PSAT 8/9 Test Dates and Info Session Announced for Students Applying to McNair or Infinity

Jersey City Public School District announced today that there will be an information session on Friday September 24, 2021 regarding the PSAT 8/9 test, now scheduled for Saturday, October 16, 2021 at MS #7 (click for more information). Students interested in applying to McNair Academic High School or Infinity Institute should attend.

Top 10 Reasons to Feel Good about Going Back to School in Jersey City, Despite Concerns about COVID-19

  1. Not a COVID-19 hot spot: The northeastern part of the United States, including New Jersey, is not a major COVID-19 hot spot. Fortunately, Jersey City has been largely spared the major uptick in hospitalizations seen in much of the south, from Texas to Florida.
  2. COVID-19 infections are generally mild for most children: Hospitalization and death continues to be significantly lower in the school age population, according to CDC data.
  3. Delta: While the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has proven to be highly transmissible, the Delta variant has not shown to be more severe in children and adolescents (as indicated by the hospitalization rates before and after the Delta variant dominated infections).
  4. Reducing risk: Schools in New Jersey are largely following the latest guidance that will reduce transmission and severe outcomes in children and adolescents: encouraging vaccination and universal masking in schools and other indoor spaces
  5. Teachers are vaccinated or tested: New Jersey Governor Murphy signed an executive order requiring teachers of preschoolers to 12th grade students to be vaccinated or regularly tested. The law will strengthen protections for teachers and students alike.
  6. Vaccinations: Hudson County is 62% fully vaccinated (72% of people ages 12+), versus a national average of 53% overall (62% of people ages 12+). Vaccinations have been shown to prevent illness, to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms when rare breakthrough infections do happen, and to decrease transmission. Hospitalization rates were shown to be 10 times higher among unvaccinated adolescents than among fully vaccinated adolescents. “The vast majority of hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19 are in unvaccinated people,” according to the CDC. And the chances of a breakthrough infection in New Jersey are likely around 1 in 10,000.
  7. Avoiding Learning Loss: Many students fell behind during the virtual learning months since the start of the pandemic, and this learning loss disproportionately affected Blacks, Hispanics, low-income households, and urban students.
  8. Improving Mental Health: Parents reported an increase in a variety of clinical mental health conditions in their children during the pandemic. In-person learning will likely mitigate these conditions of anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, social isolation, lethargy, and irrational fear.
  9. Return to Work: Reopening Jersey City schools to full-time in-person learning will enable parents to return to work. Many parents left the workforce to care for children during the pandemic, and this childcare responsibility was disproportionately assumed by women. The reopening of schools will enable women to reenter the workforce if they choose that as the best option for them and their families.
  10. It’s fun! So many students are happy to have the privilege to go back to school with all of their friends, rather than begrudgingly return to the obligation of school after an enjoyable summer. The kids will enjoy the social interaction with a fresh look on the experience.

Opinion: Let the PS 16 Schoolchildren Play Safely in Paulus Hook’s Four Corners Park

The contested southwest corner of Four Corners Park sits largely empty over Labor Day weekend on the morning of Sunday, September 5, 2021.

If you have ever walked by Grand St. and Washington St. during morning drop-off, mid-day recess, or in the afternoon after school, you have seen the scores of children playing in the only functional corner of Four Corners Park. The adjacent school, Cornelia F. Bradford Elementary School (PS 16), lacks an outdoor space, and its students need a large, safe place to play. Fortunately, this corner has provided this opportunity for years, and during school hours, it makes sense that the school should have exclusive use of this space. In the evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers, the space can be used by the entire community.

Our children recently graduated from PS 16, where they benefited enormously from the wide open, mostly flat space that allowed them to play soccer, tag, and football during recess, along with their classmates. Allowing the school the exclusive use of the space during school hours will ensure that hundreds of students will continue to enjoy this space safely on a daily basis for regular exercise. And the reality is that the vast majority of the child-hours spent in this park is indeed because of the school. During school hours, other children have access to a number of nearby parks and open spaces:

  • General Nathanael Greene Park by Essex Street Light Rail Station
  • Morris Canal Park
  • Morris Canal Square Park by the Marin Boulevard Light Rail Station
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Van Vorst Park

The Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPHA) opposes the exclusive use of this portion of the park by the school. To its credit, the HPHA has led various efforts in an attempt to improve the park; however, we have been disappointed by the results of these efforts. The introduction of the playgrounds was certainly an improvement, but the additional landscaping and impractical fencing also reduced the limited functional open space for sports and games of tag. The community already had three corners of landscaped, unusable park space, and the modifications further restricted the space in the most popular corner of the small park. Why has the southwest corner of the park always been the subject of discussion and dispute? Because this corner was the Four Corners Park’s only flat, open space that could be used for free play.

Instead of opposing the efforts of the school and the PS 16 Concerned Parents Association (CPA) to make extensive use of this open space, the HPHA should concentrate its advocacy on transforming the other three landscaped corners of the park into a more functional space for the community. The rest of the Four Corners Park is underutilized and could benefit from additional play spaces. Additionally, the HPHA can continue its work to improve the community’s use of the space near the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which is currently poorly used primarily as a parking lot. The paved entrance to the memorial has often served as a play space for the neighborhood, and with a little extra protection from cars, it could better serve the children of Paulus Hook.

But the HPHA does importantly highlight something we can all agree on: the need for school buildings with more classrooms, potable water, and safe play spaces. Perhaps we can build consensus around this demand and redirect the efforts of the various neighborhood groups toward this common goal.

PSAT Prep Classes Now Available

Parents looking to prepare their children for the PSAT 8/9, as required by McNair Academic High School and Infinity Institute, can sign up here for virtual PSAT Language Arts prep and in-person PSAT Math prep at Hudson County Community College.

The classes will run on various days between September 7, 2021 and September 18, 2021. Target audience is 8th graders, so we presume the class will focus primarily on PSAT 8/9 material. Instructors will focus on test-taking strategies and will use sample tests in class.

McNair and Infinity Admissions Policies Might Change for 8th graders in the 2021-2022 School Year

The Jersey City Board of Education voted tonight to review admissions policies for two of its top rated magnet schools, McNair Academic and Infinity Institute. JCBOE plans to hold two public hearings on the topic. The first is expected to be a virtual meeting to be held on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The second public hearing will be scheduled after the Board returns to regularly scheduled monthly meetings in August.

Stating that the policies have not been updated in decades, the board has decided to review them with the aim of maximizing fairness, equity, and diversity. The district promises to conduct an analysis of current policies, to compare them with other large and small school districts nationwide, and to deliver recommendations that would take effect for the class of 2026, thereby affecting students entering eight grade in the fall of 2021.

The current admissions policy at McNair aims to accept a student population that is 25% Black, 25% Hispanic, 25% White, and 25% Other. Applications are sorted into groups by ethnicity and then ranked. The top 50 students from each of four groups are chosen, and an additional 40 students are selected from the remaining applications, without consideration for ethnicity. Because Asian students as a group tend to outperform on standardized tests, Asian students are likely to overwhelmingly fill those 40 race blind spots. Thus, as of 2019-2020, actual enrollment at McNair skews more Asian (42.9%), while Black students make up only 13.7% of the population. Hispanic students (20.1%) and White students (19.5%) are enrolled at rates much closer to the target acceptance rate.

What does this mean for parents and students? Fairness, equity, and diversity are qualitative and subjective terms, so it’s hard to know exactly what the recommendations for change will be. Is it even possible to be fair, equitable, and diverse simultaneously? Stuyvesant High School in New York mostly recently made headlines again, this time for accepting only 8 Black students out of 749 total. The New York City high school relies solely on a single admissions test, and although Black students take the test in equal proportions to White students (18% each), White students make up 28% of those admitted while Black students account for only 4%. Jersey City magnet schools do not have such stark differences in acceptance rates by race as a direct result of the current admissions policies. So in comparison to New York, Jersey City appears to have a smaller diversity problem.

That said, any potential changes to admissions policies seem highly likely to be designed to increase the admissions rate of Black students, and necessarily decrease the admissions rates for Asian students. The problem is reminiscent of a major case that may be reviewed by the Supreme Court. In Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, Asian American students allege that Harvard’s admissions process, which incorporates race, puts Asian American students at a disadvantage. Harvard won the lawsuit and the decision was affirmed on appeal; however, the Supreme Court may hear an appeal filed in February 2021.

PS 16 Cornelia Bradford Gets a New Building with 13 Classrooms

Superintendent Walker confirmed at today’s board meeting that Cornelia F. Bradford Elementary School (PS 16) will add 13 new classrooms at the new building at 275 Washington St. at the corner of Christopher Columbus Ave. and Washington St. Currently, the average class size for K-5 students at the school is 33 students. It is still unclear which grades will make use of the new facilities, but families in and nearby Paulus Hook should be able to count on this new facility to reduce overcrowding starting in September 2021 for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

Update 30-Jun-2021: the 13 classrooms in the new building at 275 Washington St. are expected to be used for Kindergarten and first grade. The existing PS #16 building has 14 classrooms that will be dedicated to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Finally, Danforth Avenue Early Childhood Center has 20 classrooms that will continue to be used for Pre-K3 and Pre-K4, with 10 classrooms for each Pre-K grade level.

Analysis of Latest NJ Assessment Data Now Available

The global pandemic precluded any standardized testing and the resulting data set from the Spring of 2020, so we have gone back to Spring 2019 to ensure we have analyzed the most recent standardized assessment data available. See how schools rank in testing performance in Math and English and Language Arts here. Teaser: We help to answer the often asked question: which AEP school is “better” – Academy I or MS 4?