NJ Spotlight analyzes NJ’s high school graduation rates, particularly the familiar achievement gaps. While the state graduation average was 87.5% in 2013, “some of the lowest graduation rates in the state last year were at high schools in some of the state’s most disadvantaged districts. The traditional high schools with the lowest rates were: Camden High, 47 percent; Barringer High in Newark, 49 percent; and Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, 50 percent. “
This past Monday the NJ State Assembly passed A 2873, a bill that, according to NJ School Boards Association, would “undermine a public agency’s ability to privatize public services.” NJSBA explains,
If enacted, the bill would essentially eliminate any savings that could be achieved through privatization. NJSBA believes the decision to subcontract or privatize services is, and should remain, a managerial prerogative. Privatizing services such as transportation, cafeteria, custodial and maintenance allows school districts to devote more resources to the classroom. Subcontracting also helps school districts avoid tax increases and live within the constraints of the two-percent property tax levy cap and flat state aid.
In other legislative news, the State Senate State Government Committee unanimously passed a bill, S2169, that would repeal the law that bars new public employees, including teachers, from living anywhere but NJ (Star Ledger). Also, Gov. Christie signed a bill that mandates that NJ public schools provide access to athletic programs to students with disabilities (The Record).
NJ is raising the standards for “both entry into teacher training programs and professional certification upon graduation. Students must have a minimum grade point average of a B to begin a training program, and have a minimum GPA of a B to receive certification, according to new rules adopted by the state Board of Education. Students must also pass basic skills and performance tests to be certified.” Previously aspiring teachers needed a 2.5 G.P.A. For context, see Amanda Ripley’s article in Slate regarding entrance to ed schools in Finland, where 1 in 10 students is admitted after a highly competitive process.
Oy Vey Dept: Letter writer in Star Ledger compares the Common Core State Standards to Hitler.
Asbury Park Press: “[Lakewood] Board of Education has received a subpoena from the state Comptroller’s Medicaid Fraud Division requesting documents dating back to 2009.
The division wants copies of all contracts, proposals, bills and payment records between the Lakewood school district and Rainbow Therapy, Imrei Binah, Congregation Lutzk and the Jersey Association for Autistic Children, according to the subpoena.”
Check out this Wall St. Journal piece that includes a map describing LIFO policies in each state in the country.
Ideally, tenure helps low-income schools to attract—and retain—good teachers. I’ve studied urban schools for many years, and it’s clear that disparities in teacher quality contribute to unequal academic outcomes among poor students. Students in districts with large minority populations are much more likely to be taught by new, inexperienced teachers who have only a bachelor’s degree and are often not certified in the subjects they teach. These teachers often earn considerably less than their counterparts in white, affluent districts, and frequently work under adverse conditions. Tenure has no bearing on how school districts chose to staff their schools.