I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Your Daily Debunk

Just kill me:  
But there’s one set of facts that trumps all the other data: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as the nation’s report card.
The NAEP, which assesses “a representative sampling” of the nation’s fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders, has four student achievement levels: “advanced” (for “superior performance”), “proficient” (for “solid academic performance”), “basic” (for “partial mastery”) and “below basic” (for below partial mastery).
We need all students to attain the level of “proficient” or better.
So what does NAEP tell us about our nation’s eighth-graders, for example? Brace yourself for the bad news: In math, in 2011, 18 percent of our eighth-graders were assessed as below basic, 42 percent were basic, 33 percent were proficient and 7 percent were advanced. In reading, the results are even worse: 24 percent tested below basic, 42 were basic, 31 were proficient and 3 percent were advanced.
This is pretty damning evidence. [emphasis mine]
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong...
From Diane Ravitch's Death and Life of the Great American School System (which, Mike, you really should read):

The term "proficiency" - which is the goal of the law - is not the same as "minimal literacy." The term "proficiency" has been used since the early 1990s by the federal testing program, the National Assessment of Education Progress, where it connotes a very high level of academic achievement. (p. 102)
As real experts like Dr. Ravitch and Ed Fuller and Gerald Bracey have written many times, "proficiency" on the NAEP does not mean "achieving at grade level." It is a much higher bar; everyone who knows anything about education statistics learns this early on.
There is absolutely no informed reason to believe that all of our students should "attain the level of “proficient” or better" on the NAEP. None.

And is it too much to ask that the people who opine in our newspapers about our "horrible" schools know what the hell they are talking about?!

I need a drink...

StudentsFirst-B4K & Fulop: A Hustle in Jersey City

One sure sign of a hustler is that he denies the obvious truth while telling you it's your own eyes that are lying. Take, for example, the leap that StudentsFirst's "partner" in New Jersey, Better Education for Kids (B4K), is making into Jersey City politics:
An advocate of teacher tenure and schools reform, Better Education for New Jersey’s Kids, Inc. has intensified efforts this week in support of Downtown Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop in the Jersey City mayor’s race.
A television ad went up last Tuesday, building on a mail campaign that accelerated last week.
It will run through Election Day.
Co-founded by hedge billionaire David Tepper, the ads target incumbent Mayor Jerry Healy’s record.
“We are an education reform group, and we were very involved with the tenure reform bill, which passed unanimously. That’s what we are about. We have supported candidates – Democrats and Republicans,” said Mike lilley, executive director.
In response to the ad campaign, Bruno Tedeschi, spokesman for Fulop, issued a statement.
B4K has nothing to do with Steven Fulop, other than like most residents, they think Healy has been a failure,” Tedeschi said. [emphasis mine]
Really? "B4K has nothing to do with Fulop"? Are you sure you want to stick with that answer, Bruno? Or should I remind you of this, from back in 2009?
Today, Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop announced that he will run for re-election for his Ward E council seat as an independent candidate.

Fulop, 31, also named community activist and former council candidate Shelley Skinner as his campaign manager and announced that he will be making endorsements of other candidates after the March 19 filing deadline. [emphasis mine]
Shelley Skinner, Fulop's former campaign manager, is currently the Deputy Director for B4K; yet his spokesman says Fulop has "nothing to do" with the group. 

Nice try, Bruno; now let's go a little deeper...

Back in February of 2012, Skinner, who had started working at B4K, tried to put a little distance between herself and Fulop. Fulop was surprised at Skinner's move - perhaps because, as we all later found out, the two had been involved in secret meetings in 2011 between members of the Jersey City Board of Education and NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf:
The same week that Ward E City Councilman (and future mayoral contender) Steven Fulop had to explain more than $18,000 in campaign donations from a law firm with ties to Spectra Energy, an e-mail was leaked from the 2013 mayoral candidate's personal gmail account in which he invites an inner circle of school board members to what appears to be a secret meeting.

Sent under the subject heading "Cerf meeting," the May 2, 2011 e-mail from Fulop reads: "Please keep in confidence as always. We are meeting at 274 Arlington Ave. tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. See you then."

According to one source, 274 Arlington Ave. was a vacant residential property at the time of the meeting. Chris Cerf is the acting commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey.

The e-mail was sent to Sterling Waterman, who at the time was president of the Jersey City Board of Education; Carol Lester, vice-president at the time of the meeting; Carol Harrison-Arnold and Marvin Adames, who had been elected to the board just days earlier, on April 27 - but had not been sworn in yet; Ellen Simon, founder of Parents for Progress; and Shelley Skinner, deputy director of Better Education for Kids, a school choice advocacy group. Fulop's e-mail was also sent to Leda Duif Shumbris, Mohamed Akil, and Tine Pahl. [emphasis mine]
Cerf was clearly pushing to get his choice for superintendent of schools installed in Jersey City; the attendees of this meeting were obviously all in agreement. Let's be clear: Steven Fulop facilitated a secret meeting in 2011 that included B4K's Shelley Skinner and Education Commissioner Cerf, yet his campaign now claims he has "nothing to do" with B4K.

This meeting would have normally violated sunshine laws, but the weaselly excuse given was that the board members had not yet been sworn in. The next year, Fulop supported yet another slate for the board; care to guess how those board members financed their campaigns? Yes, of course - with help from the man who funds B4K:
Lyles is a graduate of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy, and Wahid alleges that Livingston billionaire David Tepper “directly” and “indirectly” offers financial support for Broad. Tepper funds education-reform group Better Education for Kids. [otherwise known as B4K - JJ]
Given Tepper’s $7,800 contribution to the three Jersey City school board members, and the $7,800 contribution from Jeffrey Kaplan, who runs Tepper’s hedge fund, the school-board trio should not be allowed to vote for Lyles’ appointment, Wahid says. [emphasis mine]
Yes, it's true: the slate of BOE candidates endorsed by Steven Fulop got thousands of dollars from the founder of B4K, yet his campaign says Fulop has "nothing to do" with the group.

Let's recap, shall we?

- Steven Fulop's former campaign manager, Shelley Skinner, now works at B4K.

- Fulop organized a secret meeting, which included Shelley Skinner, to facilitate the removal of the schools superintendent.

- B4K's founder gave thousands of dollars to a slate of candidates, backed by Fulop, for the JCBOE election the next year.

And yet, despite all this, Fulop's spokesman says: “B4K has nothing to do with Steven Fulop."

If you're gullible enough believe that, you'll believe that Steven Fulop is a friend to teachers...

When I'm Mayor of Jersey City, I'll be a great friend to teachers! Really, I swear!

ADDING: More about Tedeschi. No wonder newspapers are dying...

ADDING MORE: B4K already has a history of bringing chaos to Jersey City.

Monday, April 29, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Newark Memo Shows Another Cerf Crony Enriched

Last week, I blogged about how the state-appointed administration of the Newark Public Schools (NPS) had lost credibility with students, teachers, and even its own "advisory board." Superintendent Cami Anderson, hand picked by Governor Chris Christie and Education Commissioner Cerf, has been taking a lot of knocks over budgeting and a lack of transparency.

After this post, I'm afraid things are bound to get worse: I've just come into possession of an internal memo from Anderson that outlines a deal that pays Cerf's former employee, Patrick Flynn, to run the district's "peer validation" system.

The memo, co-written with Vanessa Rodriguez, NPS's Chief Talent Officer, is addressed to Anderson's five Assistant Superintendents, and cc'd to Joseph Del Grosso, head of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU). I've posted images of the memo below.

The memo outlines the new "peer validation process" for NPS. This process is critical for teachers, as it is a component of the new contract, signed this past winter, that calls for high-stakes decision making based on teacher evaluations. Peer validation, according to both Anderson and the NTU, is a way to guarantee that teachers will not be subject to the whims of vindictive administrators: it provides a way for a teacher to challenge a bad evaluation that might lead to termination.

I'll say more about the "peer validation process" later. For right now, let's focus on who is doing the validating:
We aim to create a quality process that aligns with the above principles - but we also acknowledge that this year is simply the beginning of the design and implementation process. This spring, after a competitive bid process, the district has contracted with an outside organization - the ReVision Learning Partnership - comprised of former teachers and administrators who specialize in peer observations in an urban school district setting. NPS and NTU felt it was important to select an experienced provider who has operated successfully in the context of a collective bargaining environment to the satisfaction of management and labor. (For more information on ReVision Learning, please visit their website: www.revisionlearning.com.) [emphasis mine]
It's not really clear from the memo what role ReVision will be playing; will, for example, they be providing their "former teachers and administrators" as the peer validators? Or will they merely be facilitators for the process?

To see if we can pick up some clues, let's look at their website:
ReVision’s Founder

Patrick W. Flynn, Founder and Executive Director of 
ReVision Learning Partnership
During his 17 years of educational service, Patrick Flynn has worked as a teacher, teacher leader, curriculum director and executive program director in K-12 settings in over ten different states.  As the Executive Director of High Schools for Edison Schools and the Chief Academic Officer for Great Schools Workshop in Sacramento, CA, Patrick worked with building and district administrations in nine states to implement systemic high school reform.   Patrick currently leads ReVision Learning Partnership, LLC, providing professional development and support to districts and educational organizations in CT, NY, and LA and has consulted on school improvement initiatives internationally in the United Arab Emirates with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.  As the Executive Director of ReVision Learning Partnership, Patrick has been working with New Haven Public Schools on the implementation of its nationally recognized Teacher Evaluation system.  In this role he has trained district’s administrators in calibration and implementation of their teaching framework and rubric and continues to manage the independent team of validators charged with providing inter-rater reliability on all classroom observations for Needs Improvement and Exemplary teachers within the system.  Patrick also works extensively with school districts in the formation of frameworks for teaching and learning and provides on-going support to administrators in supervision and evaluation techniques through one-one coaching and system wide professional development.  He also serves as Executive Director for the Connecticut Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (CASCD). [underline emphasis mine]
Edison Schools? You mean the same Edison Schools that Education Commissioner Chris Cerf joined in 1997 and ran from 2001 to 2005?

Yes, that Edison Schools. According to Flynn's bio, he was there from 2000 to 2007, working right along side or under Cerf for most of his tenure.

Cerf's former associates have a history of getting contracts from Newark's schools. Those associates include his former company, Global Education Advisors, and Bradley Tusk, who worked with Cerf on Michael Bloomberg's last reelection campaign for mayor of New York City. Neither of those contracts, however, involved the evaluation of teachers.

The memo says this contract was put out to bid. OK, sure - let's set aside our skepticism and say that Flynn didn't get the contract because he worked for Cerf for years. There's still a problem:

Do Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson really think Newark teachers can trust an evaluation validation system that is being run by Cerf's former underling?

Again, we don't know exactly what Flynn's firm is going to be doing, but we do know the "peer validation" system is supposed to protect teachers from capricious or vindictive evaluations. But how can ReVision be an impartial party when Flynn has such close ties to Cerf?

NPS needs to open this process up and answer some questions: what are the terms of the contract, who will do the evaluating, and what other firms - firms without ties to the Commissioner - were considered?

Again, I'll have more to say about the rest of the memo later this week.

ADDING: Mother Crusader reported back in March that OPRA'd emails show another of Cerf's former Edison underlings, Steve Wilson, was invited to come into New Jersey by Cerf and start opening charter schools.

It's good to be Chris Cerf's friend, isn't it?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Teachers Punished When They Question Authority

UPDATE: One of the commenters here takes me to task for my description of this as a PEMDAS problem. OK, that's fair; the part at the end is clearly about decimals converted into fractions. The first four... what do you call those, "operands"?... really don't need parentheses because the last one is "1." I was thinking that @rratto was just subbing numbers in, and that if the last operands was, say, "2" it would change the answer depending on whether you followed PEMDAS or not.

So, maybe a bad assumption on my part. However...

There's just no way this teacher should have been removed from his classroom for tweeting this if it's not an actual problem on the test. And I do think there is a "gotcha" quality to the question, although that's obviously a matter of opinion.

One of the friends of this blog is teacher/blogger @rratto; he's reposted and retweeted me more times than I could count, which I very much appreciate. So this is hardly an unbiased opinion on my part; nevertheless, the story he is telling at his blog is shocking and disturbing:

It all  began Wednesday evening with the following “tweets”;

tweet ccss
My initial tweet was an editorial comment based on a Common Core standard (which includes a similar example in the standard), and included a generic example that can be found in many practice workbooks. As you can see Allison Sitts, aka, IthacaGorges took exception to my message and accused me of posting an actual test question.  I followed up with a response stating that it was not an actual test question. At this point I thought little of Allison, I didn’t remember conversing with her before and just assumed the conversation was over.  Well it wasn’t!
The next morning ( Thursday) I administered part 2 of the New York State Math  Common Core Math assessments to my class. Immediately following this exam, ( It was literally minutes after collecting the test books.) My principal was standing at my classroom doorway , with a very distraught and serious look on her face, and says, “I need you to come outside now.”
I say, “OK, I’ll be right there.”
She then says, ” I need you right now. “
Go to the blog and read the rest; it's incredible. @rratto is accused by a stranger on Twitter of posting test questions - an action that is easily verifiable. The state should have been able to confirm whether his tweeted problem was the one from the test book immediately. They could also have easily given permission to the superintendent to look at the test book and see if the problem @rratto had posted matched his tweet. Obviously, it does not.

I'm not a math teacher, but even I recognize @rratto's example as a classic "order of operations" problem. You have to know PEMDAS - Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction (left-to-right) - as the order of operations in order to solve the problem. This is a great example of how an item can be constructed to "trick" a test-taker into giving a wrong answer, even if she grasps the concept. Adding parentheses to the first two multiplication operations would easily clarify the problem, but they are excluded here, increasing the chance of a wrong answer.

Psychometricians at testing companies must love PEMDAS problems: I'll bet their inclusion into a test almost guarantees that a certain percentage of test takers get the item wrong, which gives that nice normal distribution test-makers crave. But they don't necessarily tell us much about a child's ability to complete math problems: they may only tell us how well a child can be fooled.

You may agree or disagree with me or @rratto, but we both have every right to broach the issue. He and I and every other educator have the right, as American teachers, to use our First Amendment protections to publicly question the validity of state-mandated tests.

This was an act of intimidation. NY Education Commissioner John King has proved himself to be a bully and a hypocrite. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has proved herself to be indifferent to the suffering of children under this testing regime. Governor Andrew Cuomo has proved himself to be uninterested in the opinions of teachers and contemptuous of their professionalism.

But these people do not like to be challenged by those on the ground who actually work with our nation's kids every day. So the very minute someone stands up and points out the insanity of this system, he is descended upon like a pack of wolves. Why? Because they do not have an answer to their critics that can justify what they are doing.

@rratto is a hero and a true educator. He has done a great service for his students and their families by questioning the authorities who are imposing their will on our public schools. He is following a great American tradition of healthy skepticism for our "leaders," and I am proud to serve with him as part of America's teaching corps.

We teachers are the last defenders of critical thinking this country has left.  Purge us at your peril; right George?

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying -- lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want -- they want MORE for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They DON'T want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that, that doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting ****** by system that threw them overboard 30 ******' years ago. They don't want that. You know what they want? They want OBEDIENT WORKERS. OBEDIENT WORKERS. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly ******** jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Perth Amboy Schools Circus Update

So what's new in Perth Amboy, The Reformiest District in New Jersey™?
The superintendent of the city's schools says that a board member is lying about where he lives, the most recent salvo in an ongoing public-education battle.
Janine Caffrey said at a school board meeting Thursday night that the state is investigating whether Israel Varela lives on Lewis Street in the city or 40 miles away in Hunterdon County. School board members are required to live in the school district.
"He needs to resign," Caffrey said of Varela in an interview Friday. "He is a board member who is contributing nothing to this Board of Education other than creating a cloud of suspicion over it. He has been lying about his residence for three years." [emphasis mine]
Innocent until proven guilty? Meh...
Varela denies that he lives in Flemington, and said that the accusations are nothing more than political retribution, all because he won't "brown-nose" school administrators.
"You’re not going to bully me out," Varela said in an interview Friday morning. "I fought (former mayor) Joe Vas. And he was even more difficult. They told me I was crazy. Everybody praised him. Where is he? In jail."
Underlying the accusations about Varela's residency is a deeper rift between Caffrey and some members of the school board, which has persisted for more than a year. In 2012, the school board nearly voted to prohibit Caffrey from making public statements about them. The school board has also voted to remove Caffrey, but later backed down in February, after three new members were elected.
How classy - on all sides. But, that's just me, and I'm old-fashioned; why, I'm so old, I can remember a time when publicly commenting on an ongoing state investigation wasn't considered cool...

Lost in this little spat were a few choice items from the agenda for the meeting. The Perth Amboy district, for example, is preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Teach To One blended math learning program. You'll remember that the program is the brainchild of Joel Rose, former underlining to current NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf. Rose worked for Cerf at both Edison Schools and in the NYCDOE; it's only because of Cerf's intervention that Caffrey remains the superintendent in Perth Amboy.

That worked out well for everyone involved, didn't it? Of course, there's still the issue of whether Teach To One is any good:
Dr. Caffrey gave a small presentation on the Teach To One Program. She stated that this program helps take care of the teachers. The principal of McGinnis School, Dr. Myrna Garcia and Teacher Marie Bermundez spoke at the meeting. The McGinnis School tried a simulation of the program. “The kids love it,” Dr. Garcia stated. “The program bridges the gaps in the learning level. Students are broken into small groups and receive individualized learning to their level. There is a lot of technology used. Our kids need something different.”
Dr. Caffrey presented a chart showing marked improvement in grades and standardized tests in schools that implemented this program. “I cannot recommend this highly enough,” Dr. Caffrey stated.
Well, that doesn't really line up with Leonie Haimson's review of Teach To One's progenitor in NYC, School of One:
We then entered a large room, converted from the school's library, with about one hundred 7th and 8th graders seated at tables, most of them staring at computers and doing multiple choice math problems. I watched as one girl, seemingly in a trance, looked at the screen, and hit A, B, C, D keys in turn, until she got the right answer to a multiple choice question and moved onto the next one. Sadly, no adult but me seemed to be paying any attention to this student to make sure she was trying to think the problem through.
There were also two or three small groups of students, sitting at smaller tables, with rather harassed looking teachers who were trying to teach math, but allowed to spend only about ten to 15 minutes together before time ran out and a signal was made for the students to move back to computers, or to another group led by a different teacher. 
Rose explained that in the room, there were four certified teachers, two college students, and three high school students staffing the room, though it was hard to discern this.  He said that each teacher specialized in teaching 25% of math skills, and every student was assigned to particular groups or math problems by means of an algorithm, calculated the night before, based on his or her performance from  the day before.
But what I saw was not personalized instruction and engagement, but many confused and somewhat dazed students, and much disruption, with kids bumping into each other during abrupt scheduling changes, as they moved around the crowded room at the same time. [emphasis mine] 
That was a couple of years ago; I'm sure they've fixed it...

The other tidbit from the agenda was a big gift from the fine, reformy folks at B4K:
10). Approval to accept a grant from the Better Education Institute in the amount of $580,500.00 for the purpose of improving reading achievement of elementary school students. 
_____________ _____________ Motion Seconded 
11). Approval to enter into an agreement with Rutgers University for the Project Read initiative at a cost not to exceed $558,000.00, funded through the Better Education Institute grant. 
_____________ _____________ Motion Seconded
A nearly $600K in a gift to Perth Amboy for a reading program; pretty impressive. I've been trying to find out more, but if Rutgers has publicized this, I haven't found it.

The Better Education Institute is the charitable arm of B4K, the reformy lobbying group fueled with hedge fund money. BEI's trustees are the same folks who fund B4K's lobbying efforts. One of them, Alan Fournier (along with his wife, Jennifer), dropped $20,800 into the school board election in Perth Amboy; his "friends" from the West Coast also kicked in a hefty sum (something they do together quite frequently around the country). Now Caffrey has a board that isn't after her head.

You'll no doubt also remember that Fournier's B4K also paid for a public relations campaign when Caffrey was first under assault by her board:

And now they've come up with over a half a million to fund a reading program Caffrey has recommended to her board. It's nice to have wealthy friends, don't you think?

And so it goes in Perth Amboy, The Reformiest District in New Jersey™!

As seen on Facebook.

Revenge Against Those Who Question "Reform"

Back in November - before Chris Christie declared that poor black people in Camden weren't capable of running their schools like rich white people in the 'burbs - the Camden school board actually wielded a little power. And last year enough members of the board banded together to exercise that power and stop South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross from bringing the national charter chain KIPP into Camden to establish a quasi-charter where a new public school was supposed to be:
George E. Norcross III does not lose often. 
Nor does he lose easily: When Camden’s school board recently rebuffed a Norcross-backed bid to bring a Hope Act school to the city, the de facto leader of South Jersey Democrats quickly renewed the push for his goal.
Norcross declined to comment on specifics of the vote or his plans to revive the proposal, though he did express frustration and disappointment at the 4-4 vote he thought he would win. 
With the Urban Hope Act, powerful figures in local and state government advanced Norcross’ vision for a five-school complex near Cooper and the new medical school. The venture would be operated through an alliance of charitable foundations for Cooper and the Norcross family, and by KIPP, a national charter school operator. 
But the BOE’s tally was 4-4, with one abstention, meaning the proposal failed. The other three proposals were spurned unanimously, with an abstention on each.   
The [Camden Mayor] Redd administration, which did not comment for this story, had embarrassingly miscounted.   
Voting against the Cooper/Norcross/KIPP bid were Sara Davis, Sean Brown, Kathryn Ribay and Brian Turner. [emphasis mine]
Well, Norcross didn't take this lying down, and used his muscle to force another vote in November of 2012. What did the four who initially rejected the Cooper/Norcross/KIPP bid decide to do this time?
Some board members who initially rejected KIPP complained that the project was too large, with five schools totaling 2,800 students. The plan the board approved Wednesday was unchanged in size.
Sara Davis was the only member to again vote against KIPP.
Ray Lamboy abstained and Brian Turner was absent. The rest of the board agreed to send the proposal for review by state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.
The vote came after the resolution supporting the KIPP proposal was amended to include a clause that approval was conditional upon a contract between the board and the KIPP group. The amendment was the clincher for board member Kathryn Ribay, who had rejected the initial proposal.
"People can say things," Ribay said. "Things should be in writing."
During the almost three-hour closed meeting, representatives of KIPP and the Cooper Foundation went in to explain their proposal. The dialogue consisted of "a lot of explaining and clarifying . . . and some 'We'll have to get back to you,' " board member Sean Brown said.
Brown, who earlier voted against the KIPP proposal, said he switched because he believed the state would never build the long-promised Lanning Square public school. The state "will do whatever they can so it doesn't happen," he said. "And they have the power." [emphasis mine]
So Davis was consistent and voted no, Turner was conveniently absent, and Lamboy abstained again. But Ribay and Brown changed their votes. I'm sure they were rewarded for this, right?
As the Camden Board of Education prepares to transition into its new advisory role, it will also be introducing some new faces.
Mayor Dana L. Redd appointed two new members Monday and reappointed President Kathryn Blackshear to the nine-member board.
No applications were taken. Redd reached out to those she thought would be best for the board: Dorothy Burley, former city clerk, and Jennifer Martinez, owner of JEM Foods, a food-distribution company in Camden.
In a Type 1 school district, board members are appointed, not elected. Redd makes all board appointments.
This time around, she decided not to appoint two of the first board members she appointed three years ago, Sean Brown and Ray Lamboy. Brown and Lamboy were outspoken critics of the district administration and the state Board of Education.
Lamboy abstained from voting in all Renaissance school-related votes, citing what he said was a lack of analysis of the schools’ long-term impact.
Both were skeptical about the state takeover.
After the news of the takeover, Brown said: “The vision for the city is, fire all the cops and let the county do it; eliminate the school board and let the state do it; don't govern, let a political boss do it.”
Burley and Martinez will replace Brown and Lamboy.
“I appointed these qualified individuals because I believe they are ready and willing to work in partnership with the state Department of Education and my administration to do whatever it takes to produce better educational outcomes for our children,” Redd said in a statement. “Working together with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, I believe we can turn our school district around for the better.”
Translation: there's no room for dissension in Camden. Split votes and contrasting opinions may be fine for the 'burbs, but everyone had better be on the same page in Camden - or else.
A vacancy remains for the seat left open when Kathryn Ribay resigned the day the takeover was announced.
Saw the writing on the wall, didn't you?
Brown said in an interview that he had no interest in serving on a board whose role had been downgraded to advisory. Lamboy said he had wanted to continue to serve on the board.
I never had the opportunity” to talk with the mayor, he said of his interest in being reappointed. “Someone [from the mayor’s office] left me a voice mail this morning saying that I wasn’t going to be reappointed.
Lamboy said he was surprised and disappointed at the mayor’s decision.
“I thought we had accomplished a lot,” Lamboy said, citing a completed strategic plan and the national search for a new superintendent, which are both now moot since Gov. Christie’s takeover announcement last month. [emphasis mine]
See, the last thing anyone needs to do in Camden is stick his or her nose into a search for a superintendent. Just like in Jersey City, the appointment of the superintendent will be at the discretion of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and Governor Christie; the last thing they want is a bunch of locals who insist on having a say and mucking up their plans.

And they certainly don't wanted an advisory board in open revolt like the one in Newark.

So anybody in Camden who isn't on board with the Norcross-KIPP-Christie-Cerf-Broad Foundation plan is given his walking papers. Even abstaining on a vote is considered a sign of disloyalty to the cult of KIPP and the South Jersey political machine.

Rest assured, Sara Davis: your days are numbered. But maybe you can take some cold comfort in the fact that you're not alone: all across the country, school boards are being taken over by the forces of reforminess.  Sometimes they try to buy the race; in Camden, that's not necessary because the mayor controls all the school board appointments. But the outcome remains the same: those who voice even the slightest doubts about the privatization agenda are to be purged.

Resistance is futile... 

Friday, April 26, 2013

In State-Run Newark, The Wheels Fall Off

How little credibility does the state-appointed administration of Newark's schools have with the school system's stakeholders?

- Newark's students staged a walk-out to protest cuts to the schools' budget.

- The teachers are calling for an external audit of the budget.

- The "advisory board" has voted unanimously to express "no confidence" in the state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson.

Anderson's experience prior to coming to Newark was not primarily in schools. After a short teaching stint, she was at Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools (whatever that is...), a political consultant with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and the central office in the failed Bloomberg/Klein New York City regime.

So that's just a few years as a teacher, no time as a principal, and no time as a curriculum director. Golly, who could have ever predicted that no one would buy into her leadership...

Anderson was hand-picked by Governor Chris Christie and Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, who sang her praises. SecEd Arne Duncan was effusive in praising her appointment, as was Joel Klein. TFA's Wendy Kopp and Newark Mayor Cory Booker were thrilled that Anderson took the job. Everyone is very happy with Anderson...

Except the students, the teachers, and the locally elected representatives of the citizens of the city.

But hey, nothing a little spin can't fix:
School district budget deficits are no fun. They require making tough decisions and confronting difficult questions. Does spending yield great results for kids? Is what we are doing now, at any price, truly working? Where and how should we invest our critical resources to benefit our most precious gifts — our children?
Yeah, all great questions - swell. So here's a thought:

How about opening up the process of budgeting to the stakeholders in the Newark district so they can all have a say in the future of the city's schools? 

18 years of state control has done nothing to make Newark's schools more transparent, more responsive, or more innovative. 18 years of state control has done nothing to improve the lives of all of Newark's children. All 18 years of state control has done is segregate the students, enrich the cronies of the education commissioner and the mayor, and move the district further away from local control.

State control of Newark's schools is an experiment that has failed. No one with skin in the game has any confidence in the leadership of Newark Public Schools anymore. The only rational course of action at this point is to rescind state control, put the schools back into the hands of the people, set up a real accountability system for the NPS administration, and fully fund Newark's schools as required by law - a requirement Christie has ignored.

I'm sure Cami Anderson is a very nice person and may even, someday, become a good superintendent. But there's simply no way she can maintain any credibility when Christie and Cerf are running the show, and the students, teachers, and parents of Newark are left out.

The wheels have fallen off in Newark; it's stupid to pretend otherwise.

Brick City Speedway...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chris Christie: Hypocritical Teacher Basher

Chris Christie just can't help himself - he hates teachers:

Gov. Chris Christie blames “special interest” groups on the failure to enact certain school reforms he says are necessary to improving education in New Jersey.
The governor told a friendly Bergenfield crowd Tuesday that Garden State students are in need of more hours in the classroom and longer school years in order to stay competitive. Christie blamed special interests with blocking those changes for purely their own personal interests.
They don’t want a longer school year, they like having the summer off,” said Christie, referring to the adults – not the students – who he accuses of blocking the reforms.
Christie argued longer school days and years are needed to ensure students are educated. [emphasis mine]
Well, let's check the calendar at the Delbarton School, where he sends his own kids. Last day of school is June 5; the next year starts on September 4. That's three full months of a summer vacation for the Christie kids! Your kids? Eh, not so much...

Oh course, if Chris Christie is suggesting that we should offer an extensive summer program like the one at Delbarton, full of sports and SAT prep, then I'm all for that. And I'm very anxious to read his proposal for how he's going to pay to offer that sort of high-quality enrichment to all of New Jersey's children, including upgrading all the schools so they have air conditioning...

Oh, wait - he's not saying he wants the teachers to work all summer long in stifling schools but not get paid any more for it, is he? I mean, even for a guy who hates teachers so much, he couldn't believe for a second that it would be right to pull teachers out of their summer jobs for no extra money?

Or could he? Maybe someone in the press corps should ask...

Pay teachers more to work all summer? Are you crazy?!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Every Kid Could Go To Bill Gates's Private School

There are times when I'm not sure that even EduShyster could parody the musings of Bill Gates. For example:
After almost two decades of pursuing improvements in U.S. education through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates maintains a sweeping and grand ambition. His goal for the next 20 years, he says, is to graduate roughly twice as many kids from college, move the United States up in the international rankings, and do so without spending more money. It's as if Gates wants to apply a version of Moore's law (in which the number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit double every two years) to education. 
Gates: In K-12, we're in an era where, unfortunately, we're not going to be able to increase the amount of resources, because state budgets are tight and medical costs are constantly increasing. So can we get more out of $600 billion a year? No Child Left Behind [the annual testing program started in 2002] let us know that we weren't doing very well. But it was fairly minor in terms of identifying particular ways of solving the problem. [emphasis mine]
First of all, maybe we could do something about those medical costs. You know, like the rest of the industrialized world, which spends far less than we do and gets better results?

There are roughly 300 million people in the US, and we spend about $8,200 on each for health care. If we could cut that back to about $4,900 - which would still make us #4 in health care spending - we'd save about a trillion dollars. Hold that thought...

Second, maybe we should consider taxing people like you more Bill. After all, you and your fellows at the very, very top are taking more of the money:

While paying historically low effective tax rates.

So, Bill, we could - if you'd allow us - greatly decrease our health care costs and greatly increase our revenue collections. What could we do with all of this money?

Here's a thought: you send your own kids to your high school alma mater, the Lakeside School in Seattle.  Tuition at Lakeside is $27,250 a year - and that's not even spending per pupil, because it doesn't include gifts and endowments. Further, Lakeside doesn't educate the children with severe or even moderate learning disabilities, or for whom English is a second language, or are autistic, or have severe physical disabilities, or who live in poverty. 

Contrast this to the average $11,467 we spend on each public school child.

Right now we spend about $570 billion per year on public education. Which means it would take about a trillion more dollars a year to get the per pupil spending for public school children close to the level that the Gates children enjoy (and that's a very conservative estimate). 

A trillion dollars... oh, yeah, what we could save on health care and still be #4 in per capita spending! And that wouldn't even cost you a penny; imagine how much more we could do if we started taxing you at higher rates...

I'd rather not...

ADDING: If you haven't watched this yet, do yourself a favor: