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, September 30, 2012

Jonny Alter's Head Pops Off

I missed this clip at last weekend's Education Nation from MSNBC. It's well worth watching, if only for the entertainment value of seeing pundit Jonathan Alter lose his cool when someone who knows what the hell they're talking about calls him out:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The best part is when Alter says, "No offense." Yeah, sure: why would Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig take offense at having his peer-reviewed study called "cherry-picking" and "bogus" on national TV?

Alter is part of the great mass of pundits who continue to write about education without having the first clue about the topic. The fact is that Vasquez Helig's study shows quite clearly that there is significant and serious attrition at KIPP's schools in Texas. This comports with others' reporting and research - see here, here, and here for starters - that shows KIPP regularly "counsels out" students as part of their program.

KIPP responded to Helig's study aggressively; they know their "brand" is on the line when they are called out on this attrition. Vasquez Helig handles their objections quite deftly, thank you very much. It's fine that this is under debate - fine, that is, to everyone but Alter, who decides to lose his freakin' mind and not even address the study.

KIPP has refused to take Diane Ravitch's challenge and manage an entire school district, and attrition is the primary reason why. A true public school does not have the luxury of "counseling out" students; if a kid is failing, they must continue to work with the kid, no matter how unmotivated he or his parents may be. It is perfectly legitimate - indeed, it's critical - to question whether KIPP's methods are replicable, due to their high attrition rates, in public schools.

Alter says that "successful" charter schools are laboratories that develop "best practices" that all schools can benefit from. Well, KIPP may well run fine schools; but if the kids who can't cut it there wind up leaving, how does that help a real public school? Public schools don't have the luxury of indulging in attrition; they must serve all students. What can a school that has such high attrition teach a school that can't get rid of kids unless they are severe discipline problems?

This is a serious topic, and it deserves a serious conversation. Give Melissa Harris-Perry credit for telling Alter to pipe down and let KIPP critics like Vasquez Helig make their points. If Alter has a serious rebuttal, let him make it.

But fake indignation isn't helping anyone; it isn't fooling anyone, either.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Perth Amboy

It never ends in Perth Amboy:
The large crowd of parents and teachers at Perth Amboy High School erupted in applause when the Perth Amboy Board of Education placed Superintendent Janine Caffrey on administrative leave last Saturday. 
After an hour-long private session, the Board passed a resolution to not only place Caffrey on leave but also name Assistant Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez as active Superintendent. The board also unanimously voted to not bring Caffrey back as Superintendent once her current deal expires 
“Many of you are aware that an administrative law judge issued a decision to uphold our vote last May to place Dr. Caffrey on administrative leave,” Board President Samuel Lebreault said. “That decision is under review by the Commissioner of Education, but the final ruling isn’t expected until late October. Our attorneys have advised us that nothing prevents us from taking new action in the meanwhile if we think it is warranted.”
Yeah, there's nothing better for a school district than continually firing then rehiring your superintendent. Kudos to NJ Education Commissioner Cerf for making that happen...

Caffrey has been waging her war with the board in public; looks like they've decided to join her in a media skirmish:
Two weeks ago, an administrative law judge made an initial decision as to whether or not the Board of Education acted legally when on May 7 it suspended her. She presented many arguments to the administrative law judge in an attempt to misdirect the judge’s legal analysis of the case. The administrative law judge was not persuaded by Dr. Caffrey’s arguments. Thus, the judge ruled (on all counts) in favor of the Board of Education. 
She has belittled that decision in another attempt to misdirect attention from her wrongdoings and incompetence and has instead misled the public by stating that an important decision was yet to come; namely that the Ethics Commission would rule on the merits of allegations made by her. When Dr. Caffrey made this statement, she already knew that many of her ethics charges against several board members would be dismissed, while others would most likely continue onward to the next phase of the process. Thus, she attempted to dupe the public into thinking that the decision that went against her was meaningless. Dr. Caffrey wrongly and inaccurately used the Commission’s decisions as her vindication. 
The Ethics Commission decisions plainly indicate the following: The preliminary determinations are not decisions on the merits. The Commission conducted an initial review to determine if probable cause existed, should the allegations be proven later. It is important to note that the Commission already dismissed many of Dr. Caffrey’s claims in their entirety. The allegations have yet to be proven by the facts and evidence that she must produce before an administrative law judge. We are certain Dr, Caffrey will not be able to prove her allegations in any court of law.
Who knows - maybe she will, maybe she won't. But, once again, the staff and students of Perth Amboy's school have to wait while the process plays out. Resolving this quickly for their sakes seems to be the furthest thing from anyone's mind.

Won't Back Down II: The Sequel

Won't Back Down II: The Sequel

After credits roll, fade up on school office. A worker is taking down a sign that says "Adams Elementary" and putting up one that says "KKIP Super Success Academy." In walk Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), smiling and chatting, clearly excited by changes in the school. 

They enter the principal's office, where they are greeted by the new school leader, Geoffrey Barth-Moskowitz (Anthony Hopkins). He stands and shakes their hands.

Geoffrey: Jamie, Nona, how good of you to come. Welcome to the KKIP Super Success Academy!

Jamie: Thank you so much, Mr. Barth-Moskowitz!

Geoffrey: Oh, please, no need to be formal; call me Geoff.

Jamie: The school looks wonderful, Geoff! I can't believe how many new computers you have!

Geoffrey: Well, that's all part of the generous funding we receive from the KKIP Foundation; we are able to spend more per pupil than Adams Elementary was.

Nona: Really? Why couldn't we get that money before when we were a public school?

Geoffrey: Oh, I think you'll find our funders are far more amenable to giving money if the schools match their ideological predilections. Now that you ladies have pulled the "parent trigger" and brought us in to take over this school, you'll find there are many changes coming.

Nona: Yes, well, that's one thing I wanted to ask you about. I figured that we would have a few computers in every classroom, but it looks like there are enough so that every child will have his or her own. Isn't that a little excessive?

Geofrey: Oh, not at all. You see, KSSA is now a "blended learning" school. We'll be delivering content to our customers... uh, sorry, "the children"... digitally, using software developed by K9 Inc. In fact, K9 Inc. will be running the entire school from now on.

Jamie: Wait a minute; this school is supposed to be non-profit. K9 is a for-profit company.

Geoffrey: True, but that was easy enough to get around. We merely set up a non-profit shell, with a board of directors sympathetic to our point of view. And the state and city politicians are all in our pocket... uh, I mean "on our side"... anyway.

Jamie: But that's not what we wanted at all! When we used the parent trigger, we thought we were getting a community-run school!

Geoffrey: Oh, Jamie, I'm sorry to tell you this, but all you did with the trigger was force a change. No one said you would have any say in what that change would be. No one made clear who would make the decisions about how the school would be structured or who would run it. No one had a procedure to appoint a board of directors. I'm sorry Jamie, but when you allowed this school to be converted to a charter, you gave up many of your rights as both a taxpayer and as a parent.

Jamie: Well, I'll go the local school board! They'll force this charter school to have parental involvement!

Geoffrey: My dear Jamie, you didn't think this through, did you? Charter schools offer you "choice"; they do NOT offer you "involvement." If you don't like the way we do things at KSSA, you can "choose" to leave; that's what school "choice" is all about. But your local district, even though it must give us money to run the school, has no say in how we run the school. We are, in effect, our own district now.

Jamie: Well, I don't like it, but it must be better than what we had before at Adams Elementary. So I'll just enroll my daughter and see how it goes...

Geoffrey: Ah, about that. I'm afraid I have some bad news: I've asked you here to help "counsel out" your daughter.

Jamie: WHAT?!

Geoffrey: Yes, unfortunately, your daughter has a learning disability, isn't that correct?

Jamie: Of course; she's dyslexic. That's the whole reason I organized the "Parenttroopers," because her needs weren't being served by those awful unionized teachers!

Geoffrey: Yes, it's funny that. Unions, like those in Chicago, have demanded that districts hire more special education teachers to serve students like your daughter. But they've been criticized for protecting those teachers from layoffs and evaluation systems that could penalize special education teachers. [Update: more here.] Ironic, no?

Jamie: Whatever. All I want to know is why you think my daughter won't do well here!

Geoffrey: Well, Jamie, we here at KSSA base our school on best practices. We look at the best charter schools: after all, Education Secretary Duncan himself has said we should close poor performing charters and emulate the best ones. New Jersey is leading the way with this line of thinking; look at this:

You see how the "successful" schools - the ones Governor Christie touts as exemplary - have fewer children with special needs? And fewer children who are in deep poverty? And fewer children who don't speak English at home? That's our plan as well; "counseling out" the children who keep our test scores low.

Jamie: But you can't keep my child out! The law says you have to accept every child!

Geoffrey: Every child who applies at the right time and right place, you mean. We've made that considerably more difficult.

Jamie: I don't care! I won't back down! I'll get her in this school, you'll see!

Geoffrey: And what then, Jamie? What happens if she doesn't fit in? If she isn't compliant with our strict disciplinary policies? If you can't contribute the significant "voluntary" parent contribution, or pay your child's discipline fines?

Jamie: But my child has an Individualized Education Program! You have to follow that!

Geoffrey: Yes - but we get to decide how to implement it. And if that means your child gets more suspensions than the other students, well...

Nona: Don't worry, Jamie, we'll work this out. After all, I'm the principal now...

Geoffrey: Yes, about that; I'm afraid there's been a change, Ms. Alberts. KSSA will not be requiring your services as an administrator.

Nona: WHAT?! 

Geoffrey: Yes, well, I'm afraid that when K9 Inc. was given the contract to become the school's charter management organization, all personnel matters fell to them. We have decided we need a truly transformational leader, so we are bringing in a young graduate of our KKIP Leadership Academy. Don't worry, he has nearly two years of experience in the classroom...

Nona: But I was going to run this school! The parents love me! I'm the best teacher at the school!

Geoffrey: That may be true, Ms. Albert, but I'm afraid their voices are irrelevant here. In any case, a blended learning environment keeps costs low by cutting staff; someone had to go. Now, if you'd like to reapply for your job as a teacher here, we'll see what we can do. Of course, you'll have to take a pay cut...

Nona: A pay cut?! I just got a divorce; I can't afford a pay cut!

Geoffrey: Ms. Albert, you're asking me to put your interests above the students; even worse, you're asking me to put your interests above the interests of K9 Inc.! If you're not prepared to work longer hours for less money, I don't see how you will fit in here.

Nona: But I have years of experience! You need people like me on the staff!

Geoffrey: Actually, experienced, overpaid teachers are the last thing we need. Churn-and-burn is now how we roll. We need teachers who can put in long days and longer school years.

Nona: But I have a son with a brain injury at home! I can't work longer hours than I already am!

Geoffrey: My word, what a selfish attitude. I can see you don't have the proper love of children it takes to work at this type of successful school.

Jamie: "Successful"?! You're counseling out students who are difficult to teach, burning out your staff, putting resources into corporate profits instead of the classroom, disempowering the community - and you dare to say you're "successful"?!

Geoffrey: I think our test scores will speak for themselves - especially after we have the students drill-and-kill on them...

Nona: Well, we're not standing for this! This isn't what we wanted when we pulled the trigger!

Geoffrey pushes red button on his desk.

Jamie: We won't back down! We're going to take back our school, again!

Two very large men enter.

Geoffrey: These ladies were just leaving; escort them off the premises. If they attempt to reenter the grounds, call the police.

Nona: You can't do this! This is our school!

Geoffrey: Not any more. 

Jamie and Nona are dragged out, yelling. Barth-Moskowitz turns and looks at camera...

Fade to black.

ADDING: Darcie reviews the original. It ain't pretty.

ADDING MORE: I was all excited to get my $19 million check for this script from anti-gay, environment-raping, Won't Back Down producer Philip Anschutz. Then the box office figures started coming out for the weekend; it looks like WBD is on track to have one of the worst openings in Hollywood history.

Damn. I guess I better cancel that order at the Maserati dealer. Well, babe, that's showbiz...

Merit Pay Fairy Lands In Jersey!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Rutgers University's newest mascot: the Merit Pay Fairy!
The best teachers in Asbury Park, Lakewood, Hillside and North Plainfield will be among the first in the state to earn federally financed merit pay, a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Education said.
In partnership with the four low-income districts, Rutgers University will distribute $39.7 million over five years through the department’s Teacher Innovation Fund to bolster educator recruitment, evaluation and rewards systems.
It is not yet known how much an individual district or teacher might receive.
No, of course not. Everyone's got to wet their beak before we actually get around to giving more money to teachers...

Every time I hear about another Merit Pay Fairy sighting, I want to ask the believers the same thing:

You folks say you want to reward great teachers, right? And you believe that every kid deserves a great teacher. Doesn't that mean you are calling for eventually raising the entire teacher payroll? If so, where are you going to get the money?

When Michelle Rhee started her very short, very unsuccessful stint in Washington D.C., she brought in corporate backers to fund her Merit Pay Fairy scheme. But when she got booted out of her job, they turned tail, leaving the district liable for the costs. How do we know that this scenario won't play out exactly the same way in Jersey? How do we know that several years from now these districts won't be left holding the bag?

Rhee's premise was that if she rewarded her "best" teachers, everyone would be motivated to perform better. What's idiotic about this notion is that if you cap the amount of merit pay, you cap the number of people who can earn it. How can everyone be motivated to do better if the reward is always limited to only a select few?

Of course, all of this is premised on the notion that we can objectively identify the "best" teachers; that we can accurately tell which teachers are in the 10% and eligible for rewards, and which teachers miss out because they're only in the top 11%. There is simply no accurate way to do that, which is why merit pay is ultimately demoralizing and divisive. It's why the Merit Pay Fairy remains a myth: merit pay has never worked in schools.

"But, but, but..." stammer the childish Merit Pay Fairy believers. "It wasn't the right kind of merit pay! We just have to tweak it a little more! Clap harder or the Merit Pay Fairy will die!"

In Finland, where adults make education policy, the barrier to entry in teaching is higher; the compensation for all teachers is also higher. If the Merit Pay Fairy's simpering followers really believed that creating a better teaching corps was so important, they'd follow that example.

The sad fact is, they don't. They want to throw a relatively small amount of money at a few teachers and claim they're supporting the profession. Like children, they close their little eyes and wish for magic to come in and "save" our schools. And they're very, very cross when adults tell them to grow up and join the real world.

Wait'll you see what my magic wand does against UConn next week!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Obama's Teacher Enthusiasm Gap Is HIS Fault!

So the latest, greatest viral video is apparently Samuel Jackson's profane tirade at apathetic Obama supporters.

Forgive me, Sam, but you're really rubbing me the wrong way. Yeah, I'll vote for Obama; Supreme Court nominees are reason enough. But don't expect me to go into the voting booth when any sort of enthusiasm: I'm a public school teacher.

And I know that no one has done more to fortify the regime of standardized testing, expand charter schools, or threaten the professionalism of teachers than Barack Obama. 

Standardized tests under Obama have now become commonplace in kindergarten!

With the stakes so high, many administrators have decided to start testing in the earlier grades, to give kids practice and to identify students who need help.

The Obama administration accelerated the trend in 2011 with a $500 million competitive grant to bolster early childhood education. States that pledged to assess all kindergarteners earned extra points on their applications.
So now state after state is falling into line, testing the littlest students to find out what they know and what they don’t know. The experts are strangely silent about whether this is developmentally appropriate. It is never too soon to start compiling data, it seems. [emphasis mine]
This is insane. We know the damage the proliferation of these tests has done to education. We know it's completely inappropriate and potentially harmful to administer these tests to children this young. We know the tests are poorly constructed and graded. We know standardized testing is ruining schools and corrupting the curriculum. We know these tests are unethical and promote cheating. Yet the Obama administration promotes them for kindergarteners!

As for charter schools:
The U.S. Department of Education announced grants totaling more than $14.4 million to support high-quality charter schools in more than 25 communities across the country. As a result of today’s grants, an additional 20,000 students in schools in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia, will have access to a quality education in charter schools. 
Through this funding, Democracy Prep Public Schools will receive more than $4.1 million for the first two years of a five-year grant, and the KIPP Foundation will receive more than $10.3 million for the first two years of a four-year grant. Both organizations will be able to continue and expand their work in schools that have demonstrated success in improving education outcomes for students. [emphasis mine]
Yet we know from many, many, many, many, many, reports that KIPP spends more and engages in more student attrition than public schools. In other words, what KIPP does is not replicable on a large scale. Even they have acknowledged this! But the Obama administration wants to give them more money, instead of putting money into the "failing" schools that are only "failing" because they serve the deserving children KIPP left behind.

Both of these policies are de-professionalizing teaching. The rigid, autocratic style of so many charters keeps their teachers from becoming creative practitioners of their craft. And the requirement of Race To The Top to tie teacher evaluation to test scores assures that good teachers will be misidentified and fired. What's especially infuriating is that Obama claims he doesn't want to "teach to the test," even as he implements a teacher evaluation policy that assures schools will do exactly that.

This is a record of educational failure on multiple levels. It's not so bad that I would sit out this election and let Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan come into power - lord only knows what those two chowderheads would do to this country if they ever won the White House.

But there is no doubt that I and many of my fellow educators and parents will be holding our noses while we pull the lever for Barack Obama. That is not our fault - it's his.

So, Sam Jackson, I love you - but you can shut the f#{% up, thank you very much. Because I'm wide awake, and I don't very much like what I see.

Can you guys believe it? Romney's so bad, teachers will vote for me anyway!

ADDING: Yeah, sure, let even more air out of our tires...
If President Obama wins a second term, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will stay in his job, he told National Journal on Thursday. Duncan is likely to spend much of his time in a second term focusing on ways to rein in spiraling college tuition costs—a significant barrier toward the president’s goal of doubling college graduations by 2020.
“I am staying, unless the president gets sick of me,” Duncan said after speaking at a K-12 Education Forum sponsored by the Hamilton Project. That’s unlikely to happen, considering that Obama and Duncan both cut their teeth on politics in Chicago and have a strong personal relationship.
What I wouldn't give for a viable third party candidate...

There's No Need To See "Won't Back Down"

A few weeks ago, I fully expected to go to the theater tonight to review Won't Back Down. I figured I'd have to see it, because the debate about public education was going to center around the premise of the film.

But a funny thing happened this week: the movie is a critical flop. Almost every major critic finds it cloying and simplistic (if decently acted). Reports are it will gross around $5 million, even though it cost $19 million to make. I doubt any of the stars will be nominated for an Oscar, let alone the film itself.

Well, if WBD is failing on its own terms, I don't see why I should pay for a ticket just to pile on. The more money this piece of propaganda loses, the less money producer Philip Anschtz will have to donate to anti-gay, anti-union, and creationist causes.

There's no need for anyone to see this load of crap; the debate about the film was over before it even began. Kudos to Leonie Haimson and others for calling the people behind this movie out on their nonsense.

If you want to see a good film about teaching, stay home tonight and rent Mr. Holland's Opus. But don't give your hard-earned money to people who are trying undermine the profession - willingly, naively, or otherwise.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

StudentsFirst: Astroturfing Movie Reviewers

When Leonie Haimson sent this tweet, at first I thought she was joking:
Students first sending staff to write reviews to try to save stinker film  on rotten tomatoes
StudentsFirst is, of course, Michelle Rhee's corporate reform shop, famous for their astroturfing. "#wbd" is Won't Back Down, a piece of anti-union propaganda disguised as a movie; it's getting trashed by the critics.

Sure enough, SF is now using Eli Broad and David Tepper's money to pay their staff to write glowing reviews and put them on the Rotten Tomatoes website:

Well, at least they say they work for SF...

Wait a minute - "Catherine R"? Why, that's Catherine Durkin Robinson; the gift card queen of Florida!
Diane Ravitch posted a few days ago about an email that went out to some Floridians from StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee's reformyist lobbying group. The email offered people a chance to win a restaurant gift card if they posted reformy comments at various websites about education news stories. As Parents Across America describes it:

Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst is well known for its deceptive tactics of posting seemingly harmless petitions calling to an end to student bullying, for example, or opposing firing good teachers, and then claiming all the people who unknowing sign them as one of their members. Even well-informed PAA members, completely opposed to the goals of this astroturf group, have been caught in her trap.
When Ravitch and Bob Sikes (he's kind of like a Florida version of me) published the email, the author, Catherine Durkin Robinson, did what reformyists do best: she threw a hissy fit for anyone daring to point out what she was really up to. Her response is the second comment on Sikes's post:

My record is clear.
As a 25-year veteran of campaigns to end apartheid, support animal rights, protect a woman’s right to choose, bring recycling to college campuses, champion the rights of the LGBT community…
As an 8-year teacher of at-risk youth and ESE students…
As a canvasser for Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama in rural Pasco and Polk counties…
As a concerned mom and PTA officer…
…nothing prepared me for the level of nastiness and vitriol that descended upon me when I took this job and began to vocally advocate for policies that put students first.
But nothing will deter me or scare me away. Because last week I spoke with a mom who’s only hope of putting her son in a good school is to break the law and pretend to live in another district. I’ll keep fighting against powerful union and school board interests. I’ll keep fighting…to help her.
And shame on the rest of you.
Don't you just love how these people think their crusade to gut teacher workplace protections, de-unionize the profession, implement merit pay schemes that they run away from when they don't work, and upend democracy through parent "tricker" nonsense...

... a crusade paid for by corporate education privatizers and oligarchs (keep reading)...

... a crusade run by people like Rhee who got mediocre results by their own standards when they were educators themselves (and those standards are suspect to begin with) ...

... don't you just love how, when criticized, these people immediately shield themselves by lumping in their activities with anti-arparthied activists and GLBT rights advocates?
And how! These people and their goofy antics are hours of endless fun. Restaurant gift card giveaways, on-line movie shilling... and it's all for the kids! Shame on you for thinking otherwise!

I really do wonder how long these billionaires are going to continue to fund this bush league nonsense. At some point, won't they just become too embarrassed by the tackiness of it all?

OK, guys, I don't think the on-line review thing is working...

George Norcross Isn't Gonna Like This...

Oh, my:
The Camden Board of Education, in a move that surprised everyone including its own members, rejected all four proposals to build renaissance schools in the city.
The early morning decision (just after midnight) came after a closed session meeting in which the board discussed the four applications.
The proposals for Ben Franklin Academy, Camden Center for Youth Development and Universal Company were voted down by every member.
The Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy, which scored highest on the rubric and was rumored to be the chosen one, was rejected by a lack of majority vote. Board members Felicia Reyes-Morton and Barbara Coscarello, both of who served on the review committee, along with board president Kathryn Blackshear and board vice-president Martha Wilson voted ‘yes’ for the Kipp project.
As expected, Sean Brown, Sara Davis and Kathryn Ribay voted ‘no’ (Ray Lamboy, who has recently been a vocal critic of the proposals review process abstained from all votes).
The tipping ‘no’ vote came from city attorney Brian Turner, a rookie board member who often sits quiet at meetings. Turner arrived to the board just before the vote-- almost six hours after the meeting had started -- and voted down all proposals. As he walked out, I asked him why he voted the way he did but he declined to comment.
Cooper University Chief of Staff Louis S. Bezich sat through the entire meeting and was shocked to hear the board’s decision.
The board’s vote “was not consistent with the process,” Bezich said, referring to Kipp’s scoring on the rubric.
“It seems like a rejection of the Urban Hope Act and not just our proposal,” Bezich said. Asked what the group’s plan is now, he said: “We’re going to have to talk to the state and school board officials.”
Board vice-president Martha Wilson said the state could potentially veto the board’s decision.
"Could" or "will"? Because it's been clear all along that both Democratic Boss George Norcross and the Christie administration want these schools badly - they've even twisted the rules to make them happen. And it hasn't bothered them in the slightest that KIPP has a documented record of failure in Camden. They want that charter on land that was supposed to be for a public school, even though they admit it will only serve some of Camden's needy children.

The Broadies at the NJDOE worked hard at the Newark office to put together a confidential plan to take over Camden's schools from the local board. It's part of their grand scheme to take control of schools all over the state. This will probably be the excuse they need set the entire thing into motion.

The only question left is whether the people of Camden and their legislators are going to sit still while the NJDOE executes its coup d'etat. My prediction: Lord High Executioner/Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is going to be surprised at the intensity of the community's reaction.

No doubt, they will wind up on his little list.

ADDING: More from the Inqy.

Perth Amboy Update

Because we just can't get enough news from the soap opera that is Perth Amboy's schools:
A number of ethics complaints filed against city Board of Education members appear headed to hearings before a state administrative law judge following decisions announced Tuesday by the state School Ethics Commission.
Some of the ethics complaints brought by Superintendent of Schools Janine Walker Caffrey against Board President Samuel Lebreault, Vice President Kenneth Puccio and board members Israel Varela, Milady Tejeda and Obdulia Gonzalez are slated to go before the judge. Some of the other charges against some board members were dismissed.
Caffrey, who on Saturday was placed on paid administrative leave by the school board, said the commission agreed with her that Lebreault, Varela and Puccio interfered with the day-to-day activities of the district, hiring and used their positions for personal gain for themselves and others. She said the ethics charges against Tejeda and Gonzalez will move forward with an administrative law judge hearing.
So Caffrey is the reporter's source for this story? Hmm...
According to the commission, the charges involving Lebreault relate to attempts to hire a bus driver who had confronted the superintendent, and his request that Caffrey provide him with employment information that he could give to the community before the job was posted.
I really don't understand that paragraph; "confronted"? And what happened to the school lunch form charges?
The commission found probable cause that Puccio had violated school ethics law by expressing how he was appalled that two principals had reported his presence in the school as ambiguous because of his dual roles as a school board member and juvenile detective.
Puccio said he had not heard from his attorney about the ethics commission’s decision.
Varela was found to have violated school ethics law by attempting to block the hiring of a recommended bus driver in favor of another bus driver, for repeatedly entering a district school without signing in, and without approval in compliance with school safety procedures. 
Yeah, that's not cool. Every adult in a school needs to sign in - including teachers. But was he being barred from visiting the schools? Why?
Varela said Caffrey instituted a policy of board members not being allowed to enter school buildings without her permission.
But he has had a long-standing practice of taking his wife to lunch each day or bringing her lunch. His wife is a teacher at the Dr. Herbert N. Richardson 21st Century School. Because Varela works near the school, his wife sometimes would request that he pick up a special treat for her students.
“No other superintendent or principal had a problem. It was never addressed,” he said. “Over 20 years I’ve had lunch with my wife. Other husbands have lunch with their wives.”
Varela said any staff members he encounters during those visits usually just discuss updates of their families, people Varela has known for years. They don’t discuss school issues or the superintendent.
“That does not worry me at all, (having the ethics complaints) go to a hearing,” said Varela, who also faces a hearing for allegedly approaching a secretary at the Richardson School to advance a smear campaign against former Richardson Principal Al Cores, whose contract was not renewed by the school board following allegations of an alcoholic holiday drink being sold at the elementary school.
Oy, what a mess. But at the end of the day, this is the board that hired Caffrey. Reap what you sow and all that.

ADDING: The Star-Ledger puts this headline out on the story:

Commission says 5 Perth Amboy board members violated ethics act in dealing with superintendent

But the story says:
A state commission Tuesday found probable cause that five city school board members violated the state School Ethics Act in dealing with the school superintendent and in dismissing a school principal.
The state School Ethics Commission said the claims filed by the now-suspended Superintendent Janine Caffrey and former principal Alvaro Cores will be referred to an administrative law judge. 
So the commission didn't say the board violated the ethics act; they said there was probable cause for a hearing. Probably should change that headline, guys.

The Bizarre World of Chris Cerf's Brain

NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's brain must be a remarkable place. How does a person in such an important position manage to contradict himself on the same night? (all emphases mine)
New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf insisted during a meeting with residents last night that he did nothing improper when he met privately with Ward E Concilman Steven Fulop and a small group of residents and school board members last year to discuss issues related to finding a new superintendent, though he later refused the school board’s invitation to do the same in a public meeting.
“If I am invited into a community, whether by elected officials or private citizens, I am happy to meet with them,” Cerf said during a two-and-a-half hour meeting at New Jersey City University. “I’ve done it before. I’d be happy to do it again.
Cerf also declined Grigsby’s request that he meet with Jersey City parents two to four times a year given the state’s actions within the district. While Cerf did not rule out additional public meetings, he would not commit to as many as four, noting that he is ultimately responsible for some 600 schools throughout the state. 
That's right: Chris Cerf is happy to meet with concerned citizens - except when he's not.

It's worth noting that Jersey City is only one of a handful of districts (for now) that are under state control. Plus JC is the second largest district in the state. If that doesn't warrant a commitment to regular meetings with parents, I don't know what does; especially since Cerf apparently can decide which subjects will be discussed.

Parent Akisia Grigsby, recalling Cerf’s appearance before the school board in December 2011 to discuss the superintendent search, said his refusal to meet with the public and take comments at that time showed an insensitivity to the community.

“You walked out and you didn’t respect us,” complained Grigsby, who heads the city’s Parent Advocacy Group.

Cerf told Grigsby the board was responsible for deciding to hold the closed session and said he did meet residents before leaving.
Yet it was Cerf who sought the closed session last year to discuss issues classified as falling under personnel that pertained to the search for Epps’ successor. When the board offered Cerf the opportunity to address the public beforehand, the commissioner declined.
It really is an amazing talent to have such a casual relationship with the truth: "Hey, they called for a closed meeting, but I still met with the public!" Except the reporting from the time of the meeting makes it clear that's simply not true:
Cerf and board members conferred at a special meeting in the board’s central office on Claremont Avenue. The closed session received mostly negative reviews from the citizens present, a group made up of primarily parents and community activists. Some criticized the board for not allowing residents the chance to address the commissioner — the public-comment portion of the meeting was scheduled for after Cerf’s appearance.
And Cerf, accompanied by his chief of staff David Hespe, declined to stay to take comments from the public. He did address two questions from JCI before he and Hespe cut the session short and left. 
When he was told that some residents felt he deliberately wanted to avoid hearing them, the acting commissioner seemed unconcerned, saying, “If that’s their opinion, then go ahead and report it.”
Cerf’s decision to leave the meeting rather than address the public brought no clarity to the concerns outlined in his vaguely worded email. One speaker, Jayson Burg, an unsuccessful 2011 school board candidate, told trustees he had come to the meeting expecting Cerf would be willing to share his views with the public. 
Asked by JCI if the board’s effort to accommodate Cerf at the expense of keeping the public out for a 90-minute closed session made the board look bad, Vice President Carol Lester would not answer yes or no.
“Acting Commissioner Cerf wished to address the board on personnel matters the law requires us to discuss in closed session,” she said. “But it’s not something I, personally, wanted to do.”
I really don't think Chris Cerf cares if he is caught in a lie or not. He makes statements without the slightest concern as to whether they are accurate. He abuses data to bolster his ideological views without the slightest hesitation. He creates graphs so dishonest that they would be laughable if the topic wasn't so serious.

I really do think he just doesn't care very much about the words that fly out of his mouth. True, untrue? Who cares! The truth has a known pro-union bias anyway...

Mitt: Corporations Are People, But Unions Aren't

The cognitive dissonance in Mitt Romney's mind must be overwhelming:
Republican nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that Democratic politicians have a conflict of interest in dealing with teacher unions because the unions contribute so heavily to their campaigns. He suggested that money should somehow be diverted or cut off, although he did not offer details.
Speaking in New York at Education Nation, a forum sponsored by NBC, Romney told interviewer Brian Williams that he is not necessarily against a right to strike. "I don't know that I would prevent teachers from being able to strike," he said, adding later that "allowing teachers to strike on matters such as compensation I think is a right that exists in this country."
The bigger problem, Romney said, is that "the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contribution from the teachers union themselves ... [It's] an extraordinary conflict of interest and something that should be addressed."
He later added that "we simply can't have" elected officials who have received large contributions from teachers sitting across from them at the bargaining table "supposedly" to represent the interests of children. "I think it's a mistake," Romney said. "I think we have to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It's the wrong way for us to go. We've got to separate that." [emphasis mine]
But when those same elected officials are writing laws to regulate corporations...
Romney explained that one way to fulfill promises on entitlement programs is to “raise taxes on people,” but before he could articulate his position on not raising taxes, someone interrupted. 
“Corporations!” a protester shouted, apparently urging Romney to raise taxes on corporations that have benefited from loopholes in the tax code. “Corporations!”
“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said. 
Some people in the front of the audience shouted, “No, they’re not!” 
“Of course they are,” Romney said. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?”
And, as people, those corporations would be able to give unlimited amounts of money to candidates in Mitt's world:
Mitt Romney says he'd like to scrap campaign finance laws that have given rise to a war of independent attack ads from political action committees. Romney said he'd instead like to allow candidates to accept unlimited donations and take responsibility for their own words.
The comment came as Romney sparred with Newt Gingrich over inaccuracies in ads being bankrolled by super PACs.
Romney called the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law "a disaster." The law regulates campaign donations.
The former Massachusetts governor said the solution was to "let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns; let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words."
That is, except for unions, which apparently are not people, like corporations are. Maybe unions would be if they incorporated. Or something; it's confusing...

There is a real chance this guy will be our next president. As bad as Obama is on education, that simply can't be allowed to happen.