March 12, 2012


By Profesor Martin Danenberg "El Quijote del GED"

The video Due Process "Prison Reentry: Breaking the Cycle"was made at Rutgers University Law School in Newark and I found it interesting from my point of view. The GED point of view, of course.

There was Governor Chris Christie fighting for the incarcerated and their rehabilitation and a conservative looking down at the pockets of government as he speaks. Yes the theory has been around for decades that it is too expensive to house the people sent to jail and yes several states have taken on programs to release low-risk convicts. Yes Mayor Cory Booker has been fighting to provide help for people in Newark, but there seems to be a dichotomy and different needs. The two groups are the drug offenders and all others. There is talk among experts about removing the stigma and restoring the dignity of mankind. I hear the same thing when people talk about diversity and immigrant rights. All of these people are way off the mark. Whether it is talk about the undocumented immigrants who are called criminals or the people in rehab or reentry, the talk has to change and the simple rule is that every member of every family needs a diploma to raise self esteem and improve family life. With all this talk about diversity from Arizona to Alabama to Albany, not a single elected official that I know of has it right, with the possible exception of my GED friend Robert Jackson, Chairman of the Education Committee of the City Council of New York.

Governor Christie could make sure that all those people who have been incarcerated and who could pass the GED in New Jersey have immediate access to vouchers that would pay the cost of taking the test. I repeat the word immediate here. We could determine how many people could actually be helped this year and compare that to future years so we can have a model for progress. Let us say that it would help 1,000 extra people each year and 5,000 over a five year period. What would that represent in cost savings that other rehab-reentry programs do not have. In addition, how does that translate into another important zone of family life, the most important educational piece of our time and that is student performance in the public schools. What would the effect be in neighborhoods and schools if the parent and his children improved their performance? These results could have been on the road this year to be shown to the public, but the administration in Newark is holding back this kind of progress, progress that is badly needed across our nation. Without this kind of fast track help, neighborhoods continue to stagnate because there is no positive movement among those people. The perception , normally, is that it is on the individuals and that is true, but not when the government knows that it can do something better for those people and the neighbhorhood.

Let me quickly explain that I have not seen much progress in Newark. I have not read that there is a fifty or hundred percent improvement in passers since Cami Anderson, the former head of GED of New York City, has taken over. At one of my conferences held in the AFL-CIO Building in Washington, D.C. during a week when I conducted a conference for staff members of Hispanic elected officials in Congress, the GED administrator of Virginia reported that one county in Virginia had a 100 percent increase in diplomas. This is what could easily be done by people like Councilmen Baraka and Quintana in Newark and with help from Cory Booker, the numbers could even go way up. With all the talk of Superman and other heroes in education, there are no heroes in sight. Take the Cami Anderson-Robert Zweig team and the knowledge that they were supposed to share with the Christie-Cerf-Booker-Johnson team. Alcoholics Anonymous does not care a hoot about GED. Its contract is about the individual and his or her contract with God, acting as though GOD does not want the person go get the GED. I say GED-GOD are one. I say that all programs need great changes. Daytop Village, the drug rehabilitation program, is where I got my start teaching GED. No I was not a recovering drug addict! So Newark do not make things up!

I do not know where Robert Zweig started teaching GED and perhaps it was not a drug rehabilitation program. Our youth in rehabilitation were happy to earn the GED and some cried when they failed the test. Those youth who were called "Jerry's Kids" by the staff and who were placed in pre-GED were not happy campers. There was a double stigma for them, being in rehab and being in the lower class of GED. I helped some of those youth get out of pre-GED immediately by my walk and not by my talk. I helped youth in Ebbets Field in ASHS get out of pre-GED conditions as well even though they were not going through rehab. In other words, I quickly opened the door to opportunity to many youth who were frustrated by the administrative decisions and I am frustrated by the administrative decisions that I see in New Jersey. These people just do things in a way that is frustrating to people in great need, even as they help them. Whether it is a program or reentry or rehab, people are still not on the same page, the best page to help people. I have not said anything about Cerf. He can call me. William Ammons called me , and in one week, the budget and policy director of the State of Florida learned something about Florida that has resulted in tens of thousands of more GED diplomas for its people and that number is going up each year and will continue to go up until 2014. It did not even cost the taxpayer a cent.

Ingrid Johnson was talking about rehabilitating the drug addict before sending him or her to work. My friend Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of New York has gotten the New York State Assembly to pass a bill permitting people into reentry to go to work immediately. This is a "release" that I must learn more about. The formerly incarcerated men and women do need income to pay all kinds of expenses and the drug user unfortunately uses part of his or her salary to pay for drugs. We have to look not only at Governor Christie's pockets, front and back, to see how much money it will cost, but also see how much he is going to cut from other services or how much he negotiates from the middle class in reducing salaries and pensions. Everything should be on the table. Sure the public safety is important and Mayor Bloomberg says that New York City sees a spike in criminal activity when there are fewer arrests. He has not really said or confirmed that the criminality is due to the smoking of marijuana, but people will get stopped, frisked, and arrested. It's the law and the law will be implemented that way. It is nice to fight for much more money for something and I know that the winners who receive those funds do not care about anyone else, even if it affects their friends and family members. Those people are not going to challenge Governor Christie to make the rich pay more, at least the percentage that they were paying when we were fighting the Vietnam War and afterwards. The rich should pay more because they have more to lose if we lose the war on terrorism. It is like buying car or home insurance, it costs more to protect great things of value. The poor cannot afford to pay, even in places like Missouri where people can afford to make ends meet with minimum wage jobs. The poor cannot sustain anything in New Jersey, so the middle class and the rich have to sustain the state of New Jersey. So with all the talk about getting new money for the rehabilitation programs that need to be expanded, the simple task of helping Newark's drug addiction by helping the family with new, creative ideas is not being implemented. The drug user needs his GED and the children need new educational initiatives that target recidivism and the vicious cycle that have afflicted this group for decades. This is a defining moment for Newark. If the Cami Anderson has not done anything since September to create change with all of the knowledge that it has, she really never belonged in Newark, unless of course Cami Anderson, herself, could point to something new and revolutionary that has already produced great results in the public schools, things that she alone has created because of her knowledge and experience. Something that Superman would be proud of.

Getting back to helping people in rehab with the GED. The GED programs of Daytop, J-CAP, ELMCOR and others did have graduates, but there were things that were not done when Robert Zweig was the principal. There was no real parent involvement piece, no real parent engagement or parent training. I know that people at Offsite and ASHS like to defend themselves by saying that they were programs and not schools, but even after all is said and done it cannot fool the public. The young addict and his parent often needed a GED to make the family unit stronger. Where can you see that recommendation in writing from those GED administrations to the mayor of New York City? Where can you see other helpful initiatives, in writing, to the mayor? If I am right, what Cami Anderson represents, too little too late. She earned her position by being close to Cory Booker and others all these years, but she did nothing really great, in my mind, to earn it. Politics as usual in Newark! I think that Ingrid Johnson should know by now that if new things are not implemented to affect the minds and the hearts of the people in rehab, then the financial cost to society will be great and Christy will be reaching into all four of government's pockets. My recommendation to the people of Newark is that they find out what I have recommended and hold the people at City Hall accountable. Do you think that GED Plus in New York City would provide me with detailed statistics of its operations for the last several years? Oh the mayor-chancellor team would be happy to release teacher ratings and probably personal files, but you know that they would never let me get close to looking at THEIR work in the GED programs. Could you imagine how explosive that would be? My work would something that they could never do. It would bring about changes that WOULD level the playing field, all WRONGS would be made RIGHT and the GED programs would be much more EFFECTIVE and PRODUCTIVE in the city. Then Newark and the entire state of New Jersey would be able to help the people the right way.

If my reader is saying to himself, Martin is saying that there is mediocrity among everyone involved. Let the reader say it. Newark needs fast progress and not excuses. Where is the walk in Newark? The talk must end.

In today's New York Post, Reverend Pat Robertson says the government has lost the war on drugs and people should not be incarcerated for marijuana use. It is costing the American taxpayer too much money.

I have found out that Newark is going to about to duplicate a limited version of the GED Compass of New York City. Now hear this! Now hear this! Newark only has four official GED programs and testing sites from what I have learned. New York City residents by the hundreds have been using my GED Hotline for years before the GED Compass was set up, but I still get some calls from New York City by people who read my articles or who held onto my business card. It is always good to have extra services for GED and I do not look upon the idea as a "duplication" of services. My program was called a duplication of service by people in my community in Suffolk County over ten years ago. My program has been helpful to people who take the GED Practice Test in the Central Islip Library since 2004 and it was funded by WALMAT. There is a another dichotomy in Newark, what the people there know and what I know. These are two different words and nobody can help Newark the way I could.

I have not said anything about ex-Governor Jim McGreevy and his comments in the video, but it is time to network with him. Things could have been done months ago to help the people of Newark. My dear friend, Juana Edmond, can confirm that I discussed the old problems at ELMCOR with her and a colleague last year and her colleague who happens to work at ELMCOM confirmed that the problem still exists. I exposed the problem in New York Newsday in 1999. GED Plus and its regulations are the problem. In addition I recently found out that the teachers at a HUB in New York City are still not trained that well. In addition, when candidates are asked to go to the HUB for practice testing and do not do well, the people doing the testing ask why those candidates have been sent in the first place. Without even working in the programs, I can apply knowledge that I had before 2002 to explain to them what the problem is. This very same problem exists on the real GED in North Carolina, where the entire state is held back by that administration and where African-Americans have a much lower passing rate of the real GED. Oh there is more to learn than that! A woman just had an article about the $10,000 that she spent on tutoring and she is still far from acing the math part of the test. Her quest is related to the very same problem. Whether it is practice test regulations or real test regulations, administrators have created barriers. State administrator Larry Breeden can share important knowledge with Newark. The former administrator of New Jersey can tell you all of the diplomas that were lost until 2004 because the New Jersey administration caused a major problem for its people. Florida made the change in early 2002 because of my work and it took New Jersey two more years to bring justice to its people. Another really wonderful name in GED to interview for information is Charlotte Butler Henson of the City University of New York. She knows that I would recommend her to fill important positions like the administrator of GED or head of a GED program. I emphasize that this is the person to talk to about GED, not the people in Newark.

I am reasonably certain that Newark with soon get a GED program that will be better for some and worse for others. We just have to do a total vetting of GED plus and you will see what I mean.

Martin Danenberg
7 Blazer Drive
Islandia, New York 11749

Profesor Martin Danenberg March 12, 2012 08:46 AM