GUEST: Teachers are caught in the testing crossfire

blogkidstakingtestsBy Grace Nufrio 

As teachers, we are caught in a crossfire when it comes to standardized tests. We do not design these tests, we have no control on what is on them so, therefore,  we cannot adequately prepare our students to take these tests. We do not get the results back for individual students–just a score, if we are lucky, months after the student has left our classroom. Yet, these standardized tests will count in our evaluations on whether or not we are a “good teacher” or a “bad teacher.”

If state testing is “child abuse,” then teachers should stop it


The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, faces a tough challenge because its members are—rightly—concerned about how standardized testing is threatening both their jobs and their sense of themselves as professionals.  But the union’s leadership also is aware of both the organization’s dwindling power in the Legislature—and of the membership’s reluctance to take strong action to fight back. The result is the sort of campaign it announced Monday to seek limits on the influence of state testing on the operation of New Jersey’s public schools.

Sensing Cami Anderson’s weakness, Baraka heats up attack

Mayor Ras Baraka
Mayor Ras Baraka

With a one-to-one, in-your-face letter, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told state-appointed schools superintendent Cami Anderson to get out of town. Although Baraka has publicly called for Anderson’s resignation before, he’s done it only in conversations, and this letter, written like a criminal indictment, openly pitted his prestige and power against Gov. Chris Christie’s handmaiden in the city. He may not be anymore successful than he was with his gentler pushes in the past, but  he’s ratcheting up the pressure. The letter–see it at BARAKALETTER.JPG–didn’t even start with a polite “Dear Ms. Anderson” or even “Yo, Cami!” It just went right into a list of the laws she’s broken and the policies she’s used to disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Newark residents and employees.

Link for Baraka letter to Cami Anderson

“As Mayor of the City of Newark, I demand your immediate resignation as State Appointed School Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools.”

The Newark mayor, citing what he said were her “circumventions” of the law, demands Cami Anderson resign immediately. Mayor Ras Baraka sends copies to Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Anderson in 2011, and state Education Commissioner David Hespe who, despite private criticisms, has publicly praised her and awarded her a new contract.

The Empire Strikes Back: Anderson wants to fire a principal

Motley speaks last year to a community forum on "One Newark"--a dismissable offense?
Motley speaks last year to a community forum on “One Newark”–a dismissable offense?

The filing of tenure charges against a Newark school principal within 48 hours of his unwitting participation in Cami Anderson’s self-destructive behavior before a legislative committee in Trenton is probably the most chilling act of bureaucratic retaliation witnessed in Newark in decades. Through the simple act of responding to a legislator by standing up and raising his hand, Tony Motley showed Anderson was lying—and she knew it. After helplessly sputtering about her “integrity” and hinting darkly about some sort of “investigation,” Anderson clearly showed how angry and embarrassed she was—and how Motley was certain to pay a price.

The war against critics of charter schools

Julia Sass Rubin
Julia Sass Rubin

Julia Sass Rubin, a tenured faculty member and researcher at Rutgers University’s Edward Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Mark Weber, a university graduate student who blogs under the title “Jersey Jazzman,” are publishing a series of monographs that analyze publicly available data about New Jersey’s privately-operated, publicly-funded charter schools. In response to the first installment of the series, a lobbying group, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA),  filed state ethics charges against Rubin and sent press releases about the charges to main-stream media outlets.

Pink hula hoop. Yellow Star-Ledger

The front archway over the 18th Avenue School
The front archway over the 18th Avenue School’s main entrance

Exactly one year ago today, this site published an article entitled “Pink Hula Hoop Part 1: Is This the Future of Public Education?” While widely read for a blog piece, the story was ignored by the main-stream media–and that was no surprise. It was a complicated account of personal, political and business relationships that may have resulted in a sweetheart deal on the sale of the public 18th Avenue school to a charter school operator in Newark. Finally, yesterday, other media–PolitickerNJ and NJ Spotlight–picked up the story. They had to, because it was a major topic of a four-hour grilling of Newark superintendent Cami Anderson by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS). To ignore it would have been a lapse of journalistic practice.

Did Cami Anderson plead the fifth? Has she lost touch with reality?

Anderson and Hespe at Tuesday's hearing
Anderson and Hespe at Tuesday’s hearing

Not a great day for Cami Anderson. The chairman of the legislative committee that oversees state-operated  school districts Tuesday accused the state-appointed Newark superintendent  of “taking the fifth” because she repeatedly refused to discuss her personal and business ties to a Newark charter school leader to whose organization she sold a Newark public school at less than fair market value. Anderson also was openly caught in a lie when she insisted before the Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS) that no school principals were in so-called “rubber rooms,” getting paid to do nothing–apparently unaware one of the principals was attending the hearing. She also was openly laughed at by committee members when she talked about a “legislative liaison” aide whom none  had ever met.

Ready for the whitewash?

Take the exit, please
Take the exit, please

Cami Anderson’s appearance before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS)  is likely to be a public relations victory for the woman who, with the blessing of Gov. Chris Christie, has disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Newark residents and employees, wasted money on cronies and inept underlings, violated laws governing special education, teacher licensing, and tenure, failed to improve academic achievement among students, and even endangered the lives of children.

Questions Newark’s Cami Anderson won’t answer–and probably won’t even be asked

Cami Anderson
Cami Anderson

(SEE UPDATED QUESTIONS BELOW)   Don’t expect too much from Cami Anderson’s appearance Tuesday before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools. Although inept as an administrator and tone deaf as a person, Chris Christie’s agent in charge of Newark schools easily cons those who don’t know much about public education. She’s smooth–and, with the exception of state Sen. Ronald Rice, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, most of the panel’s members are either clueless or wedded to outsiders with angles to play (state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, Joe DiVincenzo’s woman in Trenton, and the Republicans who would sell their grandmothers to make Christie happy).