Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A winning NJ charter school awaits word on its fate: Editorial by the Newark Star Ledger

Classroom at the Hola Dual Language
Charter School, Hoboken NJ
The following is an editorial from the Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in the State of New Jersey. The editorial is in clear support of the expansion of the Hola Dual Language Charter School from a K-6 school to a K-8 school. The issue of expanding Hola to a K-8 school has been a controversial issue for the past few months in Hoboken. Arguments have been made for an against and the issue has drawn some national attention with former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch even stepping into the discussion. A decision is expected to be reached by the end of this week by the NJDOE's Commissioner of Education. -Dr. Petrosino 
A charter school in Hoboken, “Hola,” is doing a terrific job educating kids with an innovate dual-language program, and parents are lining up to compete for scarce seats.
Hola’s innovation is to immerse kids in both Spanish and English instruction when they are young and their brains are wired to absorb new languages. In kindergarten, 90 percent of the instruction is in Spanish. By fourth and fifth grade, the split is about even. So kids become fluent in both languages, a big leg up in a country that is increasingly bilingual.
Now Hola officials want to expand to the eighth grade, and the local superintendent, Mark Toback, is trying to stop them.
“The demographic differences are large, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work,” he says.
The numbers are striking. Only 11 percent of Hola students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with 72 percent in the city’s traditional public schools, according to state data. Given that poverty remains the most reliable predictor of student performance, Hola has a big head start over district schools.
But Toback’s response to that is dead wrong. The answer is not to slam the brakes on a successful school. The answer is to lure more poor students to Hola, something Hola is eager to do. “I myself have knocked on doors in public housing asking people if they want information on charters,” says Barbara Martinez, one of the founders.
One way to draw more poor students is to give them an advantage in the admission lotteries at charter schools, to put a thumb on the scale. But the state’s charter law requires that all applicants be treated equally.
That law should be changed. It was intended to prevent schools from favoring more advantaged students. And it’s had the perverse effect of blocking charters such as Hola from enrolling more poor kids.
“We would do that if we could, absolutely,” Martinez says.
Remember, too, that the root problem is the failure of Hoboken’s traditional schools to attract a healthy cross-section of the city. Hola’s student body matches the demographics of the city pretty closely. It is the district that’s out of whack, thanks to the flight of affluent families.
The state is expected to make its ruling on this within the next few days. It shouldn’t be a close call. Success stories in urban education are too rare and precious to snuff out. A survey of parents at Hola showed that most would respond by leaving Hoboken, finding another charter, or sending their kids to private school. Attending district schools was the last choice.
So these kids would lose out, and so would the city. What sense would that make?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The 2014 - 2015 Online Teacher Application is Now Open- Teach in NYC

We are excited to share the New York City Department of Education's online teacher application for the 2014 - 2015 school year has launched and can be accessed at

  • Students in shortage subject areas including ESL, SWD, and Science, who submit an online teacher application byMarch 17th2014, are eligible for early consideration for TeachNYC Select Recruits.  TeachNYC Select Recruits is a highly selective program that offers job search support to top-tier prospective teachers.
  • All students who will be certified to teach in New York State by September 1, 2014are encouraged to complete the online teacher application as soon as possible, to gain access to upcoming job search information.

We appreciate your partnership in working to ensure there is a great teacher in every NYCDOE classroom.

Information on Salary: CLICK HERE

Monday, February 24, 2014

In Memory of William Patrick Connors June 5, 1942 - February 24, 2014

William "Billy" Connors
When I first started teaching at Hoboken High School in 1987, Billy Connors was one of the first teachers to approach me, welcome me, and to make sure I let him know if there was anything he could do to help me out as a new teacher. He was a very friendly and approachable person, a wonderful teacher, and athlete and sportsman, and one of my early mentors. My condolences to his family and his former colleagues. -Dr. Petrosino 

William Patrick Connors, 71, of Sparta, passed away on February 24, 2014 at Newton Memorial Hospital, Newton, NJ. William was born and lived in Hoboken before moving to Sparta in 1974. He was a 1964 graduate of St. Peter's College with a BS. He taught for over 30 years in the Hoboken Public Schools. Bill was an avid tennis player, skier, and golfer and a life-long love of basketball. He was a member of the Lake Mohawk Country Club, Lake Mohawk Golf Club, and a former member of the Lake Mohawk Tennis Club. William is survived by his beloved wife Suzanne (nee Halpin) Connors; devoted father of Billy and his wife Mildred, Debby Connors, Katie Duthaler and her husband Bob, and Tim and his wife Jill. Loving grandfather of R.J., Sean, Erin, Patrick, Abigail, Yesenia, and Jamie. He is also survived by his siblings: George Connors, Mary Beth Wilson, and Genevieve Kirwin. Friends may call Wednesday, February 26, 2014 from 2-4, 7-9pm at the Goble Funeral Home, 22 Main St., Sparta, NJ 07871. A funeral mass will be held at 10am Thursday, at Our Lady of the Lake Church, 294 Sparta Ave., Sparta, NJ 07871. Interment will follow at Sparta Cemetery. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made in his memory to The American Heart Association . Condolences may be sent to

Sunday, February 23, 2014

UTeach- Knowing and Learning in STEM Education Fall 2013 (class by class narrative)

2012 UTeach Engineering Graduating Cohort
and Faculty
The following is a class by class summary of a course I teach entitled KNOWING AND LEARNING IN STEM EDUCATION. It is a course I developed for the UTeach Program- a teacher preparation  program in which I am a Co-Founder of at The University of Texas at Austin. The UTeach teacher certification program is a collaborative effort on the part of the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. It was created in 1997 to address both the shortage of qualified secondary mathematics, science, and computer science teachers as well as the quality of those entering the field.
The program has been well-received, cited by the National Academy of Sciences as a model program addressing the need for more highly qualified mathematics and science teachers.
UTeach has been a model for other innovative mathematics/science education programs at other state universities, such as FSUTeach at Florida State University, UFTeach at the University of FloridaUMass Lowell UTeach, and UA Teach at the University of Arkansas. Minor differences exist in these programs; the FSUTeach program allows a double major in the content area and education, leading to certification, while the UFTeach program allows a major in the content area and a minor in education, also leading to certification. -Dr. Petrosino 

ps A special thank you to my Graduate Teaching Assistant, Michele Mann, who complied the day by day notes for the class. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Salary Caps Have Not Caused an Exodus of Superintendents in NJ and Has Not Impacted Retention or Recruitment...Contrary to What Some Boards of Education Would Like Taxpayers to Believe

Stevens Park, Hoboken NJ Photo
The Hoboken Board of Education approved a letter to outgoing New Jersey Commissioner of Education Cref seeking a $20,000 increase in salary for the position of Superintendent of Schools at a recent Board Meeting. A review of the actual motion reads: 
WHEREAS, the Board's contract with its current superintendent will expireon June 30, 2015; and WHEREAS, the Board is looking ahead to negotiating with this and/orfuture candidates for the office of superintendent; and WHEREAS, salary caps for school superintendents in New Jersey tookeffect in 2011; and WHEREAS, in light of the significant challenges we face as a District,the Board would like the option of offering a salary in excess of theapplicable salary cap. NOW, THEREFORE, in anticipation of negotiations with thisand/or future candidates for the office of superintendent, the Boardhereby authorizes the Board Secretary to send a letter to theCommissioner of Education, on behalf of the Board, requestinga waiver of the applicable salary cap so that it would have theoption of offering a salary amount up to $20,000.00 abovethe existing cap. -2/11/14 

The Board would like the public and the NJ DOE to believe that the $20,000 increase is needed to either retain or attract a quality superintendent to the district. Furthermore, the Board wants the public to believe that somehow the state initiated salary cap prevents successful retainment or recruitment and thereby initiated a request a waiver. Unfortunately, actual data on the topic tells a much different story. In fact, FEWER superintendents are leaving their jobs since the caps were enacted a few years ago (!) than in the years before the cap was instituted. Since the caps have been implemented an average of 133 superintendents have left their position as opposed to an average of 153 in the prior three years). This is a fact that either the Hoboken Board of Education ignored, did not know about, or decided not to share with the tax paying public. 

Please read the story below for more details. Unfortunately, this Board is not making "data driven" decisions. Again, the rhetoric is easy if there is not a critical and informed public. It is worth noting that two Board members voted against the motion. -Dr. Petrosino

In a story by John Mooney for NJ Spotlight we read, Gov. Christie's controversial cap on school superintendent salaries has drawn plenty of questions and criticism since it was enacted in early 2011, but there's one thing it hasn't generated much of: hard data.

And at least on the surface, what little data are available belies the common assumption that superintendents are leaving the state in droves. In fact, fewer school leaders have left their jobs since the caps were enacted than in earlier years.

The New Jersey School Boards Association last week presented to its delegates' assembly its first comprehensive survey of the extent to which the salary caps have spurred school superintendents to leave their jobs.

The most common complaint has been that the caps, which are based on district enrollment and typically limit the superintendents' annual pay to no more than $175,000 - equal to the governor's salary - have driven veteran and valued superintendents to retire or move elsewhere to avoid severe pay cuts.

But while anecdotal evidence tells of respected education leaders making an exodus from New Jersey schools, the association's data have so far found actually a smaller turnover of superintendents since the regulations were put in place by former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, Christie's first commissioner.

According to the report, the annual turnover of superintendents has averaged about 133 in each of the three years since the regulation was enacted, a drop from an average of about 153 superintendent jobs turning over in each of the prior three years. There are 553 superintendent posts in New Jersey.

Of those who retired or moved to another district, a total of 55 superintendents - or about 18 per year statewide - specifically cited the caps as their reasons for leaving, the report said.

"My position is as it has been all along: It is the law of the state, and it will remain the law of the state," Cerf told the state's school superintendents at a gathering this fall.

The salary caps are as follows:
Student Enrollment of District(s)Maximum
251 – 750$135,000
751 – 1,500$145,000
1,501 – 3,000$155,000*
3,001 – 6,500$165,000
6,501 – 10,000$175,000

* This is the category for the Hoboken School District (student population under 2000 students)

In addition, the education commissioner can approve individual waivers of the maximum salary for districts with more than 10,000 students. Superintendents may earn $10,000 more for each additional district they supervise, and they could receive an additional stipend of $2,500 if their district includes a high school.

School boards could not increase a superintendent's base pay – for example, with longevity increases – beyond the predetermined salary caps. No superintendent contract with a compensation package above the salary caps could be extended. When the contract expires, the new compensation package needs to conform to the state’s policies. 

According to the Asbury Park Press's DATA UNIVERSE, the 2012 
(most current published) total compensation for the 
Hoboken Superintendent includes: 
Base Pay: $157,500
Allowances: $5,201
Bonuses: $23,610 
Insurance: $20,212
Additional Pension: $10,458
Retirement Pay: $30,144
Total Compensation: $247,125

For more details, Click Here 

Additionally, the Cost of Living adjustment (COLA) for 2012 was 
1.7% and for 2013 was 1.5%. The $20,000 waiver the Board 
seeks for the position of Superintendent is in the neighborhood 
of an additional 12.9% from the 2011 NJDOE cap. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tuesday February 11- HOBOKEN BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING: Revised Calendar for 2013-14; Request to Raise Salary Cap $20K for Superintendent

No. 8 School (Leinkaulf School)
BREAKING NEWS: NJDOE Commissioner Cref to step down at the end of the month. CLICK HERE. 

The following is the full Board Agenda for the February 11 Board of Education Meeting. You can see the full agenda at the end of this post. Some items of interest to the general public in full text have also been posted for general review. One item addresses changes to the school calendar in light of recent weather closures and another concerns a request to NJDOE Commissioner Cref seeking a waiver to the salary cap for the Superintendent. 

All readers of this blog are encouraged to review the entire agenda in order to be better informed. -Dr. Petrosino 

7:00 P.M.

Feb 11, 2014 - AGENDA
Approval of change to the 2013-2014 school calendar
Action (Consent)
Recommended Action

RESOLVED, that the Board of Education, upon recommendation of the
Superintendent. approves the following change to the 2013-2014 school
calendar for the Hoboken Public Schools due to the district's use of snow
days for inclement weather:

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 will be a full day of school.
Friday, February 14th, 2014 will be a 1:00 p.m. dismissal for entire district

Approval to Submit a Letter to Commissioner Cerf Regarding the 
Existing Superintendent Salary Cap
Action (Consent)
Recommended Action

WHEREAS, the Board's contract with its current superintendent will expire
on June 30, 2015; and
WHEREAS, the Board is looking ahead to negotiating with this and/or
future candidates for the office of superintendent; and
WHEREAS, salary caps for school superintendents in New Jersey took
effect in 2011; and
WHEREAS, in light of the significant challenges we face as a District,
the Board would like the option of offering a salary in excess of the
applicable salary cap.
NOW, THEREFORE, in anticipation of negotiations with this
and/or future candidates for the office of superintendent, the Board
hereby authorizes the Board Secretary to send a letter to the
Commissioner of Education, on behalf of the Board, requesting
a waiver of the applicable salary cap so that it would have the
option of offering a salary amount up to $20,000.00 above
the existing cap.

According to the Asbury Park Press's DATA UNIVERSE, the 2012 
(most current published) total compensation for the 
Hoboken Superintendent includes: 
Base Pay: $157,500
Allowances: $5,201
Bonuses: $23,610 
Insurance: $20,212
Additional Pension: $10,458
Retirement Pay: $30,144
Total Compensation: $247,125

For more details, Click Here 

Additionally, the Cost of Living adjustment (COLA) for 2012 was 
1.7% and for 2013 was 1.5%. The $20,000 waiver the Board 
seeks for the position of Superintendent is in the neighborhood 
of an additional 12.9% from the 2011 NJDOE cap. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Setting (young) Children Up to Hate Reading

       Super Bowl Numerals- Pier A, Hoboken, NJ 

While reading is a very important social and learning activity and tool for children to posses and master-- there has been a disturbing trend over the past number of years in deconstructing reading to individual components and an over emphasis on testing for reading. This is having some very negative consequences. While I was in the Hoboken School District, one of the key reasons for brining in TOOLS OF THE MIND curriculum was to place an emphasis on play, thoughtful activity, and reading skills to PreK and K students. The following piece clearly outlines some upsetting national as well as local issues in reading-- especially during the early grades (Grades PreK-3). I hope you find it informative and perhaps assist in having a meaningful discussion with your child's teacher and/or administrators. Best, -Dr. Petrosino 
Any educator or parent who understands the beauty of reading and the importance of helping a child learn to do it right was appalled to read two recent articles about the subject. Both should make all of us concerned that children are being set up to hate reading. 
Consider the February 1, 2014, headlines ofThe Oregonian“Too Many Oregon Students Unready for Kindergarten State Officials Lament.”
What is the crisis?
  •  “The typical Oregon kindergartner arrived at school last fall knowing only 19 capital and lower-case letters and just seven letter sounds out of at least 100 possible correct answers, the state reported Friday.”
  • “They also were shown a page with 110 letter sounds on it. The average kindergartner could pronounce just 6.7.”
  • “Gov. John Kitzhaber, in prepared remarks, called the results ‘sobering’”…
  • “‘Things have changed in terms of what is expected when students start kindergarten,’ said Jada Rupley, Oregon’s early learning system director. ‘We would hope they would know most of their letters and many of their sounds.’”
Politicians, venture philanthropists, and even the President, make early learning into an emergency. What’s a poor kindergartener or preschooler to do when they must carry the weight of the nation on their backs—when every letter and pronunciation is scrutinized like never before?
Unfortunately, many kindergarten teachers have bought into this harmful message. Many have thrown out their play kitchens, blocks, napping rugs, and doll houses believing it is critical that children should learn to read in kindergarten!
A new study through the University of Virginia has determined that kindergarten is the new first grade! The study, by Bassok and Rorem, from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, “used two large nationally representative datasets to track changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006.” They found “that in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read while in kindergarten. By 2006, 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. To accommodate this new reality, classroom time spent on literacy rose by 25 percent, from roughly 5.5 to seven hours per week.”
What’s wrong with these high-stress pictures?
There is a mistaken idea of what young children should be able to do—what is age-appropriate. Here’s a list of what “typical” children know upon entering kindergarten, from the National Center for Education Statistics report Entering Kindergarten: Findings from the Condition of Education 2000:
  • Sixty-six percent of children entering kindergarten recognize letters in the alphabet.
  • Sixty-one percent of children entering kindergarten know you read left to right.
  • Many kindergartners do not yet possess early reading skills.
  • Children might not point to letters representing sounds.
  • New kindergartners might not be able to read basic words by sight yet.
  • Only 1 in 50 actually read basic and complex words entering kindergarten.
Note this is what occurs but isn’t what young children should necessarily be doing when it comes to reading.
Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.
Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?
All of this emergency talk has filtered into America’s classrooms. That’s why kindergarten teachers now believe all children must learn how to read in kindergarten. Having worked for years with reading and language problems in middle and high school students, I can tell you these new reading requirements for young children are terribly worrisome—even dangerous.
Many children will not be ready—not because they’re slow, not because they have learning disabilities, but because they’re normal and moving along at their own pace! The door should be opened to them in kindergarten and beyond to learn how to read in a relaxed manner. Even when a child has difficulty learning to read (dyslexia for example), you don’t attack the problem by pushing the child to read beyond what is considered normal.
When kindergarten teachers expect every kindergartner to focus on reading and learn it at that age, it opens the door for all kinds of problems. Here are a few:
  1. No Joy in Reading. Children learn to hate reading. When you assess children too early, currently done in kindergarten with Response to Intervention testing like DIBELS, children learn reading is a chore. It becomes something serious—even fearful for a young child.
  2. Vocabulary Emphasis.  Most memorization is boring. When teachers focus on vocabulary acquisition and word recognition, young children lose interest in the stories. Curiosity is squelched. Some sight word instruction is fine, of course, but focusing so much and tracking every word as a data point is obsessive.
  3. Self-Fulfilling Prophesy. If a kindergartener is not reading yet (normal), but they are treated like they have a problem, they really could develop a problem.
  4. Loss of Cognitive Ability/Play. Heavily focusing on reading, at the expense of other important kindergarten tasks, like play, destroys critical aspects of learning. Without play, children lose the ability to think about things on their own. How does this toy work? How do I put the blocks together to build a house? What can I create on my own?
  5. Loss of Self-Worth. It is fine for some children to show up reading in kindergarten, but children who are not reading yet (perfectly normal) may lose the feeling of self-worth. They could also act out becoming a behavior problem. Adults, after all, never trusted them to learn some things on their own.
  6. Reading Ability Isn’t Everything. Kindergarten students who already read fluently might have other problems that are overlooked by the teacher. Or they become bored because they are given nothing new to learn.
  7. A Lack of Socialization. We know through research, like the study notes above, that socialization at this period of development is important, but with the total emphasis on learning to read at such a young age, socialization skills, including play, are pushed aside. Students miss out on developing relationships with other children. How will they get along later interacting with others as adults?
  8. Too Competitive. Children are taught at an early age that they must compete and win in order to receive approval. They don’t learn to care about others. They know some students read better or worse than they do. The emphasis is on reading not on the students and who they are.
  9. Disadvantaged Children. While some students from poor backgrounds may not have been exposed to books and a good reading environment early on, pushing them to read through assessment and drill could squelch their interest in reading forever.
  10. Research. Pushing children to read too soon defies past research by many recognized and well-regarded developmental psychologists and educators whose studies have stood the test of time.                     
While kindergarten is now the new 1st grade, in 10 more years will kindergarten be the next 2nd or 3rd grade? When will the current reformers be satisfied? When will they quit demeaning children and making them jump through inappropriate developmental hoops?
Enough is enough! Let children be children. Let them be their age. Bring back the joy of learning to read.
Shelov, Steven P. M.D. F.A.A.P. Editor-in Chief. The American Academy of Pediatrics.Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. The Complete and Authoritative Guide. (New York: Bantam, 1991) 348-349.