In local K-12 education news this week, Newark students participated in an international event which deepened their computer science knowledge. Regionally, Trenton, Camden, and Jersey City all made the headlines, while national news focused on alphabet soup: ESSA and SROs. 





Newark Public Schools Students Raise $6,000 to Attend Global Science Conference in San Francisco 
Newark Public Schools’ (NPS) Malcolm X Shabazz High School’s Biogeochemistry team traveled from Newark to San Francisco last week to present their primary field research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Conference, the largest earth and space science meeting in the world.

Newark Public Schools Participates in International Hour of Code for Computer Science Education Week
Over 30 schools across the City of Newark last week came together to participate in the International Hour of Code for Computer Science Education Week and raise awareness about the importance of computer science education. During hour-long sessions, students followed online tutorials guiding them through the basics of coding led by local community members including employees from Audible’s Coding Club, The Idea Makers, Code for Newark and Valentine Global.

Newark Public Schools Announces New Labor Agreement with Local 68 International Union of Operating Engineers
Newark Public Schools (NPS) announced that the district reached a new four-year labor agreement with the Local 68 International Union of Operating Engineers that implements a new annual evaluation practice and eliminates automatic step salary increases. The new contract with Local 68, which represents the district’s custodians, utilizes performance-based pay.


Trenton Unions Accuse School Board of 'Selling Out' Over Interim Pick
Trenton school union leaders are taking issue with Nelson Ribon, the board's choice for interim superintendent, accusing members of "selling out" to the state. In a letter to the school board last week, leaders of four of the district's unions expressed concerns that the board allowed itself to be manipulated by Lester Richens, the state monitor who oversees the district's financial operations and has hiring and firing powers, saying that Richens worked with Ribon in his previous district and hand-picked him for the Trenton job.

Camden School Officials Tout 'Real Gains' as Graduation Rate Climbs
Graduation rates are up in the Camden City School District and dropout rates have decreased since the state took over the school district in 2013. However, student proficiency in reading and math remains in the single-digit percentages, according to state test results cited by the district. Despite praise from state officials, no mention was made of returning the district to local control, something Camden City activists have recently sought.

Hudson County's New $160 Million High School Will Be 'One of a Kind'
High Tech High School, one of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, will move into its $160 million new home in Laurel Hill Park in September 2018. The 340,000-square-foot campus will offer amenities and technology not typically seen at your average high school, housing 1,500 students in grades 9 through 12. Four separate wings will be built for each of the vocational branches and career academies that High Tech offers: vocational training, architecture and engineering, applied science, and performing arts. 

Jersey City Schools Chief Here to Stay After N.J. Decision
Jersey City Schools Superintendent Marcia V. Lyles' contract renewed automatically when the school board did not act before a state-mandated deadline, the state's acting education commissioner has decided. The decision by acting Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington ends a nearly yearlong effort by a group of Lyles' critics to force the school board to vote on the contract renewal or to have Lyles fired.

Chronic Absenteeism is Lower in New York City Charter Schools Than in District Schools, Report Finds
A new report suggests some New York City schools are doing a better job of getting students through the door. On average, charter schools have better attendance and dramatically lower rates of chronically absent students, according to an analysis by the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools (FES). In New York City district schools, about a quarter of the overall student body was chronically absent last year. In local charter schools, the average rate was a little over 13 percent, FES found.

New York’s Widely Criticized System for Tracking Violent Incidents Will Get a Makeover
Last week, the state’s Board of Regents approved changes to the “Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting” system (VADIR), the much-criticized reporting system schools use to track violent incidents ranging from bullying to homicide. The system is used to compute which schools are considered “persistently dangerous,” a list required under state and federal law. The city has complained that the current system overstates the lack of safety in New York City’s public schools.


In Some States, a Tug of War Over ESSA Plans
Now that states are moving to take on new authority over K-12 policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), skirmishes are breaking out in states including Colorado, Indiana and California, over who's in charge when ESSA goes into effect next fall. Those involved include the tangled web of elected and appointed technocrats and politicians who are involved with state education oversight, and the rapidly rotating cast of characters who have taken charge of state education agencies and state Senate and House education committees in recent years. And more than a quarter of the nation's state education chiefs have been in office for less than year.

Protecting or Policing?
School resource officers belong to a sector of law enforcement that has grown considerably since the 1990s. Critics wonder if police officers make schools safer, or just criminalize misbehaviors that in turn funnel more kids into an already bloated criminal justice system. Data shows that just having a school-based police officer makes it more likely that a child will be referred to law enforcement for even minor infractions; especially black children, who are 2.3 times more likely than white children to get arrested or referred to law enforcement at school

U.S. Department of Education Announces Inaugural Education Innovation and Research Competition
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the launch of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant competition for 2017. EIR is a new grant program established in the Every Student Succeeds Act and is the successor of the Obama Administration's Investing in Innovation grant program (i3). Like its predecessor, EIR supports state and local efforts to develop, implement and take to scale innovative and evidence-based projects. About 25 percent of EIR grant funds will support rural areas.

U.S. Education Secretary Announces Grant Competitions to Encourage Diverse Schools
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. recently announced a new grant competition to support districts and their communities in preparing to implement innovative, comprehensive, collaborative, and locally-driven strategies to increase diversity in schools. King also announced the 2017 Magnet Schools Assistance Program competition, which will provide districts with funds to help create integrated public schools and support high-quality, theme-based educational programming. Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities is a new grant competition that will support districts in increasing socioeconomic diversity in schools, improving student academic achievement, and improving schools by increasing student diversity.