NJEA on Cerf resignation: “Time for a new start and new approach”

Concerns raised about Cerf’s move to for-profit test company

Published on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Christopher CerfNJEA President Wendell Steinhauer released the following statement in response to Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf’s announcement that he will be leaving his position.

“Yesterday, I testified before the Assembly Education Committee about significant problems associated with the rushed implementation of the new evaluation system. That flawed system relies heavily on the costly and unproven new PARCC standardized testing system being imposed on districts by the New Jersey Department of Education.  In light of those problems, we are deeply concerned that Commissioner Cerf is leaving his position to become CEO of Amplify Insight.  In Cerf’s new position, he and his company will profit from selling assessment products and services to public schools struggling to adapt to exactly the kind of misguided mandates that Cerf’s Department of Education is currently imposing on New Jersey’s schools.

“While it is clearly a very good career move for Commissioner Cerf, he leaves New Jersey at a time when schools, educators and students are struggling with these new mandates.  As a result of his rush to impose costly and unproven high-stakes testing in New Jersey, districts are spending money they don’t have to implement testing they do not need.  Educators are being subjected to a poorly understood and badly implemented evaluation system that relies far too heavily on the kind of costly assessment and student data systems that Mr. Cerf’s new employer helps districts implement, for a cost.  And students are left to take all of those tests, with no regard for whether they do anything to improve the actual quality of teaching and learning in their classroom. 

“It’s time for a new start and a new approach in New Jersey.  We strongly urge that the next commissioner of education have a deep background in public education, including significant classroom teaching experience. We look forward to working with the next Commissioner to slow down the DOE’s headlong rush toward a disastrous implementation of the new evaluation system and the standardized testing associated with it.  We call on the next Commissioner to focus on doing things right rather than doing them quickly, and to listen to the voices of educators and parents when making decisions that directly affect the quality of education New Jersey’s students receive.

“Other states are already moving in this direction.  Just this week, New York announced that it is dramatically slowing implementation of PARCC and other assessments associated with its adoption of the Common Core.  New York recognizes that rushed implementation was hurting students and schools.  It is time for New Jersey to acknowledge the same reality.

“NJEA joined with many other stakeholders two years ago to help overhaul the state’s tenure and evaluation systems.  We warned at the time that tying evaluation too closely to standardized test scores was the wrong approach, and the Legislature agreed, including language intended to limit that misuse of test scores.  Since then, the NJDOE, under Commissioner Cerf, has consistently worked to undermine the Legislature’s intent and amplify the role of standardized testing in teacher evaluation, to the consternation of educators and parents alike.

“NJEA remains committed to moving New Jersey forward through smart, careful implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  We remain committed to the development and implementation of an evaluation system that takes into account a broad range of valid measures of student learning and teacher effectiveness.  We remain committed to working with all stakeholders, including the Department of Education, to ensuring that New Jersey students have great public schools where they receive a world-class education.  And we look forward to working with the next Commissioner of Education to achieve those goals.”

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