Cerf takes aim at NJEA, defends administration’s reform efforts

TRENTON – The acting Education Commissioner fired back this morning at remarks made earlier by the head of the N.J. Education Association regarding low-income families’ education options.

In response to a question, NJEA Executive Director Vincent Giordano had said, in part, that “life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that.”

On Wednesday, the governor said Giordano should resign over the statement.

Today acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf issued a statement about the need for enacting the administration’s proposed  education reforms, which include among other things tenure reform and teacher evaluation changes.

“The notion of an achievement gap may not be something that matters to the NJEA.  But it matters to the nearly 40% of our students who can’t read at grade level in 3rd grade – an indicator closely tied to future success in school.  It matters to the thousands of students that drop out of high school or even before high school each year,” Cerf’s statement says in part.

“In December, the NJEA distributed a press release suggesting that my claim that New Jersey has a “shameful” achievement gap was a “straw man” and based on a “deliberate misuse of data.”  Instead, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian argued that while there is an achievement gap in New Jersey between white and African American students, and also high-income and low-income students, we really shouldn’t worry about it because it is not as bad as the gap in some other states,” Cerf stated. 

Cerf’s statement includes an extensive review of achievement gaps among students.

The statement also references the state’s application for a waiver from the provisions of No Child Left Behind.

“In our NCLB waiver application that we submitted to the U,S, Department of Education in November, we identified concrete steps that we will take to turn around our lowest performing schools.  We must be impatient and we must not accept failure in any school that is not giving children a fair chance at life.”

In responding to Christie’s criticism of Giordano, the NJEA on Wednesday defended its record of working on behalf of students and indicated that critics were taking Giordano’s statement out of context. Cerf takes aim at NJEA, defends administration’s reform efforts