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7-8-15 In the News- State Board of Education Meets Today - Agenda...Charter Schools Op-Ed

NJ Spotlight - Unusual Mystery And Drama Mark Meeting Today Of State Board Of Education…Contrary to panel’s typical unanimity, outcome uncertain for vote on appointing Chris Cerf as Newark's new schools superintendent

The State Board of Education is nothing if not predictable, its rulemaking process deliberate to a fault and its unanimous votes common.

John Mooney | July 8, 2015

So, the mystery and guessing-game going into the board’s meeting today is pretty unusual -- but then again, so are the times in the world of New Jersey education,

The board is slated to vote on whether to appoint former state education commissioner Chris Cerf to replace outgoing Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson in the state-run district.

To say the least, the drama around the switch has been nearly unprecedented, given the personalities involved and the timing of the announcement by Gov. Chris Christie in the days leading up to the launch of his presidential campaign.

In the announcement, Christie said the appointment would be the first step toward returning local control to the school district after more than 20 years.

It’s hard to predict the outcome of the vote today, although the odds are on Cerf’s side. He has a history with the state board, and a majority of the 11 members were appointed by Christie.

But the fact there is even any doubt about the vote is unusual, given that any dissent within the board – whether it’s over a policy or an appointee -- is usually addressed behind closed doors.

There has clearly been some pushback in reaction to the move, including outright protests like one held yesterday in front of Newark City Hall that drew about 100 people, including Mayor Ras Baraka, a key player in the agreement to remove Anderson who is more lukewarm about Cerf’s ascension.

Baraka never mentioned Cerf’s name yesterday but said the end-game is about the state returning local control as soon as possible, a process he and others have said will likely take at least a year or two.

“We have an opportunity, and we should seize it,” Baraka said. “Whatever your concerns are, you should voice them, but the reality is we are marching and fighting for local control.”

“We want to decide ourselves who the superintendent is,” he said. “We want to decide for ourselves how the school board looks, we want to decide ourselves what happens with education in the city of Newark. We want self-determination, and we want it now.”

Contacted late yesterday, state board President Mark Biedron would not divulge his intentions or any head counts up to now, but he said the board continues to talk to a number of players in and outside Newark.

“I have been getting every perspective I can possibly get my hands on,” he said in an interview.

“All the legislative members, all my board members, community members and Cerf himself,” Biedron said. “I spent several hours on the phone with him. We are not just sitting here voting yes or no, we are doing our due diligence.”




One expected “no” vote may come from the board’s longest-running member, Ronald Butcher, who has raised questions from the start. He said yesterday that he is “not 100 percent” decided on how he will vote, and that he still has questions and concerns.

“When people say Cerf is the best man for the job, he may be, but we’ve only looked at one person,” Butcher said.

“And our whole goal is doing what is the best thing for the kids,” he said. “I know everyone talks about local control, and that’s an admirable thing, but our whole goal has to be around educating those kids.”

Others off the state board said there have been a number of phone calls and emails with board members over the last few days to express opinions, be they concerns or support.

Among them was Ariagna Perello, chair of the Newark school board that could ultimately be in charge. Attending the rally yesterday, she said her conversations with state board members were a chance for her to express her own board’s vote for a different superintendent than Cerf and also the end of the controversial One Newark reorganization plan.

“They listened, but we’ll see,” she said. “In the end, it is political.”


Star Ledger - Newark superintendent, Common Core focus of N.J. Board of Education meeting

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 08, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated July 08, 2015 at 7:08 AM

TRENTON — Two of the most controversial issues in New Jersey education will be addressed Wednesday afternoon: the next superintendent of Newark Public Schools and the Common Core standards.

Both topics will be addressed by the state Board of Education on Wednesday with the board voting on the nomination of Chris Cerf as Newark schools chief and hearing a presentation on the state's plans for its education standards. 

Cerf, the former state education commissioner, was recommended by his successor David Hespe to replace Cami Anderson as Newark's school chief. The leadership change was announced the same week as an agreement between Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to eventually return local control of the district to the city school board. 

But Cerf's nomination has been met with opposition in Newark from residents who feel his views are too closely aligned with Anderson's, and state Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) called Tuesday for the board to reject Cerf's nomination. 

The Newark school advisory board has recommended its own candidate, current Assistant Superintendent Roger Leon. So far, the state board has discussed only Cerf's nomination, president Mark Biedron said. 

'The question before the board is simple," Biedron said. "A 'yes' or 'no' vote, right now." 

Prior to the vote on Cerf, the board will hear a presentation on how the state will respond to Christie's edict that Common Core is "simply not working" in New Jersey. Christie ordered a point-by-point review of the standards, which outline what skills students should master in each grade level. 

Assistant Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington is expected to explain that review process in a presentation on Wednesday, Biedron said. Hespe said in June that the process will be "highly inclusive" as the state works closely with education groups. 

Biedron said Monday that he has no idea what Harrington will say. 

"I certainly have deep interest in this and have a list of questions," he said. 

The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, has not yet been consulted about the state's plan, spokesman Steve Baker said. 

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.


NJ Spotlight - OP-ED: CHARTER MORATORIUM BILL IS ENDORSEMENT OF NJEA'S DEATH GRIP ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS…Charter school students’ success is a direct threat to lucrative franchise NJEA holds on a public education system that has failed generations of NJ children

Dale Caldwell | JULY 8, 2015

State Sen. Shirley Turner recently introduced legislation seeking a moratorium on expanding enrollment for New Jersey’s charter public schools. This legislation will rob educational opportunity from thousands of New Jersey’s children already in charter schools, and deny more than 20,000 children on waiting lists the opportunity to attend a charter public school. Turner’s bill (S-2887/A-4351) intends to incarcerate thousands of students in the generationally failing local public schools that they are trying to escape. We cannot allow this bill to become law -- and I will tell you why.

As a New Brunswick Board of Education member since 1998 and as the head of school at the Village Charter School in Trenton since 2013, I know more than most people about traditional public education and charter public education, and I have seen a large district transform over time. In a few short years, the New Brunswick school district has grown from 7,000 students to nearly 10,000 students. Would it have made sense for the Legislature to prevent New Brunswick from expanding? Of course not, because it would have denied parents the right to send their children to the public school of their choice. So, the logic must apply to charter public schools, where it is just as ridiculous to prevent charter schools from expanding and allowing parents to choose a free public education option for their children. Any bill preventing parents from choosing how to educate their child is anti-parent and anti-democratic.

Why would Turner, vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, introduce such legislation? The bill is nothing more than an attempt to limit parent choice in communities of need and stunt the educational achievement of our state’s charter public school students. Achievement that is very real and measurable. Charter school students’ success is a direct threat to the lucrative franchise the NJEA holds on a public education system that has failed generations of New Jersey children, especially in some of our state’s most challenged communities, including Trenton, Newark, and Camden. And this is where we need to address the miseducation of our lawmakers.

Turner commented on S-2887 in a recent Trentonian article, saying, “We need to stop and study this issue before we continue opening up charter schools. From our experience here in Trenton, they haven’t been that successful. They claim that they can increase the students’ scores and do the job of educating our students for less money, but that has not been the case.”

Wrong, senator. The five charter schools in the Trenton area (Sen. Turner’s home district) outperformed the district schools as measured by both the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) standardized tests. HSPA math scores were 30 percent higher, and language-arts literacy (LAL) scores were 25 percent higher for charter school students vs. their peers in the district public schools. NJASK scores show that charter school students outperformed district public school students by 24 percent points in math and 19 percent in LAL. With such progress, it is difficult to understand -- even when pressed by the NJEA -- why anyone would stop the success of children?

It has to do as much with politics as with the public’s degree of disappointment with New Jersey’s public schools in urban communities. While costs continue to rise, student achievement, particularly in our urban communities, stagnates. Before we inject more politics into the public-education sector, we must examine proven methods of education so they can be replicated and elevate the level of education for every NJ student -- charter, public, or otherwise. The charter school students of New Jersey cannot wait for access to quality schools, access to equitable funding, or access to safe facilities. Currently, New Jersey’s law intends 90 percent per-pupil funding for charter students, compared with traditional district students. But the reality is that number is closer to 69 percent due to politicking and the funding formula.

Legislative restrictions and politically motivated attacks notwithstanding, charter-school students are achieving. Charter public schools are producing graduation rates far outpacing their traditional public-school counterparts. The NJEA and their champions in the Legislature cannot allow the one sector of the public education system that is showing achievement, promise, and hope for students and families to flourish if it cannot be controlled by them, so they exert political pressure to stifle the success of charter public schools. A-4351/S-2887 are perfect examples of that is wrong with government. Legislators need to be called on it, and we must push for change that benefits New Jersey’s children.

Dale Caldwell is the head of school of the Village Charter School in Trenton and had been a member of the New Brunswick Board of Education since 1998. He has been president of the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission since 2001. In 2009, he was named New Jersey School Board Association (NJSBA) school board member of the year; this year, he was named New Jersey Charter School Association (NJCSA) administrator of the year.