Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fools Folly Of College And Career Readiness

Last night I had the incredible honor or watching my brother get inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame at our alma mater. We both attended Hopewell Valley Central High School, I graduated in 86, he in 87.  My readers know what I do, but most likely don't know that my brother is a celebrated chef in Los Angeles. He is the Chef/Owner of two restaurants; Providence, which was just named by Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold as the Best Restaurant in Los Angeles, and Connie & Ted's, named after our maternal grandparents and one of the "hottest new spots in town."

As my brother pointed out in his speech last night, he was not a stellar high school student.  (Neither was I.) Family legend is that he got a 16 one quarter in Algebra. Or as he put it, his GPA would have made a better ERA.

Michael and I attended a top notch high school, had dynamic teachers and expansive course offerings. We simply were not engaged enough in our education to take advantage of them. Neither of us applied ourselves in high school, and didn't make the most of the incredible opportunities presented to us. 

Our mom was very active in our schools; the PTA President and Booster Club kind of mom.  In fact, when we first moved to Hopewell and attended the local elementary school parents complained that the playground was insufficient. My mom single handedly rallied parents, raised money and organized construction of a new one. One year in high school there were more pictures of HER in my yearbook than there were of ME. She never missed a sporting event for either one of us. She was that kind of mom.

She was amazing, and a force to be reckoned with. But she only had a high school diploma, and simply did not know how to help us make our school work a priority. Conversely, our father has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, but worked 12 hours a day and spent the majority of the rest of his time in his study as he steadily climbed the corporate ladder at a pharmaceutical company, eventually retiring as the Senior Vice President of Research and Development. 

But by the time we were in high school our parents were divorced, we lived with our mom, and there was no focus on academics in our home. School remained a place where we were both connected through athletics, activities and friends, but we failed to thrive academically. 

If we had been subjected to the rigorous high stakes standardized tests now inflicted upon students, I can only imagine how turned off we would have become. And if rich athletic programs had not been available, I wonder what would have kept us motivated at all.

There is no way standardized tests would have predicted either my brother or I were capable of future success in college or career.

But look at what we have accomplished. 

My brother runs not one but two multi-million dollars restaurants, has cooked for four
With his chefs after defeating Morimoto on Iron Chef
presidents and a pope, and perhaps most impressively, he defeated Iron Chef Morimoto in an epic Black Fish Battle. He has become a nationally acclaimed master of his craft, as well as a devoted champion of sustainable fishing practices. 

I helped rally my entire community to defeat an unwanted charter school that had been rubber stamped by the USDOE, and my epic battle was featured in the New York Times. I am running for my local school board, and look forward to working hard to continue to protect public education not only in my community, but my state as well. Diane Ravitch has named me to her honor roll, calling me a "hero of public education."

Not too shabby.

Michael has graciously agreed to allow me to publish his speech.  I think it demonstrates that while some kids may not be advanced proficient or maybe even proficient on a standardized test, and may not even thrive in the classroom, we should never, ever count them out. Public education is an invaluable structure and support, especially for the kids who have not yet found their passion, and there is no telling what any one of those students is capable of achieving.

Just because a kid can't pass a test or get good grades in school does not mean they will not be a success in life.

There simply is no way a standardized test can measure which kids will be a success in college or career because the will, drive and desire to be successful can only come when someone finds their true passion. Michael found it in his 20's, I didn't find it until my 40's.  

And that's OK. In fact, it's pretty damn great.

Without further ado, here's Michael's speech.
First, I would like to thank Principal Daher for bestowing this honor upon me. When my wife of 18 years, Cristina Echiverri first forwarded an email informing me that I had been chosen for this distinction, I have to admit, I thought it was a joke. Clearly, somewhere along the line, the administration had lost my high school transcripts. After a few emails back and forth it became clear that the administration wasn't joking. So now that I'm  here, 26 years after graduation, what should I tell you that might be of use? Perhaps we should start here in the halls of HoVal. 
I've already made it clear that I was not what one might call a model student.  My GPA would have made a great ERA, but alas, we're not talking about baseball.  There were subjects taught here at HoVal that interested me, like English and History, there were teachers, like Jim Byrnes who knew how to inspire me, but to be frank, I just didn't apply myself. The benefit of hindsight has made me realize that this was a mistake. I'm sure that there are some of you listening to me right now, who are bored with school, you're smart enough to be successful, but utterly disinterested. I would like to say to you that your best course of action is to stay engaged, stay involved and don't let these years pass without giving high school your best effort. 
Michael delivers commencement address at the
Culinary Institute of America in 2011
I graduated in 1987 without much of a plan. I had always liked eating and grew up a fan of Julia Child and so I thought I would give professional cooking a go. Through my aunt I was able to set up an apprenticeship at a French bakery in Bethesda, Maryland. From there I moved back to Hopewell and was lucky enough to land a job at the Forager House in New Hope, Pennsylvania, just across the river from Titusville. It was one of the best restaurants in the area, and one that I had been to several times growing up. Once, at the age of 11 or 12 I was brought back into the cramped kitchen of the Forager House to meet the Chef, Richard Burrows. It seems I had impressed the Maitre d with my knowledged of French food, all learned watching Julia Child on PBS. Little did I know that years later I would find a mentor in Chef Barrows in that very same kitchen. Cooking in professional kitchens turned out to be the perfect fit for a young person like myself. The first few years of my career were some of the most exciting years of my life. I learned something every day, a new technique, a new skill, a new recipe. I thrived on the excitement of cooking in professional kitchens. I learned about the history of fine cuisine. I learned about language and culture, the history of ingredients, great chefs and great nations. I found that to learn about the Cuisine of Italy or France or Japan is to learn something of their culture, their language, their people and their history. It was all learning all the time. I loved it then and I still do. I continue to learn something new every day and I am so thankful to have found and fell in love with the Craft that is Cooking. The most important things that I've learned are the things I've learned about myself. I learned that that I did have the ability to be a good student and that I have abilities that didn't reveal themselves while in high school. 
The recipe for success in school and success in the professional world share many similar ingredients such as hard work, dedication, perseverance and planning. My shortcomings in high school fell away as I entered professional kitchens and later as a student at the Culinary Institute of America. I became the type of student I should and could have been all along. The difference was me, I decided that school was important to me, worthy of my full effort and key to my future. Once I made my culinary education a priority my life and my career came into focus. Since graduating from school I have cooked in new York, Paris, Seoul and Japan, I have cooked for 4 presidents and Pope John Paul the 2nd. My wife Cristina and I have opened 2 successful restaurants in LA, where we employ over 200 people and we've had two beautiful children, Isabella and Dante. I can tell you without reservation, none of this would have been possible were it not for education. The education I speak of I received, for the most part, on the job in fine kitchens under the tutelage of great chefs. Education is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as follows: the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially by a school or university  If there is one message that I can get across to you today it would be this; Life is an education, every hour of every day you are surrounded by knowledge. Don't squander opportunities to learn and make the most of the opportunities presented to you here at Hopewell Valley Central High School. (all emphases mine)
One of the highlights of the evening for me was that Michael was introduced by my mentor, my high school art teacher, Dr. Robert O'Boyle. Without a word of a lie, were it not for Dr. O'Boyle (back then he was just Mr. O'Boyle) I would not have gone to college right out of high school. Like Michael, I was heading toward graduation with no real plan. Dr. O'Boyle and my mom practically tackled me and made me fill out an application to art school. I filled out one application, and one application only, and much to my surprise I was accepted. 

Once I was accepted I think I just figured I might as well go...

Talking with Dr. O'Boyle last night was incredibly moving. He remains one of my biggest supporters and believers in my talent, which is touching beyond words. He came bearing a gift for me of a drawing pad and art supplies, intended to remind me of my talent and to continue to nurture it. 

He told us that in one of his classes yesterday, after the assembly where Michael delivered his speech, one of his students remarked that hearing Michael's story made him realize that maybe there were more possibilities open to him than he had realized.

And to me, that's the crux. 

This cockamamie idea that state Departments of Education can assess college and career readiness in kids as young as Kindergarten is, in my opinion, reckless and destructive. To tell a student they are not college or career ready at ANY point in their academic life is simply wrong. You never know when someone will begin to make that journey, and no one should be penalized for not doing it soon enough to please the a bureaucrat in Trenton. 

Life is full of twists and turns. It is the role of schools and educators to be a constant source of knowledge, wonder and encouragement, like Dr. O'Boyle. A constant force for good, creating lifelong learners, pushing students to push themselves and be their best.

But ultimately the drive has to come from within, and it simply can not be assessed or measured.

To believe it can be is the folly of fools.


  1. I went into teaching because I wanted my students to know that they are more than what schools tell them they are. There wasn't a vocational program for me. There wasn't anything to help me with my family issues except for a great guidance counselor. I wasn't engaged in school or "scholarly" success because I was worried about where I was going to sleep, eat, and if my parents would be calling the police again. NO ONE is ready for career at graduation and FEW are ready even for college. It is time to stop this hysterical "house on fire" mythology and give education back to the educators. Politicians have now properly destroyed it.

  2. As for you and your brother, BRAVO! Sometimes the lessons we learn take a little while to manifest. Personally, 18 is too young, and 30 may be too old, but in those 12 years a lot happens to get you there! Congratulations to the both of you!

  3. I am a School Counselor in NJ. I am glad that you are speaking out against the CCCS. We should focus our efforts on having students become self aware and to build on their unique mission talent and destiny. The corporate driven credo of CCCS is reductionist . Cuts to the arts and music programs have stymied student expression and growth. Students should not be data points for the zero sum game of education reform. Our students should be valued by many metrics, not just test scores and college degrees.. If we can help our students to find themselves we can allow them to find success.

  4. Dream bigger!
    Even though you experienced - firsthand - the inherent flaws of the established system, you aggressively fight anyone who challenges the 100 year old traditional model of public education! Even as your hero Julia Rubin's kid attended a charter school! In suburban Princeton! Hmmm. Go figure.

    I throw down the proverbial gauntlet:
    Start CREATING. Create your vision of what a highly effective school should look like and how it should function. Should subjects be compartmentalized into 45 minute blocks? Should children who are naturally curious and social be forced to conform to the norm? Should the majority of time in school is spent sitting quietly in a straight row regurgitating boring and outdated textbooks? Have you considered what might have happened if your PTA mom and a PhD father had been encouraged to open a school? Or possibly, what would a school run by Michael look like?

    NOT MUCH has changed since you attended school, it is basically still the same model. Even though you attended a top notch high school, had dynamic teachers and expansive course offerings, you say "We simply were not engaged enough in our education to take advantage of them." Do you think kids are any more "engaged" in education now? Hint - they're not. What has changed since you went to school? Is a teacher still lecturing to groups of children lined up in straight rows, SHHH! No talking!

    You say our traditional schools are "A constant force for good, creating lifelong learners, pushing students to push themselves and be their best." But was that true for you? Sounds like you are very lucky that your only application to art school was accepted!

    You say "ultimately the drive has to come from within, and it simply can not be assessed or measured." Then I suppose we should do away with grades and report cards since assessments are not valid.

    You can cheer for the establishment, but you and I both know schools do not adequately fulfill the promise they make to the American student and taxpayer.

    1. Julia Rubin is my hero? How presumptuous are you? How did you come to this conclusion?

      You completely misread and misinterpreted my entire post. My brother and I were not engaged because of our own personal issues, not because of issues with the school.

      And no, we shouldn't do away with teacher created assessments and reports. We should do away with the over reliance on high stakes, state driven standardized assessments and reports.

      And yes, it was true for me. Many teachers in my school went out of their way to reach out to me to keep me engaged, and I will never forget them and their kindness. You seem to have misresd the part where I said it was my art teacher who helped me with that application. He also allowed me to take independent studies with him, which helped me stay interested in school when I was completely disinterested in academics.

      Seriously, your response is presumptuous, off-base and offensive.

      I will continue to work to ensure that ALL children have access to the best public education possible, not just those lucky enough to win a lottery. I will not advocate for the continued creation of separate and unequal education systems.

      What I hope to help CREATE is a space where ALL children have access to the educational opportunities they need. While my brother and I did not make the most of what was offered to us, we none the less received an education more than sufficient to be successful in life. THAT was my point, which you totally missed.

      I tried to show that just because a kid may not LOOK successful in high school, does not mean they will not BE successful.

    2. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

      "What I hope to help CREATE is a space where ALL children have access to the educational opportunities they need."

      Access? You had access, but did not manage to maximize your academic potential. The world is a much different place than when you attended school, but the schools have not fundamentally changed. Children now have more "issues" than ever before.

      You may blame yourself (the student) for not being engaged in the academic experience, but I will advocate for you- the student - and say the system failed to engage the student! Yes, I blame the adults, not the children. It is our job to engage them!! Not the other way around.

      Perhaps you have good intentions. While you keep trying to discredit and destroy anything that is not a traditional public school, others - like parents, guidance counselors, teachers and even ministers - will create the change that is long overdue. Like not limiting children's education to their geographic zip code and allowing parents the chance to choose the appropriate educational model that best suits their child! Running for school board will only entrench you further in the dysfunction that fails to provide a thorough and efficient education to a significant percentage of the school population.

      Just for fun, imagine YOUR perfect school - Picture it! Your vision of a perfect school!! Does it include a teacher lecturing to groups of children lined up in straight rows, textbooks and xerox handouts?

      Would your brother's perfect school environment still have 45 minute classes of individual subjects? Or would there be a different way, a way that actually engages the learner?

      Can you picture a school where parents are not just room moms?

      What would your building look like?

      How would your teachers interact?

      Would you provide an arts based education? Now try writing a mission statement. So how about: "What I hope to help create is a space where all children are ACTIVELY ENGAGED in educational opportunities that are RELEVANT to their needs "

      Write down YOUR vision of a perfect school. Seriously, what would you have changed in your school experience to engage the learner?

      Now ask yourself this:
      Is this vision even possible in the established system?

      PS This is a rhetorical question, we already know the answer.

    3. I don't "blame" myself, I'm honest with myself. I was the issue.

      Please, feel free to continue your monologue, but we have a difference of opinion regarding choice. Please stop trying to use my own personal experience to make your points. It's a little embarrassing for you because you are so far off the mark.

      I was not reachable as a teenager. I responded well to my art teacher who did give me the support and encouragement I was able to accept at the time, and he remains a caring supportive influence for children.

      A "school of choice" would not have made a difference for me or my brother.

      But nice try. Sounds like YOU are just itching to create a school. Have fun with that. The state is now really only interested in no excuses testing factories, and operators with "demonstrable experience."

      But enjoy your fantasy where parents create their dream school. That is not the reality the rest of us live in.

      Have a great day.

    4. "enjoy your fantasy where parents create their dream school. That is not the reality the rest of us live in"? REALLY? Try Princeton Charter School. Save Our School's Julia Sass Rubin might know something about parents choosing a school, since she sent her daughter to a suburban (gasp!) charter school - founded by parents. Here is their history:

      Following the passage of the Charter School Program Act of 1995, A GROUP OF PRINCETON PARENTS (emphasis mine) explored the merits of opening a charter school in Princeton. After formulating their vision of a public school with high academic standards, the group actively sought out other parents and community members with similar goals. Lengthy discussions and hard work led to the creation of a charter, a document detailing the educational philosophy, curriculum and budget for the school. In September, 1997, the vision became a reality when the first 72 students began to attend classes. The school has thrived and grown from that first group of students to approximately 340 students in grades K-8. The school facilities have expanded to include two separate classroom buildings, one for grades K-4 and one for grades 5-8, and the recently opened Campus Center building. The Campus Center is used by all grade levels and includes a state of the art gymnasium, “black-box” theater and classrooms devoted exclusively to the instruction of art and music.

      In 2011, the school charter was renewed by the New Jersey Department of Education for another five-year term.

      The mission of Princeton Charter School is to provide its diverse student body the best possible education by focusing on the fundamental academic disciplines in an atmosphere that affirms academic achievement and, in so doing, to offer the community true choice in public education. Princeton Charter School believes that a “thorough and efficient” education is best accomplished through a rigorous curriculum that requires mastery of core knowledge and skills.

      Maybe it was not your fault after all. What if your parents saw your gift for the arts and recognized it as valuable Lets say you could choose a school that had a strong arts based curriculum. If you could have chosen an arts based education, perhaps you would have been more engaged? Maybe you would have THRIVED and not just gotten through high school.

      Hopewell Valley has the second highest DFG, so you were not a child living in poverty. Do you think it's ok to blame them if they are not engaged? I'm guessing you don't blame the children.

      I again challenge you to imagine and tell us about your perfect school.
      See it, dive deep into this vision and tell us about it. Then ask yourself honestly - is it even possible in the current system?

  5. MCru, you DID take standardized tests as a student:
    In 1975, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Public School Education Act (PSEA) "to provide to all children of New Jersey, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, the educational opportunity which will prepare them to function politically, economically and socially in a democratic society." One year later, the PSEA was amended to establish uniform standards of minimum achievement in basic communication and computational skills. This amendment also included the legal basis for the use of a test as a graduation requirement. From 1978 through 1982, third-, sixth- and ninth-grade students participated in the Minimum Basic Skills (MBS) testing program for reading and mathematics.

    Beginning in 1981-82, ninth-grade students were required to pass the Minimum Basic Skills Test as one of the requirements for a high school diploma. Students failing either the reading or mathematics section of the MBS test were provided several retesting opportunities through the eleventh grade to pass the MBS.

    One year later in 1983, the state adopted the Grade 9 High School Proficiency Test (HSPT9), a more challenging assessment to measure the minimum skills in reading, writing and mathematics. The first due-notice administration of the HSPT9 occurred in 1983-1984. The first school year that the test was administered as a graduation requirement was 1985-1986.

    In 1988, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law that moved the High School Proficiency Test (HSTP11) from the ninth to the eleventh grade and added the Grade 8 Early Warning Test (EWT) as an early benchmark assessment. While the HSPT11 and EWT were rigorous assessments of essential reading, writing and mathematics skills, the EWT was intended to be used for student placement and program planning only. In contrast, the Grade 11 High School Proficiency Test (HSPT11) served as a graduation requirement for all public school students who entered the ninth grade on or after September 1, 1991. Three years of due-notice testing were conducted from 1991 to 1993 to allow districts time to align their curriculum and instruction, and to prepare their eighth- and eleventh- grade students for the new, more challenging assessments.

  6. In May 1996, the New Jersey Board of Education adopted the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS) which enumerated what all New Jersey students should know and be able to do by the end of the fourth and eighth grades, and upon completion of a New Jersey public school education. The CCCS, which are revised every five years, also define New Jersey’s high school graduation requirements and are the basis for assessing the academic achievement of students at grades 3 through 12. The CCCS informed the development of three subsequent statewide assessments: the Elementary School Proficiency Assessment (ESPA) which was administered from 1997-2002; the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA), which replaced the EWT in 1998 and was administered through 2007-2008; and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), which replaced the HSPT11 as the state’s graduation test for all students who entered the eleventh grade in the fall of 2001.

    With the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), New Jersey’s statewide assessment system has undergone further change. This federal legislation requires that each state administer annual standards-based assessments to students in grades 3 through 8, and at least once in high school. Federal expectation is that each state will provide tests that are grounded in rigorous state content standards and that assess student achievement in language arts literacy, mathematics and, at three benchmark grade levels, science.

    In response to NCLB requirements and New Jersey’s own expectations that students will be reading at grade level by the end of third grade, New Jersey revised its elementary assessment to include a third grade assessment program. The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) was field-tested in May 2003, becoming fully operational the following year. With the implementation of NJ ASK 3 in 2003, the ESPA became the NJ ASK4. The state’s elementary science assessment was first administered to New Jersey's fourth graders in spring 2004, becoming operational the following year. NJ ASK was further expanded in 2006 to include grades 5 through 7. New Jersey’s assessment system currently includes NJ ASK 3-8, HSPA, the Alternate Proficiency Assessment (APA) for students with severe cognitive disabilities, and end of course high school competency assessments in biology and algebra. To help prepare students for the globalized 21st century economy, current state plans for high school assessment call for a transition from the HSPA to a range of end of course competency assessments in language arts literacy, biology, algebra, geometry, chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

    1. Did I ever say I NEVER too a standardized test?

      Your analysis shows that having graduated in 1986, I must have taken 3 tests, 2 in Elementary school and 1 in high school. I DID NOT have to take one every year from grades 3-8, and in grade 11 like kids do now, and they DID NOT have high-stakes attached to them.

      Oh, and my girls were also expected to take NJPASS is grades 1 and 2, so that would have made 8 straight years of standardized testing, and another in 11th grade for a total of 9 tests. That's three times the testing I was subjected to, and again, the tests I took as a kid were not high stakes.

      What I said was, "If we had been subjected to the rigorous high stakes standardized tests now inflicted upon students, I can only imagine how turned off we would have become." I stand by that. If I had been subjected to testing every year for 8 years I would have recoiled.

      Thanks for the history lesson, though, it's fascinating to see that all laid out like that.

  7. "This cockamamie idea that state Departments of Education can assess college and career readiness in kids as young as Kindergarten is, in my opinion, reckless and destructive." Opinions are not facts! The state is assessing the college and career readiness programs the SCHOOL DISTRICT OFFERS - not the kindergarten students!

    In elementary grades college and career readiness is "measured" by chronic absenteeism.

    From NJDOE:
    "College and Career readiness measures the degree to which students are demonstrating behaviors that are indicative of future attendance and/or success in college and careers.
    For all elementary and middle schools, this includes a measurement of how many students are chronically absent.
    For schools with middle school grades, it also includes a measurement of how many
    students take Algebra I in either seventh or eighth grade."
    For high schools, this includes measures of participation in college readiness tests such as the SAT or PSAT and in rigorous coursework as defined by participation in AP courses in English, math, social studies and science.

    So let's look again at "the great schools in my little town"
    Highland Park Bartle School
    2011-12 SUMMARY
    Academic Achievement = 71%
    So...if 96–100= A
    84-87=B, 3.0.
    68-70, D+
    Highland Park Bartle School Academic Achievement = 71% Ouch...a C-? That's just one point away from a D+. So in actuality, academically, your "great schools" academic results are at a 71% not so great.

    Since we are on the subject of college and career readiness, Highland Park Bartle School also has 171 Economically Disadvantaged Students which is almost 40% of your school's population.

    After 100+ years of public education in NJ, after 100+ years of public education, why is there still so much poverty? (Besides our enormous tax bill to pay for the schools).

    If public schools do not exist to help raise the children out of poverty, what EXACTLY are they supposed to do?

    1. Welcome back POP QUIZ!!!

      To your points: If the DOE wants to measure the programs the school offers, they should act like adults and look at the programs and the curriculum we offer, and evaluate the administrators and the board. They shouldn't test 5 year olds.

      Yes, my local elementary has 40% poverty, and therefore demonstrates lower achievement than other districts that have 5% or lower poverty. Congratulations on pointing out the obvious. This is a nationwide phenomenon, not a demonstration that there is something wrong with my district. Would you prefer we segregate children based on income so that we could have higher scores??

      Of course you want to try to spin it to mean my district is not a great district, but you are just spouting numbers with no first hand knowledge of our schools. My daughters have gone through those schools and they are flourishing. I will let my readers decide whose vantage point is more accurate, yours or mine. I'm perfectly comfortable with that.

      Even the DOE themselves cautioned, "While the evaluation of student outcome data is crucial for school improvement, we know that these data alone cannot capture the dozens of other essential elements of schools such as a positive school climate, participation in extracurricular programs and the development of non-cognitive skills..."

      Yet in your infinite wisdom, you pulled a totally random number off of the NJDOE school performance report (which was debunked by countless actual educators), and pretended it's a letter grade representative of an entire school. This just shows your ignorance.

      That 71% is some number the DOE made up that is supposed to represents "percent of targets met" for "academic achievement." First, the numbers don't correspond to letter grades, and second, you just pulled that one number, and left out the two 100% scores (which are just as meaningless) that supposedly represent "college and career readiness" (for kids in grades 2-5, what a joke!) and "student growth."

      If you look at our "peer rankings," meaning comparing us to other district with similar poverty rates, all of the percentiles correspond to either "high" or "very high" achievement. But really, thanks for your meaningless recitation of what numbers correspond to what letter grades. That was truly illuminating...

    2. Part II

      Your preposterous notion that public education has the power to magically lift all people out of poverty is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. For one thing, many families in our district are recent immigrants - but that's not even the point. Public schools are not responsible for the economy, period. How many kids are graduating with degrees these days and can't find work or are underemployed?

      You complain about your enormous tax bill that pays for good middle class jobs for teachers, and I'm sure you would love to see those wages diminished, and for those jobs to no longer pay a living wage. And then I imagine you will complain there are more people in poverty, why aren't the public schools doing something to fix it. And around and around we go.

      Public education isn't destroying the middle class. The 1% is busy taking care of that, and one of the best tools in their arsenal is undermining and privatizing public education. Good job helping them out with that.

      How about we just agree to disagree - you hate public education and the money you must spend on it, and I love public education and will continue to fight to preserve it so that all kids have a fighting chance.

      I can't imagine what sick satisfaction you derive from reading my blog and attempting to devalue my children's school district, all the while hiding behind your anonymity.

      What cowardice.

      But please, stop pretending you know what you are talking about. If you can't stop yourself from defaming my district using your completely made up "facts and figures" I will stop responding and simply delete your comments.

      I have better ways to spend my time.

      Have a great day POP QUIZ!!!

    3. **Really? Delete my comments because I disagree? And YOU are running for school board? No one defamed your district, I pulled the data off the DOE website.

      See for yourself, here is 10 years of data on Highland Park since 2003:
      w ww f
      "71% is some number the DOE made up that is supposed to represents "percent of targets met" for "academic achievement." "a totally random number off of the NJDOE school performance report (which was debunked by countless actual educators)"

      Your schools ACADEMIC performance is "a totally random number" the DOE made up? The DOE's data is sent from "actual educators" from the local districts!

      "They shouldn't test 5 year olds."
      They are not testing 5 year olds for college and career readiness, the DOE is looking at attendance and chronic absenteeism, as I already explained to you. Surely you are not opposed to looking at attendance?

      "Would you prefer we segregate children based on income so that we could have higher scores?? "
      No, I would prefer that NO children live in poverty. Most poor folks are not living in Rumson are they? Children are already segregated, through zip codes, which also determine where they go to school. A Hopewell Valley HS experience is quite different than Camden High School experience. Are the children in poverty flourishing? Most of their parents went to PUBLIC schools. We need to do better.

      “Your preposterous notion that public education has the power to magically lift all people out of poverty is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. For one thing, many families in our district are recent immigrants "
      **Bartle has 17 kids listed in 2012 as Limited English Proficiency, or approximately 4% of the school’s population, so your argument that the recent immigrants are the ones pulling your schools academic performance down is pretty weak.

      "How many kids are graduating with degrees these days and can't find work or are underemployed? “
      Do you know that a significant number (around 30%) of students are graduating from our public high schools needing REMEDIAL work in COMMUNITY college? It is a real problem. They use their grants, scholarships or tuition in remedial classes and decide college is not for them.

      “ alone cannot capture the dozens of other essential elements of schools such as a positive school climate, participation in extracurricular programs and the development of non-cognitive skills..."
      *** Maybe YOU should remember these words when you try to destroy every charter that is proposed, and not just those propose in your little town.

      “You complain about your enormous tax bill that pays for good middle class jobs for teachers, and I'm sure you would love to see those wages diminished, and for those jobs to no longer pay a living wage. “
      ** Oh! You’re sure about that? HINT - you’re wrong. I have never advocated that we pay teachers less than a living wage! Matter of fact, I never even mentioned salary, did I? You just made that crap up and I resent your assumption. Did you know BY LAW, the minimum salary for educators in NJ is just $18,500 a year. N.J.S.A. 18A:29-5

      NEWS FLASH - I am parent AND a NJ certified teacher. Yup. I've been teaching (public schools) for many years. That’s why I must post anonymously. Jersey JAZZMAN is also ANONYMOUS!

      I have taught in inner city schools, have you? If public education is not supposed to better our children’s lives THAN WHAT IS IT SUPPOSE TO DO? Since you are running for school board I would expect you to have thought about it at the very least.

      I think you have good intentions but are wearing rose colored glasses.

    4. "Then" what is it supposed to do? My bad.

  8. No, not because you disagree with me. I am all for debate and discussion. I said I would delete your comments if you continue to distort numbers and reports to suit your own agenda. You pulled ONE NUMBER off of Bartle's performance report, a report that education experts can barely decipher, and made gross assumptions. Here is the dialogue from the same report that prefaced the ONE NUMBER you posted.

    "This school's academic performance is about average when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance is high when compared to its peers. This school's college and career readiness is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness is very high when compared to its peers. This school's student growth performance is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its student growth performance is very high when compared to its peers."

    So why did you just pull out one number, misinterpret it, and claim my daughters' school is practically failing? What "good intentions" of yours does that serve?

    You're a public school teacher and that's why you're anonymous? Posting at 1:27 in the afternoon during school hours? You'd better stay anonymous then, or your district may have something to say about what you're doing during school hours...

    Bettering children's lives - absolutely!

    Solving poverty and all of this country's problems? How is that even possible?

    1. Here's more numbers:
      79 = C+
      44 = F
      'This school outperforms 44% of schools statewide as noted by its statewide percentile ranking and 79% of schools educating students with similar demographic characteristics as noted in its peer school percentile ranking in the performance area of Academic Achievement. Additionally, this school is meeting 71% of its performance targets in the area of Academic Achievement.

      Solving poverty IS possible - through education.

      PS. Not all public school teachers work from 9-3 pm. I guess you don't know that either do you?

    2. Wow, you're relentless.

      From the report:

      Average Performance is defined as being between the 40.0th and 59.9th percentiles

      High Performance is defined as being between the 60.0th and 79.9th percentiles.

      Feel free to harass them about their rankings and percentiles, but stop interpreting to try to serve your own needs.

    3. You're right!! Now you can see the "great schools" in your little town are in fact "low average" schools academically. Rose colored glasses. Have a good day.

    4. Again, you are picking ONE of THREE criteria (in a flawed report mind you) and attempting to judge an entire school!!!

      When compared to "peer" schools, academic achievement is "high", and the rest of the indicators are "high" or "very high" as well.

      You are just proving that your goal is nothing more than to slam my childrens' school in an attempt to discredit me and that you will cherry pick meaningless statistics in your relentless attempts to do so.

    5. My intent is to show you even when we think our little schools are “great”, they are not adequately preparing all of our kids. If I choose to comment again, I will use a different school district. I thought using your town's schools would be most relevant to you, but you are taking it way too personally.

      Why do I bother to comment? I have seen both sides of public schools, 1st as a teacher and next as a parent. My child has a visual learning disorder, like dyslexia, and is a kinesthetic learner. But most public schools still predominately use textbooks. After failing a science test he learned density when I handed him a 9 inch cast iron and a 9 inch non-stick pan. BOOM, he understood, not just regurgitated a textbook.

      In 7th grade his science teacher taught the kids about clouds from a textbook, but NOT once did they look out the window.

      Public schools serve public schools better than they serve public school students.

      In Arizona, parents can receive ESA funds via restricted-use debit cards loaded with approximately 90 percent of what the state reserved for their children in the public school system…outside of private school tuition, families used ESA funds for online learning courses, curricula, private tutoring, and education therapies, all approved by the Arizona Department of Education.

      Data in “The Education Debit Card: What Arizona Parents Purchase with Education Savings Accounts” also reveal to what extent parents took advantage of the ESA program’s unique roll-over option....

      “We gear (our child’s) education around his needs and abilities; it is all personalized to what he can do, how he learns, what his interests are,” one ESA parent said. “Everything we do is personalized to his needs and learning style. The ESA has made (that) financially possible.”

      Parents can use any savings left over for college!

      I believe the ONLY way to eradicate poverty is through education, but if you have a better plan do let us know. Public schools are supposed to be the great equalizer, but as we know the rich are getting richer.

      You seem to think it is your place to deny every parent in NJ any options in education besides what is already established.

      Watch this short video on Changing Education Paradigms, based on the TED Talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert.

      h ttp://

      As an artist you may enjoy the graphics.

    6. If this is indeed the same commenter I greatly appreciate your change in tone. This is a dialogue I am happy to have. But please, don't just change districts. I am not taking this personally, I simply will not allow my district to be disparaged based on faulty readings of questionable data.

      I do not suffer from the delusion that my district is a utopia and there are no problems. All districts have problems. This is part of why I choose to run for the board, so I can try to be a part of the solution.

      I do not see how dismantling public education is a solution to any of the problems you cite in your comments. I am truly sorry to hear that your son has not always had his needs met. But charters, vouchers, tax credits, what-have-you are all just a systematic way to dismantle public education, and none have been shown to improve outcomes for most children.

      The choice debate is a difficult one. Some people see choice as the goal in and of itself. Clearly, I do not subscribe to this view.

      As for poverty, certainly education can lift people out of poverty, but I fail to see how it can solve all the worlds problems. The systems that work, like Finland, do not have "choice." They have low poverty because they have a strong social safety net. Every year more families in this country fall into poverty in this country and the politicians so nothing about it.

      Finland has high standards for teachers and teacher preparation and teachers are given incredible autonomy to run their classrooms. We have TFA and standardized testing.

      I could go on, but in my opinion all signs seem to point to the fact that we are heading in the wrong direction.

      You asked before if I've ever worked in an inner city school. I have not, but my husband does, and I worked for years for a for-profit education company in Manhattan and Brooklyn, serving kids from Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn. I saw how corrupt people can become when forced to choose between educating children and making a extra few dollars. It was truly ugly and I had to leave. It would take a mountain of evidence to convince me that any private, for-profit venture could genuinely improve outcomes for kids. I've seen it from the inside, and it wasn't pretty.

      I also saw that the parents who came for help for their kids were not just public school parents. There were plenty of Catholic and private school kids who were not getting their needs met and needed help.

      I am too exhausted to look at the links you provided this evening, but will try to in the morning.

      I genuinely appreciate this new tone, and look forward to further discussions with you that revolve around respectful debate, and not GOTCHA stats intended to slam a small, diverse district working hard to serve all children.

      Have a good night.

  9. How does one engage the student who is getting high, drunk, laid, and God-knows-what-else in the 130 or so hours each week he/she is not in school?

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