Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Churn in New Jersey: Education Commissioner Chris Cerf Leaves to Flog Software

After spending three years doing his level best to destroy public education in New Jersey, Christopher Cerf, Chris Christie's handpicked Education Commissioner, is leaving to take a job flogging software to public schools as the CEO of Amplify Insight, a division of Amplify, Inc. He'll be working for his old boss, former New York City Schools Chancellor and fellow reformer Joel Klein. One thing you must admire about education reformers, they not only say they believe in "churn", they live it. Cerf has churned himself into a highly paid CEO position where he can make lots of money selling software to support his vision of churning over the public schools to privatizers who are promoting online learning as "individualized."

Cerf is a graduate of that reformer breeding ground, the Broad Urban Superintendent's Academy and like every other graduate of that "school" Cerf is in it "for the kids." Does this quote sound familiar? "As Commissioner of Education in New Jersey, I represent only one constituency – our students.  Too often in education reform, we focus on adult interests at the expense of children’s interests." In a video on Big Think, Cerf also says that he thinks consensus and collaboration are the enemy of progress. He's not interested in collaboration, of course, because he is in it for the kids. Let's take a look at what Chris Cerf has done for the kids of New Jersey.
  • Along with 45 other state education leaders, accepted federal Race to the Top bribes to implement the untested Common Core State Standards, PARCC testing and teacher accountability based on test scores.
  • Turned the public schools of Newark over to a crony from New York, Cami Anderson, with limited educational experience and an apparent disdain for the wants, needs and desires of children and parents in Newark.
  • Turned the public schools in Camden over to another New York crony, a 32 year-old Wall Street financial analyst, who oversaw the unpopular charter school co-locations in New York City, before working with Cami Anderson in Newark on the unpopular One Newark Plan. Camden parents should get ready for the One Camden plan soon.
  • Accepted a Broad Foundation grant for the public schools of Newark contingent on the re-election of Christie and the increase in charter schools in that community.
  • Showed he cared about kids by making sure they are subject to more standardized tests, including new tests for 2015 for which the students have not been prepared.
  • Pushed through a teacher evaluation plan unsupported by research and wildly unpopular with the teachers who will be the targets of the plan and the administrators who will use it.
  • Continued a policy of zero growth in the budget for administration of schools despite the call for more and more teacher observations in the new accountability design. 
  • Attacked teacher job security through attacks on due process.
  • Destroyed teacher morale in a state that is among the highest achieving in the nation.
  • Pushed a failed reform agenda of charter schools and vouchers, while ignoring the very real problems of poverty and segregation plaguing urban public schools in New Jersey.
Chris Cerf was in it for the kids for his 3 years in New Jersey. Apparently the teachers of New Jersey, who have made a career commitment to work with the children of New Jersey.were not sufficiently "in it for the kids." They needed to be chastised in the press, victimized by a clearly flawed evaluation system, and marginalized by an administration who did not want to collaborate with those on the front lines of public education. 

So Commissioner Cerf, best of luck to you as you go to your new job as the CEO of a company selling software "for the kids." The teachers, parents and students of New Jersey will stay right here trying to make the best of the mess you've made. Don't let your golden parachute land on the New Jersey Turnpike.