Friday, May 26, 2017

The 50 School Districts that Spend the Most per Pupil of New Jersey's 647 Traditional and Public Charter School Districts

2017 Memorial Day Parade- Hoboken, NJ  

The numbers come from the state's annual Taxpayers's Guide to Education Spending, which is intended to provide a comparison of all money spent on the students enrolled in the public school system, including transportation, equipment, total food services, judgments against the school district, and tuition/costs for students sent out of district (except payments to charter schools). 

"According to data from the New Jersey Department of Education and reported by, the Hoboken School District spent $28, 217 per student in 2015-16. This places the Hoboken City District 23rd out of 647 NJ school districts or in the top 3.5% in the state in per pupil spending" 

Also included in the total cost are pension payments the state makes on behalf of school districts and tuition and fees districts paid to send students to other schools.
The following list was complied by Ted Sherman and published by on May 16, 2017.  Mr. Sherman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dr. Petrosino (Co-Founder) and Colleagues Celebrate UTeach Natural Sciences 20th Annversary

20th Anniversary Celebration- May 23, 2017
As one of the original Co-Founder's of UTeach Natural Sciences, this year's annual conference is especially close to my heart as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary.  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 and science education programs at other institutions; expanded to involve an additional forty-four universities in twenty-one states by 2019. -Dr. Petrosino

Click to Enlarge
The 2017 UTeach Conference is being held on May 23-25, 2017 in Austin, Texas, at the AT&T Executive Education Conference Center at The University of Texas at Austin. We will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UTeach program at the conference this year!
Each year, faculty, staff, and students from universities with UTeach programs and others come together for three days of meetings, interactive presentations, hands-on workshops, panels, and discussions devoted to strengthening STEM education. Representatives from universities interested in starting UTeach programs and special guests are welcome to come learn about UTeach as well.

Day 1 | Tuesday, May 23
Pre-Conference Course Retreats
The Pre-Conference Course Retreats are workshops for current instructors of UTeach courses.
8:00AM–9:00AM – Pre-Conference name badge pick-up opens (M2 level registration desk)
9:00AM–11:45AM – Pre-Conference sessions (registered pre-conference attendees only)
Day 1 | Tuesday, May 23
10:00AM – Conference name badge pick-up opens (M2 level registration desk)
1:00PM–2:30PM – Opening Plenary Session
2:45PM–5:00PM – Breakout Sessions
5:15PM–7:30PM – Welcome Reception / Poster Session
7:30PM – Adjourn
Day 2 | Wednesday, May 24
8:00AM–8:45AM – Breakfast
9:00AM–12:30PM – Breakout sessions and workshops
12:30PM–1:30PM – Lunch
1:30PM–5:15PM – Breakout sessions and workshops
6:00PM–9:00PM – Reception and dinner
9:00PM – Adjourn
Day 3 | Thursday, May 25
9:30AM11:00AMClosing Plenary Session
11:15AM12:15PMSpecial meetings

   UTeach at 20 by Anthony Petrosino on Scribd

The Trump-DeVos Budget: An All-Out Assault on America's Kids?

As a new federal budget is proposed, Senator Elizabeth Warren explains what might be in store for education...

0:00 so the Trop budget comes out tomorrow
0:02 but the word is already leaking out from
0:05 the Washington Post about what's in it
0:07 you're not going to believe it so I just
0:10 want to talk for a minute about a few of
0:12 the details here Trump and DeVos
0:14 remember Betsy divides the person the
0:17 Republicans confirmed to be Secretary of
0:19 Education the big complaint was that
0:22 this is a woman who does not believe in
0:23 public education well she just proved it
0:25 and that is the Trump defense budget
0:28 cuts 11 billion dollars from public
0:32 education they want to take away 22
0:36 programs that help kids K through 12
0:40 they won't take away after-school
0:42 programs gone teacher training gone
0:44 class size reduction gone school arts
0:48 programs gone physical education
0:51 programs gone foreign language programs
0:54 gone education technology mental health
0:57 services and E bullying initiatives AP
1:00 courses than the education and even the
1:06 Special Olympics this is an unbelievable
1:10 statement of where Trump and of us want
1:14 to take this country oh and there's more
1:16 there's more the trunk device budget
1:19 would totally eliminate public service
1:23 loan forgiveness that's it gone nothing
1:26 they want to slice work-study in half
1:29 steal four billion dollars from the Pell
1:32 Grant program and here's the one that
1:34 just is especially awful they want to
1:37 roll back the student loan subsidies for
1:40 low-income college students
1:41 so what's the plan of DeVos interim it's
1:45 to make student loans more expensive for
1:51 the students who have the most trouble
1:52 paying they want to make sure that more
1:55 students stay in bed even longer and pay
1:58 even more back to the federal government
2:02 here's the bottom line
2:04 the Trump devos budget would push
2:08 opportunities out of the reach
2:10 of millions of students across this
2:13 country it would ruin lives
2:16 yeah it's all about numbers but it's
2:18 also all about our values it's about
2:22 what we care about in this country and
2:25 what Trump and de Vos are saying is it's
2:28 not about public education it's not
2:30 about helping people get a college
2:32 diploma it's not about helping people
2:34 who have student loans they got to pay
2:36 off no it's up to us it is up to us to
2:41 fight back it is up to us to say no to
2:47 these budget cuts be clear you have the
2:50 power if you make your voice heard in
2:54 Washington then the Republicans cannot
2:57 get away with passing a budget like this

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How the National Science Foundation Supports Teachers- Teacher Appreciation Week 2017

I have been fortunate to secure funding or have served as a reviewer for all 6 of these NSF funded educational research programs dedicated to STEM education and the learning sciences. While each of these programs cover unique ground, there is some overlap or ways in which the grants or programs leverage off of each other. Nonetheless, here is a nice summary of NSF funded areas with a little description and links that might be interesting to look into. -Dr. Petrosino

Each year, during the first full week in May, Teacher Appreciation Week honors outstanding educators. The National Science Foundation (NSF) honors teachers during this week and throughout the year with grants, scholarships and initiatives designed to increase student learning, support innovative teaching approaches and promote best teaching practices. Here are a few of the ways in which NSF honors K-12 teachers and supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning:

Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12)
NSF's DRK-12 program seeks to significantly improve how PreK-12 students learn and teachers teach STEM. The program uses innovative research and development resources, models and tools to address immediate challenges facing PreK-12 STEM education. It recognizes the interaction among assessment, learning and teaching while supporting five types of projects: (1) Exploratory, (2) Design and Development, (3) Impact, (4) Implementation and Improvement and (5) Conferences and Syntheses.

Excellence Awards in Science and Engineering (EASE)
The EASE program encompasses the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). PAEMST is the U.S.'s highest recognition for outstanding teaching in K-12 mathematics and science. NSF manages the awards on behalf of the White House.

Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST)
ITEST is a program that promotes PreK-12 student interest in STEM with an emphasis on information and communications technology (ICT). The program seeks to excite students about the future STEM and ICT workforce. ITEST supports development, implementation and selective spread of innovative strategies that increase student awareness of STEM and ICT careers, motivates students to pursue the education necessary to participate in those careers and provides students with technology-rich experiences that develop their knowledge of related content and skills. ITEST projects must involve students and may also include teachers.

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science
This program brings knowledge of engineering, computer and information science and technological innovation to pre-college/community college classrooms. It enables K-12 STEM teachers and community college faculty to translate their research experiences and new knowledge gained in university settings into classroom activities.

Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program
NSF's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program uses scholarships, stipends and fellowships to encourage talented STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 STEM teachers. The program's Master Teaching Fellowships Track (MTF) also offers awards to institutions to administer fellowships and programmatic support to experienced and exemplary K-12 STEM teachers.

STEM + Computing Partnerships (STEM+C)
As computing becomes an integral part of modern STEM practice, STEM+C addresses the urgent need to prepare students from the early grades through high school in the essential computational skills, competencies and dispositions. STEM+C advances the integration of computational thinking and computing activities from Pre-K-12.

--  Bobbie Mixon, (703) 292-8485

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

UTeach Computer Science - Bringing Computer Science to High School Classrooms Across the Nation

Some regular readers will recall I am a co-founder of the UTeach Natural Sciences program recognized by the The White House as a national model for STEM education for aspiring teachers in 2014 and recipient of funding from the Howard Hughes Foundation, the Department of Education, the National Math and Science Institute and implementation and expansion funding from ExxonMobil. Recently, UTeach has expanded from science, mathematics, and engineering to become more formally involved with the field of computer science and particularly computer science at the middle and secondary level with a focus on children from under-represented populations. UTeach Computer Science has also worked closely with the nationally recognized Advanced Placement Program in forming an effective a scalable approach to STEM education reform at the national level. -Dr. Petrosino 

UTeach Computer Science is a $2.5 million dollar project funded project by the National Science Foundation. The project proposes to strengthen and expand access to computer science (CS) education in U.S. high schools. The project will leverage the Thriving in Our Digital World curriculum, the successful UTeach model for STEM teacher preparation, the unique expertise of the UTeach Institute (the organization charged with ensuring the fidelity of national UTeach implementation and the expansion and the sustainability of related STEM education innovations), and a national network, facilitated by the UTeach Institute, of 44 UTeach partner programs at universities across 21 states and the District of Columbia. The project will develop and scale professional development (PD) that prepares teachers for the new AP® CS Principles course as it becomes officially available in the fall of 2017.

Please CLICK HERE to see the project's video and an explanation of what the grant is trying to accomplish. I speak briefly about project based instruction, computer science, and equity -- some core components of this project for high school students from underserved populations. 

UTeach Computer Science Principles is not a “business as usual” curriculum. It goes beyond programming to address the K12 CS Framework core ideas like creativity, abstraction, global impact, and more. Beyond that, UTeach CSP Principles was developed with the explicit intention of broadening participation among young women and others historically underrepresented in the field. It’s an issue of equity!
There are a number of great CS Principles courses available. Here are the things we think make our course unique:

  • UTeach CS Principles was developed for high school teachers and students by highly experienced and successful secondary CS teachers.
  • The course engages students in authentic, project-based learning, focusing less on programming than deep conceptual understanding and computational thinking skills.
  • UTeach CS Principles can be taught in a variety of classroom and school environments, with no assumptions about students’ access to technology at home.
  • The course was designed using evidence-based strategies that incorporate socially relevant content with the explicit intention of motivating young women and others from groups historically underrepresented in CS.
  • UTeach CS Principles is endorsed by the College Board. It is designed to prepare students to submit Performance Tasks and take the AP Computer Science Principles exam.
  • The turnkey curriculum and teacher materials, coupled with our intensive training and support model, enables teachers and students who are new to computer science to be successful.
  • UTeach CSP has been implemented in 300 classrooms nationwide. Teachers help shape and improve the curriculum and support each other by sharing resources and crowdsourcing solutions.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Case for Having Nothing to Do

I was recently interviewed for a magazine which looks at early child education and development. This article focused specifically on unstructured play and its critical role for healthy child development. -Dr. Petrosino 

Summer vacation is almost here. Programs and activities fill quickly, and parents often feel the pressure to grab spots while they can. This is especially true for parents unable to be home with their children during the summer break, and those who fear kids will languish if left to their own devices. But in the push to settle your child’s summer schedule, it’s wise to allow for a generous dose of unstructured playtime. His or her mental health, as well as academic and social success, could depend on it.

Intuitively, we may see free playtime in school or elsewhere as nice but not essential—a time to decompress, socialize and perhaps get some exercise. But a quick survey of what experts have said on the subject reveals that it’s all that and much more.

In fact, unstructured play is critical to human development, and plays a role in a child’s ability to empathize, problem-solve, collaborate, and process information, says UT’s Anthony Petrosino, who holds a doctorate in education and human development. His areas of expertise include project-based instruction and problem solving in STEM disciplines. Petrosino’s perspective is shared by many and bolstered by research.

For instance, a recent study published in Evolutionary Psychology concluded that the “opportunity for free play in childhood significantly predicts both social success and individual adaptability.” Even school systems have recognized the importance of unstructured playtime. Last year, AISD began requiring all elementary schools to give students at least 30 minutes of unstructured play (recess) per day, in addition to their already mandated 135 minutes per week of structured physical activity.

Unstructured play refers to activities that are open-ended, creative and active, although not necessarily athletic, according to Stacey Shackelford, PhD, Chair of the Child Care and Development Department at Austin Community College. “Play is extremely valuable for child learning, understanding concepts, experimentation, and also for emotional and mental processing,” she says.

Yet experts also worry that children are increasingly deprived of the time and freedom to play in an unstructured, healthy way. Heavily scheduled lives, pressures to develop specific skills that may make children more “competitive,” concerns about safety and the prevalence of pastimes like TV viewing and video gaming are just a few of the hurdles today’s families may face in finding play time.

Playing with objects that stimulate the imagination (like Legos or blocks), dramatic pretend play, and self-directed artistic endeavors are examples of the types of play children need in terms of brain development and even mental health, Shackelford says. That’s because such activities give children the opportunity to make decisions, plan and set goals, and, when playing with others, to negotiate. They let children produce results independent of adult direction, thus building self-confidence and a sense of control, which may help mitigate depression and anxiety.

Doing something improvisational and creative (like building a fort out of pillows or cardboard boxes) is the gold standard in terms of unstructured play. During such activities, Shackelford explains, children get to use meta-cognitive processing, which is different from the thinking they do when trying to conform to external rules or expectations. “They are pulling back and looking at what they have done, thinking about it and problem solving. ‘OK, now I’ve got this, what am I going to do next?’” she says.

Of course, structured activities like organized sports, swim lessons and camps may offer great additions to your child’s summer. But look for options that also provide open-ended, self-directed activities and at home, strive to create pockets of time for unstructured play, Shackelford says. TV viewing, video gaming and even board games don’t count, she adds. These activities may be relaxing and fun, but shouldn’t displace your child’s unstructured play.

For older children and teens, Shackelford says it’s key to have projects and cultivate specific interests or hobbies your child truly enjoys, structured or not.

Finally, whatever your child’s age, join in some activities if you can. Drawing pictures or making clay figures alongside your very young child models how to play without rules and gives him or her permission to create. Let your older child plan and lead a project of his or her choosing, while you play a supporting role. Engage in your own unstructured “play” by discovering a long-lost hobby or passion. Along with being a great role model for your kids, you might just find your own spirits rising.

Margaret Nicklas is an Austin-based freelance journalist, writer and mom who covers public affairs, public health and the well-being of children.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Some Democratic Perspectives on School Funding Reform in New Jersey

Speaker Prieto on his Framework for School Funding Reform

Assembly Democrats Sound Off on Funding Education in New Jersey

Some Questions and Answers About Charter Schools and Services to Students with Disabilities

Deanery Mass- St. Ann's Church
A previous post on the number of SPED students enrolled in a school district in New Jersey has generated a fair amount of queries. This is an attempt to address some of those thoughtful questions concerning students with special needs and traditional public and public charter schools. Thank you, -Dr. Petrosino

Are Charter Schools Required to Provide Services to Students with Disabilities?

Yes. The responsibility to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to all students with disabilities applies to ALL public schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Charter schools are public schools; therefore, they bear the same responsibility.

Who is actually responsible for ensuring that special education services are available to students with disabilities in a charter school? 

The answer depends on how the charter school is legally identified in the state:

If a charter school is considered to be an independent Local Education Agency (LEA) under its state’s law, that charter school bears the exact same legal requirements for providing special education services as any other LEA (or district).

If a charter school is considered part of an existing LEA, the LEA (or district) retains most or all of the responsibility for special education in the charter school. The charter school is considered a school within that LEA and is responsible for following LEA policy.

Any further information about this topic? 

YES. The following is taken directly from NJDOE code: 

     b.    A charter school shall comply with the provisions of chapter 46 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes concerning the provision of services to handicapped students; except that the fiscal responsibility for any student currently enrolled in or determined to require a private day or residential school shall remain with the district of residence.
     Within 15 days of the signing of the individualized education plan, a charter school shall provide notice to the resident district of any individualized education plan which results in a private day or residential placement.  The resident district may challenge the placement within 30 days in accordance with the procedures established by law.
     c.     A charter school shall comply with applicable State and federal anti-discrimination statutes.
(cf:  P.L. 2007, c.260, s.57)

Are Charter Schools Required to Allow Students with IEPs to Enroll?

According to IDEA, yes. As was said above, the responsibility to make FAPE available to all students with disabilities applies to ALL public schools under federal law. Charter schools are public schools; therefore, they bear the same responsibility.

However, if more students apply to the school than the charter can serve, the charter may use a random selection system to determine student enrollment. In this scenario, many charter schools use a lottery system

More Questions? CLICK HERE for a number of additional answers to your questions concerning such things as transportation, funding, special needs and many other issues. 

Are NJ Charter School fulfilling their responsibility to special needs students (SPED)? 
Please read this opinion piece and decide for your self: CLICK HERE

Friday, May 5, 2017

No Statistical Difference in Special Education Enrollment Numbers in Hoboken, NJ Among Traditional Public and Public Charter Schools: An Exception or the Rule?

There is a continuing dialogue in the education policy and finance areas concerning traditional public schools and public charter schools. This dialogue and public discourse has been going on for the past 25 years. Issues often discussed and debated center around choice, funding, facilities, test scores, student populations, non-profit, for-profit, innovation and regulation among others. One issue that comes up a great deal is the issue of students identified in need of special instruction (SPED).  Specifically discussions center on whether charter schools educate special education students at all or at the same proportion as traditional public schools
"With more than a 99% certainty we can state that data indicates there is no statistical difference between the percentage or number of students identified as SPED between the traditional pubic schools and charter schools in Hoboken, NJ. when accounting for enrollment. In other words, counter to some claims, neither the traditional public nor the public charters are educating special education students at a differing proportion in the City of Hoboken, N.J."  

While I have not done an analysis on this issue at a large scale (county, state, national), I would like to point to a unique case in Hoboken, NJ which I have conducted. Hoboken is unique in that it has a traditional public school system with 6 schools (Brandt, Calabro, Conners, Hoboken HS, Hoboken Middle School, and Wallace) and three charter schools all within a square mile (city population approximately 53,635 people). Approximate student enrollment of the traditional Hoboken public school district is 1778 K-12 students. Approximate student enrollment of the three charter schools in Hoboken is 763 K-12 students (source NJDOE). Preschool (a.k.a. "PreK") was excluded from this analysis for two main reasons: 1) not all schools involved in this study have a preschool component and 2) lack of data at the preschool level. It was decided to pool enrollments into two basic categories ("traditional public" and "public charters") rather than conduct separate analysis on all possible permutations and combinations in order to better address the overarching educational policy question. 

According to the most recent data available (see Figure 1), 11.3% of the students enrolled in the Hoboken Public Schools are officially identified as SPED and 10.0% of the students enrolled in the three charter schools in Hoboken are identified as SPED.  

This analysis simply looks at the enrollment number reported in the NJDOE ASSA report and not the nature of a classification, severity of a classification,  or economic considerations of classifications. Rather, this particular analysis addresses the national, state and local level perception that charter schools do not enroll any SPED students and thus simply the number and percentage of enrolled SPED students are discussed. Further analysis on severity of classification and/or economic considerations certainly deserve attention and warrant discussion and would add to the current analysis. 

Figure 1: Percentage of Students Identified as Special Needs
Hoboken Traditional Public and Public Charters (2017)

Statistical Analysis 
In order to see if the proportion of SPED students in the charter schools differs significantly from the portion of SPED students in the Hoboken public schools, a chi-square test was employed. A chi-square goodness of fit test allows us to test whether the observed proportions for a categorical variable differ from hypothesized proportions (see Figure 2).

I used the highest standard commonly used in social science research- a p-value of .01. A p-value of less than .01 would indicate that the proportions of special education students in the charter schools differed significantly from the proportion of special education students in the public school. For the question of whether there is a significant difference between the percentage of special education students in traditional public and public charter schools in Hoboken, NJ the chi-square test statistic was .9931, p=.319. Since the p value is greater than .01, these results show that the proportion of SPED students in the charter schools does not differ significantly than the proportion of SPED of students in the public schools.

Additional statistical analysis was performed which included public school students attending other schools or school districts for special accommodations (identified as "SENT" on ASSA report). In one case the model was: On Roll (Full) + Sent (Full) and in another model we used On Roll (Full) + Sent (Full- only SPED). In both models additional statistical tests found no significant statistical differences at the .01 level between Public Schools and Public Charter Schools in Hoboken in number or percentage of SPED students when accounting for enrollment. 

Therefore, with more than a 99% certainty we can state that there is no statistical difference between the percentage or number of students identified as SPED between the traditional pubic schools and charter schools in Hoboken, NJ. when accounting for enrollment. 
Figure 2: Chi-Square Contingency Table

In fact, all three models: 
Model I: On Roll-Full vs Charter Schools;
Model II: On Roll-Full + Sent-Full vs. Charter Schools; and  
Model III: On Roll-Full + Sent-Full (SPED only) vs. Charter Schools) 
indicate no significant statistical difference between the Hoboken Public Schools and the Hoboken Charter Schools in terms of number or percentages of students identified as SPED enrolled in school. 

These percentages indicate that at least in Hoboken, NJ the traditional public schools and the public charter schools are educating the same percentage and number of students identified as in need of qualifying for special education services when accounting for enrollment. The proportions do not differ. In addition, these findings are extremely robust and tolerant of some variation in population estimates. 

Again, it needs to be emphasized that these numbers are accurate for Hoboken, NJ and its unique situation and may or may not be representative of larger county, state, or national data. 

I would like to thank the many regular readers of this blog who have requested this analysis and prompted me to undertake this project. I hope these findings will assist at both the local level and potentially add to the larger county, state and national conversation of this very important topic. Thank you also to a number of comments I received on this original posting via email, texts, and on social media. These comments helped in better articulating and refining the discussion and analysis of this post.

Preacher, K. J. (2001, April). Calculation for the chi-square test: An interactive calculation tool for chi-square tests of goodness of fit and independence [Computer software]. Available from

note1: a more involved and academic analysis of special education enrollment in Hoboken, NJ and the issue of funding for charter vs traditional public schools will be presented at an upcoming national educational research conference. 

note2: data from 2017-18 ASSA Report Hoboken City Schools 

Data Supplement

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hoboken Board of Education vs. Hola Dual Language School and NJ DoE May 2nd, 2017 10:00 am

Hoboken Board of Education vs. Hola Dual Language School and NJ DoE May 2nd, 2017 10:00 am (allow time for security line) Hudson County Administration Building 595 Newark Avenue Jersey City 9th floor - Room 906 The Chambers of the Hon. Administrative Judge Peter Bariso