Manipulating test score release: “First, you’ve got to get mad!”

Had enough?
Had enough?

Why is it important to write about Cami Anderson’s decision to manipulate the release of the latest results of state test scores? Here is why:

Imagine your life, your livelihood, is based on a set of numbers over which you have no or, at best, very little control.  Depending on how those numbers go, you will or will not have a job. Will or will not be able to pay your mortgage, your kids’ tuition, your car payments, your utility bills, your grocery tab.

Imagine these same numbers are important to a group of strangers who have a very different agenda than yours. Strangers who don’t care what happens to you or your life but they do very much care about their own ambitions.  One of them, for example, wants to be, of all things, the president of the United States. Another is a woman who, from a distance, would appear to mental health specialists as, at best, a narcissist and megalomaniac who thinks—for no good reason—she’s got the answers to persistent questions about the best way to educate children. There are others involved as well—unelected political bosses whose fortunes depend on how you are treated, legislators without spines, union leaders who are empowered to calculate risks for you but who may be factoring in their own chances of keeping their jobs.

Imagine, also, that, because your jobs are supported with public funds, legions of twits believe—without the least bit of informed evidence—that a national history that includes slavery, suppression, Jim Crow laws, economic inequality, and grinding racism, has less to do with whether children learn than your own personal contribution to a small number of kids. These sentiments are magnified by feckless men and women who call themselves journalists and commentators who couldn’t last five minutes in a classroom filled with children—who are accustomed to using the bathroom when they want to, dependent on the ability to chat up a co-worker at the next desk, who are paid to have opinions aligned, not with reality, but with the self-serving interests of the billionaires who own their media outlets.

They are all saying: It’s your fault that children can’t read. You—that nice young man or hopeful young woman who went to college and became a teacher because you admired men and women you met in school. Because you believed teaching was a noble and helpful profession. Socially useful rather than economically beneficial.

You joked, “Well, I’ll never get rich but I’ll be happy.”  Clearly, you won’t be rich, but the barbarians who run your schools are now determined you won’t be happy, either.

Just friends?
Just friends?

And, if you object, then you are accused of blaming the victims for their failure. You may even be accused of racism simply because you say the problem is bigger than teachers or their unions. This will be especially frustrating for you if, in fact, you are an African-American or member of another disfavored minority. You will be cursing your timing—just when the engine of public employment, including employment in the public schools, opens up to you, just when you have the chance to live the way your hard-working parents and grandparents should have been able to live—just then, know-nothings like Cami Anderson and haters like Chris Christie and opportunists like Cory Booker all band together and blame you. All band together and take away the jobs for which you worked so hard, into which you invested so much of your hopes and dreams.

If you can imagine these circumstances, you might have a small idea about how it must feel to be a teacher in an urban school district now. You are isolated, fearful, worried about the future. What happens to you and your career has far less to do with how good you are with a classroom filled with children than it does with a state filled with vipers like Christie, Booker,  Anderson, George Norcross,  Steve Sweeney, Joe DiVIncenzo.

 

The Bros
The Bros

And those are only the names you recognize. There are others—faceless, nameless strangers who, after having come close to destroying the nation’s economy through risky investments, now see the opportunity to make money by privatizing public education. All political subdivisions of this country together spend more than $650 billion on public education—money that, in the eyes of these oligarchs, could be put into play for investment and earnings for their benefit. So they can buy a second home on the Hamptons, buy a seat for their kids in colleges—including some of the best in the world—that are less choosey about SAT scores than they are about potential contributions to their endowments.

Looks like you’re trapped doesn’t it? Looks like you have very little control over your lives. Looks like you would have been better off taking courses to become an electrician or a plumber—or maybe no courses at all—rather than studying for four or six or eight or twelve years to become the best possible teacher you could be.

I don’t have a lot of good advice. I’m not drawing a salary anymore and I’m living on a pension and Social Security. It would be too facile for me to start shouting that you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to get up on your hind legs and yell, like Peter Finch’s character in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network”: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

I can’t do that. No one can. And I understand completely why you can’t.

But, for so long as I can, I will be doing what, apparently, the mainstream media cannot bring themselves to do—writing stories about what a fraud Cami Anderson is and how wrong, just plain wrong, are those who support her, make excuses for her—and fail to oppose her as vigorously as their resources allow. I will get mad, even if you don’t.

Hiding test scores-or even just manipulating their release– is just another example.

 

 

 

 

10 comments

  1. Ann Marie Finnen

    Thank you, Bob. As a suburban teacher who cares about our public schools and is watching very closely what happens in Newark and our other cities, I’ve no doubt that you’ve accurately captured the shameful, criminal travesty that is being perpetrated on our teachers. I truly felt nauseous reading this, but hope it motivates more of us to start (or continue) screaming until the mainstream media has no choice but to respond. I wish I could be optimistic.

  2. jae

    I cannot thank you enough for articulating my everyday thoughts about the situation we have found ourselves in. It is just plain frightening that a group of people in this supposed new millennium are still out to virtually destroy a less favored group of people for money. It is evil, psychopathic and cowardly.
    I hope my colleagues and I are able to quickly find the collective strength to slow this steep descent into the maelstrom of ignorance. Please continue to do what you do.
    Thank you.

  3. Teahcermomnj

    Oh, we’re mad Bob. 50K BATS are made as hell, and forever thankful for your support. Like the whos of whoville, when we are all shouting our anger at once (parents, teachers, students and community members) “We are here, we are mad, and we are just,” Maybe then we’ll be heard. Keep the stories coming Bob, we need you too. Thanks for shouting with us.

  4. Becca Field

    Implicit in what you say but not fully detailed – are the many particular ways that the system is setting teachers up for failure. Moving to computer based PARCC testing will automatically favor wealthier schools and students who have access to the technology before testing and thus have computer fluency.

    Testing CCSS materials, unevenly rolled out across the state, will favor schools with newer CCSS aligned text books (as bad as they are, it gives an upper hand on the testing).

    Schools with more PD for teachers will be more fluent in the language of the tests….etc.

    The CCSS and the PARCC tests are designed to prove public schools are failing — it is predetermined by what the corporate reform movement has set up.

    The best chance we have now is a massive refusal of the tests.

  5. jean

    My applauds to you for being the man a lot of us need to be. We will fall because we will not fight. The Newark Public school system is burning and no one is putting out the fire.

  6. DA

    This is beyond bold and criminal! As a minority parent in the Newark School system and a 5th generation Newarker; I am waiting for everyone to finally unite and stand up for our children, our city, and for what is right!!! The is ego now driving this woman she is out for blood; and we need to arm ourselves with everything we have and be done with the entire administration before its to late for our children and the entire public school system in Newark!! Time to take this to the courts/lawyer up up pro/bono! Faking test scores is a pure crime; ask Tiffany Hardrick her school allegedly did this in her Charter in Louisiana; Thank you Bob don’t stop!

  7. La. Ed. Watcher

    In my experience in La., when they don’t release data on time, it usually means they are trying to figure out a way to manipulate the data to make the charter schools look better. The ed reformers (remember, we have a C. Anderson counterpart from NYC as our state supt.) have invested so much in selling the charter school myth of superiority that they must, at all costs, keep up the appearance that charters are the answer to improving education. In La., charters – esp. the ones in areas taken over by the state – haven’t lived up to that promise, so they are constantly changing the data formula to make them look better. One example – last year they gave many of the New Orleans charters in the RSD (state run school system) extra bonus points to bring up their scores because they were really horrible. Can’t remember what the rationale was that was offered to the public, but many traditional public school folks were, rightly, upset over this. Several of our excellent bloggers kept the education community informed of these shenanigans, but do you think our policymakers were equally as outraged? Of course not. They just moved along like it was no big deal. A couple of them who are attuned to these tactics questioned it, but they are among the minority (2 out of 11) of the state education board.

    What I say to everyone who will listen is – elections matter. It’s one of the only ways to have influence over all of this mess. Our gov., as delusional as he is, bought most of those remaining 8 positions on the state education board in order to get John White appointed as state supt. Many of them are NOT educators and only follow what the gov. or business community tell them to do. There was also a huge amount of money from outside entities that influenced the election for the 1st time (Koch, Bloomberg, DeVos, etc.)

    BUT, most of the public is now waking up to the fact that we need real educators and public education supporters elected to these positions. So, next time, I’m hoping for election results that will mean more moderately-minded people in these positions no matter how much the Koch bros. throw at us.

    So, choose wisely in the next election – or the least evil?? Certainly anyone Christie endorses or befriends wouldn’t get my vote in NJ. Just think – if Buono (sp?) had been elected guv., she would have had the power to get rid of Anderson, and this One Newark mess might not have come to pass.

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