlantic City (2.13), Camden (1.6), Newark (.9), and Paterson (1.0) school districts reported less incidents per 100 students than Hoboken while Asbury Park (10.13) reported significantly higher. On a somewhat positive note, bullying accounted for less of a percentage of total incidents in Hoboken (21.4%) than in 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.