NJEA Flunks Accuracy Test

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New Jersey Education Association has a slick new website, with a banner boasting, “The TRUTH About New Jersey’s Public Schools.” The banner links to set of documented claims. We took a closer look.

The “TRUTH,” according to the link, is that “Math scores are among the nation’s best: New Jersey public school students score among the very best in the nation in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).” That’s true: the mean score in math – and reading – for NJ students is comparatively high. However, NJ’s gap between poor students and middle/high income students (defined by eligibility for free or reduced lunch) is also one of the highest in the nation, according to The National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP. In 8th grade math, for example, we post a 30% gap between students eligible and not eligible for free lunch. One state in the country (Maryland) has a higher gap (31%). Three others – Colorado, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina – post 30%. Every other state has a smaller achievement gap.

Another claim: “High school graduation rate is the best in the nation: New Jersey ranks number one in the percentage of students graduating high school.” Well, okay. We’re also the only state in the nation that permits low-achieving students to bypass the traditional proficiency assessment and use an alternate test. The SRA was a scam to inflate our graduation rate and has been replaced by the AHSA (Alternative High School Assessment), which led this past year to unprecedented numbers of students failing to get a high school diploma. More truth? Here’s The Record’s recent report on the results of this year’s biology standardized test:

As usual in standardized tests, results showed dramatic differences among students of different backgrounds and resources. In the poorest districts, 74 percent failed, compared with 9 percent in the wealthiest areas. Among African-American students 66 percent flunked; among Hispanics, 60 percent; among whites, 26 percent; and among Asians, 18 percent.

Next NJEA claim: “Among the best in the nation in preparing students for higher education: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education ranks New Jersey near the top for how well its schools prepare students for college.” Actually, the NCPPHE says “New Jersey performs well in preparing its young people for college, but there are large gaps in ethnicity. Eighth graders score well in math and science…however only 80% of Hispanics and 88% of blacks have a high school credential, compared with 97% of whites.” Another “substantial gap in by ethnicity:” “Fifteen percent of Hispanics and 22% of blacks have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 41% of whites.”

So what’s this strategy? Denial? Offense is the best defense? Statistics, damn statistics, and lies? Whatever. Seems like it would be more constructive all around for the leadership of our hard-working educators to focus less on misconstruing facts and more on mutual acknowledgment of disparities in educational outcomes among ethnic groups and between our privileged and non-so-privileged kids. Then we could get somewhere.

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