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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NJ Charter Report Held Hostage: Day 600!

(Oops, one day late)

600 days ago, NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf was confronted with an inconvenient truth. Cerf, an inveterate charter school pusher, had put out an analysis of charter performance in New Jersey that purported to show that the majority of charter schools in New Jersey outperformed their neighboring public schools. But the report never accounted for student characteristics; there was no acknowledgment that charters were not serving the same kids as public schools.

Matt DiCarlo called him out on it. Bruce Baker called him out on it. Bob Braun called him out on it. Yours truly called him out on it.

Embarrassed into admitting that he was cheering for charters without taking this simple fact into account, Cerf did what all good politicians do: he punted.
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.
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.
That data showed that 79 percent of charter schools outperformed district schools on math exams in the state’s poorest districts, and that 69 percent outperformed their home districts in language arts. Critics assailed the numbers, saying charter school test scores may have been higher than traditional public school scores in part because charters have fewer very poor students.
"They are what they are," Cerf said of the January data. "They are not what you might call nuanced."
Cerf said an independent analysis will be conducted "as quickly as is humanly possible." He also released an "interim report" on charter schools that he said "dispels the notion" that charter schools don’t serve special needs kids. And he presented data showing that there are poor children in charter schools. [emphasis mine]
Yes, that was the plan: to release a report "as quickly as is humanly possible." Well, we've reached a bit of a milestone today:

It has been 600 days since Chris Cerf promised an independent charter school report "as quickly as is humanly possible."

Let's check the clock, shall we?

600 days and still no sign. Maybe they're working on it in the Newark office...

I have it on very good authority that the NJDOE has been shopping around for the "right" people to do the report. That's going to be tricky, because anyone who looks at this will come to the same conclusion: "successful" charters very often do not serve the same students as their neighboring public schools.

Seems like I've been linking to Bruce Baker quite a bit these days, but he's just about the only source that can be relied on to consistently un-spin the NJDOE's claims:
On average, this statewide picture is actually pretty ugly. It would certainly be very hard to argue that charter school expansion across New Jersey has led to any substantive overall improvement of educational opportunities. Numerous charter schools are substantial underperformers. And overall, as the regression model indicates, the net performance is dead even.
Without a doubt, Commissioner Cerf does not want to see a state-sponsored analysis come to this conclusion. And so we wait - 600 days and counting - for a report that he promised us "as quickly as is humanly possible."

When this report is finally released, what do you think it will say?

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