Improved achievement for all students – a goal that every New Jersey educator supports and works toward as each strives to improve his or her practice.New initiatives outline a great deal to be accomplished by school personnel continuing into the next school year.
For many months, discussion among New Jersey school district leaders has focused on the resources needed not only to accomplish local district goals, but to address the increasing challenges created by both federal and state government mandates.Chief Education Officers, their staffs and school boards wrestle with the question of how to obtain needed resources, both human and capital, to implement overarching changes to educator evaluation; revise curricula and teaching practices to address the Common Core State Standards; identify and provide the bandwidth and devices for the digital assessments required of new PARCC assessments; and ensure that school environments and staff actions achieve the goals of New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.
It is clear to those directing the educational, operational and support services for students in local districts that these many changes are advancing quickly without the needed time and support to ensure their success.What is the response of state officials to the questions of capacity?Let’s take a look:
·The State Funding Reform Act (SFRA) Remains Underfunded
SFRA was developed after detailed study, cost analysis and determination of the fiscal support needed to provide the state mandate of a “thorough and efficient education.”All districts and taxpayers are affected by the underfunding.There is no current year or proposed FY 2014 funding for programs required to address harassment, intimidation and bullying.
·Funding based on Average Daily Attendance Reduces District Aid
A proposal to use average daily attendance rather than student enrollment will reduce state aid if average attendance is less than 96%.Basic materials such as textbooks, supplies, equipment and transportation required for students aren’t based on their attendance, but on their enrollment in the district.State aid shouldn’t shortchange districts, particularly those that have the most challenges in promoting student attendance.This proposal is not a component of the state education funding law.
·No Funding Provided for New Educator Evaluation Programs
All New Jersey school districts are required to implement new evaluation protocols this coming school year.The regulations introduced by the State Board of Education and the Governor’s budget proposal don’t recognize that additional resources are needed to train staff, set performance goals and measurements based on student outcomes, observe professionals more frequently in their work and conduct additional conferences to discuss student and staff progress.Even more importantly, there is no recognition of the needed resources to support the collaboration among educators in Professional Learning Communities to achieve the desired outcomes of the reforms bringing higher learning standards, new assessments and more rigorous performance appraisals.
Imposing a 2% cap on the increase of property taxes to support school districts provides sufficient control of education spending.School district leaders should be free to determine where to allocate approved funding, making the caps placed on administrative spending unnecessary, even counter-productive to providing the personnel necessary to accomplish the mandates of AchieveNJ.
·Election Change Implemented, but Not Timeline Adjustments
The great majority of school districts have moved school elections to November and eliminated budget votes by adhering to the 2% cap on the increase in property taxes used to support education spending.The enabling legislation left the job half done, however, as districts needed to mobilize budgets, public hearings and adoptions in short order after receiving state aid figures as though they were preparing for April elections.School officials’ time is valuable resource that could be used more prudently under revised guidelines.
·Debt Service Assessment Means Districts Have Less Aid
The Office of Legislative Services reports that 270 districts, or 48 percent, will realize net losses under the proposed FY 2014 budget ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $200,000 since bills to districts for debt service on school construction grants are increasing.These fees were added as charges to districts and not included in their initial funding agreements or construction budgets.
Personnel of the State Department of Education find themselves stretched to the limit as well as they take on the leadership and oversight of the many reforms that affect all districts.In addition, the ramped-up work with schools demonstrating very low student performance and great discrepancies in achievement between student subgroups through the Regional Achievement Centers represents a significant dedication of Department resources.The recent announcement of state takeover of the Camden School District can only create significant additional demand on colleagues working within the DOE.
I had the privilege in April to attend the National Summit on Educator Effectiveness with NJ DOE colleagues.I believe that we all were struck by a presentation focusing on successful and unsuccessful implementation of evidence-based policies.Research demonstrates that even effective policies and interventions will fail if there are not effective implementation methods.As Robert Burns put it; “The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gangaft agley.”
How do New Jersey educators avoid failed outcomes as we collectively march toward realization of the many initiatives that are before us?We need to first confront the reality of the lack of implementation resources and recognize that implementation strategies and field experience are in their seminal stages, not complete or tried and true.We must help government and political leaders understand that the resources of financial and human support, time, practice, feedback and collaboration among educators are critical if we are to achieve the outcomes that we all desire for our students.
NJASA leaders are engaged in this important conversation with legislators and senior officials at the NJ DOE.It is imperative that each of you joins with us in speaking about these issues in your communities with staff, parents, local leaders and state legislators.The will of education reformers may be strong, but the backs of practitioners bear the weight of transforming our schools to ensure that every New Jersey student is truly ready for a career or post-secondary education following graduation.Let’s work together to accomplish this important goal!
10 Reasons to Attend the 31st Annual NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Conference for Professional Development
Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 4/25/2013
We’re getting ready to greet several hundred guests at the 31st Annual NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Conferenceat Caesars® Atlantic City on May 20-22, 2013. They’re coming for professional development, networking, fresh ideas, and inspiration. The conference covers:
·The latest educational developments in technology
Attendees will leave the conference as better leaders who can inspire and motivate others to give students a better education, and they will be better prepared to advance their personal career. There’s still time to register; the deadline is May 10th without a late charge. We hope you will join us.
Here is our top 10 list of reasons to put the Spring Conference on your professional development calendar for 2013.
1. Learn how your district can ramp up security at “Getting a Handle on District Security—Preparedness, Prevention/Mitigation, Response and Recovery.” This program will cover partnerships in school safety that enhance security both on a day-to-day basis and long-term.
2. Get ready for PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) in sessions including “Designing Classrooms to Prepare Students for PARCC” and “Preparing for PARCC – New Jersey Next Generation Standardized Assessment System.” Learn how to create classrooms that are problem-based, differentiated, student-centered and technology-infused.
3. Correct your misconceptions about school legal requirements for special education. Learn about special education legal requirements from keynote speaker Dr. Perry Zirkel. Dr. Zirkel is a Lehigh University professor who holds a Master of Law from Yale and is author of more than 1,200 pieces on school law.
4. Hear from one of the country’s most outspoken critics of grades and test scores. Keynote speaker Alfie Kohn, a parenting and human behavior expert, will talk about rescuing education from test-driven results and one-size-fits-all-standards.
5. Learn how to easily incorporate technology in your schools. Wednesday, May 22, is TechDay. Sessions include “What Do Students Need From A Digital Textbook?” “Innovative, No-Cost Ways to Meet New Jersey’s Financial Literacy Standard,” and “Teacher Driven Professional Development Through Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools.”
6. Discover the unintended consequences of digital education. Keynote speaker Hall Davidson of Discovery Education will present “Deep Unexpected Consequences: Knowledge and Leadership in the Age of Digital Education.”
7. Get guidance on assessments. Sessions include “EE4NJ and the Principal Evaluation,” “Giving Teachers the Tools to Thrive in the Era of EE4NJ,” and “Update on the TEACHNJ Act: The First Year.”
8. Network with fellow professionals. Use this opportunity to establish and grow relationships with your peers. From networking lunches to the President’s Reception, there is ample opportunity to meet new members and renew old friendships.
9. Browse the latest tools and resources. The Exhibit Hall offers both new and time-tested products and services to help your district work more effectively.
10. Get reimbursed for overnight lodging (if you qualify). The Commissioner of Education approved a waiver for overnight lodging, allowing districts to reimburse attendees approved to attend the conference.
We hope to see you there. Register today at http://www.njasa.net/domain/111 or call 609-599-2900. Make professional development a priority. And take your district to the next level.
NJASA Security Forum Offers 5 Recommendations for School Safety
Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza at 4/3/2013
Nearly three months after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Superintendent Dr. Janet Robinson joined experts in education, homeland security, law enforcement, architecture and mental health and addressed more than 200 New Jersey chief education officers, school leaders and law enforcement personnel at the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) School Security Conference in Edison. The conference examined strategies on how to improve security in New Jersey’s schools without compromising education.
Dr. Robinson cautioned districts against turning their schools into fortresses. Schools should avoid giving a message to students that they’re only safe if there are armed guards around them. Because schools are safe places. And if we build a fortress around our children, it will be far more difficult for them to have the freedom to learn. We have to strike the delicate balance that keeps our children safe and allows them to explore and grow.
Here are the recommendations that came out of the 2013 School Security Conference:
·Every school district should have a security committee. This committee includes school officials, stakeholders from parents and teachers and other community members, and the local police and fire departments. Meet regularly to keep the topic of school security front and center.
·Strengthen communication. Examine protocols that already are established between schools and law enforcement officials, administrators and teachers, the school and parents, etc. Evaluate and update your systems for communicating in a crisis to ensure they are state-of-the-art. Make sure that you also have a back-up communication plan.
·Strengthen community mental health services. Work within your community to get low-cost and free resources to those who may need them.
·Limit access to assault weapons. Gun buyback programs are often very successful.
·Establish forums for sharing best practices. This way, districts will benefit from the most current thinking on school security.
Currently, New Jersey has a proactive school security task force, which has schools well- prepared for incidents of all kinds. New Jersey school districts currently have state-mandated checklists of 90 security tasks to be completed on a monthly basis, including active lock-down drills.
That doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to improve security in New Jersey’s schools. What happened in Newtown, Conn., has already prompted an even more proactive approach to school security. In Livingston, N.J., the district changed the intercom system to allow any staff member to announce a lock-down in case of emergency. Other districts have upgraded classroom doors with remote control locks. Elmwood Park Public Schools are considering adding a double door vestibule that can lock in a trespasser. The goal is to slow down the attack, if it cannot be prevented, to allow first responders time to arrive.
New ideas were explored at the conference. Bulletproof glass can cost $300 per square feet but security film that prevents glass from exploding is about $15 to $30 per square foot. One idea employs technology, from smart phones to iPads, to transmit information immediately to school officials and local law enforcement.
Schools are among the safest places our children can be. What is important is to keep the dialogue open on school security. Ultimately, it will be our children who will benefit.
For more information on school security and other issues affecting New Jersey’s schools, visit www.njasa.net.
The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Services, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. The NCES produces an annual document analyzing the cost of public education. The latest report was published in November 2012 and is titled, “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2009–10 (Fiscal Year 2010).”
With just nine percent of our budgets allotted to education administration, New Jersey joins Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii and West Virginia in keeping administrative spending below 45 other states.
If you find that surprising, you may have tapped into recent public sentiment, where vocal opposition has characterized our state as paying high salaries to “too many” school administrators. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. The NCES study underscores the fact that New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers are putting the right emphasis on our public school budgets—on students rather than administration.
The NCES report covers administrative expenses necessary for the day-to-day operation of schools and their districts. Expenditures included student support services, instructional staff support, general administration (superintendents and board of education and staff), school administration (principals, school office and staff), operations and maintenance, student transportation, and other support services. All related salaries, benefits, supplies and purchased services are included in the figures. Long-term debt obligations of the school system were not included.
New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers actively seek and create strategic solutions with a recurring theme—collaboration. Here are some highlights that may inspire you and reveal how your school district or organization can reduce spending.
Technology, Custodial, Facilities, Maintenance and Utilities Savings
·The school created the South Jersey Technology Partnership (SJTP), an outgrowth of its technology center that is providing technology services for 60 to 70 smaller districts, nonprofits, and others. Staffed by district employees, the SJTP charges 20 to 50 percent less than market rate for labor and up to 60 percent less than the market rate for materials. Not only does that save clients like school districts money, it generates revenue for the high school. The high school is using the program fees to underwrite the costs of a new expanded technology center.
·The Sterling district provides a variety of custodial and maintenance services for other schools for a fee. It has provided electricians for the Somerdale, Magnolia Borough, and Laurel Spring districts, and has provided roofing services for North Plainfield. Sterling also has an ongoing relationship with Salem County Vocational School to provide both electrical and HVAC services.
·Sterling shares natural gas purchasing with the Stratford Board of Education and shares motor vehicle fuel purchasing with the Somerdale and Stratford police departments.
·Sterling’s substance abuse coordinator provides services to five elementary districts. The district shares child study team services with other districts, as well.
·Middle school students from other districts use Sterling’s athletic facilities for certain programs.
Another collaborative success story is the Sussex County Regional Cooperative, established to provide transportation for students who attend schools outside their home districts. These include students with disabilities, those attending vocational schools, nonpublic schools and other programs. The Cooperative serves over 70 districts in Sussex, Morris, Essex, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. By carefully planning routes and sharing services, the Cooperative has cut
transportation costs by at least 50 percent. Although the Cooperative was originally designed to be self-sustaining and nonprofit, it in fact has generated a profit, which will be put back into the program, for example to purchase buses that accommodate wheelchairs.
Banking and Other Savings
In Bergen County, 23 boards of education issued a joint request for commercial banking services. They sent a request for proposal (RFP) to every bank in the area, and received five bids. A committee representing the boards awarded the contract to Commerce Bank (now TD Bank). While each board still maintained its own account, the Bergen County School District Banking Consortium qualified as a major investor. That meant the interest rate on their deposits increased substantially. By one estimate, the increase accounted for additional combined revenues of about $100 million in one year. Today, the consortium includes over 80 New Jersey school districts with a combined average daily balance of $350,000,000.
Collaborative Cost-Cutting Solutions
School leadership also is getting involved in collaborative cost-cutting solutions.
·The Alliance for Competitive Energy Services (ACES) is an electric and natural gas aggregation program run by the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.
·The School Alliance Insurance Fund is a joint insurance fund offering general liability, property, workers compensation, student accident and other coverage to 165 member school districts and other joint insurance funds including the New Jersey School Boards Association Insurance Group, Bergen County Workers Compensation Pool and Burlington County Joint Insurance Fund.
Lowering administration costs is a tremendous achievement for New Jersey during a time when chief education officers, like all executives, are facing increased demands. In fact, New Jersey’s CEOs have worked to drive administrative costs down successfully over the past few years. Just prior to the most recent study, the 2009 Fiscal Year NCES study ranked New Jersey the eighth lowest in the nation. The most current report, the 2010 Fiscal Year NCES study, ranked New Jersey as the fifth lowest in administrative costs in the nation.
Let’s continue our commitment to learn from each other. Working together, our districts are stronger than ever.
The National Plan for Online and Blended Learning: 5 Goals to Help Schools Transition to Digital Classrooms
Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza at 2/11/2013
We’re at a pivotal point in education. We’re getting ready to move from a predominantly print-based classroom to a digital learning environment. Are we ready? After all, over the past few years, technology has ramped up at a dizzying speed, and our nation’s schools have yet to unleash technology’s full potential to transform learning. On the district level, we have to be prepared with the technology infrastructure that will allow us transition to digital classrooms.
The National Education Technology Plan, established by President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, sets five goals that will help us make that transition.
1. Technology can fundamentally change the learning process so it's more engaging and tailored to students' needs and interests. To achieve this goal, both states and districts must create and acquire learning resources that are aligned with the rigorous college- and career-ready standards that states are showing such courage and leadership in adopting.
2. We will use technology in the next generation of assessments to give teachers the information they need to regularly identify and address students' individual learning needs throughout the school year. These evaluations will go far beyond the end-of-course bubble tests available today and use the latest technologies that give teachers real-time data they need to differentiate instruction and improve student outcomes.
3. We will connect teachers with their peers and experts so they are continually learning about the resources available to them to meet the diverse needs of children in their classrooms. We can achieve the transition to digital learning only if teachers and students have access to what they need to do their work.
4. We will build an infrastructure that allows us to support access in and out of school.
Education must, and will, become increasingly focused on the measurement of student progress and outcomes, not how much time they spend in a class.
5. We will harness the power of technology to help schools become more productive – to accelerate student achievement faster than ever before. Despite difficult financial times, we must improve student outcomes in ways that historically may have seemed impossible.
Along these lines, NJASAwill be working with K12, Inc., Intel, and Microsoft to develop resources that supplement a student’s program of study at their local school. We will be providingaccess to high quality online learning resources and services, courses, and instruction that have been vetted accountability and alignment with New Jersey and national curriculum standards. We also will attract, engage and retain a global network of district and school leaders to collaborate towards long-term use of online learning to supplement traditional learning options.
We are ready to make the move from a predominantly print-based classroom to a digital learning environment. As Arne Duncan said, “If we accomplish these goals, we'll have realized the potential for technology to prepare students for success in the internationally competitive, knowledge-based economy,” he said. “Our children and our country deserve no less.”
For more detail about NJASA’s goals for online and blended learning, see our press release. For an overview of online and blended learning, see our video. For information presented before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools in New Jersey, see NJASA’s testimony.