Why is it so important for every one of the nation's students in Grades 3 through 8 — and a whole host of high school students taking the new end-of-course assessments — to devote an enormous amount of their instructional time to taking standardized tests? Why should their teachers rewrite their curricula to align with these tests? Why should taxpayers spend a boatload of money on these tests, rather than put the funds into our children's classrooms?
A new study shows New Jersey charter schools reaping the benefits of taxpayer funds, but without having to teach or care for those students most in need – economically, or disability-wise.
The local charter school cheerleaders may try to deny the obvious, but the evidence is quite clear: the three charter schools in Hoboken, New Jersey, do not serve nearly as many students in economic disadvantage as the public schools. It's pointless to argue otherwise because the evidence is quite clear and incontrovertible. But that hasn't stopped the local charter boosters from engaging in all sorts of mental gymnastics in an attempt to rationalize this segregation.
Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the second governor in the country's history to preside over six downgrades of the state's credit rating. Naturally, Christie blamed the pensions and that none of the other governors had to pay into the contractual obligation. This is, of course, not true. You are, of course, not surprised.
The Christie administration has approved a new graduate school of education in Newark, clearing the last hurdle on Friday in resolving questions over the credentials of the innovative program's faculty. The Relay Graduate School of Education, started in New York City in 2011 by the leaders of three prominent charter school networks, will open its New Jersey program in September with its first 25 or 30 students seeking Master's degrees.
If Chris Christie doesn't want "aything worse for the children of this city or any other city in the state of New Jersey than I would want for my own children," then he needs to come up with at least $8,000 more for every child in Camden to spend on schools.
Let me see if I've got this straight:
Donald Trump has $5 million just laying around. He could give it immediately to any charity of his choice. But he will only release it if the President of the United States of America acquiesces to his bizarre demands, purely to satisfy his Trump's own prurient interests.
If Obama decides to act like a rational human being with a shred of human decency, Trump will keep his $5 million. In a freakis...
Yesterday, we had an interesting juxtaposition of views on child advocacy here in the Garden State. On the one hand:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
We are writing to express our grave concerns about the negative impact of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver on New Jersey's most vulnerable children.
We understand that the waivers were an effort to return more control to the states to improve educational opportunities and outco...
Most Blue Jersey readers know the tale of Marie Corfield: teacher, mother, and scourge of bullies like Chris Christie.
Marie was one of the first people to stand up to Chris Christie publicly and call him out on his nonsense. Christie's bluster...
I have been very, very hard on the Star-Ledger's Tom Moran - deservedly so. His stance on education is totally misguided and far too influenced by corporate "reformers" who pitch "solutions" that have no evidence to back them up.
That said - Moran's column today was nothing short of brilliant:
New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf insisted during a meeting with residents last night that he did nothing improper when he met privately with Ward E Concilman Steven Fulop and a small group of residents and school board members last year to discuss issues related to finding a new superintendent, though he later refused the school board's invitation to do the same in a public meeting.
"If I am invited into a community, whether by elected officials or private citizens, I am happy to meet with them," Cerf said during a two-and-a-half hour meeting at New Jersey City University. "I've done it before. I'd be happy to do it again."
Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into -- fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast. Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has been ushered in by the Christie Administration. They're pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.
As for vouchers, which give people tax money to spend in private schools, Booker said he "doesn't care" if districts are upset.
"I don't think vouchers are the solution, but how can I tell a parent that they have to stay in a failing system," he said. "These kids are locked in a prison. Am I supposed to tell a parent, 'You just wait until we get this figured out?'"
But Green built the momentum up to the main event: the mayor from Newark, who was the only New Jersey Democrat allowed on a national stage at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.
"They're trying to voucherize our healthcare and privatize our Social Security," said a riled up Booker. "Their politics have become about politics, not about purpose and not about passion. ...I'm proud to be a Democrat because it's what we stand for.
So, Supermayor likes vouchers... but only some vouchers.
The future of the Democratic Party, ladies and gentlemen. Swell...
Intellectual consistency is my kryptonite!
George Norcross must be getting exasperated: why don't the Camden locals just eat the cake he throws their way?
A lawsuit aimed at forcing the state to move ahead with stalled plans to build a traditional public school in the Lanning Square neighborhood was filed Tuesday by a lawyer for local resident Mo'Nike Ragsdale.
The suit has the potential to complicate plans for a Hope Act school on the Lanning parcel.
The school was proposed by the Cooper Foundation; the hospital's chairman, George E. Norcross III, through his family's foundation; and KIPP, a charter chain school operator.
Ragsdale said Tuesday afternoon that the issues underlying her civil suit predate plans by Cooper for a Hope Act school.
The Camden school district closed a public school on the site about a decade ago due to structural problems and eventually demolished it.
The district, which owns about a third of the site, and the state Schools Development Authority, which owns the rest of the parcel, have spent more than $10 million to ready the plot for construction of a new district-run public school.
But those plans stalled.
Gov. Chris Christie placed a hold on all school building projects when he came into office.
After the governor's moratorium was lifted, the Lanning Square project was taken off the priority list, where it has languished without movement.
Norcross, the leader of Democrats in South Jersey, has proposed building a campus of five Hope Act schools on the site, which adjoins Cooper's new medical school.
The law that created Hope Act schools was championed by his brother, state Sen. Donald Norcross.
Apparently, the people of Camden have become so uppity that they believe they should actually have a say in how the schools in their community should be run. But the NJDOE knows better: they'll change the rules on Hope Act applications whenever they want, and if the district objects, they'll threaten a state-takeover, which has really worked out just so super in Newark and Paterson and Jersey City...
The NJDOE has been secretly planning a takeover of Camden's schools for months. As reported by the Courier-Post, the scheme was developed by staff brought in under the aegis of the Broad Foundation, the California-based "reformy" group funded by billionaire Eli Broad. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is one of the most high-profile graduates of the Broad Superintends Academy.
Camden is simply the latest prize the NJDOE has in its sights: as documents obtained by the Education Law Center reveal, the state has plans to usurp local control in cities throughout New Jersey, using outsiders' money so as to avoid legislative oversight.
There are two big questions that arise from all of this:
1) Has state control of urban districts helped? Newark and Paterson and Jersey City have been under state control for years; has it made any difference?
2) If not, how can we continue to justify the continuing disenfranchisement of the citizens of these cities, keeping them from participating in the governance of their own schools?
A note on the churning of staff at the NJ Department Of Education:
Penny MacCormack, the NJDOE's assistant commissioner, is leaving to run Montclair's schools. She was supposed to be overseeing the big Regional Achievement Center initiative at the heart of Commissioner Chris Cerf's grand plans. She had only been on the job for a year.
The Deputy Commissioner, Andy Smarick, is also leaving for the bright lights of Washington. He was always more comfortable on the wingnut welfare gravy train anyway; in fact, he never really gave up advocacy, even when it was a conflict of interest. He was here about two years.
And David Hespe, Cerf's Chief of Staff, is leaving to run a county college. He had been in his job for only a year.
Given their track records, I wonder if MacCormack's and Smarick's and Hespe's new employers ever stopped to wonder how long each of them plans on staying in their new jobs. Two years? Three? One? Then on to the next one...
Because that's how these people think. Cerf and MacCormack are graduates of the Broad Superintendents "Academy," the unaccredited program of billionaire Eli Broad that trains school leaders to bring corporate values into education. Broad's acolytes call this philosophy "disruptive force" - they believe that personnel churn, continual reorganization, and experiments without previous research to ensure a high chance of success are beneficial for both business and schools.
Of course, any educator worth her salt will tell you that instability is the last thing a child needs (and I don't see how it's been so great for American business either). The idea that closing schools, whether they are charters or publics, is worth the disruption in the lives of small children is an idea that has not been proven. In fact, there's evidence that school closings may harm children more than help.
In the same way, I don't see any evidence that churn in the governance and oversight of schools is helping much either. What happens when the next crew comes in and decides they want to "disrupt" the systems that are being put into place right now? Does everyone in the state have to readjust their policies - again - based on what the new folks want?
You know, we used to live in a country where people valued loyalty and tenacity. People thought it was good when you stayed on the job for years. Businesses and government agencies looked within their organizations first to promote people to higher positions, because we valued experience, knowledge, and substance over flash and consultancy values.
Why does Chris Christie do anything and everything? For political advantage. Here's a great example:
The NJ Senate and Assembly unanimously passed the teacher tenure reform bill, TEACHNJ, on June 25, 2012. All through July, I and other education watchers wondered when he would get around to signing the bill. He kept hemming and hawing, saying he was "considering" it, even though his own party passed it unanimously. What was the hold up?
Then suddenly, on Friday, August 3, his office announced he would be signing the bill that coming Monday. What had changed? Why was he ready to sign now after waiting all this time?
After extensive deliberations over his short list, Romney settled on the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman who has built a conservative record as a budget hawk in Washington. Romney made up his mind on August 1, the day after he returned from a week-long trip to London, Jerusalem and Poland.
A face-to-face meeting was required, and therein lies a tale. The meeting was arranged for Aug 5 at Myers' home in Brookline, Massachusetts. The challenge was to get both Ryan and Romney together in the same room without the news media or anyone else outside the inner circle knowing about it. [emphasis mine]
And there you go. Romney made his choice, and Ryan agreed by consenting to the meeting. Mitt's campaign undoubtedly then called up Christie and told him he wasn't in the running, leaving Christie free to sign TEACHNJ without worrying about the national repercussions.
Whether Christie was ever seriously in the running is anyone's guess, but I am sure the Romney campaign did what they could to make him happy and feel like he had a shot. They're going to need him; not in Jersey, but out among the tea partyin' base in the rest of the country, where his bullying plays well.
But always remember: everything Chris Christie does is a political calculation - just like his role model.
Camden's schools are "failing" under local control. So the New Jersey Department of Education is giving Camden a warning:
Improve, or the state will take charge of the schools.
Just like it did years ago in Newark, Paterson, and Jersey City...
... where the schools are still "failing."
We all know that "Morning" Joe Scarborough idolizes Chris Christie like a pre-teen girl idolizes Justin Bieber. But this clip is particularly embarrassing:
First of all, teacher tenure is anything but "done" in New Jersey. When you look at the original proposals of Christie and the NJEA, it's clear that the teachers union got almost everything it wanted while Christie lost the fight on seniority, mutual consent, and appeals to an outside third party. Scarborough obviously knows little about the particulars of the new law.
Next: what other "tough choice" has Chris Christie made? Pension reform? The primary effect of that was to keep the state from having to make a full payment into the public employee pensions for seven years. If anything, pen-ben delayed the difficult decisions Christie has to make until after the 2013 election (and that's assuming he runs).
Taxes? Listen to State Senator Barbara Buono:
The bottom line: In terms of property taxes, New Jersey is worse off than under the previous administration.
The average homeowner has seen a net property tax increase of roughly 20 percent over the past two years, up from $6,244 in 2009 to $7,519 in 2011.
The reasons all stem from the same root cause: the governor's unwillingness to tackle the toughest problem confronting our state.
And yet, despite Christie's unwillingness to make "tough choices," national right-wing pundits like Scarborough fawn all over him. It's probably Christie's greatest political talent: getting the chattering class to give him credit for things he's never done. It reminds me of the first term of someone else: someone who put off hard decisions, and we're still paying the price for it...
ADDING: Don't tell Joe, but everyone is saying that on the tenure law, Christie was the one who blinked:
Ultimately, it was Gov. Chris Christie stepping back -- at least for now -- on an issue that was once a no-trespass line: his insistence on ending seniority rights for teachers in the case of layoffs.
"That was very near the end of the process, not a single moment, but suddenly it didn't appear so much in the conversations any more," said Vincent Giordano, the executive director of the New Jersey Education Association and one of the regulars at the table.
"When that issue started slowly fading away, without question, that helped smooth out other hurdles in the road," he said. "That's what bargaining is all about."
There was little doubt that Chris Christie was going to sign the TEACHNJ bill into law; you don't put out the word to the Republican delegations in the Assembly and Senate to unanimously support a piece of legislation and then back away from it.
But I don't think I'm the only one who was a little surprised at how magnanimous he was toward the NJEA at today's signing ceremony:
I wonder: would Christie have invited the teachers unions to the signing and been as gracious if he hadn't been caught this summer yelling at a constituent on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights? Is he trying to tone down his bullying image in preparation for the Republican convention in Tampa?
The fact remains that New Jersey has a "complicated relationship" with this governor, with significant numbers of people questioning both his policies and his personality. He also has a sizable gender gap dogging him; fewer women like him than men.
Making nice is probably a smart move for him at the moment. We'll see if it holds.
Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman:
The justification for closing down public schools and replacing them with charters is that the public schools have tried and failed to serve poor, urban kids, and we have a moral imperative to try something different. The publics had their chance, and they blew it; let's try something new.
But what if what we're really doing is trying something old?
Three proposals for a Hope Act charter school here were submitted on time Friday.
The applications came from KIPP Norcross Cooper Academy, which held a press conference to announce its bid, as well as record producer Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies and the Benjamin Franklin Academy.
But officials of the proposed KIPP Norcross Cooper Academy said they hope eventually to serve 2,840 Camden students in grades pre-K through 12. The academy, to rise at the former site of a city school in Lanning Square, would begin with a kindergarten class in 2014, the organizers said.
KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, is a nonprofit chain of charter schools based in San Francisco. The Camden proposal calls for a TEAM Schools model, a KIPP program that has operated for a decade in Newark. [emphasis mine]
A little context: TEAM Academy in Newark may be a fine school, but, as Bruce Baker has detailed extensively, it does not serve the same population of students as its neighboring public schools. Like many (most?) "successful" New Jersey charter schools, TEAM is a "successful" charter because it serves fewer poor, non-English speaking, and special needs children. There is also strong evidence it engages in a pattern of student attrition attrition that artificially inflates its test scores.
This is a nation-wide pattern with KIPP schools. Keep that in mind as we continue:
KIPP ran a charter school in Camden about five years ago, but removed its name from the venture. Ryan Hill, who oversees the TEAM charters in Newark, acknowledged the failure, but said the proposal would be for a different model with different management.
Freedom Academy, the former KIPP school in Camden, has been told by the state Department of Education that it is likely to be shuttered before the beginning of the next school year. [emphasis mine]
Uh, excuse me? KIPP has already run a school into the ground in Camden, but they're going to get a chance to run another? They are so shameless that they are going to try to run away from their record of failure?
Apparently, KIPP's CEO, Richard Barth, already backed away in 2009:
Last, but definitely not least, I want to acknowledge an oversight on my part. I communicate regularly to you all in hopes of doing my part to keep the network up to date on what is going on across the country. This summer I dropped the ball in sharing news with you that I share with you today, several months late. At the end of this past June, we made an official decision that Freedom Academy in Camden, NJ would no longer operate as a KIPP-affiliated school due to the absence a KIPP-approved school leader. As you may know, one year ago, due to administrative certification issues, the State of New Jersey required the Board of Freedom Academy to replace the then existing KIPP School Leader with a school leader who had not participated in the KIPP School Leadership training. We had hoped that by the end of the past school year that a KIPP-approved leader would have been identified and prepared to assume leadership of the school this summer. Regretfully, search efforts by both the Freedom Board and the KIPP Foundation failed to produce such a leader. Although the school no longer operates as a KIPP school, it is continuing to operate with the goal of offering better educational options for the children and families of Camden, New Jersey. While there is no excuse for my delay in sharing this news, I would like to offer our deep gratitude to the staff of Freedom Academy who worked through a tumultuous year and remained dedicated to the children they serve. A good number of the members of the Freedom team have found great opportunities to stay with KIPP in other cities, about which I am very excited. [emphasis mine]
Wait a minute: read what I bolded again. Barth is very slick with his language; it's very easy to read this as implying that the state would not allow Freedom Academy to have a principal who had participated in their "Leadership training."
But Barth manages to weasel out of telling the real story. According to state documents, Freedom was placed on probation in 2008 because its principal, Jeremy Esposito, was acting as the principal even though he didn't have a NJ school leader certificate. Whether he attended KIPP's little "Leadership training" had nothing to do with it.
And it looks like Esposito could have used the real training he would have received in a real administrative certificate program; by 2009, it was clear Freedom Academy had come off the rails:
Freedom Academy has been on a state-issued probationary status since late last year for numerous administrative woes after state officials found problems with financial records. The state report cited inadequate board of education supervision; improper bonus and hiring practices; poor petty cash management; and missing bid, travel and enrollment procedures.
The state's six-figure repayment is determined by multiple problems with contracts, approvals and bids. The largest component is a $233,707 piece the state wants back because it says the school did not have supporting documentation for janitorial, cleaning services, contractors, food services and office supplies. But Moxie said these services have been with the school since it opened in 2006.
The report names the former school leader, Jeremy Esposito, numerous times in the report as a source of problems. Many of the problems the board conceded relate to Esposito's performance, including questions about Esposito's reimbursements, being paid more than state rates allow for food and sometimes for alcoholic beverages.
The appeal letter cites e-mail correspondence from Esposito saying the payment is to reimburse food expenses paid out of his pocket, but not all receipts have been accounted for yet.
Esposito resigned last October after eight months on the job. [emphasis mine]
But he didn't leave education: Esposito is now working at a KIPP school in St. Louis. It's telling that his resume brags on test score gains for Freedom Academy (on a supplementary test, but not on the NJASK), but neglects to mention his run-ins with the state.
Which is the point: KIPP blew it with Freedom Academy. They couldn't get a competent leader to run the school, they bailed when the state kept finding problems, the school is being shut down this year, and its students will have to deal with more instability in their lives. They failed - and yet they're being given another chance.
Why? Shouldn't their past failure disqualify them from getting to run another school? I mean, if the justification for subverting local control of the district and turning schools over to private entities is that the old system has failed...
... why are we giving management of the schools over to people who are proven failures?