The Facts, and Nothing But...
A blogger recently dug into the “NJ Education Facts” section of our website and tried to use some of them against us here. We commend him for availing himself of our extensive database of NJ education facts and urge others interested in the facts about New Jersey education to do so as well, but feel we must respond to his slanted, selective and misleading use of those facts.
You can use B4K’s “facts” – which, as you note, are unembellished and unspun – but please don’t presume to speak for us. As the person who built B4K’s “facts” section, I take issue with a number of your points:
1) Questioning the independence of the sources. Are they not “independent” simply because they don’t agree with you? Are you suggesting that Editorial Projects in Education (EPE), the publishers of EducationWeek, aren’t independent? Are you suggesting that the Center for American Progress (CAP) isn’t independent? I note you still manage to use one of CAP’s ratings when it suits your agenda. I went out and tried to gather every rating of New Jersey’s education system I could find, and I made sure that they were all from reputable sources, which they are. Rather than engage the facts, you seek to denigrate the sources wholesale.
2) Selectively picking facts I: You cherry-pick the one “A” grade CAP gives NJ while ignoring the one “B,” one “C” and five “Ds” we received. If CAP ratings merit mention for the one “A,” why not for the 5 “Ds”? Perhaps because it suits your agenda? And of course if you took the time to read CAP’s report, you would know that NJ got its “A” for removing ineffective teachers because only 38% of principals said personnel policies were a barrier (10% below the national average of 48%). But you would also see that 70% of NJ principals say that teachers unions are a barrier. I don’t presume to question CAP’s methodology, but taking their data at face value, there really is a “problem” when it comes to removing ineffective teachers: the teachers union.
3) Selectively picking facts II: You cite EPE’s ranking of NJ as 2nd in the nation in terms of student achievement on the NAEP tests, which is indeed true. You neglect to mention NJ’s overall ranking by EPE – for all six of its rating categories, not just one as 7th in the nation. Not bad, actually, except when you consider that we are 2nd in the nation in spending per student at $17,000, a full 70% above the national average of $10,000. Moreover, if NAEP is the “gold standard” as you say, I urge you and your readers to go to our “fact” section entitled “Performance on National Tests.” There you will see how NJ students actually did on ALL the NAEP tests: in eight out of nine test groups, fewer than half of NJ students were proficient. For example, in 12th grade math, only 31% of NJ students were proficient: 69% were not. Regardless of how this ranks against other states, is this sufficient?
I urge you to drop the cant and spin and ad hominem attacks and embrace the facts. The stakes are too high.
I urge your readers to see the facts – unembellished and unspun for themselves on our website: www.b4njkids.org. Then they can make up their own minds.
Mike Lilley – B4K
One last related point: JerseyJazzman criticizes the independent ratings because they do “NOT measure student achievement“ and cites the NAEP tests as “the ‘gold standard’ of education research.” Do we then take it that he agrees with B4K that student achievement and standardized tests are useful measures of educational attainment? Should we then also assume he supports the use of student achievement as measured by standardized tests as part of a new teacher evaluation system? And thus would be comfortable basing tenure and other personnel policies based on such evaluations?