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Here are two take-aways from Asbury Park Board of Education’s meeting last month.
First, Statistics aren’t reliable when they’re crafted duplicitously and without context.
Second, Superintendent Rashawn Adams and team are committed to maintaining an absurd number of administrators for a district where enrollment dwindles each year.
Let’s start with #1.
Last year Asbury Park administrators were embarrassed when standardized test scores were abysmally low, ranking student proficiency 425th out of 425 districts in math and 436th out of 436 for reading. This makes Adams and his team look bad so much of the meeting was devoted to a celebration of the new passing rates for 11th-graders on the high school diploma-qualifying test called NJGPA, which was piloted in spring 2021-22 and formally administered in spring 2022-23. Director of Curriculum Edwin Ruiz proudly displayed a set of slides that showed Asbury Park juniors showing marked increases in proficiency compared to last year.
That’s great! But Ruiz’s math, which he said he did at Adams’ direction? Not so much.
Example: according to the slides (see about 9 minutes into the video) in spring 2021-22 not a single student passed the math test. This year, out of 103 students, 12 did. In spring 2021-22 six students passed the reading portion. This year 47 did. “Doc had me do the numbers,” exulted Ruiz. “That’s a 683% increase in proficiency!”
A few caveats: First off, the slide says there were exactly 103 11th graders in both school years 2021-22 and 2022-23. But the state database shows 109 students in the earlier year. That may be wrong—not hard to believe the high school lost six juniors over the course of a year—but when you’re looking at such a tiny sample size this difference matters.
Here’s how: it’s true that the percentage difference between 6 and 47 is 683%. But if you add just four new passing grades– say 10 students pass instead of six– that percentage drops by almost half, to 370%. These numbers are meaningless. That’s why the state, as well as any numerate statistician, wouldn’t present these figures.
Nonetheless, Adams boasted, “this is by far the largest gain in the last 15 years under my academic leadership,” surpassing the tenures of Lamont Repollet and Sancha Gray “It’s a huge indication of progress,” he said, confusing correlation with causation.
Also, Board members weren’t given copies of the presentation in advance and their packets, once they got to the board meeting, were missing slides. When Board members asked for periodic updates on student progress instead of one final summative assessment, their concerns were dismissed.
Which brings us to #2.
One of the items on the agenda was a new Business Administrator, even though this 1,800-student district already has an Assistant Business Administrator. Board members Anthony Remy, Joe Grillo, and Tracy Rogers tried to puzzle it out, wondering why the Board received no background information on a new administrator whose duties include Board Secretary.
Rogers: “How many people were involved in [the interviews for Board Secretary]? This person reports to us.” District attorney Adam Weiss: Board members can’t be involved in the interview process because “you’re opening yourselves up to potential ethics violations.”
(Um, actually the NJ School Ethics Commission says board members can “offer his/her observations and assessments” when serving on an interview committee but final decisions are up to the superintendent, which all board members know.)
Then discussions moved on to the hiring of the new Supervisor of Special Services because Lisa Weinstock, who has held that position since January 2023, resigned. This was a surprise to Board members who found out just two hours before the meeting.
- Remy: “We have a Director (of student services) so why do we need another administrator?”
- Grillo: “I’d like to ask some questions but I can’t. I thought we’re trying to save money by cutting positions. I have a lot of questions about the responsibilities of a supervisor versus a director. I’ll have to vote ‘no’ or abstain. This is a problem:
- Rogers: “We have had to fill this position continuously [with three supervisors over the last two years]. What is going on with that? Why are numerous people moving to other districts? Is this beneficial to us? It seems like…they’re running out the door. Is the necessity there?”
For context, Asbury Park has on its payroll a Director for Curriculum and Instruction plus six supervisors; two Athletic Directors; and a Business Administrator and Assistant Business Administrator. That’s for 1,800 students. Next door, Neptune Township Public Schools has one Director of Curriculum and Instruction, one Athletic Director, and one Director of Special Education (no supervisor) for 3,500 students.
Asbury Park administrators need to bone up on their math. Parents, students, and teachers deserve better.