Rarely does the juxtaposition of two events — actually one event and one non-event — paint such a clear picture of reality. Unfortunately, the reality is one of a failure in leadership by Gov. Murphy.
First, we have the failing New Jersey Partnership for Student Success (NJPSS). NJPSS was Murphy’s belated effort (launched in December, 2022) to address the massive learning loss caused by Murphy’s own pandemic policies. Recall that, as his teachers union pals demanded, Murphy allowed schools to remain closed in several large New Jersey school districts such as Newark and Montclair long after most schools had reopened. NJPSS was launched to great fanfare, with Murphy, himself, declaring: “we must address the challenges facing our school community, including learning loss.” The ambitious plan was to recruit and train 5,000 volunteer tutors to help students make up for learning loss.
Since then, silence from Murphy. No mention in his State of the State address. No updates from the governor. Nothing. Sunlight searched in vain via Google, Twitter and Facebook for any updates from Murphy. There were none.
All we are left with is an update in March from the acting-Education Commissioner stating that the DOE had only received 400 applications. No mention of how many tutors were actually trained and in the field remediating learning loss. Now it’s May and the Class of 2023 is set to graduate — without remediation — and entire classes of elementary and middle school students are as far behind as they were when they came out of the pandemic.
It’s pretty clear that Murphy’s remediation plan is failing badly, so what does he do about it?
He tries to hide the evidence of failure by lowering education standards. Last week, at the urging of Murphy’s acting Commissioner, the State Board of Education approved the lowering of the passing score for the New Jersey high school graduation test from 750 to 725. Of course, the state tests were the only way New Jersey parents found out just how bad the learning loss was (after Murphy inexcusably sat on the test results for months). With a cut score of 750, only 39% of 11th-graders passed the test in reading and 49% in math.
So rather than do the hard work of getting more students to pass the 750 level, Murphy chose to lower the passing grade. Too bad for the New Jersey students — and in particular the minority students who were hit the hardest — who will now graduate less prepared for life after high school. It’s shockingly cynical and truly shameful.
We say again: A governor who fails in his duty to educate New Jersey’s children is a failure as a governor.
I’ll never get that time back.