"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Christie and Cerf's Transparent and Ridiculous Plan

photo by Bobby Bank/Getty
Before New Jersey’s hog-headed governor, Chris Christie, fired his first inept Education Comissioner, Mr. Schundler, that rascal claimed in public that New Jersey's No. 1-2 ranking on NAEP was irrelevant when it comes to judging what kind of job the schools are doing.

Having now moved on to hire a more polished corporate leech to attempt to dismantle New Jersey's public schools, the current Commissioner Cerf and his Wall Street team are attempting to create their own crisis to justify a complete charterization of public schools in New Jersey, while removing all regulations on charters and  protections for teachers (such as tenure rights for charter school teachers) that might hinder the benefits to the hedge funders who are lined up behind this corporate reform schooler plan.  

The Christie-Cerf plan follows the neolib and neocon disaster capitalist script in once more cynically representing themselves as civil rights advocates who are out to protect the poor and downtrodden.  The intro the brand new New Jersey plan establishes the rationale for further dismantling the public schools in order to address the civil rights issue of our time--education:
The core goal of a state public education system is to assure that all children—regardless of background or economic circumstances—graduate from high school ready for college and career.  New Jersey’s educators should take great pride in our track record of success against this measure, especially relative to that of other states. 

At the same time, a substantial distance remains to be travelled. Most notably, while New Jersey’s students perform at higher levels than their peers in virtually every other state, this aggregate figure masks several discouraging realities. To a startling and unacceptable degree, “zip code is destiny” in New Jersey. While the State ranks second in reading nationally, only three states have a larger achievement gap between economically disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers. Tens of thousands of children attend schools where only a minority of students meets basic levels of proficiency in reading and math, and hundreds of thousands of children overall perform below these minimal standards.
In a simple, yet devastating, demonstration of why Christie and Cerf’s claims carry no more weight (whew!) than the previous ridiculous claims of public school failure in New Jersey, Bruce Baker shows that the test score gaps that Christie is so concerned about are “largely a function of the income distribution in each state.”  In states where the largest gaps exist between rich and poor, we find the largest gaps between test scores of rich and poor. Go figure!

Baker shows clearly, in fact, that this manufactured crisis by the corporate reform schoolers is another worn-out play from the shock doctrine playbook, which uses phony concerns for the dispossessed and oppressed to engineer social policy that removes the protections of those very same marginalized groups, thus clearing the way for exploitative corporate welfare schemes aimed to provide the cheapest educational product possible for the poor, while raking in huge bounties of cash for the bottom feeders who are lined up to start their own unregulated edu-scam charter schools in New Jersey.

Baker’s analysis shows, in fact, that New Jersey schools are doing better than average when it comes to trying to minimize the effects of the economic canyon between rich and poor. New Jersey’s corrected test score gaps for NAEP are, in fact, 27th highest among the lower 48:  “New Jersey’s adjusted achievement gap between higher and lower-income students, when correcting for the size of the income gap between those students, is smaller than the gap in the average state.”

If the titanic Governor Christie and his edu-economists want to do something to diminish the test score gap in the Garden State, they should condemn their own policies of doling out more tax breaks to New Jersey millionaires at the same time they attempt to dismantle the social safety net for the most needy citizens.  To carry out Christie’s kind of class warfare on the poor while blaming the schools for test score gaps demonstrates a level of hypocrisy and outright stupidity that remains unparalleled, even among the present team of proto-fascist Tea Party governors.

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