Welcome to Chalkbeat Newark's weekly newsletter! I'm Patrick Wall. I cover Newark education news throughout the week and round it up in this newsletter. Please send ideas my way. And if you aren't signed up, you can subscribe to Chalkbeat newsletters here.
The big story
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that workers could no longer be required to pay fees to public-sector unions that negotiate on their behalf.
The decision was considered a major setback for organized labor, which could leave unions with fewer members and less money and power. But in Newark — so far — not a single member has decided to drop out of the teachers union and become a “free-rider,” according to Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon.
“It doesn’t make sense to drop out. It’s not worth it,” he said. “For $700 I’m going to kick my union in the face? After all we’ve been through?”
During an hour-long interview last week, Abeigon spoke with me about the ruling and why his members are, for now, deciding to stick with the union.
We also discussed brighter news for the union: Newark’s new superintendent, Roger León, a former teacher whom Abeigon said is “all about the kids.” Still, he doesn’t plan to go easy on the new district chief.
“We’ll deal with him the same way we dealt with every single superintendent who preceded him,” Abeigon said. “When they’re right, it’s because they listened to us, and when they’re wrong, it’s because they didn’t.”
What to watch
Important things happening around Newark schools.
New Jersey begins moving away from controversial PARCC exams.
- What to know: New Jersey plans to eliminate four of the six PARCC exams taken by high-school students, allow other exams to count towards graduation, and reduce the weight of the exams in teacher evaluations, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.
- In addition, the state will shorten the tests taken by younger students and give schools more flexibility in testing English learners.
- New Jersey adopted the computer-based tests, which were used by a number of states, in 2015. Many parents and teachers opposed the exams, and thousands of students “opted out” of taking them.
- Murphy promised to scrap the PARCC exams on “day one,” but phasing them out will take several years. Replacement exams won’t be ready until at least 2020-2021.
- One big question: Can New Jersey find better, more popular exams — or will some critics always oppose high-stakes testing?
Newark gets new district leadership as school board approves Superintendent León’s appointments.
- What to know: The board approved the final members of León’s leadership team last week.
- The three assistant superintendents confirmed on Tuesday first came before the board in June, but did not secure enough votes at that time to move forward.
- León’s initial trouble getting his appointments approved show how he and the board are still working out their relationship just months after the state ended its decades-long takeover of the district.
- One big question: Now that he has his leadership team in place, when will León announce his plans for the district?
A roundup of the past week’s local education reporting.
- The state announced final school-funding figures on Friday. As Gov. Murphy proposed in March, Newark got a $37.5 million boost. NJ Spotlight
News from Trenton
Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.
More PARCC coverage…
- State Board of Education members have mixed views on the exams, with some saying they had become too onerous for students and others calling them a “wonderful tool.” NJ Spotlight
- One of the proposed changes is to scrap the “PARCC” name — even though the exams will remain in use for at least another year. NJ.com
- Here’s how the overhaul will affect students in every grade level. NJ.com
- Editorial: The proposal is “half-baked” and a gift to teachers unions who opposed their use in teacher evaluations. NJ.com
- The SAT is graded on a curve in order to make scores from different testing days equivalent. But that policy had led to lower scores for students who took an easier version of the exam. NJ.com