Deconstructing Chris Cerf's New Gig at Amplify, nee Wireless Generation

As noted below, Chris Cerf, who just resigned as NJ Commissioner of Education, is going to work for Amplify Insight. Amplify Insight, run by former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, is a division of Amplify. Amplify, which the BBC just described as a "loss-making education business," is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Stay with me here. Amplify used to be known as Wireless Generation. In 2010, NJ was making a play for up to $400 million during the second round of Race to the Top federal grants. Then-Ed Commissioner Lucille Davy solicited 15 bids for consultants to serve as NJ’s primary reviewer of our application. But then she  awarded the contract to Wireless through a special process that waived actual bidding,  even though Wireless’s  proposal was more than double the bid from everyone else.  NJ ended up paying Wireless about $500K.

Wireless’s primary responsibility was vetting the voluminous RTTT application. But its consultants failed to catch a budgeting error, which was a major reason, although not the only one, why we lost that round of Race to the Top.

As part of the initial agreement with Wireless, our application included a description of “Instructional Support Components” that involved purchasing of new hardware and software. The vendor for that new equipment, the application specifies, would be Wireless Generation.

In another wrinkle, Amplify Insight, Cerf’s new gig, was awarded a grant last year of $12.5 million from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to “develop a digital library of formative assessment professional learning tools for educators,” according to Ed Week. Smarter Balanced is one of the two developers of assessments tied to the Common Core. The other is PARCC. New Jersey has signed on with PARCC.

I’m not sure where to go with this. This all predates Christie, and Cerf’s hiring as NJ’s Ed Comm. When we finally got in our application for  Round 2 of RTTT Lucille Davy was gone and Brett Schundler was in charge of the DOE. Christie fired Schundler  in August 2010 amid a series of Senate hearings (run by Barbara Buono) and revelations of various mistakes and miscommunications. That’s when Chris Cerf took over.

As long as we’re into the realm of convolution, here’s a half-serious suggestion. Why not replace Cerf with Cami Anderson? Rescue her from Newark and Newark from her. She’s well-qualified to oversee NJ’s DOE, and her take-no-prisoners approach may juice the department forward.  Give both her and Newark a fresh start.

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