Voice & Choice

We have seen research over and over again that, when learners have a choice in identifying what to learn and how they want to learn it, it has produced academic success and allows creativity to flourish.

This is nothing new.  The way many teachers, schools, and districts are finally embracing it is.

About five years ago, I was introduced to the EdCamp professional development model, where educators not only choose what to attend, but they also teach it themselves and all have the ability to leave if they don’t like or understand what is being taught. Later, I blogged about the Northfield Community School and how Principal Glenn Robbins (now a superintendent) offered an elective-style period at the end of the day where middle schoolers (yes, students) were able to pick what class they wanted to attend.

Fast forward to today.  I recently observed arts teachers in one of my schools take part in the same model with students in grades 4 and 5. Students had the chance to choose from six different art-themed classes, in addition to the ones they already had during the week, ranging from musical theater to ballet.

While the school itself is unique in that it has been created to circulate around artistic infusion while students receive their elementary education, it also has embraced current, meaningful educational research that indeed shows that student voice and student choice are factors in obtaining an education that will serve students of today’s times, not the school that you and I went to.

Again, saying that we need to be cognizant of today’s times is nothing new and far from groundbreaking. It’s the fact that teachers and administrators not only understand but follow through and implement, so that our students have a chance to take part in today’s society, not be a product of the 70’s / 80’s / 90’s that just collects & completes piles of worksheets (that are all thrown out at the end of the year) and is known by a state testing identification number.

To all those who are embracing voice & choice in your classrooms, schools, and districts, thank you.

Onward!

 

S-2727 | The Saving Grace for Small Schools in NJ

Kudos to New Jersey Senators Kip Bateman(R) and  Joe Kyrillos(R) for catapulting and co-sponsoring S-2727. The bill establishes a task-force to study regionalization for small / one-building school districts. The task-force will make recommendations to the Governor for action.

Of the 593 School districts in NJ, over 100 of them are one school districts. Seriously. Read that again. Over 100 school districts are one-school districts! Of those school districts, over 3/4 of them have less than 300 students. State law requires a Chief School Administrator (CSA) for every district (including non-operating districts). 

What often happens is the CSA is both the Superintendent & Principal in these buildings. And the lunch lady. And custodian. And curriculum supervisor. And bus driver. Get the idea?

Let’s focus on the Superintdent / Principal issue. Where I previously was, I was engulfed in state paperwork. That same paperwork gets done whether you’re in a district of 100, 1000, or 10000.   

I know I could have been a better Principal and focus more on curriculum and good teaching if I had the time to do it. In a small district, you can’t afford a principal or curriculum supervisor. Who suffers then? Students and staff. 

The next benefit of this? Student choice and having a better shake at success. How? Reallocation of resources. That does not mean layoffs, but it does mean pooling resources and offering REAL differentiation for students. It gives me goosebumps that students could actually begin getting what they need.

Let’s just say three, one-school districts that are within fifteen miles of each other  regionalize. Some of those schools have various electives, some have other resources, programs, and more. You can easily have one Superintedent oversee three principals (or have one Superintdent and vice principal in a building)  and align schools so that students are truly getting what they need.

Another victory: breaking up pockets of cancerous culture that has been in existence for decades. Those that shine can’t be held back or intimidated, those who are not good finally get called on it, and you get exposed to the real world instead of the bubble of nostalgia and inefficiency that you’ve self cultivated.

Sure, there are challenges with this. How are policies and regulations established? How is the CSA determined? How does the state regulate? How will local boards of education work? How about taxes? What about employee seniority and tenure?

There are lots of areas to explore with this, but the fact that the state can get a task force to get the ball rolling?! Amazing. Kudos to those that have been pushing it for years; especially the educators that have lived it. 

Again, students first. This is all about them. It’s about their parents, too. You’ve been kept in the dark far too long. Opportunity knocks. Time to grab it.

More on S-2727

Text of the bill:

SENATE, No. 2727

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 5, 2015 

Sponsored by:

Senator CHRISTOPHER “KIP” BATEMAN

District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset)

Senator ROBERT M. GORDON

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Kyrillos, Beck, Oroho and Turner

 SYNOPSIS

     Establishes Task Force on School District Regionalization.

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

An Act establishing a Task Force on School District Regionalization. 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

      1. a. There is established in the Department of Education a Task Force on School District Regionalization. The purpose of the task force is to study and evaluate issues associated with the establishment of new regional school districts in the State. 

     b. The task force shall consist of the following 16 members:

     (1) the Commissioner of Education, or a designee, who shall serve ex officio;

     (2) 11 members appointed by the Governor, who shall include: an executive county superintendent of schools; a director of special education services in a school district; a superintendent of schools; a school principal; a director of curriculum; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Education Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey School Boards Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; one member upon the recommendation of the Garden State Coalition of Schools; and one person who was directly involved in facilitating the most recent school district regionalization effort in the State;

     (3) one member appointed by the President of the Senate and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; and

     (4) one member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force.

     c. Appointments to the task force shall be made within 30 days after the effective date of this act. Vacancies in the membership of the task force shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments were made. Members of the task force shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenditures incurred in the performance of their duties as members of the task force within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the task force for its purposes.

     2. The task force shall organize as soon as practicable, but no later than 30 days following the appointment of its members. The task force shall choose a chairperson from among its members and shall appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the task force. The presence of 9 members of the task force shall constitute a quorum. The task force may conduct business without a quorum, but may only vote on recommendations when a quorum is present.

     3. The Department of Education shall provide such stenographic, clerical, and other administrative assistants, and such professional staff as the task force requires to carry out its work. The task force also shall be entitled to call to its assistance and avail itself of the services of the employees of any State, county, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as it may require and as may be available for its purposes.

     4. The task force shall study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization, and make recommendations regarding the provision of regionalization incentives and the elimination of impediments to regionalization. The task force shall:

     a. review existing research, studies, and data concerning the regionalization of school districts;

     b. consider implementation challenges associated with the regionalization of school districts including, but not limited to, the financing of feasibility studies along with innovative approaches to conduct feasibility studies that may reduce the costs of pursuing regionalization, issues associated with school district governance and financing, and the integration of curriculum, programs, and staff; 

     c. identify and review benefits of regionalization including, but not limited to, any potential cost savings, and the ability to establish and offer a wider array of educational programs and services and extracurricular activities; and 

     d. identify incentives that may encourage school districts to regionalize and the impediments that discourage school districts from entering into regional school district arrangements. 

     5. a. The task force shall issue a final report to the Governor, and to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), no later than six months after the task force organizes. The report shall contain the task force’s findings and recommendations regarding possible incentives for the establishment of new regional school districts and the elimination of impediments to the creation of regional districts.

     b. The task force shall expire 30 days after the issuance of its final report.

     6. This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

      This bill establishes in the Department of Education a 16-member task force to study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization. The task force will be comprised of: – the Commissioner of Education;

     – 11 members appointed by the Governor, including an executive county superintendent of schools; a director of special education services in a school district; a superintendent of schools; a school principal; a director of curriculum; one member upon the recommendation on the New Jersey Education Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey School Boards Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; one member upon the recommendation of the Garden State Coalition of Schools; and one person who was directly involved in facilitating the most recent school district regionalization effort in the State;

     – one member appointed by the President of the Senate and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom will be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; and

     – one member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, both of whom will be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force.

     The task force will study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization, and make recommendations regarding the provision of regionalization incentives and the elimination of impediments to regionalization. The task force will:

     – review existing research, studies, and data concerning the regionalization of school districts;

     – consider implementation challenges associated with the regionalization of school districts including, but not limited to, the financing of feasibility studies along with innovative approaches to conduct feasibility studies that may reduce the costs of pursuing regionalization, issues associated with school district governance and financing, and the integration of curriculum, programs, and staff; 

     – identify and review benefits of regionalization including, but not limited to, any potential cost savings, and the ability to establish and offer a wider array of educational programs and services and extracurricular activities; and 

     – identify incentives that may encourage school districts to regionalize and the impediments that discourage school districts from entering into regional school district arrangements. 

     The task force is required to issue a final report to the Governor and the Legislature within six months of its organization, which contains the task force’s findings and recommendations regarding possible incentives for the establishment of new regional school districts and the elimination of impediments to the creation of regional districts.

The power of #stuvoice – an interview

In this interview Jay Eitner, Chief School Administrator for the Lower Alloways Creek School District in New Jersey, discusses how to leverage social media to connect and learn from other teachers, top twitter conversations he recommends, getting started as a new teachers, and more. Continue their conversation on Twitter by tweeting @iSuperEit and @theyearofcody. They look forward to hearing from you!