ARCHIVE FOR OCTOBER 2006
APPLESEED REPORT DISCUSSES PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN NCLB (10/3/2006)
Project Appleseed has released a report on parental involvement in achieving the standards set by No Child Left Behind. The report, which includes interviews with education leaders, community-based organizations and parent groups in 18 school districts in six states and, reaches three conclusions: 1) schools and districts do not universally accept parental involvement as an effective strategy for achieving academic gains; 2) School district officials need to better understand NCLB as it now exists, so that it can be better implemented and 3) a number of “best practices” and models have emerged within districts that can bridge the gap between parents and educators, making it easier for both to address issues of accountability.
According to the report’s Executive Summary, “Parents are not the magic answer…but [they] cannot be relegated to the sidelines or seen as less important than “real educators.” The highest achieving schools recognize that parents have a place at the table.”
Project Appleseed is an Internet network of parents and educators who seek to improve public schools through parental involvement.
It Takes A Parent: Transforming Education in the Wake of the No Child Left Behind Act (9/2006)
NEWARK KIDS COUNT 2006 REPORT RELEASED (10/05/2006)
The Association for Children of New Jersey has released Newark Kids Count 2006, its annual profile of child well-being in Newark. The report identifies both “positive trends” and “persistent problems.” Regarding education, the positive trends include that preschool enrollments have increased by 52 percent, and test scores for fourth graders and eighth graders have increased in language arts and math. Since 2000-01, fourth grade math scores have increased 100 percent, with 60 percent of students passing this year, compared to 30 percent in 2000-01. On the negative side, test scores for eleventh graders show smaller increases. Language arts scores have remained the same since 2000-01, with 52 percent of students achieving proficiency. The number of students achieving proficiency in all three grades is much lower in Newark than statewide, by a margin of almost 50 percent in some cases. And while school violence and vandalism incidents decreased between 2000-01 and 2004-05 (the most recent year of data in the report for this item), it notes an alarming increase—84 percent—in the number of such incidents involving weapons.
The report concludes, “Even though there is some good news to report, the fact remains that Newark children still suffer disproportionately compared to children growing up in other parts of Essex County, New Jersey, and other urban areas.”
Newark Kids Count 2006: A City Profile of Child Well-Being (9/2006)
STUDY OF FLORIDA'S VOUCHER PROGRAMS RELEASED (10/5/2006)
Recently, the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, released a paper entitled The Future of Vouchers: Lessons from the Adoption, Design and Court Challenges of Three Voucher Programs in Florida. This paper, by Douglas Harris, Carolyn Herrington and Amy Albee is scheduled to be published in the journal Education Policy. It considers why Florida has been the most aggressive state in the country in adopting vouchers, and what, if anything, its programs signal for the future of vouchers in other states. The paper finds that much of the state’s push to adopt vouchers comes from its moderately social conservative political climate, its openness to various forms of privatization, a large and growing Hispanic population, and a large number of out-of-state “transplanted” voters, with little connection to the state’s public education system. However, the paper also indicates that this “fertile political soil” had done little to assure the future of vouchers in Florida. Two restrictive state constitutional provisions and the impending end of pro-voucher Governor Jeb Bush’s tenure leave Florida’s voucher programs on uncertain political and legal ground. The report concludes, “We argue therefore that while the adoption of vouchers in Florida does signal a continued national trend toward school choice, it does not suggest that the trend will continue in the form of state-funded vouchers, or more specifically, in forms that allow the use of state funds in religious and other private schools.”
The Future of Vouchers: Lessons from the Adoption, Design and Court Challenges of Three Voucher Programs in Florida (9/26/2006)
POLICY BRIEF ON SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT NOW AVAILABLE (10/11/2006)
The Council of Chief State School Officers has issued a policy brief describing efforts by eight states (Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia) to provide support to schools labeled “in need of improvement” under No Child Left Behind.
The brief is intended to be a snapshot, describing how each state organizes its delivery of services to schools. Because of each state’s unique context and needs, the information in each state profile is not meant to be generalized across states. The brief does not endorse any state’s method, but rather seeks to help states share information about providing technical assistance and other support, with the goal of school improvement. The report states, “While states have long monitored districts and schools to ensure compliance with federal and state policies, they are now required to partner with districts to build the capacity needed to support both districts and schools in need of improvement. This transition in the state role from oversight to capacity building requires states to redesign existing support systems or create new ways to ensure that districts and schools have the resources needed to bring all students to proficiency.” Highlights of each state’s system are included in the introduction to the brief.
Policy Brief: State Support to Schools in Need of Improvement (9/2006)
COMMISSIONER APPOINTS MONITOR TO CAMDEN SCHOOL DISTRICT (10/12/2006)
Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy has appointed Nicholas Puleio, school business administrator in the Brick Township Public Schools, as “state monitor” for the Camden public schools. Camden is the second school district to have a monitor assigned to it since passage of the School District Fiscal Accountability Act in April. Under this act, the Commissioner of Education is authorized to appoint a monitor in any district whose annual audit identifies “serious fiscal deficiencies,” or who exhibits two or more of a set of specific circumstances as outlined in the act. Willingboro was the first district to receive such a monitor on April 21, 2006.
According to the Commissioner, Mr. Puleio’s priorities will include developing and overseeing a comprehensive action plan to address the district’s ongoing financial deficiencies; establishing procedures to ensure the district’s finances are in order; monitoring budget accounts to ensure that expenditures are consistent with approved budget needs; and reviewing district business operations and procedures.
NJDOE Press Release: Acting Commissioner Appoints State Monitor for Camden (10/6/2006)
School District Fiscal Accountability Act (4/17/2006)
SENATE APPROVES NOMINATION OF COMMISSIONER DAVY (10/19/2006)
On October 16, the New Jersey Senate unanimously confirmed Governor Corzine’s appointment of Lucille Davy as Commissioner of Education. Davy has served as acting commissioner since September 2005, when she was appointed by Governor Codey. Prior to that, Davy was Special Counsel to the Governor for Education. In that role, she served as the Governor’s representative to the State Board of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and the New Jersey Institute of Technology Board of Trustees.
According to Davy, her priorities for the department include implementation of the new statewide monitoring system, NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) and the student-level database, which will measure student achievement and provide information to address gaps in student learning and performance; modifications to the state’s assessment system; and revisions to the school funding formula.
Press Release: Senate Approves Commissioner Davy’s Nomination (10/17/2006)
REPORT LOOKS AT HISPANIC ISSUES IN EDUCATION (10/25/2006)
The latest report from the Pew Hispanic Center examines two wide-reaching trends in public education--the increase in public school enrollment due to growth in the Hispanic population and the growth in the number of public schools.
The report analyzes USDOE data from the 1993-94 and 2002-03 school years “to provide a portrait of change across the 10-year period,” and finds that Hispanics accounted for 64 percent of the increase in student enrollment, the highest of any group. Blacks accounted for 23 percent of the increase and Asians for 11 percent. White enrollment decreased by one percent during the same period.
During that same period, 15,368 new public schools were opened nationwide, with an enrollment of 6.1 million in 2002-03. The report distinguishes between these schools and “older schools,” which it defines as schools that have been opened since 1993-94. According to the report, in 2002-03 some one million Hispanic students were enrolled in older schools, and Hispanic enrollment in the older schools increased by 2.1 million. “In other words, about two-thirds of the total Hispanic enrollment increase between 1993-94 and 2002-03 flowed into public schools that were already operating at the start of this period and about one-third of the increase went into new schools.” The report also found that white enrollment in older schools declined by 2.6 million during the time period in question, while 2.5 million white students were enrolled in new schools.
The Changing Landscape of American Public Education: New Students, New Schools (10/5/2006)
POLL ON SCHOOL FUNDING AND PROPERTY TAX RELIEF DRAWS MIXED RESULTS (10/27/2006)
According to a poll conducted in early October by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, New Jersey residents want to reduce their property tax burden, but not if it means shortchanging school districts.
The poll asked a number of questions in four areas: quality of education, the relationship between property taxes and education funding, educational equity, and accountability for school spending. Among the poll’s findings:
* 58 percent of those surveyed rate education in New Jersey either “excellent” or “good.” This is the highest positive response this question has received in more than 25 years of public polling. 66 percent of those surveyed rate their local public schools either “excellent” or “good.”
* 64 percent of those surveyed object to any property tax relief plan that would provide less funding for the state’s public schools. Proposals to cut programs such as extracurricular activities are unpopular, with 72 percent of respondents saying they are “unwilling” to consider such a plan. Programs that involve district consolidation were more favorable, with 56 percent of respondents saying they are “somewhat” or “very” willing to consider such a proposal.
* 96 percent of those surveyed believe that children in the state’s poorest communities should have the same educational opportunities as those in wealthier suburban districts, but only 19 percent believe that they currently have such opportunities.
* Of the reasons why urban districts are not succeeding, wasteful spending was cited most often, by 68 percent of respondents. Wasteful spending in suburban districts was of concern as well—55 percent of those surveyed said the amount of wasteful spending in urban districts was equal to or less than that of their own district.
The poll was conducted for the Association of Children in New Jersey.
New Jersey Opinions on School Funding (10/17/2006)
OHIO SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS "COMMUNITY SCHOOLS" STATUTE (10/31/2006)
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that that state’s statute authorizing the establishment and operation of “community schools” (known elsewhere as charter schools) is constitutional, rejecting claims made in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of advocates for traditional public schools, including organizations representing parents, teachers, school administrators, school board members and taxpayers.
The Ohio Constitution requires the state to provide a “thorough and efficient system of common schools.” The plaintiffs had argued that community schools violate this requirement in two ways: 1) by not being part of the state’s system of “common schools”; and 2) by diverting money from local school districts, making them more reliant on property tax revenues. They also had claimed community schools violate the state constitutional provision governing the organization of school districts (because they are not governed by local school boards), as well as the provision limiting tax proceeds to their stated purpose (since the community school funding scheme diverts local school tax revenues away from traditional public schools). In a 4-3 decision, the court rejected all of these claims.
Writing for the majority, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote, “When the General Assembly enacted Ohio’s Community-Schools Act, it was entrusted with making complicated decisions about our state’s educational policy. These policy decisions are within the purview of its legislative responsibilities, and that legislation is entitled to deference…. The General Assembly always has the prerogative to determine that Ohio’s community schools are not meeting the purpose for which they were established and, consequently, has the ongoing opportunity to modify or dismantle them. After full consideration, we cannot say that the concept of community schools itself violates the Ohio Constitution.”
State ex rel. Ohio Congress of Parents and Teachers v. State Board of Education (10/25/2006)
NJ DOE RELEASES COST FIGURES (10/31/2006)
In response to a court order, the New Jersey Department of Education has released district-by-district education cost figures that were prepared by Department staff more than two years ago. The order was issued in the action filed by the Education Law Center, seeking release of the figures and other documents (see recent development dated July 21, 2006).
These figures compare districts’ actual spending in 2004-05 with an “education adequacy budget” developed by DOE staff with assistance from consultant John Augenblick. According to the data, the total amount needed to fund this “adequacy budget” statewide would be $15.7 billion, $375 million or 2.4 percent over the amount actually spent statewide during the year in question. The data also show:
* Suburban districts classified by DOE as affluent and educationally successful – called District Factor Groups (DFG) "I&J" – were spending $166 million, or 5.3%, in excess of the DOE adequacy budget;
* Poor urban or "Abbott" districts – those under the Abbott v. Burke mandates for education reform -- were spending almost the same as the adequacy budget;
* Other Districts classified by DOE as low, moderate and middle income – DFGs "A" thru "H" – were spending below the adequacy budget on average, with a handful spending about half of the budget.
The figures have not been posted on the NJDOE web site, but they are available on the Education Law Center’s site, which can be accessed through the link below.
Education Law Center: NJDOE Releases Incomplete Education Cost Data (10/20/2006)