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NJ Touts Educational Reforms But Earns ‘D’ on One Nationwide Report Card

StudentsFirst rankings raise eyebrows for judgment of Christie’s record -- and who's doing judging.

Two years ago, school-reform crusader Michelle Rhee was sitting in the first row during Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address, in which he laid out much of his education agenda.

As Christie prepares to make his State of the State for 2013 today, education is expected to figure less prominently, but his administration still got a reminder yesterday that the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor-turned-national education advocate isn’t letting up.

In the first state-by-state report card issued by Rhee’s new organization, StudentsFirst, New Jersey earned a Dfor its progress – or lack of progress– in meeting Rhee’s core reform principles, which center on teacher quality, school choice and what she deems to be effective spending and oversight.

"Parents and teachers are working hard every day to make sure every child in New Jersey gets a great education, and while recent tenure reform represents meaningful progress, more reforms are necessary for our students to achieve the results we want for them," said Craig Wallace, StudentsFirst's state director for New Jersey.

How much all this matters beyond hardcore school-reform circles is arguable, and some said the report speaks more to Rhee’s own Draconian standards than the political realities in most states, including New Jersey.

For instance, no states won grades of A in the report card, and eight states received failing grades. Only eight states earned passing grades, with Florida and Louisiana tops with a B-minus each.

But Rhee is probably the highest-profile member of the reform circles of which Christie likes to think himself a member, and his invitation for Rhee to attend his State of the State address in 2011 – and even to sit with his family – was a notable nod to her influence at the time.

He followed up with what his supporters would say has been a successful record of accomplishments on the education front, including last year’s passage of a tenure- reform law that for the first time directly tied teachers’ tenure to their annual evaluations.

Still, he has fallen short on other measures that might have given the state better grades by Rhee’s standards, including his stalled proposal for a school-voucher program and his failed bid to end teacher seniority rights under the new tenure law.

Yesterday, the governor’s office did not comment on the StudentsFirst report, and the state Department of Education was diplomatic, choosing instead to highlight Christie’s accomplishments.

"While we certainly respect the viewpoint of StudentsFirst, we believe this report fails to recognize the great work happening in so many of our districts across the state and only scratches the surface of the work we have undertaken over the past three years,” said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

Abby Normal January 10, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Rhee's highest rated states are Louisiana and Florida and frankly, what those states represent in education, we should proudly wear her D. I highly doubt parents will be running off to make their kids a part of the schools in those states, among the lowest performing in the country and getting worse under corporate reform. Yes, job well done NJ!
kpfallon January 10, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Michelle Rhee's lobbyist group, Students First, (NJ Touts Educational Reforms But Earns ‘D’ on One Nationwide Report Card) in its ratings of state education policies, promoted and announced its "student achievement is last" position. Of the 11 states that the lobbyist group gave an F, 8 scored higher than the national average in Mathematics. New Jersey which was rated a D by Rhee's group scored second highest in the nation. The two states that received Rhee’s highest rating, scored below the national average, Louisana's ranking was second to last, next to DC, the district Rhee led for years. Parents and civic leaders who value their children's education and want to strengthen their local communities need to use Rhee’s map as a guide of “what NOT to do”.
Joe R January 11, 2013 at 01:16 AM
NJ schools always score in the top tier of schools in the US by almost any measure except the skewed, highly biased and ideological driven agenda of Rhee's organization. She is backed by the big bucks of the billionaire boys' club (Gates, Broad, Dell, Waltons, Icahn, hedge fund managers, etc.) which wants to privatize the schools and to destroy the traditional public schools. As far as I am concerned, charter schools are private schools getting public money. We don't get to vote on the charter school budget, we don't get to vote on the charter school board of directors and in NJ, the residents have no voice or vote on whether a charter school will be dumped into their district or not. Charter schools are unaccountable to the duly elected school board, charter schools are like a separate school distirct unto themselves, they do not work in cooperation with the regular public schools, quite the opposite.
Joe R January 11, 2013 at 02:42 AM
It should be noted that Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst's so called report card is not based on student achievement or student outcomes. It's just based on how well school districts conform to the school privatizers agenda which has nothing to do with good education but with privatizing the schools and turning them over to money grubbing organizations who will profit from privatized schools.

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