Tag Archive: Bruce Baker

Camden School Closures Send the Wrong Message to Black Students

Cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Rutgers PhD candidate Mark Weber’s analysis of the Camden school closures. Many of you know Mark as Jersey Jazzman, but he’s also doing work with Dr. Bruce Baker at Rutgers, New Brunswick. His policy brief on the school closures is an important document (and an important public work). It pokes holes in the District’s narrative that this was primarily about “struggling schools” (Mark’s regression shows that McGraw was the highest achieving school in the district given math scores). The district still hasn’t released its own analysis, and frankly, if the two were to disagree it would fuel the fire that such measures aren’t a reliable way to understand quality. But I want to focus on something more fundamental here. Mark’s analysis shows that the two schools with the highest percentage of African-American teachers are being closed, and that black teachers are 1.6 times more likely to be in these closing schools than white teachers. Teachers with 15 to 24 years of experience are more than 3 times more likely to “face an employment consequence.” Those numbers should give pause to those of us concerned about having a diverse, stable and experienced teaching contingent here in Camden. It also sends a dangerous message to students.

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My Testimony on “One Newark” Before the NJ Legislature Today

These are remarks as prepared for my testimony today on One Newark. More to come. Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

Mark Weber

Testimony before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools

New Jersey Legislature

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Good morning. My name is Mark Weber; I am a New Jersey public school teacher, a public school parent, a member of the New Jersey Education Association, and a doctoral student in Education Theory, Organization, and Policy at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education.

Last year, I was honored to testify before this committee regarding research I and others had conducted on One Newark, the school reorganization plan for the Newark Public Schools. Dr. Bruce Baker, my advisor at Rutgers and one of the nation’s foremost experts on school finance and policy, joined me in writing three briefs in 2014 questioning the premises of One Newark. Dr. Joseph Oluwole, a professor of education law at Montclair State University, provided a legal analysis of the plan in our second brief.

I would like to state for the record that neither myself, Dr. Baker, nor Dr. Oluwole received any compensation for our efforts, and our conclusions are solely our own and do not reflect the views of our employers or any other organization.

Our research a year ago led us to conclude that there was little reason to believe One Newark would lead to better educational outcomes for students. There was little empirical evidence to support the contention that closing or reconstituting schools under One Newark’s “Renew School” plan would improve student performance. There was little reason to believe converting district schools into charter schools would help students enrolled in the Newark Public Schools (NPS). And we were concerned that the plan would have a racially disparate impact on both staff and students.

In the year since my testimony, we have seen a great public outcry against One Newark. We’ve also heard repeated claims made by State Superintendent Cami Anderson and her staff that Newark’s schools have improved under her leadership, and that One Newark will improve that city’s system of schools.

To be clear: it is far too early to make any claims, pro or con, about the effect of One Newark on academic outcomes; the plan was only implemented this past fall. Nevertheless, after an additional year of research and analysis, it remains my conclusion that there is no evidence One Newark will improve student outcomes.

The SL Editorial Board Strikes Again

promoted by Rosi

It is hard to wrap my mind around the levels of hypocrisy demonstrated in the latest Star Ledge editorial.

In support of Assemblyman Burzichelli's bill to ban fee based extracurricular activities in public schools, the Star Ledger board starts with sympathy for the families paying these fees, “With shrinking average incomes and stubborn unemployment, how much can these families be expected to spend?” 

Well, gee, these are the same people the SL editorial board told to go vote for Christie, the Governor who gave many districts an increase of $1.00 in state aid last year while requiring expensive new teacher evaluation systems and preparing for high tech, high stakes standardized tests. It seems to me the SL should have thought about this before November 5th.


Teachers on the Edge of Poverty

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Bruce Baker has an important post up about the Opportunity Scholarship Act – New Jersey’s voucher bill. Basically, the way the bill is now written, it would be little more than a massive giveaway of tax funds to yeshivas in Lakewood and, to a lesser degree, Passaic; somewhere on the order of $67 million. All voucher supporters should have to answer to Bruce’s arguments here.

But his post also struck me for this:

NJOSA would provide scholarships to children in families below the 250% income threshold for poverty. The text of the bill indicates that eligible children are those either attending a chronically failing school in one of the districts above or eligible to enroll in such school in the following year (which would seem to include any child within the attendance boundaries of these districts even if presently already enrolled in private schools).

Here’s the language of the bill on eligibility:

“Low-income child” means a child from a household with an income that does not exceed 2.50 times the official federal poverty threshold for the calendar year preceding the school year for which an educational scholarship is to be distributed.

What does that translate into for a dollar amount? Well, the poverty level for a family of four in the contiguous 48 states is $22,350. 250% of that is $55, 875.

The Failure of “Reform” – Standardized Tests

The entire corporate “reform” argument hangs on the use of standardized tests. Reformers insist that these tests are absolutely critical in ensuring “accountability” throughout the teaching profession, and that pay, tenure protections, and even job security should be tied to the tests.

Now, I could tell you that researchers have known for years that bubble tests assess only a fraction of a student’s learning.

I could tell you that the error rates on these tests are so high that using them to evaluate teachers is functionally the same as rolling dice (even the reformers acknowledge this; they just don’t much seem to care if a teacher’s career is destroyed by accident).