Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This is a test- Some high schools soar, others struggling to improve on SATs by Gianluca D’Elia

Parents sometimes use SAT scores as a gauge to determine whether
their students will be able to get into a top college

The following story appeared in the Hoboken Reporter on June 19, 2015 and was written by Gianluca D'Elia. It is a very thoughtful and well written piece with interviews and solid investigative educational reporting. 
I have added a few additional pieces of information that may provide some depth to the analysis for those who are interested.  The standard deviation of the SAT is around 110 points. The expected SAT score for children from families with a yearly income between $0-20,000 is 1326;  for families with a yearly income between $20,000-$40,000 it is 1402 and for families with a yearly income of $100,000 it is 1535 (see Figure 1). The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income in Hoboken was $101,782 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,219) and the median family income was $121,614 (+/- $18,466). In 2015-16, the percentage of students in the Hoboken Public Schools who were eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (see Figure 2) was 53.5% (see Figure 3) although it is likely that the percentage of Free or Reduced Lunch eligible students is higher for high school students. -Dr. Petrosino

Hoboken Reporter June 19, 2016- Last month, the state released the average SAT scores for each high school in the state for the 2014-2015 school year, allowing residents to compare how their district did on the standardized test, which many colleges use in evaluating applicants.

Not surprisingly, within Hudson County, Jersey City’s McNair Academic High School – a public magnet school that draws the top students from the town – had the highest average in the county and one of the highest in the state, 1848 out of a possible 2400 on the reading, math, and writing totaled. According to state data, 100 percent of its students took the test.

The scores were not in for the countywide public high schools like High Tech High School, some of which require an extensive application process, but High Tech usually scores in the 1600s.

Infinity Institute (a charter school) in Jersey City, Secaucus High School, and Weehawken High school had the next highest averages, with Infinity (1521) above the state average of 1508 and Secaucus and Weehawken below it (1476 and 1455 respectively).

Schools on the low end included Jersey City’s Ferris and Snyder High Schools, achieving 1046 and 1093 respectively. Hoboken Charter School, Hoboken High School, and Dickinson High School received scores of 1191, 1219 and 1234.

Bayonne High School’s average was a 1354, North Bergen’s was a 1311, and Memorial’s (West New York) was a 1243. The other charter and regular public schools fell in the middle.

The New Jersey Department of Education’s annual school performance reports for 2014-15 revealed that the statewide average for SAT scores fell by six points in the 2014-15 academic year, dropping from 1514 to 1508. Some attribute this to rising participation rates, which means more students are encouraged to take the test, even if some may not be prepared. College Board’s annual exam results in 2015 revealed a larger and more diverse pool of high school students taking the SAT, PSAT and AP exams than ever before.

“The standard deviation of the SAT is approximately 110 points” – College Board
In most area schools, participation was high, but some schools (Bayonne, North Bergen, and Weehawken) did not reach the 80 percent goal set by the Department of Education. 

The 2014-15 school year revealed progress for some schools.

Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson said Hoboken Junior Senior High School’s scores are slowly increasing. For the first time, the school’s composite SAT average surpassed the average of the schools in its peer group, which consists of schools that have similar demographics. 

“We’re now outperforming those schools,” Johnson said. Hoboken exceeded the peer average of 1190 with a composite score of 1219. 

“While we were happy with the growth, we’re still not satisfied with where our students’ performance is, as measured by the SAT,” she added.

The new SAT

Starting this spring, the College Board has gone back to the old system of administering just the math and reading portions of the test, with a top score of 1600 total. Students can take an optional writing portion, but it’s not required. 

Some parents use the SAT scores as a test of their school district, and it helps them gauge whether their children will perform well enough to have a shot at a top college.

Allen Pascual, the Director of Student Personnel from North Bergen High School’s guidance department, said the SAT changes may help improve the school’s averages. 

“Most colleges and universities look at two scores – math and reading,” he said. “Writing is not weighed as heavily.”

Writing is often the hardest section for students. A state profile report of SAT results from College Board from 2015 revealed that the writing section had the lowest average score out of the three sections. 

Pascual said the new format will also be beneficial to English Language Learning (ELL) students. 

“We have a lot of ELL students who have been here for two or three years and speak other languages at home such as Spanish or Gujarati [an Indian dialect],” Pascual said. “The writing portion always tends to be challenging for them, even though they can excel in reading. I’m glad the writing portion is optional now.”

Meanwhile, in the reading section, the focus is shifting from short stories to primary source documents, according to Johnson. Starting from the middle school level, Johnson said English and reading classes in Hoboken are emphasizing evidence-based arguments. As the reading material becomes more rigorous, that means “more close reading, less skimming,” she said. More practice will ultimately lead to more endurance for extracting evidence from longer reading passages, Johnson said. 

Johnson said the Hoboken school district is working to improve mathematical fluency, starting from the elementary level. 

“It’s really critical that kids become less reliant on calculators and more reliant on automaticity,” she said.

Weehawken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki said the high school students prepare for the test using online programs in addition to Princeton Review SAT Prep. Some of these programs are Newsela, which teaches reading comprehension through news articles, and Mathspace, a math skills program that incorporates individualized feedback into lessons. 

Ushering in a digital age

Because state standardized tests such as the PARCC are offered online, school administrators anticipate the SAT eventually becoming only computerized. In 2016, the test is being given both in print and online. 

Zywicki said, “We worked quickly with the district to make sure every student from seventh through twelfth grade would have a Chromebook” to practice their on-line skills. Johnson said Hoboken has also started using Chromebooks to help students become comfortable with digital testing.

Revamping resources

The Hudson County area has always had low test scores compared to most of the state, but school officials say they have been working to improve their resources. One trend among public schools is starting SAT preparation as early as possible. 

Johnson said, “We now administer the PSAT at no charge to all ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders during the school day, providing them with exposure to the test from the time they’re freshmen in high school.”

The PSAT is a practice test whose scores can be used in determining National Merit Scholarships. The scores are not sent to colleges with applications, though.

Johnson said that two years ago, Hoboken only offered the PSAT to juniors. Zywicki said Weehawken students can begin taking the PSAT in eighth grade. 

Both Hoboken and Weehawken use Princeton Review SAT preparation programs.

Pascual said that about seven years ago, North Bergen High School was pushed by the Board of Education to improve SAT scores and began to search for an SAT Prep program to partner with. Eventually, the high school partnered with Revolution Prep, a private tutoring service. Funded by the Board of Education, SAT prep classes are free for students and offered during after-school hours. In addition to lessons, the program also offers practice exams. 

“Before we started this SAT prep, our scores just weren’t there,” Pascual said. Referring to the practice exams, he said student averages on the exam have increased by 200 to 400 points between the first and last sitting. 

Emphasizing the importance of participating in practice SAT exams, Pascual said, “These exams help students figure out their strengths and weaknesses before the actual test.”

“We’re not at a disadvantage, Pascual said. “Our students have a lot of opportunities.”

North Bergen has also implemented SAT skills into language arts and math classes, Pascual said.

The district’s average score dropped by 44 points from the previous year’s 1355, but North Bergen’s SAT averages have consistently stayed above 1300 for the past five years.

Achievement over aptitude

One issue that arises for many high school students across the nation is getting good grades in their school yet scoring lower than expected on the SAT.

“What we’ve seen in the past is a situation where kids who are very high achievers and motivated students would have high grades, but unfortunately, there was a bit of disequilibrium between the grades they had in school and their SATs,” Johnson explained. “I see a lot of kids who do great in school but feel completely defeated when the SAT scores come out.”

“It seems like some of the changes in the SAT seem to be conducive to achievement and not aptitude,” she continued. “The ACT has already been that way for years.” 

While aptitude tests assess students’ likelihood to succeed in school in the future, achievement tests focus on what students already know. 

“I’m curious to see what the data will look like over the next year or two,” she added. “And I think we’ll get a better sense of whether these changes can be considered positive, or potentially, changes that College Board might go back and revise.”

Superintendents Clara Brito Herrera of West New York and Silvia Abbato of Union City did not return phone calls before the deadline. 

Figure 1: SAT scores by family income 

Figure 2: 2015 Income Eligibility Guidelines
Click to Enlarge
Figure 3- 2015-16 Hoboken Enrollment Data
Click to Enlarge

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Governor Christie Proposes Equal Funding for All School Districts

Apicella's on First Street from 1904 to 2005
Hoboken's last fish market
Governor Christie is proposing equal funding for all school districts in a sweeping effort to alter what he calls an "unaffordable and broken" education-funding formula "propped up by special interests and Supreme Court justices who got it wrong." The new plan, he said, would lower property tax bills and "end the disgrace of failed urban education." 

Under the proposed Fairness Formula, which he announced Tuesday afternoon at Hillsborough High School, each public school district would receive $6,599 per enrolled student — a figure arrived at by taking the $9.1 billion spent by the state today and dividing it among every K-12 student in New Jersey. 

Aid for special education would not be changed, according to the governor’s office.
That is a stark difference from the current formula under the School Funding Reform Act, which uses a weighted formula to determine how much money the state sends to districts.

Christie has for years strongly criticized that school-funding formula as unfair and fiscally irresponsible by pouring billions of tax dollars into underperforming districts and contributing to the state’s famously high property taxes. He did so again Tuesday, saying “failure is still the rule, not the exception” in districts where the state has spent nearly $100 billion the last 30 years in more than two dozen school districts where the graduate rates are well below the state average of 90 percent.
“It’s an immoral waste of the hard-earned money of the people of New Jersey,” Christie said. “We accept subpar performance and we pay a fortune for it.”

“Over and over again we see the same issue:  money spent without results for the families we are meant to serve,” Christie said. The current formula he added, “is failing families and their children.  It is bankrupting our state. It is driving families from their homes and New Jersey.”

Christie often says he could fix the inequity if only he had a Republican Legislature. The plan he was set to unveil Tuesday would likely have to go through the Democratic-led Legislature, which is pursuing its own reforms in a five-year plan to “address growing disparities in school funding throughout the state.”

Christie said his plan “is not a budget-cutting proposal,” but a “reallocation” of state aid.
He said his plan would provide “tax fairness” and provide better public education. Seventy-five percent of school districts would get more aid under his proposal, he said.

North Jersey towns stand to benefit, according to Christie. Under his proposal Fair Lawn would get an extra 815 percent in aid, while Teaneck would get 389 percent more and Wood-Ridge would get an additional 800 percent. That increase in state aid, he said would mean a drop in the average property tax bill of between $1,600 and $2,200 in those towns.

“All over the state, we slay the dragon of property taxes by implementing the Fairness Formula,” Christie said. “For the first time in anyone’s memory, property taxes plummeting not rising.  And all through valuing each child and their hopes, dreams and potential the same.
Christie said he will tour the state this summer to sell the proposal, which may be the last major policy battle he wages with Democrats before leaving office in January 2018.

Some Comparisons Across Hudson County (TGES estimates

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
Weehawken: $13,925
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/0-1800) Per Pupil: 
Weehawken: 15/49 

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
Hoboken City: $23,250
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/1801) Per Pupil: 
Hoboken City: 68/69 

2015-16 Budgeted Costs Amount Per Pupil
North Bergen: $13,305
2015-16 Budgeted Costs Rank Within Group (K-12/3501+) Per Pupil: 
North Bergen: 18/103

Full State List: Click here 

Related stories: 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hoboken School Earns Accolade

The New Jersey Department of Education has recognized
11 districts for outstanding second language programs.
Hoboken Dual Language Charter School was the
winner for Hudson County. 
(Provident Bank)
In a story reported by the Jersey Journal and dated June 16, 2016...The New Jersey Department of Education has recognized 11 districts for outstanding second language programs. Hoboken Dual Language Charter School was the winner for Hudson County. With assistance from the state, the New Jersey Supervisors of World Languages and the Statewide Advisory Committee for Bilingual and ESL Education developed criteria and reviewed applications to designate the 11 exemplary second language programs. The programs were identified through a process that included extensive program review, as well as a site visit conducted by state officials, college professors, and world language and bilingual/ESL program supervisors.

Full Story: Click Here 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hoboken Board of Education- Full Agenda June 14, 2016

Direct Link: CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What are the skills every 18 year old needs? - Look no further

Elysian Park- Hoboken, NJ April, 2016
Every now and then I go off script with this blog. Today is one occasion. I read this recently and thought I would share it. The question is simply-- "What are the skills every 18 year old needs"? The answers are provided by a Dean at Stanford University. Helicopter parents need not read any further...   Best, -Dr. Petrosino 

This question originally appeared on QuoraWhat are the skills every 18 year old needs? Answer by Julie Lythcott-Haims, Author of NYT bestseller How to Raise an Adult; former Stanford dean; podcast host.

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers

Faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics—in the real world.

The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers—respectfully and with eye contact—for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his or her way around

A campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.

The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.

3. An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it—sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a house hold

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs

Courses and workloads, college-level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.

The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: Our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they’re calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.