Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BAT's March on DC Speech

A Compilation of Past Writings, Plus Some
BAT’s March on DC – July 28th, 2014

Good morning my fellow Badass Teachers! It is such an honor to be speaking here today.

My name is Melissa Katz, and I am 19 years old. I will be going into my sophomore year at The College of New Jersey in good ol’ crazy Jersey studying Urban Elementary Education. I am a student activist, traveling across New Jersey (and now DC!) attending different education events, testifying at the State Board of Education, and meeting so many different, inspiring people also in the fight for public education. I am also a part of the amazing group Save Our Schools New Jersey, a grassroots, non-partisan, and volunteer led and powered organization of over 20,000 parents and other concerned residents who believe that all New Jersey children should have access to high quality public education. And just last week, I decided to add one more thing to my plate by announcing that I will be running for the board of education in my town of South Brunswick, New Jersey.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Why do you want to go into education? Why do you want to be a teacher? Don’t you know how much more money you could be making in another profession?” Back in March I spoke at a rally for public education in Trenton, and my response is still the same as it was then: The answer to all of these questions is simple: I have an undeniable belief in and love for our public schools, because public education is the great equalizer among us.

Based off of endless research, it is clear that these so-called “reforms” – the big examples being common core, new standardized testing, expansion of charter schools and so-called “school choice,” and new teacher evaluation systems – are not the answer to the issues we have in education that are mainly from outside sources – poverty, growing income inequality, dangerous environments in urban districts, unstable home life for some children, slashed school funding that has caused a gross underfunding of our schools, unfunded mandates –  the list goes on, and these reforms are only going to worsen the issues we already have.

Public education is under attack. There is an effort by public education reformers to undermine what we know as public education, demoralize and dehumanize teachers and the teaching profession, and sell the false tale of the failure of students and teachers that can only be quote-un-quote “fixed” by promoting school choice and increased standardized testing. 

My response: The kids in this country are not guinea pigs for the state, corporations, big businesses, and venture philanthropists to experiment on. There is absolutely no proof that Common Core is going to quote-un-quote “improve education,” “close the achievement gap,” or any of the other claims it makes to magically fix education with absolutely no evidence or proof of validity. There is absolutely no proof for the use of student standardized test scores being a valid way to measure “teacher effectiveness,” yet we’re moving full steam ahead with using student standardized test scores being incorporated as a large portion of a teacher’s evaluation. None of the changes in education happening today have been tested, retested, peer reviewed, tested again, and then slowly implemented in stages as anything else would be done in the business world where these reforms are coming from.

Our schools are the livelihood, center, and bringing-together of our communities. And if there’s one thing I want everyone to walk away with, it is the understanding that my teachers are not common. They are one-of-a-kind educators who put their all into making sure that their students experience true learning. My teachers went above and beyond for me – they stayed after class and talked with me about anything and everything, from politics to English to my worries and life questions. My teachers answered my emails after midnight without question if I was concerned about something and stood by me though the peaks and downfalls in life. They provided me with support and guidance when I felt lost or worried. My teachers not only taught me in the classroom but they taught me about the bigger picture and the world as a whole. My teachers played a huge role in shaping me into the person I am today – they developed personal relationships with me. And I can guarantee you that none these things will be found in a teacher evaluation or on any standardized test.

To quote Diane Ravitch from her piece “To Fight for Public Schools is to Fight for Democracy: “We oppose the status quo. We seek better schools for all children. We will work diligently with like-minded allies until we can turn the tide, turn it away from those who seek silver bullets or profits, and turn the tide towards those who work to restore public education as the public institution dedicated to spreading knowledge and skills, advancing equality of educational opportunity, and improving the lives of children and communities, while encouraging collaboration and a commitment to democratic values.”

At 19 years old, I am often reminded that I am ‘only a student.’ But I am not just a student – I’m a person with a voice. I’m a member of the state of New Jersey and our communities – I am a voting member of the state of New Jersey. I am a product of our schools that taught me how to think independently and creatively, not how to fill in a bubble on a standardized test. I stand behind our schools. I stand behind our educators. I stand behind our communities. And I stand in front of you to tell you that I will do whatever it takes to protect my schools for corporate takeover in any shape or form.

I, along with all of the other future public school teachers, must come together at this time and educate one another. We all must band together collectively, in partnership with current public school teachers, parents, students, and community members, and reclaim our future profession.

And beyond this collective partnership, us future teachers must fight for ourselves. We must fight for our profession. We must fight for our future students.

So to all of the future teachers out there: when someone asks you why you want to teach, saying that you want to be a fun teacher isn’t good enough; saying you want to make a difference is also not enough anymore. Tell people how you want to make a difference - and then do it. I want to teach my students about social justice and equity. I want to make change within my own classroom, within the community I teach in, and work to address the deep issues in society that impact the classroom such as poverty, income inequality, and children’s home lives. Words are no longer enough; action is required of all of us, individually and collectively.

We must all stay involved, be active, fight for what we believe in, and most importantly never let anyone convince us not to go into education - we are the next generations of teachers. The opportunity to reclaim public education from philanthropists, big businesses, and reformers is right in front of us, and it is imperative that we do so.

We have a voice that no one else has - we have nothing holding us back. We are obligated to take this opportunity and voice our opposition to the attacks on our profession. We are obligated to take this opportunity and voice our opposition to the reforms we know are not in the best interest of students, but rather only for those who can make money off of our students.

For the future of the teaching profession, we cannot afford to have future teachers who are anything less than passionate, dedicated, and ready to fight.

And we all must continue to push the same demands from the rally back in March I referenced earlier: Stop closing neighborhood schools. Stop attacking and scapegoating our educators. Stop the high-stakes testing madness. And fully fund our schools according to the law. Let's stand FOR our children, FOR our democracy, FOR great schools, FOR our dedicated teachers, and FOR local control!

We will win the fight for public schools, teachers, and students all across this country. We will win the fight against billionaires, philanthropists, for-profit corporations, and reformers seeking to line their pockets off of the backs of our students. We will win this fight for the future generations of artists, scientists, electricians, creators and inventors. We will win this fight so I, as a future public school teacher, can walk into the classroom on my very first day, look around the room, and know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. We will win this fight so I can stand proudly and one day, in the near future, say that I am one badass teacher.

Outside of the U.S. Department of Education building while on lunch break from the rally!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Two Cents on Teach for America

Here we go again.

“Mel, when are you going to join Teach for America (TFA). Since you’re an urban education major, I just assumed you’d be the first to join!”

Please excuse me for a moment while I bang my head against a wall repeatedly.

We’ve been through this before: I have a lot of issues with Teach for America, which include some of the following: TFA brings in some of the most inexperienced teachers and puts them into urban districts, where many times the most experienced and committed teachers are needed. TFA grads are even pushing out veteran teachers (does this surprise you?); with such a high turnover rate, they can keep them at the bottom of the pay scale, and continually keep costs down while teachers come in and out of schools like they are on a conveyor belt. Branching off of this, and to make matters worse, students in urban districts with TFA grads as their ‘teachers’ experience much more instability due to the turnover, again when those students are in need of the most stability. Teach for America, in my opinion, is no more than a resume-padding two-year stint (if the corps members even stay the full two-years they commit to) that, in my opinion, preserves, rather than eliminates, 'educational inequity' and the so-called 'achievement gap.'

I have not (and in case you didn’t figure it out by now), will NEVER join TFA or be associated with the organization in any way. Just google “Why I Quit Teach for America” and you’re sure to come across a slew of articles and personal anecdotes as to why people left after getting involved and read about their many issues. To sum this up, I will leave it to Gary Rubinstein, one of the most outspoken critics of TFA:

“The organization of TFA is a bit like a pyramid scheme.  There are a bunch of VPs who are making a lot of money for a non-profit, certainly six figures. Then there are the majority of staffers, people who work in recruitment, teacher ‘effectiveness’, even the alumni team, IT, etc., who make much less. But regardless of the status of the TFA staffer, they all have one thing in common: They are all accessories to a $300 million annual fraud funded, in part, by taxpayers, and which has, I’m sorry to say, contributed to the weakening of the pub[l]ic school system which has, in turn, hurt innocent kids and, yes, their hard working teachers.

“TFA is an organization that now thrives on greed, deception, and fear. The deception, though, is the thing that is more relevant to you. I’ll let you know about the others some other time. Part of the deception is that they promote a very oversimplified view of their success. They would have you believe that a good percent of the new CMs [corps members] are way better than the ‘average’ teacher, mainly because of the high expectations of the CM. They may even say this is aided by the new high expectations of the fancy new common core standards. Unfortunately, this oversimplified version of reality will lead you to struggle very much your first year, and to fail to be the teacher your students deserve.”

While I don't want to automatically attack anyone involved with TFA, as I do not know them personally and are unsure of their motives and beliefs, it is hard for me not to fault people who do join TFA. When committing to an organization as such, I have to question whether or not the corps members actually did any research on the organization beyond what they heard in recruitment sessions or in mass media where the anti-teacher, anti-public education tale is one told too often. If someone really did their research on the organization, wouldn't they be bothered by the fact that someone with only five WEEKS of training is entering a school which is likely in one of the neediest places in the country? Why is it that I am spending five YEARS getting my masters degree in urban education studies, yet TFA grads can spend a summer training and prance right into a classroom full of 30 kids that each carry a backpack full of their own issues.

Some may respond to this by saying, "well, if you have the gift of teaching, it doesn't matter how much education you have. Teaching is an art." I wouldn't disagree entirely with this argument. I absolutely believe teaching is an art and that some people simply have a "gift" for teaching. But having that "gift" does not mean that you are ready whatsoever to step foot into a classroom. Over the five years I'm spending in a specially designed Urban Elementary Education program at The College of New Jersey, I will take multiple classes on content that applies specifically to urban experiences, multiple semesters of in-classroom placement in urban settings in addition to theory classes connected to these in-placement classes, classes on childhood development, and within all of this learn about lesson plans, curriculum writing, produce my ow independent research, and better myself in all aspects of education as a whole, while specifically tailoring my knowledge and understanding to teaching in an urban district.

The "gift" may get you started, but it's not enough. Not even a fraction of what I'm doing could be achieved within five weeks.

A report from The Wire in July of 2013 chronicled the organizing resistance to Teach for America from people within the organization:

"'As a non-TFA person, I can point out some of the weaknesses in the program, but it's far more powerful when people who are in the program can speak to that,' said Anthony Cody, an outspoken California-based educator who spent 18 years as an Oakland science teacher, during which time, he estimates, he worked with about 30 TFA members in a mentoring program. 'It's really heartening to see teachers who come from TFA that are thinking for themselves and drawing on their experiences in the classroom to realize that there are some real significant problems with the TFA approach...'

"But indeed, many of Teach for America's most vicious opponents point out that the high turnover of trainees being dispatched to some of the country's most challenging school districts—often without any long-term plans to be teachers—is precisely the problem. Anthony Cody's experiences in Oakland corroborated this critique. In a typical cycle, the school would lose about half of its corps members after their second year. By the third year, half of those who had remained after the second year would be gone. The problem, Cody explained, is that many who join Teach for America don't actually want to be teachers in the first place, instead using the program as a prestigious stepping stone for policy work, law school, or business school. One study found that roughly 57 percent of corps members planned to teach for two years or less when they applied, while only 11 percent intended to make teaching a lifelong career. (TFA has claimed, however, that 36 percent remain in the classroom as teachers. But their recently announced partnership with Goldman Sachs, which provides TFA recruits with jobs at the banking firm after two years of service, doesn't entirely help their cause.)"

As someone who is a non-TFA member, it may be hard to believe what I'm saying. But there is endless anecdotal evidence on the internet about TFA members who felt woefully unprepared.

Sandra Korn, a senior at Harvard College (as of 2013) and a New Jersey public school graduate, raised her own concerns over the 'training' that corps members receive:

“For one, I am far from ready to enter a classroom on my own. Indeed, in my experience Harvard students have increasingly acknowledged that TFA drastically under-prepares its recruits for the reality of teaching. But more importantly, TFA is not only sending young, idealistic, and inexperienced college grads into schools in neighborhoods different from where they're from -- it's also working to destroy the American public education system. As a hopeful future teacher, that is not something I could ever conscionably put my name behind...

“But it has become increasingly clear to anyone who thinks critically about teaching that there's something off with TFA's model. After all, TFA alumni repeatedly describe their stints in the American public education system as some of the hardest two years of their lives. Doesn't it bother you to imagine undertrained 22-year-olds standing in front of an crowded classroom and struggling through every class period? Indeed, most of the critiques of TFAin The Crimson have focused on students' unpreparedness to teach.
“However, unpreparedness pales in comparison to the much larger problem with TFA: It undermines the American public education system from the very foundation by urging the replacement of experienced career teachers with a neoliberal model of interchangeable educators and standardized testing. If TFA intended to place students in schools with insufficient numbers of teachers, it has strayed far from its original goal. As an essay by Chicago teacher Kenzo Shibata asked last summer, ‘Teach For America wanted to help stem a teacher shortage. Why then are thousands of experienced educators being replaced by hundreds of new college graduates?’ Journalist James Cersonsky notes that veteran teachers and schools alike may suffer from this type of reform: ‘Districts pay thousands in fees to TFA for each corps member in addition to their salaries -- at the expense of the existing teacher workforce. Chicago, for example, is closing 48 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff while welcoming 350 corps members.’”

This morning, as I was pondering my thoughts on this topic, I read a wonderful article by Nancy Bailey, teacher, author, and blogger. In response to President Obama sitting down with four teachers to discuss education, she writes the following as real solutions to the issues that plague poor students and urban schools:

"Furthermore, despite Duncan’s letter, it appears that their myopic outlook focuses primarily on teaching and data
again and not on a host of other serious issues confronting children in poor schools today. Here are examples:

5. Here is a new question for the administration to hash over. They always discuss disadvantaged children like they all have low abilities. Well what about disadvantaged children that are gifted and talented? How will they be served by Common Core State Standards? Who’s even bothering to identify these kids?

6. Along with no. 5, we know that all children, including disadvantaged children, flourish in the arts. The arts include music, art, drama, and dance and they should be included in every public school. Sadly, many poor children miss out on the arts, because they are prepping for high-stakes tests. And blending the arts into the academics isn’t necessarily bad, but currently this is being used as a substitute for real art programs. Children deserve the arts and real credentialed art teachers!

7. Speaking of high-stakes testing–parents, and the students, across the country are sick of them. They are detrimental to the well-being of all children, especially the disadvantaged.

8. If you want to do something for poor children, lower their class sizes, especially in K-3rd grade, and quit the flunking. There is a huge amount of research on both these issues.

9. Where are the wrap-around services for children in the early years, and quality preschool programs that are based on sound child developmental research?

10. A safe and healthy environment was mentioned. Many schools in this country, especially in urban and rural areas, do not fit that description. A comprehensive facility assessment of schools, considering up-to-date building codes is warranted. There are many schools across the nation that are old and need repairs and renovations. Special consideration should be taken when it comes to schools that could be dangerous in tornadoes and earthquakes.

11. Disadvantaged children need counselors, social workers and school nurses to help them rise above their conditions, which sometimes can include homelessness, and they need access to good health care and assistance getting it. Every child in this country should have access to medical and dental care!"

This really puts things in perspective. I am passionate about urban education, and because of that I know that we as a nation must address the read hard issues that impact urban districts - poverty, racism, violence, other stressors that impact families, income inequality, hunger, etc. There are no fast solutions to problems such as these that are so deeply engrained in our society, and that includes Teach for America. It is going to take a strong commitment from all parties involved in education to evaluate these issues and work towards making change, which begins with addressing the fundamental issues that plague urban students and schools. 

Every student, no matter their socioeconomic status or zip code, deserves to be in a safe school with proper infrastructure and with a teacher who goes into the profession committed to staying a lifetime with a passion for education. For these reasons and many more, I cannot support Teach for America.

For more information on the campaign and SUPE:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Some More Thoughts on JerseyCAN

On July 9th, 2014, the State Board of Education convened for their monthly meeting. Quick summary - the morning included a presentation by Chief Academic Officer Tracey Severns that can’t be described any other way than simply insane. The level of incompetence at the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) is astounding, and they very clearly have absolutely no understanding of what actually goes on in a classroom. You can see her full powepoint here (though, I must say, you missed an… interesting presentation… I was waiting for Severns to break out in dance with a common core cheerleading flash mob). My faith in humanity, though, was restored during public comment, where person after person after person stood up and spoke about the issues with the way teacher effectiveness reforms are being discussed and implemented. Even better, these people used actual evidence! That stuff exists?! You can also read those here. But for now I want to focus on one public testimony, that of JerseyCAN.

I’ve written about JerseyCAN once before after I heard them speak at an open-topic session on the re-adoption of the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS), including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The testimony both last time and just yesterday were delivered by Executive Director Janellen Duffy. I’m sure after the writing of my last piece and now this one, we will have really cemented our ‘bestest friends forever’ status.

JerseyCAN, the New Jersey Campaign for Achievement Now founded in March of 2013, is “a part of 50CAN: the 50-state Campaign for Achievement Now. [They] are a non-profit organization that launched in March 2013, and [they] advocate for a high-quality education for all New Jersey kids, regardless of their address. JerseyCAN is working to create learning environments that best meet every child’s needs by focusing [their] work on starting earlier, expanding choices, aiming higher, cultivating talent and reaching everyone."

But there is more to this story than just meets the eye. As Leonie Haimson points out on Diane Ravitch’s blog:

“CAN was founded not by hedge-funders but by Jonathan Sackler, heir to a Perdue Phama, makers of the controversial drug Oxycontin. Sackler is a big supporter of charter schools, especially Achievement First. As the NY Times reported, ‘in 2007 Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $600 million in fines and other payments to resolve the charge that the company had misled doctors and patients by claiming that the drug’s [Oxycontin’s] long-acting quality made it less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics. The company’s president, medical director and top lawyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding and paid more than $34 million in fines.’”

“JerseyCAN is a nonprofit education advocacy and research organization. Former Governor Tom Kean serves as the co-chair of our board along with other philanthropic and business leaders.”

Something seems to be missing here… oh yes, teachers. There is no doubt in my mind that JerseyCAN is just another reformy-group with the same ‘our-schools-are-failing-and-our-teachers-suck-and-our-students-don’t-know-how-to-think-at-all-so-we-need-the-common-core-to-save-us’ rhetoric based off of my research on them, but this first statement really says it all. “Other philanthropic and business leaders” - the exact people who are funding the destruction of public education like Bill Gates and Eli Broad. If a group like this were to actually include teachers - the people who are directly impacted by and live these reforms every single day (and of course the students) - it would be harder to sell the claim of failure.

The statement goes on to thank the State Board of Education for their time, blah blah blah, and then we get to the good stuff.

“As you know, for too long, students were allowed to move from grade to grade without developing the analytical skills they needed to master college-level course work and enter the workforce. Higher standards are critically needed so that the students can meet the demands of today’s workforce. Rigorous standards, assessments and a strong teacher evaluation system will ultimately help better prepare students.”

If I were to respond to this statement, I would be using a lot of explicit terms (and trust me, those curse words and flying around my head as I write this). Therefore, I’m going to leave it to one of the experts, John Chase. Chase is a public school teacher and summer youth employment counselor. He is founder and president of the Musicians United For Songs In The Classroom Inc. (M.U.S.I.C.) and creator of Learning from Lyrics art and technology integration curriculum. He is also co-admin of the Facebook page "The Art of Learning."

He wrote an article in June 2014 entitled “Data is Fool’s Gold of the Common Core:”

“Teachers should strive to meet the individual needs of their students, not the “needs” of standards or tests. There should be high academic expectations for all students, but to expect everyone, regardless of ability/disability, to meet those standards simultaneously and in the same way is foolish and inherently unfair.
“Standardized tests are toxic for the Common Core and they are the primary reason for the botched implementation efforts around the country. These tests do not generate comprehensive or reliable data regarding constructivist learning that is called for in the Learning Standards.
“The tests have been coupled with the Standards anyway because states that received Race to the Top incentives to implement the Common Core are required to use standardized assessments to evaluate teacher performance.
“Schools have rushed to ‘unpack’ the standards and hastily rolled out poorly designed scripted curriculum materials primarily to prepare students for the high stakes tests (that supposedly measure their teachers performance) rather than prepare students for learning.
“The Common Core testing regime is more about satisfying data-driven enthusiasts’ ‘thirst’ for more data, than it is about cultivating students’ thirst for knowledge.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented data collection ‘gold rush’, while the validity and reliability of this ‘fool’s gold’ is of little concern to those who are mining it.
“The ‘college and career readiness’ mandate or mission of the Common Core is misguided and not in the best interest of all our students. There are many “paths” to trade and vocational careers, and they don’t all go through college.
“Since the Common Core Standards were designed to serve and support the college and career readiness mandate, they are seriously flawed and deficient.
“A more inclusive and appropriate mandate such as readiness for ‘adulthood and employment’ would better serve the academic, social, and emotional needs of all our students. Rather than simply ‘correcting’ the inadequate Common Core standards, they should be reconstructed and redesigned from the ground up.
“Schooling should be about inspiring all of our students and helping them to discover their unique talents, while supporting them as they pursue their passions.
“This will require more vigor in the classroom which is inherently student-centered, and much less concern about rigor in the classroom which is primarily standards and test-centered.”
It is always about the data. Jersey Jazzman, teacher, doctoral student, and blogger extraordinaire, concluded the following about JerseyCAN:

This is all about using data in a lame attempt to sow seeds of doubt about New Jersey's outstanding public schools - especially the suburban schools that have, so far, rejected the reformy prescriptions of education officials like Cerf and corporate reform supporters like JerseyCAN.”

In June of 2013, it was reported that JerseyCAN released a ‘Top 10 List’ that ranked schools who did the best in serving low-income students, black students, and Latino students, and also those that they believe have done the best job at closing the achievement gap.  
JerseyCAN has a model for enacting “great school policies” in the hopes of “bridge that gap so that every child in the state can have access to a great public school.”
Directly from their website, here is how JerseyCAN describes its three-part model process to enact these great school policies:
“Doing the research. We can’t get our schools where they need to be without knowing where they are now. Through our School & District Report Cards and annual ‘State of New Jersey Public Education’ reports, JerseyCAN provides both a high-level and detailed look at New Jersey public schools and the kids they serve.
*Note: The New Jersey Department of Education released a similar annual “Report Card” on school performance.
“Setting the vision. No one policy will be enough to close New Jersey’s achievement gaps. Instead, we need a holistic, multi-year vision for enacting a set of policies that will revitalize New Jersey’s public schools and give every child the great education they deserve. Our multi-year policy blueprints will provide just that. Reflecting a careful analysis of the current education landscape, our policy blueprints will offer lawmakers a clear and comprehensive roadmap for transforming New Jersey from what it is today—a state in which black fourth-graders trail their white peers by about 3o percentage points in language arts literacy and math —to what it can and should be—a state in which every child, no matter who they are or where they come from, gets the first-class education they need to succeed.
“Convening the leaders. Having the solution doesn’t matter unless there are people to champion it. That’s why JerseyCAN brings together education leaders, policymakers and experts from across the state, rallies them around a common vision for New Jersey public schools and then arms them with the facts they need to turn that vision into a reality.”
These district report cards mentioned earlier, look at data in five categories. When Jersey Jazzman wrote about JerseyCAN in June of 2013, not long after their founding, he included these as being the five categories from which the data was compiled for JerseyCAN’s 2013 school and district report cards:

  • “Student performance (Average percentage of students who are proficient or above across reading and math).
  • Subgroup performance (Average percentage of low-income, black and Latino students who are proficient or above in reading and math).
  • Achievement gap (Average difference between the percentage of low-income and minority students and percentage of non-low-income and white students who are proficient or above in reading and math).
  • Performance Gains (Average one-year change among a cohort of students who are proficient in reading and math).
  • Four-year cohort high school graduation rates.”
Jazzman continues with a flawless analysis of what this all actually means. He writes:
“And on what research basis have you decided that all of these metrics should be equally weighted when determining a school's rank? Where is the rationale that 'Student performance’ is equally as important as ‘Performance Gains’?
“Actually, I should admit that I'm assuming JerseyCAN weighted everything equally [in regards to the calculation of their ‘Top 10 List’ ranking schools]; I wouldn't know, because they don't tell us how they weight the categories in their methodology. In fact, the documentation is so light I challenge anyone to look at it and replicate their findings, a basic test of research validity. But, even then, the metrics used here are severely flawed:
  • Proficiency rates are weak metrics; they are not the same as actual test scores, and can be quite different from other test-based metrics.
  • “Averaging sub-group performance is a ridiculous no-no. By doing so, JerseyCAN is essentially equating students who are black, Hispanic, or qualify for free/reduced price lunch. That's absurd on its face.  (by the way, folks: NJDOE uses the term ‘Hispanic,’ not ‘Latino.’)
  • “It's impossible to judge the ‘achievement gap’ of a school that is socio-economicially or ethnically homogeneous. New Jersey is a highly-segregated state; how can JerseyCAN assign a score for the ‘gap’ to a district that has, for example, no black students? (I probably shouldn't be so hard on JerseyCAN for this - after all, the NJDOE does essentially the same thing.)
  • “JerseyCAN tries to make up for this by apparently excluding schools that don't have a certain percentage of students in a particular subgroup. I say ‘appears’ because, again, there's no documentation on the criteria they use for doing this.
  • “The ‘performance gains’ description is written so poorly I can't say for sure what it is; I think it refers to proficiency rates.”
I will conclude this piece the same way I did my last piece on JerseyCAN: Just because a group has a nice-sounding name like the “Campaign for Achievement Now” and an inspirational slogan like “great schools change everything,” never take these things just as they are. Never hesitate to jump in and do research – even just looking around websites and seeing who funds groups like these and who sits on their boards – to become increasingly more educated and informed. Many times groups that claim the public is ‘misinformed’ are misinformed themselves. And many times, they aren’t even misinformed – they just completely ignore evidence and statistics that counter their arguments. Always listen to both sides of an argument, look closely at data, and make conclusions from there.
I’ve got my eye even closer on JerseyCAN, and you should too.