The New Jersey Urban Youth Research Initiative is talking to Abbott high school students in Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson about the DOE’s new high school graduation requirements. Students’ concerns include whether the state is focused on making high schools harder instead of better, and whether poor urban kids will be punished for their school’s shortcomings. The Record quotes Deputy DOE Commissioner Willa Spicer:
The schools themselves are the problems that we have, and the school people know it. There is no attempt on the part of the state of New Jersey to wish bad things upon children in the schools. There is instead a belief that if you leave things the way they are, you and your friends, your brothers and sisters, will not be able to compete in the society in which you find yourselves.
At The Negotiating Table: NJSBA says that a growing number of school boards and teachers’ unions in NJ are agreeing to “lower raises, more instructional time and cost-saving provisions for fringe benefits,” according to PolitickerNJ.
Are districts starting to toughen up? Maybe a bit. Last year, 63% of districts negotiating new contracts with their local unions had not reached agreements. This year it’s 73%. Also, the NJSBA analysis shows an increase in contracts that require employee contributions to health care and a little give on percentages: average pay increases for 2009-1010 are 4.47%, but for settlements reached since January 2009, average increases are 4.31%.
At A Different Negotiating Table: Across the river in Philadelphia, there’s a weighty negotiating battle going on between the School District, which is pushing for longer days, different work rules, and ending job assignments based on seniority, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who thinks at least some of these changes are “highly inappropriate,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
How Many Clowns Can You Squeeze into a Volkswagon?: The Hillsborough School Board considered the state’s new requirement for a personal finance course at their recent meeting. The new requirement for high school graduation goes into effect with the 2011 freshman class, although details are fuzzy. Said Board member Marc Rosenberg in CentralJersey,
The ultimate issue is every time we put something in the curriculum, we have to take something out. I think we need to be very careful about what we’re putting in and what we’re taking out.
Dysfunctional School Board of the Week Award: The winner is Pleasantville School Board in Ocean County, where Board President Dorris Graves authorized editing out a portion of the audio recording of a recent meeting where an angry resident got into it with the Board attorney. The Press of Atlantic City got a copy of the censored bit, which went a bit viral. See (er, listen) here.