Friday, October 31, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos! - the Day of the Dead Block Party

Help HoLa celebrate “The Day of the Dead”. Bring the entire family, (costumes encouraged).
Festivies include: Bouncy houses, face painting, beer garden, obstacle course, arts & crafts, story time, dancers, photo booth, food and more! Plus: Halloween Candy drop-off for our troops overseas.
If you'd like to volunteer or donate items to this event, please click here.

November 1, 2014 (Rain or Shine), 1pm-4pm

Where: Block party on Jefferson St. between 1st & 2nd Street.
(In front of HoLa school, 123 Jefferson Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030.)

Pre-sale Ticket: $8/child and $20/family kid pass (adults are free)
Day of Event Ticket: $10/child and $25/family kid pass (adults are free)

BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW! and save 20%.
All Activities are included in ticket price.
Available for additional purchase at the event: food, drinks, beer and a professional photograph.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Under Kids First and Ruth McAllister (Tyroler)/Leon Gold/Mark Toback Leadership Analysis Shows Hoboken Public School District Ranked 490th out of 558 Public School Districts in New Jersey-

Hoboken Board Trustee and President Ruth McAllister (Tyroler) is fond of saying how much better the Hoboken School District is today than when she was first elected to the Hoboken Board of Education in the spring of 2009. In a few previous posts, independent, objective, and independent evidence was presented that might question some of the Board President's claims. Anyone who is interested in details that challenge her claims should Click Here and Click Here

Now there is additional data indicating Ms. McAllister (Tyroler) may want to reconsider her self congratulatory end of meeting remarks.  Last month we learned the QSAC DPR in Instruction and Program was a 45 out of 100 and marked the Hoboken Board's third consecutive year of failing to pass state mandated criteria for this DPR (recall, Trustee McAllister (Tyroler) was the Chair of the District's Curriculum Committee for the past 4+ years). Now we read about some additional analysis done by, a site which ranks schools and school districts based on their most recently reported test scores. The test scores are calculated by taking the average math and English scores across all grades and adding them together for a combined score. District rankings are calculated by averaging the rank percentile of the schools within  each district. 

In this analysis the Hoboken Public School District is ranked 490th out of 558 public school districts in New Jersey (bottom 12%). This evidently is the "improvement" after 5 years of leadership by Board President McAllister (Tyroler) and her Kids First political group. 


The ranking should come as little surprise. In November of 2011 the school district was declared a District in Need of Improvement by the NJ Department of Education for the first time in district history after over 30 months of McAllister's (Tyroler) and Kids First leadership.

Failing scores on INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAM, a district labeled a District in Need of Improvement by the State Department of Education, and a ranking of 490 out of 558 must be difficult to sell as "improvement" to an informed public. Even more challenging must be the recent ranking of Hoboken as the 9th most violent school district in the State of New Jersey by But, it seems even that ranking was not a one time occurrence as we examine the multi-year trend of violence and vandalism in the Hoboken School District under Kids First and McAllister's (Tyroler) leadership:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge 

Again, notions of improvement can be subjective and riddled with opinions and spin. Sometimes presenting independent, objective, and non-partisan data depicts a circumstance or presents a counter narrative that differs from campaign promises or ego driven defensive rants.

Taking a page out of Ms. McAllister's (Tyroler) playbook, we read this in a recent Hoboken Reporter cover story:  

Monica Stromwall, who recently took over the chairmanship of the school board’s curriculum committee, defended the Hoboken’s school administration.
“Test scores are always a concern in any district, but steady progress is being made,” she said. The district’s steady application of consistent assessment and intervention programs are working and we will continue to support this.”
Here is one graph challenging the statement that "steady progress is made".....

...steady progress is being made

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Study will teach algebra with student-authored stories that draw on their own interests

Halloween Decorations (2014)
Hoboken NJ 
The following post centers on one of my former graduate students, Dr. Candace Walkington, and the wonderful research she is conducting at SMU. Dr. Walkington recently was awarded a Spencer Post Doctoral Research Award funded by the National Academy of Education. Her award extends some of her dissertation work and incorporates some exciting and new ideas. No doubt, this work will make a significant impact on how algebra is taught in schools and better ways for the field to leverage notions of student interest and their own experiences.  -Dr. Petrosino 

Tapping students’ rich algebraic ways of reasoning during out-of-school activities — such as sports, social networking and video games — generates personalized connections

Candace Walkington, SMU, algebra, teaching
Can students learn algebra from Instagram and video games?
Teaching researcher Candace Walkington, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, thinks so.
Walkington’s new study, funded by the National Academy of Education, will test that idea.
“In previous work, I found that students draw upon rich algebraic ways of reasoning when pursuing their out-of-school interests in areas like sports, social networking and video games,” said Walkington, whose research focus is evidence-based effective teaching. “Making connections to these topics in algebra class can improve long-term understanding of algebraic ideas.”
The new study asks pre-algebra students to author their own algebra stories based on their personal interests.Making math accessible and captivating is critical for encouraging learning
Algebra is a gatekeeper to many careers and to higher-level mathematics, making it critical for students to master, Walkington said, but students struggle to understand the abstract representations.
“Students often can’t see the connection between their world and algebra,” she said. “Exploring ways to connect math to their lives, experiences and knowledge is critical for making it accessible and captivating. That’s especially true when considering students from diverse backgrounds.”
Walkington’s previous studies — including participation in the Measures of Effective Teaching Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and her long-time collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University’s Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center — have focused on how abstract mathematical concepts can be grounded in students’ out-of-school interests, experiences and everyday reasoning practices.
“These studies combine cognitive theories related to activation of prior knowledge with motivational theories related to the development of interest in order to understand and intervene upon students’ mathematical understanding,” Walkington said.
Search for effective teaching drives quantitative, qualitative methods
Walkington’s study uses qualitative and quantitative methods to compare an experimental group to a control group. She will look at how the intervention elicits students’ interest in learning algebra, and at the impact on students’ classroom discussions, on learning algebra concepts and promoting a positive outlook toward math.
“Personalizing instruction has the potential to improve learning and attitudes in algebra courses that are a key barrier to academic advancement and economic attainment,” said Walkington, a professor in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development.
Walkington’s NAE study at Marsh Middle School in Dallas will provide personalized learning interventions for seventh and eighth grade math students. The study complements a new grant recently awarded to Dallas Independent School District by the Gates Foundation to build personalized learning models in eight DISD schools. Walkington will provide professional development to the eight teams, and is planning a research study that describes the process all eight schools go through as they build personalized learning models on their campuses.
The research is critical for establishing evidence-based criteria for teaching.
“There actually hasn’t been an extensive body of research showing if the customized approach is effective, for whom it’s effective, or what content it’s effective for. So there’s a lack of evidence,” says Walkington. “At the same time, we have this rise of technological systems in the schools with amazing potential to individualize instruction to each student.”
New design studies build and expand on previous findings
One of Walkington’s recent studies, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, draws data from Pennsylvania classrooms using an in-school intelligent tutoring system for Algebra I. The software personalizes instruction to match the pace of each student, detects a student’s current state of knowledge, determines which kinds of problems to present and what feedback and help are needed, and tracks each child’s progress.
Walkington took that a step further by adding student interests and hobbies into the software. After surveying ninth grade students about their interests, Walkington wrote math problems around those interests. The problems were programmed into the software, so problems are presented in the context most appealing to each individual student.
“We found that students receiving personalization performed better on the math lesson than students presented problems that weren’t customized to their interests. We also found that one or two months later – on future lessons that weren’t personalized – those students who had received personalization were still doing better,” Walkington said.
Candace Walkington, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning in the SMU Simmons School, teaches evidence-based  teaching strategies to future educators. (Credit: SMU)
Candace Walkington, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning in the SMU Simmons School, teaches evidence-based teaching strategies to future educators. (Credit: SMU)
That study has been expanded to another group of high school students. In a recent paper presented at the Educational Data Mining Conference in London, Walkington demonstrated that personalization improved students’ interest in mathematics, which in turn improved achievement for those not interested in math initially. Ongoing studies in Houston and San Antonio schools allow students the choice of personalized context for each problem.
“We think the combination of personalization and choice is going to have even more impact than personalization by itself,” she said. Early results from these studies support this hypothesis.
Innovative strategies help struggling fifth and sixth graders
Walkington earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in mathematics from Texas A&M University, and had planned to have a career as a financial mathematician. She changed her career path after completing a National Science Foundation graduate teaching fellowship at a high-poverty rural school in Iola, Texas.
There Walkington discovered firsthand the satisfaction of designing innovative strategies to help struggling fifth and sixth graders learn math. The experience brought back memories of her own seventh-grade struggle with algebra, which had threatened to derail her interest in math.
“We’re focusing on the sixth- to ninth-grade math when students start to lose interest. At the same time they also start to become deeply interested in things outside of school, like music and sports,” Walkington says. “In this next study we’re hoping we see that personalization also gives them a more positive outlook toward mathematics and shows them how much they like math class.”
While working on her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, Walkington collaborated on research geared toward identifying what teacher behaviors are a strong predictor of student success on standardized math tests. The research was incorporated into the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project, one of the largest research efforts in U.S. history to identify and understand effective teaching. The project is shaping educational policy nationally.
Walkington and research colleague Michael P. Marder, executive director of UTeach Science Program, University of Texas at Austin, contributed protocols to the MET Project based on their findings, including one finding that classrooms where the teacher focuses specifically on students deeply understanding math have higher test scores compared to classrooms where teachers focus on drill and standardized test preparation. In addition, they also found that classroom management was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for learning.
Walkington’s research appears in a new groundbreaking book about the MET Project, “Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project,” (Wiley, July 2014). Walkington, who led a team that analyzed 1,000 video math lessons of teachers around the country to code effective teaching, is first author on a chapter. — Margaret Allen
Follow on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Start school day later so teens can get more sleep, N.J. lawmaker says

Columbus Day Activities- Columbus Park, Hoboken
October, 2014 reports that NJ state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would direct the state Department of Education to study the potential health benefits of starting middle and high school students’ days later, as well as the negative academic consequences of sleep deprivation.

“Studies are showing that our current school start time system is flipped the wrong way,” Codey said in a statement. “Middle and high school start times are too early and elementary and pre-k classes are too late." Codey’s legislation follows an August policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends beginning school days for adolescents at 8:30 a.m.

“Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty,” the association said in a press release.

“This is more than a matter of teenagers dozing at their desks, this is about their health and ability to learn, retain information and succeed,” Codey said. “The smart thing to do is to start the school day at a time that is best for learning and best for the health and safety of students.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who decides what bills get put up for a vote, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Codey’s legislation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hoboken BOE Candidates Forum Wednesday October 8

Hoboken Elks Club
Wilson Conde of the Jersey Journal reports that The Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition will partner with the Hoboken Elks Club to sponsor a forum for Hoboken Board of Education candidates tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hoboken Elks Lodge.

The forum will give community members a chance to meet the candidates, each of whom will be asked questions. The moderator will be Bob Bowdon.
Helen Manogue, Hoboken QLC’s coordinator, said this year’s candidates are Sharyn l. Angley, Peter Biancamano, Lynn Danzker, Antonio Gray, Brian Murray, Frances Rhodes Kearns, Monica Stromwall and Patricia Waiters.

However, Angley, Gray, and Stromwal will not be present at the forum, Manogue said.