TRENTON — Vowing to create "more transparency," acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf today said the state will ask an outside agency to analyze why some charter schools out-perform traditional public schools.
Maybe they'll hire Edison, or Wireless Generation, or Sangari, or Global Education Advisors, or...Speaking at a meeting of the state Board of Education, Cerf said "we stand by" controversial data about charter school performance released in January, but acknowledged that "deeper analysis" is necessary.
In any case, I'm sure that Chris Cerf's story will be that he has completely cut his ties with the company that does the analysis and will not make a dime from the contract. It's what he does.
And what do you think the odds are of the firm Cerf hires telling him anything besides EXACTLY what he wants to hear?
But the data released did not go one step further, to link specific performance on test scores to children at the different income level — showing, for example whether schools with a higher percentage of children receiving reduced-price lunch, compared to a free lunch, achieve higher test scores.
Cerf said New Jersey’s state aid formula, and federal accountability programs, do not distinguish between the two levels of poverty. "Most charters in New Jersey cross a threshold of concentrated poverty that makes these distinctions meaningless," the report read.
Critics disagree, however.
"They have no basis for arguing that this is a trivial distinction. This is spin," said Bruce Baker, an associate professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He had commented widely on the January data and was, in fact, mentioned by Cerf at the meeting.
"The data just aren’t precise enough to make any reasonable conclusions about relative performance of charters versus district schools," Baker said. "Some of this is better than previous information, but there are certainly mis-statements and spin."
Baker said charter schools still serve many fewer special education students than public schools, and that the data on special ed does not break out how severe the children’s disabilities are.
Cerf said he is not an unqualified supporter of charter schools.
Perhaps you'd like to remind your boss about that "core mission" sometime, Acting Commissioner."I don’t believe all charter schools are good," he said. "The state’s core mission is to support traditional public schools"[emphasis mine]