The responses of the New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner (AEC) in this interview with the Associated Press (AP) show the gap between policy and the reality it pretends to be attempting to correct: The only common denominators for all the failing school districts are predominant races and income. Likewise, the common denominators in the best districts are again predominant races and income. There is a correlation between income and school district success. The relationship is almost linear in the case of income.
However, the AEC squarely places the blame on the educators and omits the common denominators.
Can all the teachers in the failing school districts be below average and all the teachers in the successful school districts above average? Is that distribution of quality and professionalism logical? Certainly not. But the most notable dexterity shown by the Christie administration has not been in correcting problems but in tailoring data and argument to fit a preconceived ideological position.
Now, with all the tremendous injustice that such a distortion commits against the teaching profession at large, still the main problem for New Jersey is that such distortion takes us away from truly addressing and solving the real problems.
The AEC mentions Camden and Bergenfield in his responses. If we take the teaching staffs of the two cities and swap them, does anybody seriously believe that the scholastic results will reverse themselves as well? Would Bergenfield become a failing district and Camden a model in scholastic achievement? If teacher quality were the predominant factor – as Christie/Cerf argue – the answer to the latter question would be yes on both counts.
Does the AEC believe that? Does governor Christie believe that? Of course not; not for a moment. The entire approach of this administration to education reform, tenure, and merit pay is simply false. And it is damaging too. There are no other ways to label it.