Losing Faith (and One’s Wits) in Elections and Education

Although I often chastise New Jersey voters for not paying attention to elections, I have proven myself guilty of the same crime. Yesterday, I could not, for the life of me, get Mitch McConnell’s Congressional title straight.

First, I declared him the newly-minted Speaker of the House. Thirty seconds later, I realized that wasn’t right and re-posted my blog, making him the new House Majority Leader.  But, no, that wasn’t it, either.

He will be the new Senate Majority Leader, comes January of next year.

Where was my head? My mind clearly wasn’t paying attention to the elections.  Why not?  Because, sadly, I had no faith in them and, being from New Jersey, no credible horse in the U.S. Senate race.  I didn’t like to say so publicly on my blog, but I didn’t think Jeff Bell, the Republican candidate, stood a chance of winning the Senate seat.  New Jersey is simply too corrupt.  He blamed the loss on “cultural clustering” which is the opposite of assimilation.  Age, I’m sorry to have to dishonor him by saying, was also a factor.

The Republicans repeatedly claim that they’ve turned Moderate because they want to appeal to the younger demographic, yet they continually support old candidates.

I didn’t much care if the Republicans won the Senate. I did my duty and voted, knowing my vote wouldn’t count for much.  With such a Purple Republican as Mitch McConnell heading up the Senate, and John Boehner, another hand-shaker rather than fist-shaker, it didn’t seem to make much difference.

They don’t even realize why they won or what the mandate demands of them, and they don’t care, either.

No, my mind was on something closer to home: my bank balance and the project on which I’m working which is my only hope of proving myself capable of doing a secretarial job that will bring me the barest of livable incomes.

Next Monday, I will have the sad task of closing out my mutual funds account, which has served for over thirty years as my emergency fund. For 15 years, my salary was so abundant and I saved so much money, that I didn’t have to go near my mutual fund account.

But all that money I saved has vanished in the last year or so, as my unemployment benefits ran out and my bills had to be paid. Part of the money went towards paying off my mortgage so I’d have a roof over my head.

Time is running out, though. My project is coming closer to completion, but I’m still not there yet.  I’m finishing it just as New Jerseyans are receiving the news that their students’ Math scores on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge tests dropped in 2014.

The scores have been released early. Normally, they wouldn’t have been released until March 2015.  That’s what happened last year.  One wonders why the scores have been published so early.

The news is no surprise to me, as I’ve been studying both the Language Arts & Literacy scores from 2006-2013, and compiling a report on them. I also took some note of the Math scores, although I was chiefly interested in the Literacy scores.  The Literacy scores took a generally 20 percent nose-dive starting around 2009.

As I was searching through the NJ DOE databases, I couldn’t help but notice that the Math scores (which were recorded right under the language scores) skyrocketed in comparison. In schools which had higher SAT scores in 2012 (the base year for my study), 89 percent of students in one school received Above Proficiency scores.  That school, in looking at the spoken language data, had a high percentage of Asian students, mainly Korean, but also Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

I selected one elementary school (I studied the third through fifth grades, as this is where we should be first looking for success or failure; if children in these grades do not meet expectations, they will only be spinning their wheels in later grades) in each school district for the Math grades.

That was all my time and research would allow.

Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe assured The Herald News that, “the new [PARCC – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] tests would provide better data to help educators and parents measure student progress and needs.

“But,” the Herald News noted, “the tests have been controversial in large part because they will take 10 to 11 hours to complete and will be given twice a year. Some parents and educators say that takes away too much instruction time and compels teachers to ‘teach to the test.’”

The Herald News noted that “[t]he state adopted the Common Core [standards] in 2010 and has spent the past few years teaching those standards and preparing for the new online tests what be required this [coming] spring.”

Except that’s not true and belies former statements from the Department of Education that Common Core was implemented in 2012.

In fact, according to Wayne parent Linda Ehrmann, her children’s elementary textbooks were changed in 2000 – 14 years ago.

A college Math major, Linda said that even she couldn’t understand the new textbooks and was unable to help her children with their math homework.

“The tests [at the time] were nothing like the books,” she says.

In fact, since the real implementation – Ehrmann’s first child graduated high school in 2003 and she thinks the textbook change may have occurred even earlier – students have been taught Common Core but tested by the old methods of the NJASK tests.

The old tests didn’t require the grade school students to show their work. Parents helping their children with their homework – including my friend’s daughter-in-law – taught them the proper way to do the math problems, enabling them to pass the tests more easily.

Hence the astronomical Math scores on the NJASK tests. But this past year – 2014 – the rules were changed so that the students had to prove their math problems via the Common Core method.  The Common Core method means students take twice to solve the problems and proves twice as confusing to the students.  The longer they must take to complete each problem, the fewer answers they can provide, thus lowering their scores since incomplete or unanswered questions count as a wrong answer.

Bolstering my resume is not the only reason I’ve spent so much time on the NJASK project. Someone must look into the suspicious Math scores and the Language Arts & Literacy scores which, when looked at as pass/fail chart point so obviously to Obama’s goal of “narrowing” what he calls “the achievement gap.”  When you see the chart, you’ll see just how narrow that gap has become in many schools.

All this I was going to post on my blog in about another week or so. Since it was in the news and as I owed my readers an apology for my political faux pas regarding Mitch McConnell, I set aside a little more time from completing the task.

How many other New Jersey voters face the same dilemma – of watching their falling bottom lines rather than the elections? What were New Jersey voters thinking, by the way, when they approved both Constitutional amendment ballot measures?

One of my favorite political organizations, Americans for Prosperity, now has ads out opposing the open space measure, which will increase the tax on New Jersey businesses. The result will be a loss of even more jobs in our state.  Why didn’t AFP-NJ advertise more about this measure before the election, when it could have been defeated?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one not paying attention.

Published in: on November 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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