In local K-12 education news last week, Newark announced a number of high-profile initiatives aimed at re-engaging disengaged youths and increasing access to educational and job training programs. PARCC scores dominated regional news, while national news examined black teachers through a variety of different lenses.



TOMORROW: Crossing the Lines, a Forum Examining Equality in Education for Newark Youth
Tomorrow, Thursday, November 10th, the Newark Arts Education Roundtable (NAER) presents a staged reading of the play Lines in the Dust by Nikkole Salter on. Set in Essex County, the play reflects the realities of post-industrial urban/suburban communities and explores issues of inequitable education; race; identity; opportunity; and the meaning of community – issues that are universal, regardless of zip code.


N.J. Parents Expected to File Suit Over State's Teacher Layoff Rule 
A group of parents from New Jersey's largest school district is going to court to fight a state law that forces districts to layoff teachers based on seniority rather than performance.  With the backing of a national education reform group, six parents from Newark Public Schools filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the state's last-in-first-out (LIFO) rule for teacher layoffs.

New Center Aims to Help High School Dropouts Get Diplomas, Jobs 
A center to help re-engage the city's young people who've dropped out of school opened last week, marking the first step in a "comprehensive strategy" to place disengaged youths in schools and special programs to further their education, a release from the city said. The Re-engagement Center, located in the city's Central Ward at 201 Bergen Street, will provide staff to assist disengaged youth with re-enrollment and transfer services, then match students to a school or program that meets their academic, social-emotional and professional needs.

The Opportunity Youth Network Announces Comprehensive Strategy to Support Newark’s Most Disconnected Youth 
The Opportunity Youth Network (OYN), a partnership that consists of the City of Newark, Newark Public Schools (NPS), Rutgers University-Newark and several community-based organizations, recently announced a comprehensive strategy to improve outcomes for the city’s most disconnected youth, including opening a Reengagement Center (see article above). “Opportunity youth” are young people between the ages of 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market; Newark has approximately 7,000 such residents.

$11M Facility Brings Classrooms, Fitness Center to South Ward 
The Training, Recreation, and Education Center in the South Ward's Dayton neighborhood is a 24,000-square-foot facility which includes classrooms for educational and job training programs, conference rooms and study cubicles along with a gym. The center was made possible by $5 million in funding from HUD. 

Anti-Lead Protocol at Newark Schools Wasn't Followed, Report Says 
Most Newark schools were not in compliance with a water flushing protocol put in place to reduce kids' exposure to lead, a recent report found. Investigations into the district's past protocols revealed that there were procedures that required custodians to flush all schools' water fountains for at least two minutes each morning, but a review of custodial logs found that very few recorded completing the activity, and none of the district's more than 60 schools were in total compliance with the policy to flush and record daily.


Why These 'Staggering' PARCC Scores Have N.J. Officials Worried 
Statewide PARCC scores improved on nearly every exam in grades 3-11, with more students exceeding grade-level expectations than the year before, and fewer students falling into the lowest-scoring category. Nonetheless, the gaps in performance between students from families with different incomes or of different races have clearly persisted and even may have even widened in some cases under PARCC.

Christie Administration Announces Release of 2016 Performance Reports of Educator Preparation Providers 
The New Jersey Department of Education recently released the 2016 Educator Preparation Provider Performance Reports, which link information about newly certified teachers to the programs that prepared them to enter the teaching profession. The 2016 reports include data on teacher demographics, educational background, testing results, certification and hiring, local evaluation, placement, classroom assignments and performance evaluations of novice teachers graduating from each education preparation provider program.

Nine More Charters Apply to Open Their Doors in New Jersey 
As New Jersey’s oversight of charter schools continues to be debated, another eight applicants have started the process to open nine new schools in the next year. Most of the latest applicants are replications of charter schools already operating, and all but one are applying to open as elementary schools starting with kindergarten.

In New York City’s Dysfunctional High School Admissions System, Even ‘Unscreened’ Schools Have Tools to Sort Students 
When the city introduced a universal lottery system in 2004, it was intended to give students access to a wider range of high schools, but the system isn’t working. Open houses are often poorly advertised, far from families’ homes, and can be held during weekdays—creating a burden for all students, and particularly for many low-income families. And many schools are already not following the rules of granting priority at the citywide high school fair.


Outsized Influence: Online Charters Bring Lobbying 'A' Game to States 
Despite more than a decade of state investigations, news media reports, and research that have documented startling failures and gross mismanagement in full-time online schools, the sector—dominated by two for-profit companies—continues to expand, spreading into new states and enrolling more students. Virtual charter schools (which collectively receive more than $1 billion in taxpayer money each year) are rarely shut down, due to a mix of weak state regulations, the millions of dollars spent on lobbying, and the support of well-connected allies, according to more than a dozen policymakers, advocates, and researchers.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Asks Obama to Rein in Education Department Proposals 
A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators is asking President Obama to rein in the Education Department, arguing that the agency is trying to overreach into matters that Congress intended to be decided by states and school districts. Their objections arise from two key regulations that the Education Department is seeking to finalize before Obama leaves office: how districts allocate billions of dollars for the education of poor children, and how states and districts should design systems to judge which schools are failing and how to intervene to help them improve.

Is Attending the ‘Best’ High School Academically Irrelevant? 
Wealthy families who remain in cities often choose private schools or else hope for a spot at an elite selective school, many of which earn top spots in national rankings. But a new study that examined students who attended public high schools in Chicago concludes that students at selective-enrollment schools didn’t seem to benefit academically compared with similar students at different schools.

Black Students Are Less Likely To Get Suspended When They Have Black Teachers 
For years, data from the U.S. Department of Education has shown that black students disproportionately face exclusionary punishments, like suspensions and expulsions. But new research finds that black students are less likely to receive detentions, suspensions or expulsions when they are taught by educators who are also black.

The Burden On Black Teachers: 'I Don't Belong At Your Table'  
As of 2012, 16 percent of public school students were African-American, while just 7 percent of teachers were black, and according to the U.S. Department of Education, black teachers are leaving their classrooms at a higher rate than any other group. Researchers at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that advocates for vulnerable students, recently went on a listening tour, convening focus groups of black teachers across seven states, the results of which are captured in a new study.

Middle School Suicides Reach An All-Time High 
A new report shows that, for the first time, suicide rates for U.S. middle school students have surpassed the rate of death by car crashes. The suicide rate among youngsters ages 10 to 14 has been steadily rising, and doubled in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Freedom To Explore: 2 Schools Where The Students Call The Shots 
An exploration of two innovative schools that tap into the power of student-directed learning, including the experimental Khan Lab School, a private school founded by Sal Khan, a pioneer of online education through his Khan Academy.

U.S. Department of Education Launches $680,000 Challenge for Virtual and Augmented Reality Learning Experiences
The U.S. Department of Education today launched the EdSim Challenge, a $680,000 competition to design the next-generation of educational simulations that strengthen career and technical skills. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century. Simulated digital learning environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multiplayer video games, are an emerging approach to deliver educational content, and provide students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. Announces Expansion of School Ambassador Fellows Program to Include School Counselors at White House Reach Higher Convenings 
School counselors will have the opportunity to apply for the School Ambassador Fellows program starting with the 2017-18 cohort of ambassadors. The program currently includes the Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAF) and Principal Ambassador Fellows (PAF). Including the voices of teachers, principals, counselors and other education professionals who do meaningful work with students and other educators each day, will bring important perspectives to discussions of federal policy and programs.