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ARCHIVE FOR OCTOBER 2010

OPINION: THE $100 MILLION GIFT (BY PAUL TRACTENBERG)

(Paul Tractenberg, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers Law School-Newark, founded the Education Law Center in 1973, and is founder and co-director of the Rutgers-Newark Institute on Education Law and Policy and co-director of its Newark Schools Research Collaborative. He was born, raised and public school educated in Newark, graduating from Weequahic High School)

THE $100 MILLION gift to Newark schools from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is very tempting. Many say it should be accepted quickly, gratefully and unquestioningly.

His gesture was greeted enthusiastically by politicians on both sides of the aisle, by other wealthy and philanthropic entrepreneurs, by celebrities and many in the media. They say it will address a desperate situation afflicting so many urban school districts.

But we must be concerned about a reflexive response to Zuckerberg’s gift and its various conditions. Some may embrace the old adage that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if it’s a very large horse. The age of an adage doesn’t mean it should be followed automatically.

Is the gift of a horse always a benefit? What if the horse is so old and sickly that it will cost more to maintain than it’s worth? What if the horse is so wild and untamable that it can cause serious damage? What if it is a Trojan horse (hiding plans to privatize education in New Jersey)?

No doubt this gift, coinciding with the release of the film “Waiting for Superman,” has led to an extraordinary focus on education and its improvement, and to the possibility of mobilizing the country to do what it has long promised to do — address our educational inequities and ensure that all of our students succeed and lead us forward into a global tomorrow.

A full copy of this opinion is avaliable at: http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/Opinion.pdf

MAYORAL CONTROL ALONE DOESN'T FIX SCHOOLS, RUTGERS INSTITUTE STUDY FINDS

Mayoral control, advocated by politicians pushing to overhaul underperforming school systems, fails to improve student achievement, according to a two-year study.

The research, conducted by the Institute of Education Law and Policy at Rutgers University, looked at improvements in nine education systems where there were changes in how the schools were governed, led by Baltimore, Boston and New York City. The study will provide guidance to New Jersey policy makers as the state prepares to return schools in Paterson, Newark and Jersey City to local control after as many as 21 years under state operation, the authors said.

The findings, the subject of a seminar today at the university’s Newark, New Jersey campus, raise questions about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s plans to overhaul the schools in the state’s largest city by putting Mayor Cory Booker in charge, said Alan Sadovnik, professor of Education, Sociology and Public Administration and Affairs at Rutgers and co-author of the report in a telephone interview yesterday.

A full copy of this news is avaliable at: http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/Bloomberg.pdf

NEWARK MAYOR CORY BOOKER'S SCHOOL REFORMS MAY NOT IMPROVE STUDENT PERFORMANCE, STUDY SAYS

NEWARK — Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s commitment to reform his city’s struggling schools may not help increase students’ performance in the classroom, according to research being presented today by the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers-Newark.

The study’s authors examined public school governance models in nine cities demographically and politically similar to New Jersey’s state-controlled school districts and found "no conclusive evidence" that greater mayoral participation in their governance led to improved student test scores.

"Student achievement has been the toughest nut to crack," the report says. "While school leaders tout many improvements in test scores, attendance and graduation rates, in fact we were unable to establish conclusively that the change in governance had any causal relationship to improved performance."

A full copy of this news is avaliable at: http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/thestarledger.pdf

OPINION: 9 TO 5 NJ SCHOOLS?

Should we increase the number of hours and days students attend school each year?

The proposal has recently gained traction as educators, celebrities and a movie have embraced the concept.  Before his departure in August 2010, former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler expressed support for extended time, saying it has the potential to increase student achievement, especially in low-income districts.  He made his comments at the Robert Treat Academy, one of the most successful charter schools in the state, with both an extended school day and year.  And noted Washington, D.C. public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee recently called extended school days and years vital to improving urban student achievement.

Coming soon after the release of the movie “Waiting for Superman,” where Rhee is portrayed as the exemplar of the reform of large urban districts, her statement will gain wide attention. Moreover, the positive reception to the movie and support from celebrities like Oprah has brought broad public attention to the arguments of many urban educational reformers that charter schools, often with extended time, are the answer to urban educational problems and that teacher unions are the enemy of reform.

A full copy of this opinion is available at: http://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/9to5NJschools.pdf

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