What Christie’s Education Reform Leaves Behind


For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage – NYTimes.com.

The article above describes the socio-economic reality that Christie’s education reform is by-passing as if it did not exist. The main consequence of this error of the governor will be the loss of several years and tens of thousands of additional children in New Jersey who will enter adulthood at a functional disadvantage in knowledge.

The only purpose of schooling is to impart knowledge. Knowledge is quantifiable although there are no units to measure it. Given equal quality in teaching, and attention and intelligence among the students, the “volume” of knowledge imparted is directly proportional to the time consumed in class, up to a ceiling when the learning curve reaches its inflection point – due to mental fatigue. But additional schooling time  can also make up for any deficit in the conditions mentioned above. In other words, even if the rate of learning of a group is slower, as we increase the class time, the total cumulative knowledge acquired matches that of a group with a faster learning rate and a shorter class period.

Just recently the governor and some others in the administration have adopted this concept of the longer class. But they are applying it in a form that looks more like class detention – a perception which will diminish the advantages of the extra time considerably. A longer class should never be equated with punishment but should be the goal for all of New Jersey although should be applied in urban settings first to give those students the opportunity to catch up with the suburbs.

On the other hand, the more emphasis we place in measuring how much or how effectively we teach, the less time we actually teach. The Christie’s education reform is like a swimmer who stops every few yards to gauge how much further he must go. The result of the current fury about NCLB will be a generation of teachers who teach focusing on standardized tests.

It is my intent, if elected governor of New Jersey, to de-emphasize teacher testing and tenure reform and focus on extending class time to reach a total of 220 school days per year, beginning with the urban areas. How we get to 220 days is negotiable but I am convinced that 220 is a goal line we must reach. Furthermore, we must establish a certain level where we screen those students with the most aptitude for a college education and those who would better excel in trade schools and apprenticeships.

But we must be aware of the following: Quality of life outside the school affects the learning ability in the school. Parent involvement is also vital. If the parent does not care about education or is exhausted from two jobs, the student faces an uphill trek.

We have certain socio-economic realities that we must not ignore. Among mothers of all ages, a majority are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a sign of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change – and possibly conflict. Minorities lead the way in this trend but whites are catching up. As a norm, the higher the education of the mothers, the more likely that they will be married and in more stable economic settings. Children born to married couples, on average, experience better education, social, cognitive and behavioral outcomes.

This is not a picture very different from Europe’s. We however differ from Europe (notably from western and northern Europe) in the degree of support that society lends to families led by single mothers. And we above all differ in the degree of support and respect that teachers command. While teachers in Norway (I know one who is my friend) are venerated, here the governor has dragged them through the mud.

My Norwegian friend, in return, adores her students. Incidentally, they are special education students. She is also a single mother herself.

New Jersey has just recently been unshackled from the rigid No Child Left Behind lunacy. Let’s hope that this administration makes good use of the regained freedom of action. However, what I see coming out from Trenton is not encouraging. In the most plain English I can find: There are folk out there, involved in the education process in New Jersey, who do not give a damn about inner city children but intend to line their pockets with public education money.

Advertisements