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Education advocates return to New Jersey to fight for all students

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Jerseycan, a statewide student advocacy nonprofit, announced Tuesday that Paula White will be its new executive director. The Cranford-based group trains parents on student advocacy, trains teachers on public policy, and produces research reports on topics such as instruction, the educator workforce and school facilities. .

White, 56, founded Newark Charter School, ran a school improvement initiative in New Jersey, and taught for nearly a decade before becoming an assistant state school board member.

Her top priority is to advance statewide plans to improve student literacy using scientifically proven methods.

“We don’t have the freedom to hang around because everyone is doing their own thing,” she said, calling on the education ministry and parliamentarians to bring literacy instruction to the largest number of students as soon as possible. She cited Mississippi and other states as examples of success.

“They got together and said they were going to teach reading the right way, based on scientific evidence,” White said. Or he said the focus should be on struggling students, whether they come from homes that don’t put a lot of emphasis on reading.

Another statewide education advocate, Betsy Ginsburg, was delighted to hear of White’s new role.

Ginsburg, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, said: “In this new role, she will continue to be unique in New Jersey education.”

White is particularly troubled by trends in the National Educational Progress Assessment Score released last week. The top 75% of students lost 2-3 points, while the bottom 25% of students she lost 12-13 points.

“What we’re seeing is no longer the Gap. It’s the Gulf,” she said.

At the state level, she is awaiting the results of a standardized test that took place last spring and is frustrated that the results have not yet come out. He said it would be useful to see if students from different demographic groups are having success.

“I’m curious to know what these differences are and what we can learn from those schools,” she said.

The New Jersey Department of Education told school leaders it will release district- and school-level data in early fall.

In keeping with JerseyCAN’s mission to “ensure that every New Jersey student has access to a quality education, regardless of where they live,” White believes that every parent should have options for sending their students to school. I would also like to provide

“Families living in or near poverty have the right to choose,” she said, adding that she wants to help successful schools serve more students. rice field.She said such schools, traditional or not, should be allowed to expand public school or charter.

The new job is a homecoming for White, a mother of three who marvels at different talents and challenges. She was dedicated to helping build an educational system that met the needs of all students.

Raised in Ontario and Jamaica, White taught for almost ten years, founded a charter school in Newark, led school improvement efforts for the State Department of Education, The school with the lowest grades and the school with the widest grade gap. Under her leadership, two-thirds of the more than 200 schools she supervised saw academic growth and suspensions decreased in schools with high performance gaps.

During her tenure as Chief Turnaround Officer, 58% of the schools she supervised improved in reading, math, or both, and the office reduced chronic absenteeism by 63%. It has helped, but the problem has been exacerbated through the pandemic, she said.

“We are currently experiencing a spike in chronic absenteeism,” she said. “Students need time to learn, and they can’t learn unless they go to school.”

Ann Borowiec, co-chairman of JerseyCAN’s board of directors, said the group will organization Because of her credentials and reputation as a state policy expert.

“She’s versatile, very passionate and knowledgeable about the field. I think it was a home run to bring her back from New York,” she said. After White lost her leadership position in New Jersey, she took a job in New York City.

In 2018, the New Jersey Board of Education appointed White an assistant school commissioner. sparked speculation about the teachers’ union.

Governor Phil Murphy later said The union did not ask him to fire White, saying she was “not suited for the job from a philosophical point of view.” The governor’s office on Monday declined to comment on White’s new job.

White boldly took a step back. “I thought I was okay. I was educated so I was okay,” she said. “But what about me fighting for uneducated students? I want you to have it. It shines.”

For the past four years, White has been the director of New York City’s Educators for Excellence, a teacher advocacy group with 15,000 members. The group has successfully pushed for policy changes, including placing social her workers and guidance her counselors in schools in high need and getting all students in the city tested for dyslexia early. .

In her new job, she is also very concerned about the social and emotional needs of students post-pandemic.

“We want to help students recover their mental health in the shortest possible time,” she said. “It’s a big part of every conversation about education.”

A graduate of Spelman College and Columbia University Teachers College, White looks forward to tackling the challenges students face. Former JerseyCAN leaders Janellen Duffy and Patricia Morgan will remain with the organization in consulting positions while White takes over.

“I’m an independent voice, but also a voice that understands how to get things done,” she said.

Dear readers, what are your main concerns about the school as we begin the new year? We would like to hear from parents, guardians, students and staff this shape As we prepare to return to school this fall. What are you most worried about? What plans would you like your school district to implement? If you would like to be interviewed, please provide your contact information. thank you very much!

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