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posted Mar 29, 2017, 9:31 AM by lkoller@mtephraimschools.com   [ updated Mar 29, 2017, 9:33 AM ]

(see attached chart at bottom) 

Funding for your schools comes from a few sources: local property taxes, aid from the State of New Jersey and aid from the federal government, although most New Jersey district receive minimal aid from the federal government.

Here we will describe the basics of the funding formula the state uses to disperse aid to local New Jersey districts.

There are three types of financial aid that the state awards local school districts annually through the state budget: equalization aid, categorical aid and grants earmarked for specific district(s) and/or specific purpose(s). Grants are completely at the discretion of the Legislature and the Governor. This article will discuss what comprises equalization and categorical aid. This is also known as the funding formula.

What is an Adequate Budget?
Answering this question is the first step the state takes in formulating its equalization aid to a district. In short, for every school district the state calculates what would be the necessary funding level to provide a “thorough and efficient education” to every pupil in that district. This is what is referred to as the Adequacy Budget. The state then calculates the Local Cost Share; or, what it believes the local taxing authority would be able to raise and earmark for the school district’s budget. The difference between the Adequacy Budget and the Local Cost Share, if one exists, is covered by the state through Equalization Aid.

Components of an Adequate Budget
Every year the state starts its Adequacy Budget calculation with a baseline of what it would cost to educate one elementary school student with no external factors considered. This baseline number is what is referred to as the Base Per Pupil Amount (BPA), In calculating the BPA, the state looks at a variety of factors, including teachers’ salaries, costs of supplies, the rate of inflation, and more.

Once the BPA is derived, the student body is analyzed and additional “weights” are added for each individual student for whom a weight applies. The weights are periodically revisited by the State and sometimes raised or lowered, but as of Fiscal Year 2014, the weights discussed here are current.

Elementary school students are considered the baseline and are counted as 1.00 student. This means that it would cost the BPA to educate one elementary school student, absent any other factors. Recognizing the additional costs associated with educating children as they get older, weights are added to pupils of more advanced schools. Every middle school student is calculated as 1.04 students; 1.16 for high school students; and 1.26 for vocational-technical students.

An additional weight is added for each child enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. These children are what the funding formula refers to as At Risk, and their weight depends on how many At Risk students comprise the student body. A district whose At Risk student body is under 20 percent receives and additional weight of 0.42 per At Risk pupil. The weight increases with the percentage of At Risk students until it reaches 40 percent where the weight is capped at 0.46. Any district with more than 40 percent of its student body classified as At Risk still receives a weight of 0.46 per At Risk student.

Additionally, a 0.46 weight is added for students who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP) unless they also qualify as At Risk. In the event they are also At Risk, their LEP weight is 0.0981.

So let’s look at some examples and see how the weights are added up:

EXAMPLE 1: Student X is a high school student for whom English is a second language. He is also one of the few students in the school enrolled in the Free School Lunch Program (under 20 percent of the student body). What is weighted calculation for Student X?

The answer is 1.6781. Student X’s baseline weight is 1.16 due to being a high school student. In addition, he is considered At Risk due to being enrolled in the Free School Lunch Program. Since the student population is less than 20 percent enrolled in the program, his At Risk weight is 0.42. Finally, he is additionally weighted due to being an LEP student, but this weighting is limited to 0.0981 due to it being combined with also being At Risk.

1.16 + 0.42 + 0.0981 = 1.6781

EXAMPLE 2: Student Y is enrolled in the county vocational-technical school and is considered LEP. She attends a district where the half of the students are enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, though she is not enrolled herself. What is the weighted calculation for Student Y?

The answer is 1.72. Student Y’s baseline weight as a vo-tech student is 1.26. She receives an additional weight of 0.46 due to her limited English proficiency. If she were enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program that weight would have been 0.0981 and she would have also received 0.46 for being At Risk in a high At Risk district, but that was not the case. Consequently her LEP weight stays at 0.46

1.26 + 0.46 + = 1.72

Other factors such as transportation costs, security aid and extraordinary special education are covered through categorical aid, which is separate from the Adequacy Budget and will be discussed later. After every student has been given a weighted score, these scores are added up to give a weighted representation of the entire student body. That number is then multiplied by the Base per Pupil Amount (BPA); and that number is then added to two-thirds of a district’s special education costs as determined by the State (SIDENOTE: Special Education calculation is discussed more in-depth under Categorical Aid). Finally, the resulting number is then multiplied by a Geographic Cost Adjustment (GCA) that factors in the cost of living for the county in which that district is located. That final number is the district’s Adequate Budget.

How Much Must the Local School District Pay?
Now that the state has figured out what is an Adequate Budget, the next step is to figure out how to pay for it. More specifically, the state figures out how much the local community is responsible for and how much the state is responsible for. The local communities’ portion is referred to as the Local Cost Share.

There are two variables that the state considers in deriving a Local Cost Share: Property Values and the Income of a district’s residents. The aggregate Property Value and Income of the district are separately multiplied against rate multipliers; added together and then divided by two to get a final Local Cost Share. The equation below illustrates this:

[(Property Value * Property Rate) + (Income * Income Rate)]/2

Once the Local Cost Share is figured, the state provides the difference in Equalization Aid. Theoretically, the Equalization Aid is the difference between a district’s Adequacy Budget and its Local Cost Share. It would be more accurate; however, to say that Local Cost Share is the difference between a district’s Adequacy Budget and Equalization Aid.

The difference is subtle but important. A popular misconception is the state derives what is an Adequate Budget; then determines what a district can afford to pay and provides the difference in Equalization Aid. In reality, the State derives what is an Adequate Budget; then determines how much Equalization Aid can be provided. The difference is left to the school district to address through the Local Cost Share. The state is able to do this because it is the state that determines the wealth rate multipliers for property values and incomes.

It should be noted that the Local Share is not a dictated local funding level. Rather, it is a recommended funding level used for the calculating of State Aid. A district is only obligated to locally raise and spend enough funds needed to provide all pupils within its jurisdiction a constitutionally guaranteed “thorough and efficient” education. Of course, since the State has to approve every district’s budget, the Local Share generally serves as a good guideline in determining what a district should raise and spend.

Categorical Aid
The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), enacted in 2008, created aid categories separate of the Adequacy Budget. Additionally, the Governor has, from time to time, created other categories to address specific issues. Regardless of how many categories the Governor decides to create and fund, the SFRA requires seven categories be funded. These are:

1. Special Education
Special Education is unique in the State budget in that it falls under both the Adequacy Budget calculation and Categorical Aid. In addressing special education, the school funding law sought to discourage over-classification by districts. Consequently, Special Education Aid is not dependent on the number of special education students a district has. Instead, it is assumed that 14.78 percent of every district’s student population is classified as special education, with an additional 1.72 percent needing speech therapy.

So in calculating a district’s Special Education Aid, the state calculates the average additional costs in excess of the Base per Pupil Amount associated with providing special ed and speech therapy to a student. These numbers are multiplied against 14.78 percent and 1.72 percent of the student body, respectively, and added together. Two-thirds of the resulting number is then added into the Adequacy Budget calculation, discussed earlier. The remaining one-third, after applying the Geographic Cost Adjustment, is the district’s Special Education Categorical Aid.

Let’s look at an example:

In a given year, the state has determined excess costs for special education at $15,000 and speech therapy at $1,200. How much Special Education Categorical Aid could a district of 1,000 students in Atlantic County expect?

The answer is $722,981. A district with 1,000 students would have presumed populations of 147.8 special education students and 17.2 speech therapy students. Those two populations are multiplied against their respective excess costs and then added together. Two-thirds of that number are then removed and added to the Adequacy Budget. Atlantic County’s GCA (0.9693 as of Fiscal Year 2014) would then be applied to the remaining one-third and the resulting number, rounded to the nearest dollar, represents the district’s Special Education Aid.

$15,000 * 147.8 = $2,217,000
$1,200 * 17.2 = $20,640
$2,217,000 + $20,640 = $2,237,640
$2,237,640 * 1/3 = $745,880 (with the remaining $1,491,760 going to the Adequacy Budget calculation)
$745,880 *0.9693 = $722,981.484

2. Extraordinary Special Education
For students that have excessive special education costs associated with their services, districts can receive categorical aid to compensate. The state currently defines “excessive” costs as anything over $45,000; unless the student is in private placement, in which case the threshold is $60,000. In such cases, the state will reimburse the district for 90 percent of the excessive costs if they are provided in district. If the special education services are provided out of district, the reimbursement rate is 75 percent. The district is; however, responsible for all costs under the threshold.

For example, let’s look at a student whose special education costs are $80,000.

Below is how much the district would be reimbursed for each scenario:
• If the student is provided services in-district:
o $80,000 – $45,000 = $35,000 Extraordinary Special Education Costs
o $35,000 * 90% = $31,500
• If the student is provided out of district services through another public school or other public education facility:
o $80,000 – $45,000 = $35,000 Extraordinary Special Education Costs
o $35,000 * 75% = $26,250
• If the student is provided private, out-of-district services:
o $80,000 – $60,000 = $20,000 Extraordinary Special Education Costs
o $20,000 * 75% = $15,000

3. Security Aid
Security aid has two parts. The first is the baseline cost a district receives for each pupil in the district, which is a uniform number throughout New Jersey. On top of that, districts receive additional security aid for every At Risk student in the district. Both amounts are set by the state; however, At Risk Security Aid has consistently been approximately 5.7 times the baseline Security Aid cost.

4. Transportation Aid
Transportation Aid starts with two baselines; the cost per pupil of transporting (1) a regular student; and (2) a special education student. These costs are calculated by the state and are uniform. On top of these two baselines, two Average Per Mile rates are set; again one for regular students and one for special education students. The distance traveled between a pupil’s home and their school is multiplied by the Average Per Mile, and that number is added to the applicable transportation baseline. This number represents what the state will reimburse for that particular student’s transportation, and the summation of all the students’ transportation reimbursement is what a district can expect in Transportation Aid.

5. School Choice Aid
This is specifically for districts which are enrolled in the inter-district public school choice program. It is intended to cover additional costs that are associated with receiving school choice enrollees.

6. Adjustment Aid
This is often referred to as “hold harmless” aid, and for good reason. Its original intent was to ensure that when state funding was reinvented through the SFRA in 2008, no district would lose funding due to the new calculations. It continues to exist in the law and represents the negative difference, if one exists, between a district’s State Aid for this year and the aid received in 2008. Let’s look at an example:

A district received $14 million in total State Aid in 2008. This year, between Equalization Aid and all other (e.g., non-Adjustment) categorical aid they are scheduled to receive $13 million. Under this scenario, the will receive an additional $1 million in Adjustment Aid.

7. Adequacy Aid
Districts that spend less than their Local Cost Share are considered ‘Under Adequacy.’ Adequacy Aid helps bridge the gap for these districts that cannot raise their Local Cost Share without exceeding the 2 percent property tax cap.

For example, let’s take an Under Adequacy district. To make the math easy, for every 1 percent this district raises the property tax levy, it can raise $25,000. Now let’s say a variable changes the district’s Adequacy Budget, and consequently change its Local Cost Share. This variable could be a number of things: a spike in At Risk and/ LEP students; a larger-than-usual class moving from middle to high school; or a sudden increase in vocational school enrollment.

If these changes resulted in an increase of the Local Cost Share of $50,000, the district would be expected to cover the increase by raising its tax levy 2 percent. If, however, the changes result in a Local Cost Share increase of $60,000, the district would still be required to adhere to the 2 percent cap. Consequently, they would be expected to raise $50,000 and they would receive $10,000 in Adequacy Aid to achieve an Adequate Budget.


posted Mar 28, 2017, 1:02 PM by lkoller@mtephraimschools.com

Under Federal law, State and local educational agencies (hereinafter “districts”) are required to provide all children with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level. Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law. Both the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education (Departments) write to remind you of the Federal obligation to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing within your district and to offer our assistance in ensuring that you comply with the law. We are writing to update the previous Dear Colleague Letter on this subject that was issued on May 6, 2011, and to respond to inquiries the Departments received about the May 6 Letter. This letter replaces the May 6 Letter.

The Departments enforce numerous statutes that prohibit discrimination, including Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IV prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public elementary and secondary schools. 42 U.S.C. § 2000c-6. Title VI prohibits discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance on the basis of race, color, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. Title VI regulations, moreover, prohibit districts from unjustifiably utilizing criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of a program for individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin. See 28 C.F.R. § 42.104(b)(2) and 34 C.F.R. § 100.3(b)(2).

Additionally, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), that a State may not deny access to a basic public education to any child residing in the State, whether present in the United States legally or otherwise. Denying “innocent children” access to a public education, the Court explained, “imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status. . . . By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.” Plyler, 457 U.S. at 223. As Plyler makes clear, the undocumented or non-citizen status of a student (or his or her parent or guardian) is irrelevant to that student’s entitlement to an elementary and secondary public education.

To comply with these Federal civil rights laws, as well as the mandates of the Supreme Court, you must ensure that you do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and that students are not barred from enrolling in public schools at the elementary and secondary level on the basis of their own citizenship or immigration status or that of their parents or guardians. Moreover, districts may not request information with the purpose or result of denying access to public schools on the basis of race, color, or national origin. To assist you in meeting these obligations, we provide below some examples of permissible enrollment practices, as well as examples of the types of information that may not be used as a basis for denying a student entrance to school.

In order to ensure that its educational services are enjoyed only by residents of the district, a district may require students or their parents to provide proof of residency within the district. See, e.g., Martinez v. Bynum, 461 U.S. 321, 328 (1983).1 For example, a district may require copies of phone and water bills or lease agreements to establish residency. While a district may restrict attendance to district residents, inquiring into students’ citizenship or immigration status, or that of their parents or guardians would not be relevant to establishing residency within the district. A district should review the list of documents that can be used to establish residency and ensure that any required documents would not unlawfully bar or discourage a student who is undocumented or whose parents are undocumented from enrolling in or attending school. As with residency requirements, rules vary among States and districts as to what documents students may use to show they fall within State- or district-mandated minimum and maximum age requirements, and jurisdictions typically accept a variety of documents for this purpose. A school district may not bar a student from enrolling in its schools because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has records that indicate a foreign place of birth, such as a foreign birth certificate. Homeless children and youth often do not have the documents ordinarily required for school enrollment such as proof of residency or birth certificates. A school selected for a homeless child must immediately enroll the homeless child, even if the child or the child’s parent or guardian is unable to produce the records normally required for enrollment. See 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(3)(C)(1).

Moreover, we recognize that districts have Federal obligations, and in some instances State obligations, to report certain data such as the race and ethnicity of their student population. While the Department of Education requires districts to collect and report such information, districts cannot use the acquired data to discriminate against students; nor should a parent’s or guardian’s refusal to respond to a request for this data lead to a denial of his or her child’s enrollment. Similarly, we are aware that many districts request a student’s social security number at enrollment for use as a student identification number. A district may not deny enrollment to a student if he or she (or his or her parent or guardian) chooses not to provide a social security number. See 5 U.S.C. §552a (note).

If a district chooses to request a social security number, it shall inform the individual that the disclosure is voluntary, provide the statutory or other basis upon which it is seeking the number, and explain what uses will be made of it. Id. In all instances of information collection and review, it is essential that any request be uniformly applied to all students and not applied in a selective manner to specific groups of students. As the Supreme Court noted in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he [or she] is denied the opportunity of an education.” Id. at 493. Both Departments are committed to vigorously enforcing the Federal civil rights laws outlined above and to providing any technical assistance that may be helpful to you so that all students are afforded equal educational opportunities. As immediate steps, you first may wish to review the documents your district requires for school enrollment to ensure that the requested documents do not have a chilling effect on a student’s enrollment in school. Second, in the process of assessing your compliance with the law, you might review State and district level enrollment data. Precipitous drops in the enrollment of any group of students in a district or school may signal that there are barriers to their attendance that you should further investigate.

We are also attaching frequently asked questions and answers and a fact sheet that should be helpful to you. Please contact us if you have additional questions or if we can provide you with assistance in ensuring that your programs comply with Federal law. You may contact the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section, at (877) 292-3804 or education@usdoj.gov, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at (800) 421-3481 or ocr@ed.gov or the Department of Education Office of the General Counsel at (202) 401-6000. You may also visit http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm for the OCR enforcement office that serves 2 Federal law provides for certain limited exceptions to this requirement. See Pub. L. No. 93-579, § 7(a)(2).For general information about equal access to public education, please visit our website at http://www.justice.gov/crt/edo and http://www2.ed.gov/ocr/index.html. 

We look forward to working with you. Thank you for your attention to this matter and for taking the necessary steps to ensure that no child is denied a public education.

Gov. Proposes Flat School Aid, but Wants Agreement on New Funding System within 100 Days

posted Mar 1, 2017, 9:26 AM by MEPS Google Admin.

In his final budget address, Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday proposed a total of $13.8 billion in education funding for 2017-2018, with approximately $9.2 billion going to direct aid to schools.

During a conference call with the state’s education organizations prior to the budget address, Acting Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington said that no school district will receive less in aid in 2017-2018 than it did this year. (See school aid chart.)

School districts receive their individual state aid notifications within two days of the Governor’s address. Local school districts must use these state aid numbers in budget development.

School Funding Reform In his address, Christie ripped the current school funding statute, the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA), as unsustainable. And he called for the Legislature to take quick action on developing a new school finance system.

“…in the last few months I have finally heard the leaders of the legislature admit what I’ve been saying for eight years – this system is unfair and broken,” he said in his remarks as prepared.

“I pledge to work with the leaders of the legislature to come up with a new funding formula. Everything is on the table. No idea out of bounds for discussion. I am willing to work with you to solve this problem without any pre-conditions on the ideas brought to the table.

“However, here is my one requirement to offering compromise. 100 days,” he said. “We have 100 days to get this done.”

Meaning of 100-Day Timeline It was not clear if the Governor intends for a new formula to be in effect for the 2017-2018 school year, or if he simply wants to reach an agreement with the Legislature within 100 days. A 100-day timeline, however, would bring agreement on a new formula past the deadlines for finalizing 2017-2018 school budgets (May 12 for most districts) and striking school tax rates (May 19).

Nonetheless, Christie made it clear that his intention was to have a new school funding system ready before he leaves office next January.

“I want to act with you. But, if forced, I will act alone. But it will be fixed before I leave this town,” he said.

Last June, Christie proposed a new system, termed the “Fairness Formula,” which would base school aid on a single per-pupil allotment, regardless of community wealth.

Calls for change have come from both sides of the aisle. Senate President Steve Sweeney wants to maintain the SFRA, but address funding inconsistencies resulting from the fact that the act’s funding formula has not operated for a number of years.

NJSBA: Must Serve All Students “Once again, local school districts face another year of flat funding, a situation that does indeed warrant a long, hard look at the state’s school finance system,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Operating costs don’t remain flat. It is difficult to sustain programs with flat funding year in and year out.

“Any change to school funding must be implemented in a rational and fair manner,” he continued. “A school funding system must recognize the educational needs of all students. And it must recognize a community’s ability to pay for its schools.

“There should never be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ when it comes to the lives of children.”

Pension/Benefit Funding Christie’s budget also increases state contributions to the state’s pension systems. State funding for the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund will increase by $411.5 million to a total of more than $1.5 billion. State contributions to teachers’ post-retirement medical benefits will increase by $69.6 million, to an amount close to $1.2 billion.

Christie addressed the state’s long-term pension problem by proposing the dedication of lottery revenue to the state funds.

“The contribution would have the immediate effect of reducing the unfunded liability of the pension system by approximately $13 billion, and would increase the funded ratio of the pension system by almost 15 percentage points in one fell swoop, from 49% to 64%,” he said.

“This would also significantly reduce the amount we have to pay into the pension system every year out of the general fund.”

In addition, the Governor called for extension of the health benefit reforms adopted by the State Health Benefits Program’s plan design committee to other state-operated health programs. In her pre-budget address telephone conference, Acting Commissioner Harrington said that adoption of the reforms by the School Employees Health Benefits Program would save $43 million.


posted Feb 28, 2017, 9:26 AM by MEPS Google Admin.

NJ schools being pushed to deal with chronic absenteeism

NJDOE Releases Violence, Vandalism Report: Bullying Incidents Down, Overall Incidents Up

posted Feb 23, 2017, 8:29 AM by MEPS Google Admin.

The number of bullying incidents reported in New Jersey’s public schools declined in 2015-2016 and showed a significant drop over the past five years, according to the annual report on violence, vandalism and substance abuse released by the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE).

The Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools report for 2015-2016 was issued last week. The report is produced each year to give an account of self-reported incidents from districts, and includes the numbers of offenses involving violence, vandalism, and weapons; substance abuse; and harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB).

Overall, the total number of incidents reported in New Jersey’s public schools last year – 19,181 – was higher than the 18,332 reported in the 2014-2015 school year, but roughly the same as the year preceding that, and less than in 2012-2013.

The number of violent incidents reported this year, meanwhile, 8,261, is nearly identical in number to the 8,252 reported in the 2011-2012 school year, following three years of a slight decrease.

Regarding bullying, the report also showed an increase in the number of trainings offered in schools to reduce HIB and the number of programs offered to combat HIB.

“We are committed to finding ways to build a safer school climate and culture for our students,” said Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington. “The data in the report can be useful in helping schools improve the learning environment for students.”

Understanding that year-to-year fluctuations in the data can be erratic, reviewing the past five years of reporting can help explain longer-term trends, according to a press release issued by the NJDOE. The data shows that over the last five years from 2011-2012 to 2015-2016, offenses in four of the five major reporting areas – vandalism, weapons, substance use, and HIB – have declined.

According to the NJDOE press release:

In 2015-2016, which was the fifth full year of school districts reporting HIB in a separate category, 5,995 HIB incidents were reported by schools. This is lower than in 2014-2015, with 6,214 HIB incidents, and a marked reduction from the first year of HIB incident reporting in 2011-2012, when it was 12,024.
At least one affirmed bullying incident was reported in 1,452 schools in 2015-2016. Among schools with no affirmed HIB cases, 50 percent reported at least one HIB investigation during the school year. A majority of the schools reporting no affirmed bullying incidents were elementary schools. This number is lower than in 2014-2015, when 1,520 schools reported HIB incidents.
Schools reported providing 17,671 trainings related to reduction of HIB – a substantial increase from the previous year’s report of 14,810 trainings. The number of trainings focusing on “social skills/relationship improvement, characteristics or needs of individuals, or groups at risk for HIB,” and “social norms” grew the most from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, increasing by 28, 25, and 25 percent, respectively.
School districts offered 25,114 programs, approaches, or initiatives to reduce HIB incidents in the 2015-2016 school year – a substantial increase from the 20,725 in 2014-2015.
Looking over the past five years, there has been some decline in reports of substance use, possession, or distribution on school grounds.

There were 3,010 incidents of substance abuse cases in 2015-2016 compared to 3,482 in 2011-2012.
75 percent of substance cases in 2015-2016 involved marijuana on school grounds with 2,270 incidents. Alcohol is the substance with the next highest frequency of use on school grounds, with 468 cases representing 16 percent of the total substance abuse incidents.
Vandalism has dropped slowly and steadily every year.

Vandalism incidents dropped from 1,924 in 2011-2012 to 1,423 incidents in 2015-2016.
Theft has decreased since 2011-12, while damage to property has increased slightly.
The number of incidents involving weapons has been relatively stable over the past five school years with some declines overall.

In 2015-2016 there were 1,000 incidents involving weapons reported, while in 2011-2012 there were 1,125 incidents.
There were two handgun incidents in 2015-2016 compared to six in 2014-2015, 99 incidents with air guns in schools in 2015-206 compared to 110 in 2014-2015, and 30 incidents with imitation guns in 2015-2016 compared to 28 from 2014-2015. There have been no rifle incidents reported by schools in the past three years.
The 8,261 violent incidents reported this year are nearly identical in number to the 8,252 reported in the 2011-2012 school year. In the three years following the 2011-2012 school year, reports of violent incidents had slightly decreased annually. However, it is unclear whether the increase in reports of violent incidents from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 is related to an actual increase in violence in schools, or whether it reflects an increase in accuracy of reporting at the local level.

Updated training manuals, targeted monitoring visits, and additional outreach to districts during the 2015-2016 school year may have resulted in more accurate reporting by school districts. The department is monitoring the data and pledges to assist schools in implementing programs and training to address local issues as needed.

The department has been working with districts to ensure accurate reporting, and help them identify programs, practices and other resources to improve school climate. Some examples of this include: developing a new data-collection system to track violence and bullying; implementing recommendations of the Anti-Bullying Task Force; examining evidence-based practices and research in the fields of social-emotional learning; and providing a tiered system of supports to develop approaches that serve New Jersey students.

The Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools report, which is presented annually to the governor and Legislature, transparently communicates the changes in self-reported incidents from year to year. However, the report does not analyze the reasons for the changes.

The Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools report and summaries of district- and school-level data are available on the NJDOE’s website.


posted Feb 22, 2017, 11:16 AM by MEPS Google Admin.


Parents learn how to make their children self-reliant

posted Feb 10, 2017, 9:16 AM by MEPS Google Admin.

Catherine Carrera , Staff Writer, Published 11:33 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017 | Updated 11:35 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017

HILLSDALE – Cold, wet weather on Tuesday night didn’t stop about 100 parents from going to Pascack Valley High School to learn how letting their kids fail can foster their child’s competence and self-reliance.

The tips came from Jessica Lahey, a New York Times bestselling author, who was invited by multiple school districts in the Pascack Valley to talk about the benefits of letting children experience disappointment, which she says will help them become resilient adults.

Pascack Valley Regional High School, Emerson, Westwood, Park Ridge, Hillsdale, Montvale, River Vale and Woodcliff Lake school districts co-sponsored the event, which is in its second year.

Lahey, who lives in New Hampshire, is a teacher, writer and mother of two boys, ages 18 and 13. Her work, which focuses on education, parenting and child welfare, has been featured in The New York Times and The Atlantic and on Vermont Public Radio, among other publications and news outlets.
Her talk focused on her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.”
“Over-parenting affects kids’ learning,” Lahey said.

She told a familiar story about a child who forgets their homework and relies on a parent to come swooping into school to deliver it.

Parents in that position could instead give their children a chance to develop a strategy to help address the issue of forgetting their homework, she said.
Lahey spoke from personal experience. She said her youngest son would consistently forget his homework. His strategy was to develop a checklist every night, listing things he needed to get done the next morning before school. His list included everything from getting dressed to brushing his teeth and putting his homework in his backpack, Lahey said.

“In four years, he forgot his homework twice,” she said.

“The title of my book is 'Gift of Failure' not because I want kids to fail,” Lahey said. “I want them to learn positive adaptation to failure. When we give kids the opportunity to talk about the fact they got something wrong, or did something wrong, they learn from that. And that’s called having a growth mindset.”

In her book, Lahey said she provides parents with a plan to help them step back when their children fail in various aspects of their lives, whether it's homework, social dynamics or sports.

Gina Pantoliano of Park Ridge, a parent who was in the audience, said she wants her 15-year-old daughter to grow up to be a self-reliant adult.
 “I like to coddle my daughter, and I realize sometimes that isn’t always the best way for her to grow,” Pantoliano said. “I want her to grow up to be strong and independent and resilient.”

Another parent, Julie Nuciforo of Park Ridge, said she thinks many parents are “taught” to do everything for their kids, but realizes the dangers of following that mindset.

“We want to help our kids and we want to step in and save our kids, but sometimes, it seems, the better lesson is to let them fall on their bum and let them pick themselves up,” said Nuciforo, a parent of 11- and 14-year-olds. “Falling and getting back up is a skill everybody needs.”

Final Year of Christie Administration Could See Big Educational Battles

posted Sep 26, 2016, 10:43 AM by MEPS Google Admin.   [ updated Sep 26, 2016, 10:43 AM ]


School funding and state controls for Newark and other cities, PARCC graduation requirements and superintendent caps — It could be a bumpy ride.  State Commissioner of Education David Hespe has announced that he will be stepping down. Over the course of Gov. Christie’s administration, each year in New Jersey education policy and political intrigue seems to surpass the last.

There were the deep cuts in state aid in his first year, only to be followed by the Race to the Top drama, a new teacher tenure law, charter school wars, and most recently, PARCC testing.

Now entering Christie’s last year in office, the 2016-2017 school year is sure to be no exception, with the governor looking to cement his legacy, especially when it comes to core issues like funding and charters, while schools themselves grapple with their own challenges.

But education will have stiff competition for campaign attention in the coming year, as the state’s fiscal crunch shows no signs of letting up and problems with public-employee benefits and The Transportation Trust Fund continue unabated.

The new school year started off early with a bang, with Friday’s announcement that state Education Commissioner David Hespe would be stepping down. It has been long rumored; Hespe’s 30-month tenure at the department were as tumultuous as any.

His successor, chief academic officer Kimberley Harrington, comes from inside the department and will be the first former public schoolteacher to hold the position in more than a decade.

But that is just one change expected to be coming in the next eight months, as New Jersey schools and the policies that dictate them continue to go through seismic shifts.

Here are a few of the big topics — and questions — sure to be part of the new school year:

What, if anything, is going to happen to school funding?
Let’s start with this one, given how the state funds public education determines so much for schools. But it is maybe the least certain of all, with so many moving parts.

Christie has put forward a proposal that would essentially blow up the state’s current funding formula with a one-size-fits-all approach that would provide every district the same amount of per-pupil in aid.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, a likely gubernatorial candidate, has a more modest plan that would leave the formula in place but seek to make it more equitable.

Neither proposal has moved much since the spring, and the political prospects will likely dim as the state moves closer to the 2017 election and the campaigning that will precede it.

Nonetheless, Christie still holds the most powerful gubernatorial seat in the country, and he has plenty of chances — including in his next and final state budget — to keep it on the front burner.

And as school districts see their finances only getting tighter under the pressures of current funding and the state’s property tax caps, there is real question to how long the current situation can last.

How much will the gubernatorial election help or hinder public schools?
The school funding question aside, education is sure to be a prime topic of debate among those who want to succeed Christie — potentially setting the agenda for years to come.

Sweeney has been quick to jump on the topic, not just with his school-funding plan but also a separate proposal to expand preschool statewide. A business-funded group, PreK Our Way, has already launched a public campaign to press legislators and candidates to get on board, and it has vowed significantly more to come.

Meanwhile, how sacrosanct will Christie’s signature issues be, given his historically low approval ratings? Will candidates run against his embrace of charter schools? Will PARCC testing see a reverse with a new governor? Will the governor’s aggressive control of some districts give way to more flexibility?

Will this be the year that state control ends in Newark and elsewhere?
State and local dignitaries gathered in Newark City Hall last month to announce a plan for moving that city’s schools out of state control after more than 20 years.

The plan came out of a working group appointed by Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and at least for a day, there was relative harmony about the state ceding controls sooner than later.

But many hurdles remain, from whether the harmony can be sustained to the logistical and financial questions to what local control will look like. A prime question is the state of the district’s finances; even the state’s appointed superintendent Chris Cerf has warned against the continued loss of resources to charter schools.

Nonetheless, the state appears to have smoothed the runway for at least some significant movement, approving a waiver for Newark to meet academic performance benchmarks — maybe the toughest hurdle of all. Further, the key benchmark of governance controls and the ability to hire the superintendent could come as soon as next summer.

Other state-run districts are watching closely. Jersey City is already close to full local control, and Paterson hopes to make the next move. The newest of the state-run districts, Camden isn’t near a similar transition as yet, but will be embarking on a new universal enrollment system this year and will continue to adapt to the growth of hybrid charter model known as renaissance schools.

Is the PARCC storm over?
The advent of the PARCC testing was the story of 2015, with tens of thousands of students sitting out in protest and teachers and other educators raising questions about the merits of the new online testing. But last spring’s testing proved less eventful, as schools continued to adjust and the opt-out movement appeared to slow.

Two years into a four-year contract with the PARCC consortium, the state’s adoption of PARCC could still go either way.

Debates could pick up again this year as the Christie administration moves to increase the weight that PARCC results will have on teacher evaluations from 10 percent in the first two years to 30 percent next year.

This comes after the State Board of Education also moved to make passing PARCC’s 10th grade language arts test and its Algebra I test required for high school graduation, starting with the Class of 2021.

The state will also be setting its policies in the coming year to meet the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and student performance on PARCC testing will play a key role in determining the state’s interventions in districts.

At the same time, Hespe and the state Department of Education maintain that districts continue to adapt to the new testing, indicating that they will see benefits in quicker and more sophisticated data. Districts this year have already received scores from last spring, unheard of in prior testing, allowing them to adjust instruction for individual students from the very start of the year.

Will this be the end of the superintendent salary cap?
This November marks the official expiration of Christie’s controversial limits on superintendent pay to no more than $175,000 — his own salary — for the preponderance of districts.

The caps have led to an upheaval in superintendent ranks, with dozens leaving the state or retiring early and others seeing their pay being surpassed by their own subordinates.

But despite the criticisms, Christie has yet to show much aversion to the limits, and now comes the time where he can make changes, ending them altogether or adding an inflation index or other adjustment.

Or he can do nothing at all, leaving them in place for another seven years.

Less is Really More when it comes to Homework

posted Sep 26, 2016, 10:39 AM by MEPS Google Admin.   [ updated Sep 26, 2016, 10:41 AM ]

By  Times of Trenton Editorial Board
on September 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated September 22, 2016 at 10:10 AM

If your fourth-grader comes home from the Robert Mascenik School #26 in Woodbridge Township and tells you she has no homework that day – believe her.

The elementary school, one of 16 in the township, has joined the ranks of schools nationwide that have dared do the unthinkable.

Its administration has placed family time over homework time, sending the message that building strong interpersonal relationships is a better use of time than memorizing the multiplication tables or identifying the major exports of Peru – although these are certainly worth knowing.

"The most important things students can do when they go home each day are play, eat dinner with their family, engage in conversations, help with family responsibilities and chores and read by themselves or with a family member," school principal Judith Martino wrote in a letter to parents.

The administration recently announced it is instituting homework-free periods for the upcoming academic year, setting aside one free weekend each semester and barring tests and projects from coming due immediately following a school break.

Another district school, Port Reading School #9, will also take part in the experiment, putting them on the cutting edge of a movement in New Jersey and elsewhere to make away-from-school time more meaningful and less stressful for today's students.

In the past few years, West-Windsor Plainsboro, Princeton and Hopewell have made similar moves. Princeton public schools announced last academic year that it was instituting homework-free periods, not only setting aside one weekend each semester but also barring tests and projects from being due immediately after a school break.

This may take parents and grandparents a while to process, especially if they're used to overseeing endless worksheets and drills teachers have traditionally send home.

But there's been much thinking in the academic world about how worthwhile these assignments are, and how truly effective they are in training young minds for the challenges ahead.

"If you think back to your own educational experiences, how many homework assignments did you do to get them done just so that you didn't get a bad grade," said Woodbridge Township School District Superintendent Robert Zega. "And how many of the did you really learn from?"

In this newer approach, responsibility lies equally with the teachers to create meaningful opportunities for students to learn during their after-school hours, and with the parents/caretakers to made sure these hours are used wisely and productively.

A study last year by the American Journal of Family Therapy found that at the elementary-school level, too much homework not only creates a negative attitude towards school, but also erodes youngsters' self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life.

We're all for giving New Jersey's children the competitive edge they need to succeed, but we can't help feeling in our guts that in the case of homework, less is more.

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