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

Friday, November 29, 2013

The REAL Christie Legacy: "We Deserve Better!"

In the largest high school in Trenton - New Jersey's capitol - the beautiful, brilliant children of this state are forced to learn in a building that is unsafe and disgusting. This terrific piece of citizen journalism, courtesy of Rebecca Burr, details what is happening in a school that is almost literally under Chris Christie's nose.

According to State Senator Reed Gusciora, Trenton Central sent a kid to every Ivy League school last year with the exception of Harvard. Think about that: there is someone right now attending Yale, or Dartmouth, or Princeton, or Columbia, who went to a high school that looks like this:

Trenton Central's infamous "Waterfall" staircase.

Chris Christie, of course, likes to call schools like Trenton Central "failure factories." In truth, they are hero factories. Because any school that can produce Ivy League scholars in such deplorable conditions is full of heroic teachers and staff, educating heroic students, loved by their heroic parents.

The only "failure" at Trenton High is the failure of Chris Christie and his cronies to step up and do their damn jobs.

Of course, the Christie children go to a private high school with sports fields so large you can actually land a helicopter on them.

Delbarton is a great school; after all, it spends well in excess of $30K on each pupil who attends. Guess what you get for that kind of scratch?

Chirs Christie: "I don't want anything worse for the children of this city [Camden] or any other city in the state of New Jersey than I would want for my own children."

But if you ever dare to point out this screaming hypocrisy to Chris Christie, watch out:

(0:43) "I, as governor, am responsible for every child in this state, not just my own. And the decisions that I make are to try to improve the educational opportunities of every child in this state. So with all due respect, Gail, it's none of your business."
Governor Christie, with all due respect: you really suck at your job. You could put Trenton Central on a path to health tomorrow if you actually gave a damn about it. You've had four years to address this issue, which is right in the center of the state capitol. The SDA has been a joke since you came into power. But you won't even visit the school.

It's clear, Governor Christie, that you either don't care about Trenton's children, or don't have the skills to solve this problem. No one else is to blame for this failure but you. Lord forgive you if a child is actually harmed in these squalid, dangerous conditions.

Hallway, Trenton Central.

Is this the "leadership" you really want, America? Seriously?

Good luck in 2016, Republicans.

ADDING: I really need to say this again: these kids are amazing. I only hope I live long enough to vote for Nukermini Kermah when she runs for Congress. And I don't know what Jada Bailey wants to do with her life, but she is exactly the sort of young person we should be encouraging to teach: poised, articulate, compassionate, obviously cracker-jack smart.

These incredible young women are not failures. Their parents are not failures. Their teachers are not failures.

The only failures I see are the people who own and run everything.

When "Reform" Is Really Union Busting

Once again, here's NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf on teachers unions:
I always look forward to this event and I'm really delighted. And I want to extend my appreciation particularly to the leadership of the NJEA, with whom I feel that we've had a sometimes spirited discussion, but always a positive and a respectful one.
As I documented in that post, Cerf's words in no way match the actions of his boss, Governor Chris Christie, who has shown enormous disrespect to both teachers and their unions. But the hypocrisy only starts with Christie; you see, when Chris Cerf's people actually get out into the field, their anti-union leanings also start coming out.

Take Tim Capone, newly arrived from the NJDOE to the superintendency of Highland Park:
Scores of Highland Park residents and union supporters came out Monday night to the auditorium at Bartle Elementary to protest layoffs of nine staff members at Highland Park's schools, including two top union officials.
The school board and administration were literally surrounded by critics: So many people showed up that they had to take out a partition in the wall, doubling the size of the room and letting the overflow crowd tickle into the nosebleeds.
And after some brief introductory remarks, including a slideshow presentation defending the layoffs, board members and school administration mostly sat expressionless as speaker after speaker alleged that the move was tantamount to union-busting and that the superintendent has hired too many top administrators at the expense of front-line workers.
"This is not how we do things in Highland Park," said borough resident Darcie Cimarusti, a soon-to-be board member who was elected in November.
Regular readers here know Darcie as Mother Crusader, New Jersey's best parent-blogger and a good friend to yours truly. She won the election but is not yet on the board; let me have her tell you what's happening:
Yup, that's right. The Board, at the recommendation of our brand new Superintendent, approved a Reduction in Force (RIF) of nine district employees on November 4th, 2013. The RIF included the President and Vice-President of the Highland Park Education Association, and came after contract negotiations reached an impasse.  (Note: A tenth employee was RIFed on October 7th, 2013 but this position is often not added to the nine RIFed on 11/4) 
Almost everyone that spoke, save one lone voice of support for the Superintendent and the Board, expressed concern on a myriad of topics. The RIF was not the only issue. The creation of two new six figure Central Office positions, including a second Assistant Superintendent and a "Data Analyst," was a hot button topic. 
"We now have almost as many superintendents as we do schools, and a data analyst to tell them how great of a job they're doing," said Samuel Shiffman, a teacher in South River whose three children attend Highland Park schools.
So here we have a brand new superintendent, coming straight from Cerf's NJDOE, who fires the president and vice-president of the teachers union during a contract negotiation, and replaces them with more bureaucrats who will be "analyzing data." I honestly can't think of a more blatant example of union-busting.

Why would a brand new superintendent do this? Why would he immediately alienate his staff in this way? Where did Capone get training and experience that would lead him to think this is the way to run a school district?

Darcie knows:
Capone was hired fresh out of one of the NJDOE's Broad funded Regional Achievement Centers. 
This brief bio reveals that prior to being the Executive Director of the Region 4 RAC he was a "turnaround" principal at a Race to the Top school in Delaware.  

Capone's history was deeply concerning to me as someone who has been immersed in the state and national debate over education reform and policy for more than two years. When Capone was hired I tried to keep an open mind, but I was nervous. 
And now my community is nervous too.  
"Broad funded": as in Eli Broad, the California plutocrat and patron to Chris Cerf. The man who has been training a corps of school "leaders" in the ways of "disruption."

It's becoming a pattern here in Jersey: brand new superintendents, all with ties to either NJDOE or Cerf directly, take over a district and start getting everyone angry. But I'll give Capone credit: at least he has some experience in running a school, even if he oversells himself:

"Within one year, we went from being one of the lowest performing schools, to being a superior rated school by the [DE] Department of Education."
Let's get the timeline straight: Capone was appointed to Howard High as its new principal in February of 2011. In August of 2012, NJDOE announced he'd be taking over one of the RACs. Which means, at most, Capone had been at Howard for a year-and-a-half. Let me ask those of you who work in schools: in your experience, can principals come in and "turn around" a school in a year? Can they make changes that quickly that dramatically affect student performance?

Howard High is a vo-tech school; as such, it is a school the students apply to for admission. Nothing wrong with that: not only am I in favor of vo-tech, I think we need a lot more of it. But let's not pretend that gains at a "choice" school are the same as gains at a school that does not require students to apply for admission. In any case, compared to the other schools in Delaware's "Partnership Zone," Howard's gains in proficiency rates weren't far superior; they were actually pretty much in line with the others.

Look, everyone likes to pump themselves up a little; everyone likes to believe they are good at what they do. I'll gladly concede that Capone had some successes in Delaware before he came to New Jersey. The problem seems to be, however, that he has taken the reformy creed to heart: over-confident in his own abilities, he believes that building consensus is a sign of weakness, and his idea of "reform" has to be imposed from the top down:
Another person who will soon be out of a job is Kathleen Ketofsky. She's the school system's substance abuse counselor. She also helps students deal with eating disorders, depression and bullying. The students she helps counsel have been coming up to her to tell her they're upset that she'll be out of a job, after 12 years with the district. They're not alone. 
"I'm devastated," Ketofsky said. 
Andrew Yeager, who represents counselors like Ketofsky at New Jersey schools, said that her departure will be a major blow to education in Highland Park. 
"You can buy all the state-of-the-art technology in the world, it won't make a difference if your students are being bullied, are anxious, are afraid, are depressed," Yeager said. "It's catastrophic."
Firing an experienced counselor in the middle of the year to shift funds over for more computers is not going to earn you a lot of fans - especially when you're also firing the leaders of your teachers' union. And most especially when you then spend more on administrators:
Much of the dissatisfaction in the crowd surrounded Capone, who was hired in August (one speaker exuberantly called for Capone's resignation, pumping her fists to the raucous applause of the crowd). 
Speakers criticized Capone's hiring of a second assistant superintendent and a data analyst, each with six-figure salaries. It's created a district that's too top-heavy, critics said. (In his letter, Capone said that administrative salaries are down $133,000.) 
"We now have almost as many superintendents as we do schools, and a data analyst to tell them how great of a job they're doing," said Samuel Shiffman, a teacher in South River whose three children attend Highland Park schools.
Well, it's like I told the Perth Amboy board: you hired this guy, and now you've got to justify yourself to your teachers, your parents, and your students. Good luck with that...

In the meanwhile, let all teachers unions be on guard: the minute you hear a new superintendent start talking about "reform," hunker down. No matter what you may be told, he or she is almost certainly coming after your association. And we all know where that's coming from...

I like this guy in Highland Park! Maybe I'll make him my next Education Commissioner!

ADDING: Here's a statement from the local union:

Press Release
Highland Park Schools Superintendent Makes Rash and Callous Personnel Decisions
--School Community Plans a Turnout to Oppose Pink Slip Decision-- 
Highland Park, NJ, Nov. 14, 2013:  Parents, Teachers, and School Support Staff plan to assemble at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting to oppose the Board’s decision to terminate 9 school employees within the next 60 days, including the Highland Park Education Association President and Vice-President. 
The Highland Park Education Association (HPEA) contends that the elimination of the job positions is retaliation for HPEA activities that have occurred over the last several weeks. Those activities include:
 ·       Notification to authorities of potential threats made to a teaching staff member and students·       A mutual declaration of impasse during the bargaining process·       The filing of a grievance on behalf of a member·        A challenge to the President’s negotiated terms and conditions of employment·       A request by the Association to review secretarial workload at the high school 
NJEA Uni-Serv Representative Nancy Grbelja stated, “The intent of these firings is not for the Board to save money as it claims, but because Superintendent Tim Capone wants to cover up his real intent to terminate the union leadership.”
 She added, “The superintendent has only been employed by the district for 50 days and the professionals he’s put on the chopping block are required to leave mid-year. He hasn’t considered the years of service employees have in the district or the pension system. He does not have a plan for how the work will be absorbed or how the district will maintain its level of service to the community. School employees are part of the Highland Park family and don’t deserve the way they have been discarded.”
Way to make friends and influence people there, Tim...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You

I love this song by John Mellencamp, someone who I think sometimes doesn't always get his due. IMHO, he's an important musician and an even more important songwriter.

And it's great to think about all those who serve and keep us safe on a day like today. God bless them all.

As for me: thanks to all of you for reading. Let's keep it going...

Let me say thank-you to those who love many
Let me say thank-you to those who still play fair
Hallelujah, the meek shall inherit
Let me say thank-you to all you people out there, out there
Let me say grace for those who don't feel they matter
May God look down on all the soldiers of this Earth
Trying to find peace in this world that house so many
Let me say grace for those who feel lost from birth, lost from birth
Let's give a smile for those who feel that they have nothing
Let me shake the hand of Johnny Doe out on the street
Let's give a wink for those girls who don't feel pretty
Let's find some water for those who need a drink, need a drink
And when I see so many broken and lonely
Soon to be entering Heaven's door
Let me count the ways
Let me count the blessings
That no man should feel lonely anymore
Let me say good luck to the people raising families
Let me say thank-you to the men who grow the bread
And here's to dreams of a bigger, brighter future
And that we all got someone to keep the stones from our bed
Let me say thank-you to those who love many
Let me say thank-you for those who still play fair
Hallelujah, the meek shall inherit
Let me say thank-you to all you folks out there
All you people out there

The Merit Pay Fairy says: "Save me dat drumstick!"

NJ Teachers: Your Chance To Speak Out About New Evaluation System!

Regular readers know what I think about AchieveNJ, the new teacher evaluation system here in New Jersey:

AchieveNJ: aka "Operation Hindenburg"

This rushed, poorly-researched, based-on-a-mistruth, innumerate, anti-collaborative, inappropriately norm-based, waste-of-time system is a disaster in the making. NJ teachers, you're already dealing with the intrusive SGO regime - just wait until we start throwing SGPs into the mix. 

What can be done? Well...

It looks like The NJ Association of School Administrators (NJASA), the NJ Education Association (NJEA) and the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) are asking practitioners to participate in a survey about all this. Sadly, there's no comment section - but there are several questions that allow you to express your opinion, anonymously, about your perceptions of AchieveNJ.

Perhaps you'd like to add your thoughts? Just click here.

Oh, the humanity...

Dumb Things White People Say About Schools: Frank Bruni

Let me start by apologizing to Tom Friedman. You see, for years I've thought that the Mustache of Understanding was the silliest, most wankeriffic pontificator within in the NY Times's Op-Ed Page hierarchy of mandarins. But it's clear to me now I was completely wrong. The proof?

Frank Bruni's latest column, in which he jumps into the pool of education policy unencumbered by the water wings of knowledge [all emphases mine]:
AT a middle school near Boston not long ago, teachers and administrators noticed that children would frequently return from a classmate’s weekend bar mitzvah with commemorative T-shirts, swag that advertised a party to which many fellow students hadn’t been invited. 
So administrators moved to ban the clothing. 
They explained, in a letter to parents, that “while the students wearing the labeled clothing are all chatting excitedly,” the students without it “tend to walk by, trying not to take notice.” What an ordeal. 
Many parents favored the ban, a prophylactic against disappointment. 
Some did not, noting that life would soon enough deal the kids much worse blows along these lines. And one observer, in a Facebook thread, said this, according to a local TV station’s report: “Perhaps they should dress the children in Bubble Wrap and tie mattresses to their backs so they don’t get hurt.”
OK, stop right there.

Frank, you write for the freakin' New York Times. The most-respected (at least at one time) newspaper in the country. The paper of record. You are a full-time, well-compensated journalist writing in the Sunday Review section, perhaps the most influential piece of real estate in print media today. You want to start your op-ed with a little anecdote? Fine.

But the only original work you did to present an illustrative example of your thesis was to watch a local TV station report on a two-year old story that was mentioned in a Facebook thread?! Did you even roll out of bed for this? Or did you do your research in the time you had between shaving and brushing your teeth?

Oh, I'm being petty, am I? Well, let's see how hard Bruni worked on the rest of his little screed. Let's check which "experts" Bruni decided to interview. Let's see who would back up his contention that today's kids are a bunching of coddled, mewling brats:
“Our students have an inflated sense of their academic prowess,” wrote Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in Education Week. “They don’t expect to spend much time studying, but they confidently expect good grades and marketable degrees.”
David Coleman, one of the principal architects of the Common Core, told me that he’s all for self-esteem, but that rigorous standards “redefine self-esteem as something achieved through hard work.”
“Students will not enjoy every step of it,” he added. But if it takes them somewhere big and real, they’ll discover a satisfaction that redeems the sweat.
And they’ll be ready to compete globally, an ability that too much worry over their egos could hinder. As Tucker observed, “While American parents are pulling their kids out of tests because the results make the kids feel bad, parents in other countries are looking at the results and asking themselves how they can help their children do better.”
I swear that's it - those are apparently the only two vaunted child development "experts" Bruni could manage to get to reply to his emails. Oh, sorry - he didn't even interview Tucker; Bruni just quotes him from a piece in EdWeek where Tucker makes a whole bunch of assertions about how American kids suck without any citations or links to sources. (Go ahead, follow the link and read Tucker, then tell me where he cites anyone on his contention that "our colleges are providing fewer and fewer hours of instruction with every passing year and students are spending less and less time studying. But they still get the same degrees." I dare you.)

The one guy Bruni managed to actually get on the phone is the foul-mouthed David Coleman, whose official biography shows he spent no time working with children as a professional educator, psychologist, therapist, or cognitive development researcher. In other words: after declaring that America's children need to toughen up, the only guy Frank Bruni bothered to interview to back up his theory is a man who is completely unqualified to offer an opinion.

Bob Somerby's been on this for years: the vast majority of our punditocracy will swear up and down that education is so bloody important...  but when you read their work on the topic, it's obvious that they really couldn't give a flying fig about it. That the NY Times put this lazy, indifferent, who-gives-a-s@#% piece of fluff in its most influential space speaks volumes.

As to Bruni and the Common Core:
If children are unraveling to this extent, it’s a grave problem. But before we beat a hasty retreat from potentially crucial education reforms, we need to ask ourselves how much panic is trickling down to kids from their parents and whether we’re paying the price of having insulated kids from blows to their egos and from the realization that not everyone’s a winner in every activity on every day.
Contempt for parents: always a winning rhetorical device...
There are sports teams and leagues in which no kid is allowed too much more playing time than another and in which excessive victory margins are outlawed. Losing is looked upon as pure trauma, to be doled out gingerly. After one Texas high school football team beat another last month by a lopsided score of 91-0, the parent of a losing player filed a formal complaint of bullying against the winning team’s coach.
It used to be that trophies went to victors; now, in many leagues, they go to everybody — for participation. Some teams no longer have one or two captains, elected by the other players, but a rotating cast, so that nobody’s left out.
Some high schools have 10, 20 or 30 valedictorians, along with bloated honor rolls and a surfeit of graduation prizes. Many kids at all grade levels are Bubble-Wrapped in a culture that praises effort nearly as much as it does accomplishment.
Frank, allow me explain this to you - slowly:

Sports teams and honor rolls are about competition: someone wins, and someone loses. We can talk about the appropriate age to introduce this concept, but there is no question that children, by the time they reach high school, all feel the pressure of competition: in academics, in college admissions, in sports, in the arts, and in every other aspect of their lives. I'm pretty sure there is no high school football league in America were everyone gets a trophy. (And beating a team 91-0 is very bad form, even in the NCAA - that coach should have been sanctioned by the state governing sports body for unsportsmanlike conduct.)

But competition between students should have nothing to do with standards-based education. The entire point of standards is that they are supposed to be a baseline: they are supposed to be what we want most, if not all, of our students to be able to do.

I've not written much about the Common Core because - unlike Bruni or Coleman - I actually know my limitations. I don't know if the CCSS for math and language arts are developmentally appropriate: I do know many people who work with kids have problems with the standards, and that the people who are experts in these things were left out of the development of the Common Core. The fact that the process was run by a guy like Coleman, who is clearly unqualified for the job, ought to give us all pause as we rush ahead to implement tests based on CCSS that have high-stakes consequences, all premised on the useless and phony metric of "college and career readiness."

The real question, then, is whether CCSS is developmentally appropriate: does it set standards that we can reasonably expect most students to meet? Because it's really easy to jack the bar way up high: hell, why not just say all 7th graders should be able to do differential calculus? Some undoubtedly will be able to, so why not everyone? The answer is obvious: because that would be inappropriate.

Are the CCSS age-appropriate? Again, I'm not the guy to say, although I don't see how a standard can possibly be reasonable if so many kids can't meet it. So we can debate this - but that's not what Bruni is doing here. Instead, he uses cocktail party stories to say kids are afraid of competition, and that's what's keeping standards low. Which is not only an ignorant argument - it's also incredibly lazy. How hard is it to find a child development expert to talk to? How hard is it to get a teacher on the line?

But such is our punditocracy when it comes to just about anything having to do with kids. As Diane Ravitch says:

His [Bruni's] latest effort was a strident defense of the Common Core standards and tests, in which he made fun of the parents who spoke out against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. His thesis was that American kids are “too coddled.”

Surely, he was not referring to the majority of public school students in the south and the west who–according to the Southern Education Fund–live in poverty. Are they coddled?

Does he know that in New York State, only 3% of English learners passed the tests; only 5% of students with disabilities; only 15-18% of black and Hispanic students? What will we do with these students if large numbers fail these “rigorous” tests in the future? Surely they won’t be coddled.
Here's a little exercise: plug "bruni poverty children site:nytimes.com" into Google and see what comes up. How much time has Frank Bruni spent on the topic? Has he informed his readers that America's "coddled" children live in a country that has the highest poverty rate for kids in the world (Romania is not a developed country)? Where more than 12 million children live with food insecurity? And where even children who are well-cared for are facing stress and pressures never seen in the post-WWII middle class?

When Frank Bruni has done the work, he can sneer at America's children and parents about how they need to toughen up. Until that day comes, however, keep in mind that Frank Bruni's job, before he decided to become America's drill sergeant, was to eat at fancy restaurants. Talk about extreme pressure! But somehow, Frank soldiered on through this adversity and is a better man for it.

If only America's "coddled" children had his grit...

Next White Person Who Says Dumb Things About Schools: you-know-who...
Standby for Arne...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dumb Things White People Say About Schools: Cami Anderson

Veteran journaliust Bob Braun is off the chain - and New Jersey, and the nation, are better for it. In a terrific series of posts (here, here, here, and here ), Braun has been skewering the state-appointed superintendent of Newark's schools, Cami Anderson, for what can only be described as an offensive and racist comment - one mailed to the parents of Newark, no less:

Cami Anderson, the Christie-appointed Newark schools superintendent, apparently will pay no price for sending out a letter to Newark families contending that, when their children are home from school, they get into trouble, crime goes up, and the city is ”less safe.”  She will not lose her $240,000-a-year job or her $50,000 bonus, she will not have to apologize, and she won’t even have to admit she sent out the letter.  Teachers, however, who have made less inflammatory comments have paid with their tenured jobs.

Anderson made the comments in a letter she emailed to schools Nov. 12 with instructions that it  be copied and distributed to children to take home.  It was mostly a rant against the Newark Teachers Union for supporting teachers who opted to attend the annual convention of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) convention in Atlantic City Nov. 7 and 8.

Although  law requires districts to permit teachers, without penalty, to attend the convention, Anderson had produced a calendar that indicated the schools were open Nov. 7 and 8. On Nov. 6, when it became apparent more than 1,000 of the city’s  teachers would not be in school, she canceled classes for students and ordered hastily arranged in-service sessions for teachers not going to Atlantic City.
Because of a revised calendar, students would ultimately  lose no days from school. Still, Anderson’s letter told parents, “The more time your child has to learn, the less opportunity for trouble and the greater possibility for success.’’
In the past, she wrote,  when schools were closed for the NJEA convention, “with too many young people idle, crime went up.” Closing for two days, she wrote, hurt the schools, “making our city less safe.” The Newark Public Schools administration and the Newark Police Department could not provide evidence to back up these assertions. Statistics from the US Justice Department show the opposite to be true–most juvenile crime occurs on school days, in the hours after dismissal and in he absence of after-school programs.
After a number of school administrators saw Anderson’s letter and objected to it, she withdrew it and replaced it with a sanitized version that, while deleting the reference to children getting into trouble and causing an increase in crime, kept the reference to the “less safe” city. But thousands of parents and children of at least four schools in the city received the “wrong” letter. They learned what Christie, Cerf and Anderson really thought of them. [emphasis mine]
As they say, read the whole thing. Braun goes on to make an excellent comparison to a teacher in Paterson who was slammed for saying pretty much the same thing in a Facebook post. Not that I excuse that teacher: she was wrong, but so is Anderson. However, as Braun points out, no one in power appears to have a problem with the state superintendent calling Newark's students criminals (the Star-Ledger, as usual, is too busy painting Newark's teachers as evil - because they want a place to park their cars - to pay any attention to Anderson's slight).

There so much to unpack here. Start with the fact that, once again, teachers unions are always wrong and evil and destroying America. How dare these Newark teachers go to the convention, the state's largest professional development opportunity and a place State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf himself says is a great event! Even when it's written in law that they can attend!

How is it possible that the superintendent of New Jersey's largest school district doesn't know the basics of NJ education law? And the lame excuse that this cuts down on school time is beyond stupid: the number of days required for the school year is also set by statute (and dictated by funds). If you keep school open for two days during November, you'll just close it earlier in June.

Let's also take a moment to acknowledge Anderson's refusal to own up to making this huge gaffe. At the very least, she should have sent a follow-up letter to the parents who received the first one, apologizing for her implications. Luckily for Anderson's ego, being reformy means never having to say you're sorry (or, at least, say you're sorry like you mean it; yes, Arne, I'll get to you next...).

But here's my biggest takeaway from this incident: when unqualified people run school districts, stupid happens.

I've never quite been able to figure out the timeline of Cami Anderson's early career. Joy Resmovits, who usually gets this stuff right, claims Anderson spent ten years teaching. But there's no way that's correct: Anderson graduated from Cal-Berkeley in 1993 and then entered Teach For America. It appears she - like so many other TFAers - did her mandatory two years and immediately got out of teaching, enrolling in a masters program at Harvard in 1995. From there, it was straight over to a job at TFA and away from the public schools.

After five years at TFA, she worked at another reformy group, New Leaders for New Schools; she also spent time as a political consultant to Cory Booker. Only after all that did she return to the public schools:
Cami Anderson was appointed Senior Superintendent of District 79, Alternative Schools and Programs for the New York City Department of Education in 2006. The district is a unique citywide network of over 300 alternative schools and programs serving disengaged over-age, under-credited youth whose schooling has been interrupted. The district serves 30,000 youth and 40,000 adults far off-track from a high school diploma for a range of life circumstances -- from pregnancy to incarceration to immigration to previous school failure. Her wide-scale, bold changes were termed “revolutionary” by one newspaper and Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York City’s Department of Education has labeled her an “exceptional leader in education.”
You'll forgive me if I don't find a stamp of approval from a snake-oil salesman like Klein to be particularly encouraging. In any case, I'll be the first to say that Anderson was doing important work in NYC and should be lauded for her efforts - but work experience like this is of limited value when it comes to preparing leaders to run entire school districts. Did Anderson ever have to deal with the daily issues and challenges faced by superintendents who run bread-and-butter school districts? Is running such a specialized "district" within the huge bureaucracy of the NYC schools really the only experience someone like Anderson needs to run a district like Newark?

(And what does it say about Chris Christie's view of the students of Newark that he brought in an administrator whose primary job included serving students who were incarcerated?)

At most, Cami Anderson had two years experience as a full-time, school-level educator, and seven years in any capacity as a public school employee before taking over New Jersey's largest district. She had never been an experienced teacher, never been a principal, and never held a district-wide central office position. 

It's clear that this lack of experience is not serving her, nor the children of Newark, well. As I've written before, Anderson, Cerf, and Chris Christie have managed to piss off just about every group of education stakeholders in Newark:
Newark is being sold a lie, and they've had enough. The elected school advisory board has had enough. The elected city council has had enough. The students have had enough. The teachers have had enough. The parents have had enough. Everyone in Newark is rightly sick and tired of the empty promises of state control under Chris Christie, Chris Cerf, and - to be fair - their predecessors.
Since I wrote that, the much-vaunted merit pay program in Newark has been exposed as a total sham, and the students of the district - God bless them all, I LOVE these kids! - have continued to stand up and demand that Anderson address their many and serious concerns. But, as the brilliant folks over at the Education Law Center have documented, Newark's schools continue to limp along under state control:
An ELC analysis of NPS building conditions shows that the Ironbound schools are among the most neglected, overcrowded and dilapidated in the city. Oliver Street is ranked as the second worst school facility in Newark. Wilson ECC ranks 4th, Lafayette Street Annex 6th, and South Street 11th.
The Ironbound schools were built between 1869 and 1911. All are overcrowded, some are seriously over capacity. All schools are in poor or very poor condition. Four buildings have an FCI score greater than 50%, which means they should be promptly replaced with new schools. The school-by-school summary is below: [emphasis mine]
I can't think of what's more disgusting: Anderson implying Newark's students are criminals, or the way the state treats them as such.

I won't pretend for a second that if Cami Anderson were a well-qualified, experienced New Jersey school leader with roots in this state and a complete, traditional certification, the problems of Newark's schools would be wiped away. I'm only saying that if she were, we would most likely be focusing on the real problems Newarks' schools face, and not reading stupidly racist, dog-whistling language coming out of the NPS central office that blames teachers conventions for increases in crime.

More "Dumb Things White People Say About Schools" coming up...

"Hey, I'm just saying what the boss behind me is thinking..."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jazzman Takes 5

I haven't taken a week off in a very long while - it's time. Blogging resumes later this week. Until then, enjoy one of the many fine blogs to your left.

May the Merit Pay Fairy watch over you!

Youse better get dem SGOs done!