ARCHIVE FOR DECEMBER 2005
NJDOE ANNOUNCES PLAN TO IMPROVE TESTING (12/01/05)
Acting Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy has announced an overhaul of New Jersey’s assessment system. When completed, the new system will be more useful to teachers, parents and administrators, according to Davy, and will meet all state and federal requirements.
Under the new assessment system, ASK3, ASK4, GEPA and HSPA will continue for the 2005-2006 school year, and a commercial test aligned to New Jersey’s academic standards will be administered for Grades 5, 6 and 7 as an interim step. At the same time, a statewide assessment advisory panel will work to develop a policy and vision for the new system, along with an assessment development plan for implementing the vision. Ultimately, statewide assessments in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics for Grades 5, 6 and 7, and possibly for Grades 3 and 4 will be rolled out for use in the 2006-2007 school year.
NJDOE Press Release: DOE Announces Plan Statewide Testing System (11/16/2005)
TEXAS SUPREME COURT RULES IN SCHOOL FINANCE CASE (12/02/05)
On Nov. 22, the Texas Supreme Court issued a decision in the latest school finance case from that state, Shirley Neeley, Texas Commissioner Of Education, Et Al. V. West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District. In a 7-1 decision, the Court ruled that the state’s system of school finance violates the provision of the constitution prohibiting a state property tax, but does not violate the provision requiring the Legislature to “establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance af an efficient system of free public schools.”
The Court further ruled that if the Legislature does not address the constitutional deficiency by adopting another method of funding schools by June 1, 2006, it will not permit the state’s public schools to open in September. But it did not order an increase in school funding.
A special session of the Legislature is expected.
Decision, Neeley v. West Orange-Cove I.S.D., Texas Supreme Court (11/22/2005)
Lawmakers Will Be Called Into New Special Session to Give Homeowners Property Tax Relief (Houston Chronicle, 11/23/2005)
STATE OF CONNECTICUT IS SUED OVER STATE FUNDING (12/05/05)
On November 22, a coalition of school boards, municipalities, education groups and families filed a class-action lawsuit, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, against the State of Connecticut, claiming that despite the state supreme court’s 1977 ruling in Horton v. Meskill requiring equalization of school funding, the state is not meeting its obligation to provide quality education. The plaintiffs seek an increase in funding earmarked for education.
Initial Complaint, CCJEF v. Rell (11/22/2005)
State Education Funding Challenged in Court (Stamford Advocate, 11/23/2005)
ABBOTT PROGRAM STUDY FINDS INCREASE IN PRESCHOOL SKILLS (12/15/05)
A recent study by the National Institute for Early Education Research has found that children who attend the state-funded preschool programs in New Jersey’s Abbott districts made major gains in vocabulary and math skills. New Jersey was one of five states whose state-funded preschool programs were studied, along with Michigan, West Virginia, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
According to the study’s findings, children in the Abbott preschool programs scored 10 percent higher on spoken vocabulary and math tests than children who had not attended preschool, and improved these skills by 25 percent in one school year.
Abbott preschool programs have been established as a result of a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott V in 1998, requiring that the state fund preschool programs for children who live in the state’s poorest urban districts.
NIEER Study: The Effects of State Prekindergarten Programs on Young Children's School Readiness in Five States (12/2005)
"Poorest Preschoolers Make Big Learning Gains" (Star-Ledger, 12/6/2005)
NEWARK SUPERINTENDENT PRESENTS PROGRESS REPORT (12/19/05)
At the December 7 meeting of the New Jersey State Board of Education, State District Superintendent Marion Bolden presented the annual progress report of the Newark Public Schools. The Newark school district is one of three (with Jersey City and Paterson) districts that have been taken over by the state.
The report contained statistics on a variety of issues and focused on progress made by the district during the period of state operation, since 1995. Among the improvements cited were a decrease in drop-out rates (from a high of 9.9 percent in 1996-97, to the current rate of 4.32 percent), a decrease in reported incidents of violence (from a high of 771 in 1998-99, to the current rate of 363), and a slight increase in attendance rates throughout the district (from a low of 89.0 percent in 1995-96 to the current rate of 91.1 percent). Of concern was a slight decrease in some standardized test scores, including Grade 4 language arts, and Grade 8 mathematics, which both received higher percentages in 2004.
NEWARK KIDS COUNT 2005 RELEASED (12/22/05)
The Association for Children of New Jersey has released Newark Kids Count 2005: A City Profile of Child Well-Being, its annual statistical portrait of children growing up in New Jersey’s largest city. The report includes extensive data in categories called Demographics, Family Economics, Healthy Children and Families, Protecting Children, Youth and Teens, Family Care and Education, and Public Education. Among its findings: 33% of Newark’s children live in poverty; the city’s median income is less than half the statewide average; 72% of its high school students failed the math portion of the state High School Proficiency Assessment and 51% failed the language arts literacy portion.
On the bright side: more then 5,600 Newark three- and four-year-olds attend public pre-kindergarten programs; and the number of students who failed the state’s fourth grade tests declined by 28% in math and 9.5% in language arts literacy between 2001-02 and 2003-04. ACNJ attributes the improvement in fourth-grade scores to the fact that many of the fourth graders attended the high-quality public pre-kindergarten programs mandated by Abbott v. Burke in 1998.
Newark Kids Count 2005
NJ SUPREME COURT ORDERS STATE TO REPORT ON SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS (12/22/05)
On Dec. 19, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted, in part, a motion in aid of litigants’ rights filed by the Education Law Center on behalf of the plaintiffs in Abbott v. Burke, and ordered the state to report to the Governor and the Legislature by Feb. 15, 2006, with an estimate of the cost to complete approved school construction projects in Abbott districts. The Court also ordered the districts to submit Long Range Facilities Plans to NJDOE by Jan. 15, 2006.
In issuing its ruling, the Court noted the parties’ stipulation that as of July 2005, 110 projects in Abbott districts had been approved by NJDOE and were under design by the Schools Construction Corporation, 97 projects had been approved and had some preliminary pre-development work completed, and 134 had been approved and were awaiting pre-development work. But it also noted that the SCC had “indefinitely postponed” all but 59 projects while it implements “fiscal and managerial reforms.” The Court stated, “[S]ignificant deficiencies in this area persist and are likely to worsen at a significant cost to the state’s most disadvantaged school children if there is further delay in addressing the dilapidated, overcrowded, and dangerous schools in the Abbott districts.”
NJ Supreme Court Order (12/19/2005)
For more information:
Recent Development, November 8, with background on the ELC motion.
"HIGHLY QUALIFIED" TEACHER STATISTICS VARY IN ACCURACY (12/22/05)
Although the No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all classrooms have “highly qualified” teachers by the end of 2005-06, many school officials are reporting that accurate figures are only now coming to light. Many say the data that came in during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years was largely guesswork, and that the first round of accurate figures will come in on Jan. 1, 2006.
A November 2005 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office bears this out. According to the report, states have improved the ways they collect and report this data, but limitations still exist, making it hard to determine how many teachers meet the criteria of the “highly qualified” mandate.
No Child Left Behind: Improved Accessibility to Education’s Information Could Help States Further Implement Teacher Qualification Requirements (US GAO, 11/2005)