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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ghost Of Chris Cerf's Past

Michael Winerip of the New York Times had a brutal piece on Sunday documenting a decade of testing disasters in New York. After years of assurances that the state's standardized tests were valid, the system came crashing down:
JULY 2010 Finally someone — Dr. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents — has the sense to stand up at a news conference and say that the state test scores are so ridiculously inflated that only a fool would take them seriously, thereby unmasking the mayor, the chancellor and the former state commissioner. State scores are to be scaled down immediately, so that the 68.8 percent English proficiency rate at the start of the news conference becomes a 42.4 proficiency rate by the end of the news conference. Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief accountability officer for the city, offers the new party line: “We know there has been significant progress, and we know we have a long way to go.” Whether there has been any progress at all during the Bloomberg years is questionable. The city’s fourth-grade English proficiency rate for 2010 is no better than it was in February 2001, nine months before the mayor was first elected. [emphasis mine]
Guess who was a Deputy Chancellor in NYC during this time? Current ACTING NJ Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf. And what was Chris Cerf up to at the time - say, in 2008? Among other things, he was pushing for these very same unreliable standardized tests to be used to evaluate teachers:
New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests. 
The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement. 
While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public. 
“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”
Cerf wanted to use these unreliable tests to make high-stakes decisions about teachers' careers. It never occurred to him that maybe making data available to all the stakeholders would be incredibly dangerous if the data itself sucked. And now he's piloting pretty much the same program here in Jersey.

Do you think he's vetting the NJ tests as carefully as the NY tests were vetted?

No comments: