This week in K-12 education news, Newark schools made headlines for filing a class action lawsuit against FieldTurf on behalf of 100 public and private schools and municipalities in the state. Regionally, New Jersey’s state Board of Education made the headlines in multiple stories, while national stories focused on international test scores and special education.




Newark Schools File Class-Action Lawsuit Against Top U.S. Turf Company The Newark school system has filed a class-action lawsuit against the nation's leading maker of artificial sports fields, FieldTurf, alleging the company defrauded more than 100 public and private schools and municipalities in the state. The nine-count complaint alleges FieldTurf violated the state Consumer Fraud Act by concealing knowledge of the turf's problems, and by failing to change marketing and advertising claims. The complaint names the State-Operated School District in Newark as the lead plaintiff and covers all FieldTurf customers in New Jersey who purchased turf fields from Jan. 1, 2005, to present.

NPS Hosts 30th Annual Title I Parent Conference with Expanded Programming Over Three Days
Newark Public Schools (NPS) and the Offices of Title 1 and Family and Community Engagement recently hosted the 30th Annual Title 1 Parent Conference at Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. The theme of this year’s conference was “Parents as Partners”, which emphasized the importance of parent involvement and embracing diversity and was attended by approximately 600 parents and community members.


Troubled N.J. School District 'Making Progress,' But Remains Under State Control 
Three years after the state stepped in to take over Camden's chronically-struggling school system, students are showing improvement, school officials said during a presentation last week. But the members of the state Board of Education made no mention of beginning to return control of the school system back to the city, as they are doing in Newark, Jersey City and Paterson.

Grades Are In: See N.J. Teacher Ratings for Aach School
New Jersey's public school teachers are getting better at their jobs, according to new state evaluation data released last week. The data shows the results of the second year of New Jersey's new rating system AchieveNJ, which has been criticized as unfair by some lawmakers, educators and the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union.

Are N.J.'s High School Graduation Requirements Unfair? New Data Fuels Concerns
The state Board of Education approved new rules earlier this year that will require students to pass the PARCC exam in order to graduate starting in 2021. But new data released by the state Department of Education last week is fueling critics' concerns that the requirements may be too tough.

Governor Benches Biedron, No Reappointment for BOE President
A year to go in his tenure, Gov. Chris Christie this week shook up the State Board of Education with the appointment of five new members, the reappointment of eight, and the notable omission of one other. Christie did not reappoint Mark Biedron, the 13-member board’s president and its highest-profile member, once his term expires in June. 

After Trump’s Election, Activists Call on Education Officials to Expand Anti-Bias Training 
In response to heightened anxiety in the weeks after Donald Trump’s election, several advocacy organizations and elected officials are asking the city’s education department to expand anti-bias training and support for immigrant families. At a rally last week, a few dozen parent-activists gathered outside the department’s headquarters at Tweed Courthouse to call for additional training of 600 staff, including teachers, parent coordinators, and principals to ensure that students feel protected from racist or anti-immigrant sentiment.


Budget Deal Addresses Flint, Vouchers; Punts on Big K-12 Funding Issues
A short-term budget deal to keep the government running addresses the water contamination in cities like Flint, Mich., as well as funding for school vouchers in the District of Columbia, but does not otherwise contain significant changes for education. The short-term budget leaves education funding advocates and others waiting for several more months to see the new direction that Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress will take spending for disadvantaged students, a new block grant created under the Every Student Succeeds Act intended to fund a diverse set of programs, and more.

How to Find Teachers of Color Who Want to Stay on the Job
Charter schools and district school systems across the country are facing a common problem: even though students of color represent half of the public-school student population, the teacher workforce is still overwhelmingly white. But, increasingly, schools that serve high populations of minority students are taking note of the research showing that the race of teachers matters and have begun to prioritize diversity along with quality. They’re discovering that their own alumni are the perfect pool to draw from.

How Do American Students Compare to Their International Peers?
U.S. students are stagnating in reading and science proficiency while their math performance declined slightly, based on new results from the Program for International School Assessment (PISA). Fifteen-year-old students in more than 70 countries and education systems were tested on their critical-thinking skills and problem-solving capabilities as well as their proficiency in core subjects. While PISA has its limitations (and critics), it’s one of the few means of comparing U.S. student achievement to their global peers.

Special Education Case At Supreme Court Could Prove Costly For Schools
Federal law guarantees disabled students a free and appropriate public education, but precisely what that means isn’t well defined. Federal judges often have had different interpretations of what they’re entitled to, which critics claim leads to better education and more services for disabled children in some states than in others. But some groups that represent school administrators fear that setting a national standard would prompt more parents to demand additional services for their children, leading to costly court battles and forcing schools to spend more on therapies or pay for disabled children to attend private school.

School Vouchers 101: What They Are, How They Work — And Do They Work?
President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is "the new civil rights issue of our time." But to many Americans, talk of school choice isn't liberating; it's just plain confusing.

Obama Administration Releases Final Testing Regulations for ESSA
The U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday released final regulations and new guidance governing how testing is supposed to work under the Every Student Succeeds Act. It also announced $8 million in grants to states to improve science tests.

White House Report: The Continuing Need To Rethink Discipline
Last week, the White House released a new capstone report with updates about projects launched and local progress made in response to the Administration's Rethink Discipline efforts. Rethink Discipline aims to support all students and promote a welcome and safe climate in schools. Suspension and expulsion can contribute to a number of adverse outcomes for childhood development in areas such as personal health, interactions with the criminal justice system, and education. The application of exclusionary discipline practices is especially significant for students of color and students with disabilities, who, in general, are disciplined more often than their classmates.