Tag Archive: Cerf

Education News Round-Up, 5/11/13

Sorry about last week folks: I was sequestered in my studio trying to meet a deadline. Let’s get back to it:

– A New Voice on NJ Education Policy

A group of education policy scholars, led by Bruce Baker of Rutgers, has put together a new resource for state-wide education policy: the New Jersey Policy Forum. Wonks will want to bookmark this, as I’m sure there will be any number of new briefs challenging the orthodoxies of Christie’s education policies, starting with…

– The Many Problems With NJ’s New Teacher Evaluation System

The NJDOE says there is research that backs the way it uses test scores to evaluate teachers in its new accountability system, AchieveNJ. Except the very research Education Commissioner Chris Cerf refers to doesn’t say that at all:

Another claim used in defense of New Jersey’s growth percentile measures is that a series of studies conducted with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provide validation that these measures are indeed useful for evaluating teachers. In a recent article by New Jersey journalist John Mooney in his online publication NJ Spotlight, state officials were asked to respond to some of the above challenges regarding growth percentile measures. Along with perpetuating the claim that the growth percentile model takes fully into account student background, state officials also issued the following response:

“The Christie administration cites its own research to back up its plans, the most favored being the recent Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project funded by the Gates Foundation, which tracked 3,000 teachers over three years and found that student achievement measures in general are a critical component in determining a teacher’s effectiveness.”[23]

The Gates Foundation MET project did not study the use of Student Growth Percentile Models. Rather, the Gates Foundation MET project studied the use of value-added models, applying those models under the direction of leading researchers in the field, testing their effects on fall to spring gains, and on alternative forms of assessments. Even with these more thoroughly vetted value-added models, the Gates MET project uncovered, though largely ignored, numerous serious concerns regarding the use of value-added metrics. External reviewers of the Gates MET project reports pointed out that while the MET researchers maintained their support for the method, the actual findings of their report cast serious doubt on its usefulness.[24]

In other words: Cerf cites the Gates MET study to justify his policies, yet the study – which is already flawed – never addressed the methods NJDOE is proposing.

I know many of you here at BJ are not eduwonks, and this may go a bit far into the weeds. But it’s very, very important to understand that NJDOE is like so many other parts of the Christie administration: they are ideologues in the service of powerful interests, pushing an agenda that has no research to back it up.

When you make your lists of the sins of Chris Christie on environmental, health care, fiscal, women’s, GLBT, transportation, taxation, and many other issues, don’t forget education: believe me, he’s as bad on this as on anything else.

More after the flip…

In response to emails, Mack concedes state wanted – but didn’t demand – Lyles

In response to emails, Mack concedes state wanted – but didn’t demand – Lyles

By Chris Neidenberg

In discussing the state’s submitting 68 pages of emails spanning a 16-month period, between state officials and various parties in Jersey City concerned with finding a new superintendent, Board President Suzanne Mack insists that Marcia Lyles’ pick among 14 semi-finalists was decided on the merits – even though her past working relationship with Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf was well known.

Some of the emails show clearly that, when the choice came between Lyles and South Carolina administrator Debra Brathwaite, the state stepped in and expressed a preference for the board to hiring Cerf’s former associate from the New York City schools system.and fellow Broad Superintendents Academy graduate.

Mack and another board member, preferring to stay anonymous, conceded this was indeed the case yet played no role in Lyles’ selection.

At a June 2012 public meeting, where Brathwaite and Lyles fielded questions written by audience members, but which were selected and asked by the district’s search consultant, residents were told that session would place great weight on the board’s final choice.

In defending Lyles, Mack acknowledged her professional ties to Cerf have turned out to be an unfortunate coincidence, because at least some of Lyles’ opponents have wrongly insinuated there was a definite connection to her landing the job.

Further, Mack said she saw no conflict between the state’s ultimately advocating for Lyles and its taking the position that deliberating and settling on the choice was solely the board’s prerogative. The boad received that power when then-Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy returned “governance” authority to the district in 2008, two years before the Republican Christie administration arrived in Trenton.

Governance is defined as a specific area of board operations, according to the state law governing monitoring of school districts, known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC).

In exercising a share of control, the state operates other aspects defined by the law, including instruction and programs. The state also wields clout in grading the district’s progress during periodic reviews required under QSAC.

“Prior to the appointment, the state made clear that it knew Marcia Lyles very well but was not familiar with Debra Brathwaite,” recalled Mack, acknowledging the state ultimately favored Lyles. “Even so, I know I supported Dr. Lyles independently and I never sensed that the state tried to apply pressure on me into supporting a particular candidate.”

The president, in defending the state, said she understands it has a legitimate interest in trying to improve the district, and as such, has a right to convey its views on matters including finding Epps’ successor.

And even though Mack is cited in an email as stating that the state might look more favorably upon restoring full control to her district, depending on whom the board selected, Mack still insisted Trenton never tried imposing intense pressure on board members to back Lyles.

“You have to understand, the state provides a great deal of funding directly to our budget,” she said. “So we really need to look at them as partners in trying to significantly improve the school district.”

Despite emails which suggested Cerf and a top deputy clearly preferred Lyles in the end, in an email, state spokeswoman Barbara K. Morgan held firm that the department never interfered with the board’s governance authority to make the pick independently.

“As I’ve said before, the decision to select a superintendent was the board’s, and they led a search and selected a superintendent,” Morgan wrote. “While the department followed the process and checked in during the process, which is natural given that the district is under partial state intervention, the decision and process remained a local one.”

“Just because someone expresses interest, does not mean they intervened,” Morgan added.

Though she pops up frequently in the emails in communicating with Cerf throughout the process, Jersey City school choice advocate Shelley Skinner insisted she had no special influence on the commissioner.

“Anyone who thinks I influenced the state on any of its decisions in this matter is greatly exaggerating that influence,” she said. “I was acting as only one citizen concerned with bringing a better school system to Jersey City. I received no special treatment. I just wanted to make clear to the commissioner that, to the extent he could exert influence, he should make sure the search was properly conducted.”

Skinner noted that she was a legal party in trying to block Epps’ contract extension, with Ward E Councilman Fulop and others, and thus, had an appropriate role in conferring with state officials on Epps’ contract status.

In the end, the emails show the current administration in Trenton was on the same page.

Further, Skinner, who endorsed Lyles , insisted she was not trying to work at cross-purposes with the board during the national search, while a board committee conducted public meetings and took resident feedback.

“I felt the committee did the best job possible, under difficult circumstances, and strongly supported their efforts to get public input,” she said.

In an earlier email, Skinner wrote, “I did advocate to the Department of Education for a fair and legal process around the departure of the former superintendent and the need for a national search to find a new one.”‘

.

Morgan concurred in her email, stating, “There is nothing more special about Ms. Skinner’s relationship to the commissioner than any other constituent. We, meaning the commissioner and other NJDOE staff, frequently engage with community members over matters of particular importance to them.”

She said Cerf frequently gives his email out at public events and responds to as many constituents as possible.

Board Vice President Sterling Waterman doesn’t see it that way.

Waterman, who had favored Brathwaite, maintained Skinner was afforded special access through a DOE employee, attorney Eric Taylor, who pops up in the emails.

Waterman, who has since had a falling out with Skinner and Fulop, previously alleged Cerf placed intense pressure on the board to back Lyles’ appointment, including linking the choice to how the state would proceed with its ongoing review of the district’s QSAC scorecard at that time. The board appealed the state’s original findings.

“She had known Mr. Taylor professionally through her work and that got her direct access to Chris Cerf,” Waterman said of Skinner.

As to being summoned to the July 2011 teleconference with Cerf by Skinner, as directed by the commissioner, Waterman said, “That didn’t bother me because at the time, we were all on the same page. What really bothered me was that the commissioner would never return my phone calls, while I was board president, and that I could only reach him through Shelley Skinner.”

Mack, however, claimed the situation was more complex.

“Sterling and the commissioner had a past professional relationship with each other and there were problems there,” she said.

Mack added that if Waterman believed Cerf was trying to bully the board into selecting Lyles, he never shared that concern with the board before sounding off at a board meeting last summer in making the allegation.

When asked about that specific teleconference, Harrison-Arnold referred inquiries to Mack, claiming the president handles media inquiries under board policy.

Emails reveal state endorsed Lyles’ appointment in the end

Emails reveal state endorsed Lyles’ appointment in the end

By Chris Neidenberg

A review of 68 pages of emails, related to finding Charles Epps’ successor, shows state officials endorsed Superintendent Marcia Lyles over seven other candidates near the end of the selection process last May.

This, even though the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) repeatedly stated publicly, during the board’s exercising of its autonomous search authority, that it had no legal authority to involve itself in pushing for any candidate.

Further, the department publicly maintained the board’s effort to find Epps’ successor was independent of the state.

In an email, DOE spokesman Barbara K. Morgan insisted the state’s dialogue was not interference, writing, “Just because someone expresses interest, does not mean they intervened.”

It took about five months to secure release of these emails. They cover a rough period of May 2011, when a board faction dedicated to ousting Epps gained control, and September 2012, when Lyles’ contract was finalized,

The emails offer some insight into the direct dialogue that was ongoing among various parties with an interest in both the controversial termination of Epps and the equally controversial efforts to find his replacement.

Under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA). OPRA normally requires that state agencies either comply with – or reject – requests within a period of seven working days.

Efforts were originally made to obtain the emails last fall, several weeks after Lyles’ contract was approved. But there was an extended delay once the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) denied the initial OPRA request.

The state’s emails are unrelated to those subject to litigation in Hudson County Superior Court between the Board of Education and Adam Herbsman, political consultant to Mayor Jerramiah Healy. Board President Suzanne Mack said a judge ruled Friday against the board in supporting granting Healy and Herbsman access to those emails.

Some of the emails obtained earlier from the state clearly show that Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf, and his then-top deputy, Chief of Staff David Hespe, tried exerting direct influence in the background throughout the process. In the end, rhe emails showed that they preferred Lyles.

This, even while a local board committee conducting a national superintendent search, and its consultant, William Librera, repeatedly assured residents they would play the leading role in the process leading to selecting a final choice.

The committee conducted six public meetings citywide in 2011 and 2012. One of the emails reveals Hespe telling Librera that the state wanted Lyles.

Librera’s company, West Hudson Associates, received about $30,000 in taxpayer funding to recruit candidates and help conduct public meetings during the search.

Lyles is a former professional associate of Cerf’s. They worked together as deputy New York City schools chancellors under then-Chancellor Joel Klein. Additionally, both graduated from the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy. The institution is associated with emphasizing privatization initiatives, encouraging more charter schools and applying principles used in the private sector to public school settings. Broad generally advocates ideas supporters of traditional public schools and teachers’ unions don’t like. Yet they are strongly favored by school choice advocates..

Despite her professional ties to Cerf, and the state’s pushing for her selection in the end, board members approving her contract insist Lyles’ past professional relationship with the commissioner – who still wields clout by directly controlling some of the district’s operations – had nothing to do with the outcome.

Among other things, the emails reveal:

1. That the Christie administration wished it had power to exert direct control over the situation, including ousting Epps, even while publicly acknowledging the board’s autonomous/independent authority.

Cerf and DOE counsel Eric Taylor made clear the state wished it could forcibly remove Epps directly from his top position, well before he agreed to a buyout in December 2011. They desired to file tenure charges against the then-embattled administrator.

Epps is now a city council running mate of Healy’s. Cerf and Taylor engaged in extensive discussions on the topic with Shelley Skinner, the city’s leading school choice/charter school advocate and current deputy director of Better Education for Kids. Her statewide organization advocates more charter schools and implementing measures to improve regular public schools.

For part of that time, Skinner, two other residents and Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop, who is challenging Healy this year, were involved in legal proceedings trying to block a prior board majority’s questionable methods in seeking a three-year contract extension for Epps in 2010.

The four residents filed a legal challenge in the state’s Office of Administrative Law. While the case was never settled, a judge stayed the extension. That bought enough time to change the political composition of the board, leading to Epps’ eventual ouster via contract buyout. The emails show the Skinner/Fulop group was allied with Cerf and the state during its appeal of the extension.

The emails also show Skinner had direct access in communicating with Cerf throughout the process. In fact, in a July 2012 discussion with a Jersey City Yahoo discussion group, Fulop said it was Skinner who introduced him to Cerf, stating, “I don’t have a relationship with Cerf nor did any of the board members. Shelley had the ability to help get on his radar screen.”

Carf did exercise some authority by waiving New Jersey’s cap on superintendent’s pay, in helping the board execute Epps’ buyout in November 2011.

In a May 4, 2011 email exchange involving Cerf and Skinner, six months before the buyout was approved, Taylor wrote that the state’s hands were tied in trying to directly oust Epps.

He noted that the administration of then-Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine restored “governance” authority to the board under QSAC in 2008.

Up to then, the state fully controlled all district operations. But Corzine’s act left negotiating the buyout solely up to the board. Yet it shut out Cerf and the current Republican administration from having direct involvement at the table.

Taylor wrote, “The real key to control under the takeover law is the presence of a powerless advisory board and the imbuement of the BOE’s power with the state super and this was lost when governance was restored.”

Yet he later writes to Cerf and Skinner about a potential alternative strategy the state might try applying to directly oust Epps.

He said, “It is certainly possible that certain recent statements by Epps would constitute conduct unbecoming for purposes of tenure charges.”

This alternative strategy was never pursued.

2. That Skinner had enough clout with the department to summon on Cerf’s behalf elected Board Members Marvin Adames (who resigned last summer to become a Newark city judge), then-Board President Sterling Waterman and Trustee Carol Harrison-Arnold, according to a July 18, 2011 email from the commissioner’s assistant, Helene Leona.

She advised the three that Skinner wanted them to participate in a teleconference session with the commissioner, regarding the Epps matter, on July 21, 2011.

Leona’s message describes priority for the session as “high.”

3. That Cerf, shut out legally from being able to directly oversee the selection process himself, still desired to have a hand in helping find Epps’ successor.

This, despite the fact his department had maintained publicly that, legally, the choice was solely the board’s business.

In a Sept. 21, 2011 email to Cerf, Skinner praises him for the actions he had taken up to that point in trying to exert influence in forcing out Epps. telling him, “Anyway, thanks for sticking up and doing the right thing, despite the circus.”

To which the commissioner replies, “Thanks! I appreciate it! I hope to be involved in the (superintendent) search as possible. First things first, however, can they (BOE) close the deal?”

4. That Cerf pushed the board into accepting his appointment of Cathy Coyle as a highly-skilled professional (HSP), in January 2012, to help the district during the period between the tenure of then-Interim Superintendent Franklin Walker and the permanent superintendent. The HSP is defined under the state law governing monitoring of school districts, called the Quality Single Education Accountability Continuum (QSAC).

In a Jan. 5, 2012 email to Waterman, Hespe writes, “I would also like to discuss moving forward on our commitment to assist the district in navigating the transition in leadership through the services of a Highly Skilled Professional.”

Coyle’s selection triggered pickets outside the board’s central office around the time of her installation from community critics, who saw it as improper interference with Walker’s authority. The board ultimately agreed to pay half of Coyle’s salary. The emails show DOE officials used Coyle to gather information on the board’s efforts to find Epps’ successor.

In a Jan. 2012 published report, Cerf aide Justin Barra assured that Coyle would depart on June 30, 2012. Yet she remains a presence in the district to this day. She is now assisting Lyles, but has lost her veto power over decisions the state controls under QSAC.

5. That, even though Lyles had a past professional relationship with Cerf, Cerf still advocated strongly for Lyles in the end.

That’s when the choice boiled down to three people: Lyles, who formerly headed the Christina School District in Delaware, Walker and Richland County, S.C. Deputy Superintendent of Schools Debra Brathwaite.

The board had initially whittled the list down to 14 candidates, reducing that to eight, before eliminating Walker and settling on Lyles and Brathwaite in late May 2012.

The emails show that, around this time, Cerf used Coyle in to try finding out how the board’s deliberations were proceeding in the final weeks of the search.

In a May 7, 2012 email to Coyle, Hespe writes, “Hi Cathy. We are at a critical stage of the search process. I would like to find out who these eight individuals are so I can brief the commissioner. Do you have the names or should I contact Bill (Librera)?”

The next day, Coyle writes that, in addition to Brathwaite and Lyles, among the top five contenders from outside Jersey City were: Fransisco Duran, an assistant superintendent from Philadelphia, Piscataway Superintendent of Schools Robert Copeland and Pamela Brown, a senior research and planning associate for the Center for Education Leadership and Technology in Charlotte, N.C.

Ten days later, in a May 18, 2012 email to Librera, a former state education commissioner who headed the board’s search firm, West Hudson Associates, Hespe makes clear that the state prefers Lyles.

And he makes a self-described frantic effort to keep Lyles in the mix of candidates under serious consideration.

Hespe, another former state education commissioner who actually approved Epps’ hiring, asks Librera, “Hi Bill. Any luck with Andres? I am afraid that (board) consensus for Marcia (Lyles) might decrease over time so I am feeling pressure to move ahead quickly.”

Hespe eventually left the DOE to accept a position as president of Burlington Community College.

In a May 25, 2012 email from Board President Suzanne Mack to Hespe, Mack writes that she informed Adames and Harrison-Arnold “that if you have confidence with our choice (for superintendent), you may recommend return of local control.”

Eleven months later, and six months into Lyles’ tenure, the state has yet to relinquish partial control.

In June 2012, Lyles and Brathwaite answered questions posed by Librera during a public meeting, in an effort to help the board decide who was the better choice.

In a June 15, 2012 email to Cerf after the meeting, Skinner writes, “Really impressed with Marcia Lyles. Very sharp.”

In responding to Skinner, Cerf makes clear he also wants Lyles appointed. He replies, “Terrific! Assume she will prevail?”

Another email shows that, two days before the board voted to appoint Cerf’s former associate, the commissioner organized a June. 26, 2012 teleconference, session with Hespe, Librera and Mack.

Around the time Lyles’ contract was finalized, on August 23, 2012, Skinner emailed Cerf a letter Board Member Sangeeta Ranade circulated through the community, titled, “Welcome Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles!”

To which Cerf replies, “Outstanding!”

6. That Skinner conceded to Taylor that, at least for a time, she and Fulop had a rift over the strategies which should be employed to oust Epps in 2011, and kept a distance from him for a while because of it.

However, Skinner made clear in a later published interview during the rift that she would still support Fulop for mayor.

In a Sept. 21, 2011 email to Taylor, Skinner stated, “Steve Fulop and I actually parted company because we didn’t see eye to eye on this, but I digress.”

Skinner has been more recently seen with Fulop at events, including Cerf’s Sept. 2012 appearance before residents at New Jersey City University. In a recent interview, she described the differences that had separated them, in retrospect, as “small.”

The OPRA request also included seeking emails between Fulop and the state. Though the state provided nothing regarding Fulop as part of the 68 pages requested in the OPRA filing, prior emails during the period were leaked showing Fulop and Taylor communicating about Epps’ status, with Waterman, in 2011. At the time, Fulop and Skinner were still parties to the legal action seeking to block Epps’ proposed contract extension.

Additionally, a prior published report, citing a leaked private email, revealed Cerf participated in a May 2011 secret meeting at a private residence in Jersey City concerning Epps’ removal. Parties attending included Skinner, Fulop, Board Members Waterman and Carol Lester, and then-Board Members-elect Adames and Carol Harrison-Arnold

NJ Education Round-Up 4/13/13

Here this week’s education news for New Jersey:

Remember When Michelle Rhee Was Chris Christie’s Best Bud?

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, former Washington DC  schools chancellor and current darling of the reformy right, Michelle Rhee, has been implicated in a growing cheating scandal. This week, veteran education reporter John Merrow released a memo that confirms Rhee knew there was a potentially huge problem across the DC district with wrong-to-right erasures, but did nothing to investigate the issue.

Chris Hayes has an excellent interview with Merrow about the story that’s well worth watching.

What does this have to do with New Jersey? Well, go back to 2010:

Gov. Chris Christie has courted Michelle Rhee to become the state’s next education commissioner, but the job’s distance from her family may prove an insurmountable stumbling block, two officials familiar with the negotiations said.

Way to pick ’em, Chris. By the way, New Jersey’s own investigations into cheating are moving “at a glacial pace.”

The Kids Are Alright

#NPSwalkout

The students of Newark are tired of indifferent adult politicians and their empty promises of school “reform.” So they organized themselves, walked out of school, and marched down the street to give the Assembly Budget Committee a piece of their minds.

As I pointed out, pro-school voucher forces were happy to have kids skip school to march in Trenton – so let’s skip the “outrage” over these kids missing a couple of classes so they could fight for their schools, OK?

More after the flip…

NJ Charter School Circus: LEAPin’ Lizards!

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Camden’s charter schools are both an educational failure and a fiscal disaster:

The tax-exempt status of a Camden charter school was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service following the school’s failure to file proper nonprofit financial statements for three years, putting $8.5 million of bonds at risk of losing their tax exemption.

LEAP Academy University Charter School said in a statement its decision not to file the IRS annual Form 990 for a three-year period was “due to conflicting advice on the administrative need to do so as a New Jersey charter school.”

Through its spokesman, James McQueeny of Winning Strategies, LEAP would not elaborate on the “conflicting advice” and declined to provide any info beyond the statement. Lynn Walker, a spokeswoman for Rutgers University-Camden – which guaranteed the bonds issued by the Delaware River Port Authority on LEAP’s behalf – also would not provide information in response to a reporter’s questions. [emphasis mine]

Fellas, I’m just a music teacher, but I’ve got some good advice for you: if you want to remain a non-profit, file non-profit tax forms. Duh.

According to a DRPA spokesman, Tim Ireland, the agency sold bonds to the securitized debt market and lent some of the money collected from the sale to various nonprofit and for-profit entities through an economic development program that ended in December 2010. Under that program, the DRPA issued $8.5 million of bonds in 2003 for LEAP to finance the school’s construction and development costs. Rutgers guaranteed debt service on those bonds and TD Bank serves as the trustee, according to LEAP and DRPA.

Ireland said, “DRPA toll payers will get the money back, regardless,” since Rutgers-Camden guaranteed to pay back the money with interest to DRPA so that it can pay the bondholders.

Hey, that’s great: tuition-paying Rutgers students and state taxpayers will reimburse DRPA because LEAP can’t get an accountant to do their taxes correctly! With interest, no less!

Christie Uses NRA To Silence His Biggest Critics

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman

Say what you will about Chris Christie, but he always takes advantage of a good political opportunity.

Yesterday, with one simple statement, he managed to pull himself toward the political center in anticipation of his upcoming campaign for reelection as New Jersey’s governor, and set up a defense against what could be one of the most effective attacks against him in that campaign.

Because when Christie lashed out against the NRA, he not only created his own Sister Souljah moment; he set up a defense against his personal hypocrisy on the issue of school funding.

Kids Pay For Christie’s Incompetence

Reposted from Jersey Jazzman.

Like so many other denizens of the Garden State, it makes me nuts to watch Governor Chris Christie touted as a fearless leader and maker of tough decisions in the national press. Because the man is really, really bad at his job:

A report submitted this month by the state Department of Education to the Legislature is likely to set the stage for another school-funding debate next year. For many local districts, the outlook is not good.

The Educational Adequacy Report repeats many of the proposals suggested last year by Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. If accepted by the Legislature, they would reduce extra funding districts receive for low-income, bilingual and special-education students.

Advocates for those students already are gearing up to lobby the Legislature in January to reject the report. Lawmakers have 90 days to make a decision, or the proposals take effect.

The report also again recommends eliminating so-called adjustment aid over five years, which would reduce aid to many districts in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties. According to state data, adjustment aid for 2012-13 totaled $36 million in Vineland, almost $15 million in Pleasantville, nearly $14 million in Millville, $8 million in Atlantic City and $6.5 million in Lower Cape May Regional. [emphasis mine]

For the last three years, New Jersey has been on a rollercoaster ride when it comes to school financing. After immediately cutting taxes on the rich (yes, he did, stop trying to blame Corzine), Christie started his term by next promising to limit cuts in school aid to districts; he then proceeded to hack and slash at school budgets all across the state, including the suburban towns where his political base sends their kids to school.

What You Need To Know About the NJ Charter School Study

Much ink has been spilled in the last two weeks over the release of the NJ charter schools report, published by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Below is an index of commentary on the report. I encourage you to read as much as you can, but let me summarize it here:

– The report shows that the “benefits” of charters are almost all concentrated in Newark. Charters in the other major urban areas, in the suburbs, and in rural areas showed little to no gains – or even losses – in student achievement over public schools.

CREDO only studied about half of the charters in New Jersey. The study did not compare “equivalent” schools; it matched charter students to their “academic peers” in public schools, a method that cannot account for “peer effect”: the effect of attending a school with only those students who have similar motivation and family characteristics.

– There is a substantial body of evidence that shows “successful” Newark charter schools engage in patterns of segregation: by race, by economic status, by special education need, and by language proficiency.

– This practice of segregation means that the gains of Newark’s charters may be due, at least in part, to “peer effect.” This would mean that charters are not replicable on a large scale.

The CREDO study did not disaggregate student characteristics by multiple levels of poverty or severity of special education need. This is a serious limitation of the report and brings into question its use as a justification for charter expansion.

– While the study uses good methodology given the limited data available, it must be noted that CREDO has extensive ties to the right-wing, pro-charter movement.

– The report came 631 days after Education Commissioner Cerf promised it “as quickly as is humanly possible.” Curiously, the report was released on the day before the Camden Board of Education reversed its vote to allow KIPP, the national charter management group, to come into the city and open a charter on land that was previously designated for a public school.

The upshot is this: the CREDO charter report does not justify the current charter expansion policy of the NJDOE. In many ways, the report raises far more questions than it answers about the efficacy of charters in New Jersey.

NJDOE Charter Report May Be Released Today

Word is that the NJDOE will release its long-awaited charter school report today – 631 days after Commissioner Chris Cerf vowed to produce it “as quickly as is humanly possible.” Cerf promised the report in the wake of criticism that the NJDOE’s initial report – which showed charters were superior to public schools – did not take into account the fact that many “successful” charters do not serve as many children who are poor, do not speak English at home, or have special needs as neighboring public schools.

Rumor also has it that tonight the Camden school board will vote on approval of a HOPE Act charter school run by KIPP, a national charter management company critics often accuse of “skimming the cream” – taking the easiest to educate students and leave the others to public schools.

If true, the timing is likely not a coincidence. We’l be watching.

NJDOE Commissioner Cerf’s Ethics: Safety Scissors Sharp

NJ Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf was the ACTING Commissioner for 18 months. His nomination was blocked by State Senator Ron Rice under senatorial courtesy; Rice wanted Cerf to testify before his committee about his relationship with Mayor Cory Booker and shady dealings with charter schools in Newark. Since Rice is the senator representing Montclair, Cerf’s hometown, he invoked his privilege to block the nomination.

So, how did Cerf finally get confirmed? He simply claimed that he had moved to be closer to work. Strangely, he decided to move not to Trenton, but to Montgomery, which just happens to be represented by a Republican senator, Kip Bateman.

At Cerf’s hearing, the Senate Judiciary Chairman expressed his displeasure with this slick move: