While Atlanta’s cheating scandal is revealing itself to be a witch’s cauldron of conspiracy, New Jersey’s slowly is gaining heat. Writes Bob Ingle, senior political columnist for the New Jersey Press Media:
They’ve been keeping track of test answer erasures in Jersey, too. But New Jersey Press Media Group had to sue Gov. Chris Christie’s education department to get the results. Reporter Jean Mikle reported it was not clear the state had done anything since 2008, where a high percentage of answers was changed from wrong to right.
In 54 New Jersey schools, when results from all grades were combined, the wrong answers were erased at a rate significantly higher than the 2010 state average. Interestingly, students in higher-income districts were more likely to change answers from wrong to right.
This alone does not mean widespread cheating. But acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf lost credibility when he made my newspaper colleagues sue to get information collected at taxpayer expense. Adding insult to it, Cerf waited until the last minute to release it under court order. He’s too stupid to be education commissioner if he thought that would prevent media exposure.
The Christie administration promised to be transparent. Cerf’s action casts doubt on that.
So why the stonewall?
Only Cerf knows, but he has a pattern of being evasive.
When he was hired as NYC Deputy chancellor in 2007, he misled reporters on Edison Schools, Inc., the for-profit education company he once headed. The Newark Star-Ledger also reports that Cerf has been attempting to downplay his role in the consulting firm he founded that recommended the worst performing Newark schools be replaced with charter schools. Start-up cash for Cerf’s firm came from the Broad Foundation, of which he is an alum.
Now New Jersey’s top educator, Cerf has signed on with Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Interestingly, Bush’s relatively small group advocated in opposition the National School Board Association’s call for blanket waivers against NCLB to keep their schools from being labeled as failing. Bush has one distinguishing belief: high-stakes test and its data. Obviously too, must Cerf.
Cerf’s bio on the Chiefs for Change website makes no mention of his association with the Broad Foundation nor of his association with Edison Schools. But it does mention the company he founded to recommend that some Newark schools be given over to charters. This company, Sangari Global Education, at one time listed Cerf’s brother, Randy, as it’s CFO. This apparently was news to Randy Cerf as he told this to PolitickerNJ.com in February:
“Until I got your email, I had never heard of Global Ed Advisors nor have I been their CFO at any time,” said Randy Cerf of Seattle in an email. “Nor do I have nor have I had any business relationship with my brother while he has served as acting education commissioner.”
So now we move forward to Cerf’s attempt to hide – or at the very least delay – review of test data by the media. While Cerf’s recent actions will come as no surprise to New Yorkers, one still has to wonder why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would want to align themselves with Cerf. Why also would Cerf feel the need or feel justified into keep the truth about his state’s potential cheating scandal from the public?