Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are Our Schools In Crisis?: Why is it Important to Know How Your Child Scored on the NJAsk?

  1. Is your 9th grade child taking 2 Math/Algebra classes? 
  2. Does your child have a reading class in addition to an English/Language Arts/Literature class?
  3. Have you seen a copy of your child's scores on  the NJAsk standardized test taken this spring? 
  4. Did you receive notice at home that your child was required to take a remedial course in order to raise his/her scores? 
  5. Did anyone offer you any information regarding tutoring at Sylvan Learning Center, Kumon or anywhere else? 
  6. Were you provided with the scores so you could arrange for private tutoring yourself?  
  7. Did your child lose the option to take an elective because of  these test scores?
  8. Is your child extremely interested in or gifted in Dance, Drama, Music or Art?
  9. Does your child excel in a sport, but does not do well academically? 
  10. Is your child extremely good with his or her hands? A crafts person in the making.
  11. Has your child accepted that they will never be able to take band, dance, art, drama? Do you accept that?

Many children who have poor Math scores have a significant increase in Math scores when participating in music. Face it, children need something to excite them about going to school. I was not good in Math, or at taking standardized tests, but my undergraduate success was powerful enough to get me into graduate school without the graduate records examination. They accepted me based on the excellence of my undergraduate record.
Now lets get to the real problem here. Where are the scores? Why are they being kept so close to the chest of the EPSD? Who is concealing them? Parents need to know in what areas the children are weak. Parents are being accused of not being involved.  How can a parent arrange for tutoring if they do not know where the child is weak? Let us get even more specific. Last year, some students who did poorly on this test qualified to get remedial help at Sylvan Learning Center. The students who did poorly have clearly already been identified, because they have been placed in remedial classes that stop them from being able to take electives. Sometimes the electives are what motivates a child to get out of bed and go to school.

When I taught Dance at Teaneck High School, a large number of my students were NOT great academically, but they were great dancers. AP honors and Special Education students enjoyed the same Elective classes together. Several of  the special education students won Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. The remedial classes were 2.5 credits and students were allowed to test out mid year. Some of the retired Englewood school teachers remember the same option from years ago. Students had the option of testing out of the remedial course that was given in support. This testing out is an incentive and gives the student a goal for which to strive. 

I was told after the board meeting on the 15th that we who have 30 years of baggage in this town must stop dwelling on the negative. Great. Tell me how, when children are being faced with the negative everyday they attend school. They are faced with what they are not allowed to do. They attend a school Choice and have very little choice. They are told what they will never achieve. And that is not negative? Give me a break. I will become positive when ALL of the children are encouraged and treated the same.

The scores should have gone home with a letter explaining why a child may not be able to take an elective. The letter should have explained that the student has a choice of taking the extra Math/Algebra class in school or to get tutoring to raise the scores. Will the students be tested again later this year or will they be banned from taking electives for the remainder of their high school lives?

It really is time to send the scores out to the parents. A very important piece of information has been withheld. At the same time, this information has been used to exclude the students involvement in certain activities. Below is the link to everything you need to know about the New Jersey Ask assessment tool. Parents must begin to prepare students to succeed on this test now. One bad day on one standardized test may very well change a child's life forever.

New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge: Parent, Teacher and Student Information Guide

                          How are the children?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Would the State and Federal Government Approve of How Tax Dollars Are Spent in Englewood?

Small Learning Communities: Does Dwight Morrow High School have any?

United States Department of Education grants since 2002
Click the following link for a List of School Systems that have received grants for small learning communities from the federal government since 2002. 2007, 8, 9 must be clicked at the link page.
Grant lists:

Are you wondering why the Englewood School District is not listed in those receiving grant money for small learning communities from the Federal Government? You are not alone. Perhaps it is as Mr. Garrison says, "the Academy is the only program in the Englewood school district that we market to students outside of Englewood."  Does this also mean that they do not support the other programs as vigorously with grant monies? They are recruiting students from outside of Englewood at the same time that they put our own students in a substandard school building with a leaky roof, asbestos, lead, and possible black mole developing. Alternative Schools may not be placed in temporary facilities without permission from the state. The word temporary suggests that other facilities are being prepared for said students. The Eagle Academy has been in Liberty School for 7 years. They were moved there in order to make space for the out of town children that were supposed to integrate our high school. School Choice is based on space according to 6A:12-2.1 Our board of education made space available when they exiled the students that they deemed unteachable to a falling down substandard building. The ironic thing is that the students are teachable and would probably succeed in a healthy and safe environment.

The students from outside of Englewood are NOT integrating the Dwight Morrow High School Campus. It is obvious that the wants of the few far out weigh the needs of the many here in Englewood. A program that took 20 million dollars from the state to create a tool for integration did just the opposite. They took the money and created a tool that discriminates against persons on the basis of ability, address, behavior, test scores, fashion statements, learning differences, entrance examinations and various other exclusionary elements. Students with learning and other disabilities are systematically excluded. In the video excerpt of the August 18, 2011 board meeting, Mr. Glenn Garrison is very adamant about the fact that they do not "Market" any other program in the district. Well, Mr. Garrison, we as taxpayers have noticed that. This program has been used to all but erase what used to be Dwight Morrow High School. It has taken on a life of its own. In the Back to School issue of Connections, Dr. Carlisle calls it a school. "Having two high schools is like having two children," he says. I hope that families with 2 children treat them both equally as well. That is not the case with the Academy. ( which is NOT a school, by the way) I challenge any of you to find it listed as a school anywhere other than on Academy created materials, Carlisle's newsletter and transcripts of students who do not know any better. Do you think the state will take the money back once they have seen that they were duped into giving money that physically segregated the high school population thereby creating an apartheid educational system. Listen to Mr. Garrison's self righteous attitude as he  fights to build a $26,000.00 sign to market this building while 2 groups of students are attending school in a building that is literally falling in on them. 

Below are some examples and a sampling of school programs that utilize this "school within a school" model. None of the schools that I researched had a program that was so insidious that it took over the parent school and changed the words of the Alma Mater, the colors, took down plaques, banners, or decreased the size of locker rooms so the football teams no longer fit. None of them fired winning hall of fame coaches and polarized generations of children.

 "We send our children to school looking at your faces and they come home looking at the ground." I quote from a parent who spoke up for her son and he was kicked out of AV?ID. She moved away because she was afraid for his education, because she knew that he would never be one of the chosen. She believed that he would be punished for her actions.

The Career Academy Support Network (CASN): Scheduling Guide for Small Learning Communities/Career Academies. This is by far my favorite study in my search for information about Small Learning Communities

A How To Book on Creating Small Learning Communities
Small Learning Communities that Actually Learn: Lessons for School Leaders
Organizing Schools into Small Learning Communities
Resources provide overviews on the types of smaller learning communities that districts and schools have created, as well as tools that can help state agencies guide districts in the engagement and planning efforts necessary for the successful implementation of smaller learning communities.

Empowering Data Driven Instruction

Small Learning Communities that Work

The Small Learning Communities (SLC) Grant

Small Learning Communities (SLCs) create small learning environments that support teacher-student connectedness, resulting in teachers being aware of the academic as well as the social and emotional needs of 9th-12th-grade students. SLCs offer teachers the flexibility to personalize and tailor their curriculum to address individual student needs, interests and aspirations. As a result, students build stronger relationships with teachers and classmates and maximize their learning potential.

Small Learning Community (SLC) in smaller schools

Association for middle school level Education:  Why Small Learning Communities and Small Schools?

Examples of Small Learning Communities:
Humble, Texas Independent School District: A Humble, Small Learning Community
District Administration:  Solutions for School District Management
Kennedy High School, Paterson, New Jersey

Los Angeles Unified School District: Smaller School Models:

Los Angeles Unified School District: Small Learning Communities (SLC’s)

Palo Alto, California, Henry M. Gunn High School’s Small Learning Community

San Lorenzo, California: Bay Area Digital Arts Academy: emphasizes experiential, personalized learning for all students with professional training in multi-media production including: film making, television production, and web-design.

Sturgis Brown High School, South Dakota, Meade School  District  46-1

Vineland High School’s Small Learning Communities
As part of this high school reform, students of all SLC’s have expanded opportunities to take part in honors-level and Advanced Placement level courses. There has been an increased emphasis on academic rigor, which includes the abolishment of all general level courses. In addition, many courses have been either created or redesigned as elective offerings in small learning communities. In partnership with Cumberland County College, students may take dual credit courses giving high school and college credit

How are the children? Not well, their building is falling down on top of them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What is Transparency?: Parents Need in On the Planning

"There was a big banner on one side saying, "Welcome Academy Class of 2015!" and on the other there was a sign that read, "Welcome Back Academy Students!" and in the center hallway of the Castle//North there was a small sign saying, "Freshmen report to the auditorium". Now have we ministered to and nurtured the "whole child", when we demonstrate such obvious favoritism?

 (Do we need Sigmund Freud to decipher this one?)

Miriam Webster's Definition
Transparent -
1. adjective - allowing light to pass through so that bodies can be distinctly seen
2. (or a disguise; pretext, etc.) easily seen through
    ( of a motive, quality, etc.) easily discerned; evident; obvious.
3. (of a person, etc,) easily understood; frank; open.
Transparency -
the condition of being transparent.
a picture, inscription, etc., made visible by a light behind it.

Free Icy at School Supply
give away to honor
Darius Hunt
Did anyone get a pamphlet of any kind in the spring that listed course offerings at the high School? Did you get one from the North or even the South side of the campus? No, you didn't. You should have gotten one for Dwight Morrow High School that includes all of the programs on the campus including the Academy, Small Learning Communities, the Comprehensive High School and the Eagle Academy. You should ask for one. You should never allow another year to pass without one.

You should also have gotten one at Janis E. Dismus middle school. The entire school was just reorganized. Let us hope that there will be some adjustments made so that the labels will be discarded. Princeton and Columbia need not envy each other. Cut the gimmicks. The more you waffle the lower the pants fall.

The Document
Our children know when we do
good things for other people. 
Does anyone know what is offered in the High School as a whole? Does anyone know which department generally handles that information? Yes. Give that young lady with the degree in  School Guidance a Pie Award. If one does the research one learns that "best practice" for compilation and dissemination of course offerings falls under the auspices of the Guidance Department. The Guidance Department compiles a brochure or document listing descriptions of all available courses offered at the high school. Early in the year, each teacher is called upon to write or update the description of courses that they teach. This description includes textbook title, requirements and any special activities the students will be involved in during the course of the year. The dedicated student and parent might then have the opportunity to preview the materials and make more informed Decisions. It will empower the teacher, parent and student to face the challenges ahead.

Children know which Community
people are working for all
The document is divided by subject area. The responsibilty of guidance is also explained. Students generally learn which of the listed counselors will be advising them for the next four years. In Teaneck, this process and the booklet is called DECISION 2011 or DECISION 2012 depending on the year. 8th graders and their parents are presented with this information during spring registration. It is a big deal and a very exciting time for 8th graders. Guidance arranges a visit to the high school where students get a good look at the school so they will be less intimidated by the high school experience. Fine and Performing Arts and other Departments visit the middle school with performances and demonstrations to excite the 8th grade students about moving up and growing up.

Formerly offered great
programming for
Every course is already approved by the County/State. All courses that have not been approved are listed as pending approval. Early in the year, each teacher is called upon to write or update the description of courses taught. This description includes objective, textbook title, requirements and any special activities the students will be involved in during the course of the year. It is not a schedule. It simply lists courses, prequisites, graduation requirements, activities and programs available at the high school. All clubs, extracurricular and sports activities are described and the sponsors are listed. The student and the parent have a clear idea of all activities taking place at the high school. (Some people refer to this as curriculum, but it is hardly adequate as a real curriculum model. Real Curriculum contains much more detailed information and a timeline that spans a school year with materials, activities, objectives, and perhaps broken into units.) It is a road map for the teacher and those evaluating them and the students. There is tratnsparency and involves full disclosure to the persons affected.

Former Principal of High
School, Dorian Milteer &
A. Bickham
Englewood's Director of guidance is fully aware of this Decision process since he was involved in it for several years while working as a school guidance counselor at Teaneck High School. Englewood is very different. This writer is still trying to determine what role the School Guidance Counselor plays in the EPSD. It has become very obvious why parents are discouraged when attempting to help their children in the decision process. There is no hard copy brochure. There is no brochure on line. There is a list of courses.  There is no curriculum road map. There is no way finding system. It is no wonder so many lose their way.

Each of the Small Learning Communities within the DMHS campus needs its own way finding system that ends in graduation. Graduation requirements should be revisited to insure that there is equity when comparing all programs. Make all students read more books. I want to know who the teachers are in all programs. I want to know what degrees they have and how long they have been teaching. I want to know if he/she holds a Standard Certification in the subject being taught. I want to know if they are threatened by young men with their "pants on the ground".  Did you ever wonder why each teacher in the Academy is listed as teaching grades 9 -12? How easy is it to list each teacher by department and list what he/ she teaches? Full disclosure is needed in the EPSD as a whole.

What exactly are Small Learning Communities?
Follow this link and learn the purpose of a Small LearningCommunity. Does the model at DMHS follow any of the ones listed. Based on the strengths listed, how is the school doing? Does anyone care? Is this program offered to everyone? How does a student find out about these small groups of students learning together? Do they even exist? Does anyone have an idea what Small Learning Communities are? Surely 9th graders were told of the program. or were they? It seems that the communities only exist on the EPSD website and in reports to the state that make it possible to continue to collect state aid and grant money. Pay close attention. Has so much time been spent on prepping Academy students that this program has been neglected entirely? Were parents given any literature detailing the program's strengths or weaknesses so that they might make an informed decision?  How are the students selected? How many students are enrolled in the communities?  How many have graduated and where do they work or attend college? Has this program been assessed?

The warm and Fuzzy?
Career Clusters
Small Learning Communities?
Supporters of Small Learning Communities assume that teachers will get to know their students and respond to their needs better than in the larger comprehensive high school. It is believed that small communities will make it easier for teachers to share practices. They suggest that this sharing will encourage them to create a culture for sustained instructional improvement, which will enhance student learning. Is anything like this happening at DMHS? Is the Eagle Academy a success? Are communities within the A@E successful and how is this success determined? Have the Schools within a School at Dwight Morrow High School gotten the funds or attention needed to succeed? Mr. Glenn Garrison was very clear at the August 18, 2011 board meeting that the Academy@Englewood was the only program that the board promotes. What a kick in the teeth. Would DMHS students in the North building have received a better welcome back if the teachers and administrators were united in an effort to keep EQUITY in the education of Englewood's students? I think yes. Where is the transparency? Too much is hidden. Too, Too many questions need answers.

Whatever Happened to Our Comprehensive High School?
Dwight Morrow High School used to be a comprehensive high school. How much of this school still exists? We know there are no mid term and final exams. We also know that students have far too much freedom in the spring when it seems that there is no more learning or teaching going on. This begins early May, even at the end of April. Perhaps this is the reason the fences must be repaired to keep students in, because there is nothing going on to hold their attention or motivate them inside the building. We also do not know what is really being offered within courses and how these courses connect to the real world. I would like to know more about what my granddaughter and her friends will be exposed to in high school. Why are we even considering lengthening the school day when time on task is already severely lacking. It is not how much time, but how you use the time.

Mrs. Carolyn Hunt, the mother of
Darius is joined by
Community members.
The word transparency is thrown about willy nilly, but it seems that the definition is being changed to something entirely different. Are you beginning to read more? Are you gathering more information? Do you have questions? We must work together to make transparency real, to clear away smoke that is clouding our views. Join us at the school board meetings. We will ask them together.

September 15, 2011 at Grieco School. 7:30 pm open session. We look forward to seeing you there.

From...Transparency In Education - Report Card In Bangladesh by Shanaz Karim
Lack of integrity and unethical behavior within the education sector is inconsistent with one of the main purposes of education; that is to produce "good citizens", respectful of the law, of human rights and fairness (it is also incompatible with any strategy that considers education as one of the principle means of fighting corruption.)

                                             "How are the children?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy first day of school to everyone, everywhere!

Everyone Owns The Information 
and Knowledge is Power

Today is the first day of school.

It is my hope that each may learn in a safe and healthy environment.
I hope that children everywhere are mentally present and are eager to begin the year.
I hope that teachers are prepared to acknowledge and motivate students to attain information.
I hope that teachers encourage  and guide each child to be the best.
I hope that every child will enjoy the equity and excellence in education promised in election years.
I hope that each child of age to attend pre - kindergarten and kindergarten is enrolled in the public school.
I hope that the music, visual art, dance and drama programs are still nurturing future great artists.
I hope that students are excelling in technology rich coursework. 
I hope that challenging and creative  sports programs are producing fabulous athletes who have facilities large enough to hold them and the equipment they need.

I hope that the culture of winning has not been replaced by the culture of greed.
I hope that the literature is classic, contemporary, fiction and non fiction.
I hope that everyone is encouraged to improve academically, to be of good character and a good citizen
I hope that each library is filled with literature that will engage students in the act of reading.
I hope students are able to read about every culture's history.
I am confident that curriculum in every subject grades pre -k to 12 has been updated and made relevant.
I hope that every child is prepared to be challenged

I hope that teachers are prepared to expect the best achievement 

I hope that everyone will have as a goal that every child should read and write English when entering the first grade.

I hope that this is the year that everyone will realize that even in the most exact examples of ability tracking systems students still take art, physical education, music, chorus and participate in school wide sports activities together.

                                               How are the children?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Does overzealous tracking nurture and encourage apartheid educational practices?

The word of the day:    Apartheid


  1. An official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
  2. A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
  3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.

(ə-pärt'hīt', -hāt'pronunciation
  1. An official policy of racial egregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
  2. A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
  3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.


[uh-pahrt-heyt, -hahyt]
(in the Republic of South Africa) a rigid policy of segregation of the nonwhite population.
any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.
Definition:Derived from the Afrikaans word for "apartness," apartheid is a term that came into usage in the 1930s and signified the political policy under which the races in South Africa were subject to "separate development." For the purpose of implementing these policies, apartheid recognized four races: Bantu, or black African; Coloured, or mixed race; white, and Asian.  Apartheid met with both international condemnation and spurred a resistance movement among black South Africans. Apartheid was defined as a crime in 2002 by the International Criminal Court; the United Nations had declared it a crime against humanity in 1973, though many nations still have not signed on to the convention

a·part·heid  n.
1. An official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.

2. A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.

the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.[12]

                              How are the children?