Category Archives: Take Action

Signs of Spring

Dear friends,

Spring has sprung and the snow is melting. Finally!

This meme was posted on Diane Ravitch blog and sums up a lot of what we support and are working towards: To reclaim and re imagine public education, to protect childhood and the joy of learning for all.

collegeready

Just for a step back,  different perspective, take a peek at what Finland is up to recently via The Independent.

And back to Montclair….

There’s a petition going around that was created by
parents in Montclair.  Here’s an excerpt from an update they posted on the petition after the MBOE meeting on 3/16/2015:

While the board of education restored some of the classroom staff and school programs it initially proposed to cut, there are still too many being eliminated. The BOE now proposes cutting 33 instead of 55 teachers and other personnel who directly impact our children’s classroom learning. Meanwhile, the board has repeatedly refused to consider cutting more than a few positions at central office (despite objections of several board members.)

The proposed budget is now being reviewed by the board of school estimates, comprised of the mayor, several town council and board of ed members. We need to let them know that the budget is still not acceptable.

The BOSE (Board of School Estimates) will be meeting tomorrow, Monday, March 23.  Here’s the info from the MPS website:

The Board of School Estimate meetings on Monday, March 23, Monday, March 30, and Monday, April 6 will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the George Inness Annex, 141 Park Street. The Mar. 23 meeting will be broadcast live on Comcast/FiOS Channel 34, FiOS Channel and streamed live on this website. See agenda.

Have a great day and a good week ahead.

Montclair Voices

Student voices: I Am Not a Test Score. I Am Not Standard.

Dear Friends,

On this snowy snow day in Montclair, NJ, we share the voices of students in a video and a drawing. Both illustrate so eloquently that a picture (moving or still) is often worth a thousand words. And that, it is far past time that our students in this country need to be heard. We implore all education leaders to listen to the brave, talented, and strong students who are fighting for their educational lives and lives themselves. Who are struggling to be heard and sitting in and walking out and painting and drawing and filming and dancing; expressing how the current educational system is hurting their lives and that their pleas, protests, statements, actions — their  mission must be put front and center in this struggle to reclaim public education. It  is imperative that our leaders acknowledge and listen to the students who speak truth and for whom we must continue.


 

From proud art student, Noah Farjani, who attends Montclair’s Glenfield middle school for its amazing art program:

notstandard

By Noah Farjani

 

And this video, less than a minute long, made by middle school students in Albuquerque, and speaking volumes of truth, It is credited to Washington Filmkids ABQ:

When will our leaders and government and BOE members listen to the voices of our community here? When will they listen to our students in Montclair or  Newark or Albuquerque?

Our students. Our schools.

We are grateful for all the students who stand up and speak their truth.
Who create art.
Who inspire and give hope.

Stay warm and safe,

Montclair Voices

 

 

 

Journey for Justice in DC happening now-livestream !

Please tune in to this now if you can!

This message was from earlier today–however,

this event is happening now still and is live streaming.

Please watch and share!

http://www.j4jalliance.com/media/

Thank you.


 

Journey for Justice

WE ARE IN CAMDEN!!! NOW TO WASHINGTON!!!

YOU CAN JOIN US IN WASHINGTON DC VIA LIVE STREAM

*ESEA Reauthorization and the Broken Promise of School Privatization*
*Wednesday, March 4th, 1pm-3pm*
*National Press Club*
*529 14th Street NW*

Live stream: http://bit.ly/1AVBd3s

Hear from grassroots leaders, parents and students from around the country
as well as educators and education experts on the rhetoric of the school
privatization movement, the reality of its’ impact and the community driven
remedies to save public education in the United States! We appeal to
lawmakers, do not destroy ESEA and many of the civil rights protections it
provided. Do not use ESEA to fuel failed, top-down mediocre corporate
education interventions and to President Obama; we appeal to you as a
former community organizer to hear our voices! Do not be the President
that presides over the destruction of Title I, strong neighborhoods schools
and other supports from ESEA constructed by the blood, sweat and tears of
our parents and grandparents! Don’t miss it!
Lets push this out! Remember, #equityinesea

In struggle

 

A critical juncture in Montclair, NJ and what is needed for our next Superintendent

Dear Friends,

Our  community and town are grappling with several critical events happening in our district; the resignation notice but not yet leaving of Superintendent, Penny MacCormack, the budget shortfall crisis and budget meetings (the next one is scheduled for tomorrow  evening Thursday, 3/5/2015), and the PARCC testing which is happening this week along with a growing test refusal movement in Montclair and around the state.

The letter we share with you below, was sent to Mayor Jackson and all members of the Montclair BOE on February 22, 2015. Montclair Voices has received it from the author, a parent and resident of Montclair, NJ. We post with permission.

Our voices matter. Here is one:


 

Dear Mayor Jackson and Members of the Board of Education,

I am writing to share some thoughts about the common core, PARCC testing, this critical juncture Montclair is in with the departure of Penny MacCormack, and the need for a replacement, especially as the momentum against the common core and high stakes testing is increasing in this town and all over the country.

My name is Eileen Russell.  My husband Mario and I have lived in Montclair since 2005 and have had and are raising our 3 children here.  I grew up in Orange, NJ in the 70’s and 80’s and understood then the strength and wonder of Montclair’s diverse community and even of its progressive approach to education and commitment to equal education for all. I hardly expected or anticipated a return to Essex County after graduate school and living in the city, but I was delighted when our path lead us here and I have highly valued the social philosophy behind Montclair’s educational system as well as it’s rigor, creativity, and kindness.  I thought it was a blessing we could take for granted until we couldn’t take it for granted anymore with the appointment of Penny MacCormack.

We are very relieved by the news of her departure, provided it makes room for a replacement that will be a bit more critical of the major, powerful, and profitable push behind the common core and its accompanying PARCC Test. Even Governor Christie, who has unfailingly supported and pushed these rapid changes to NJ’s curriculum has recently expressed “grave concerns” about the common core as it appears that finally officials are paying attention to the “grave concerns” parents and teachers have had for a long time now.

My understanding is that teachers have been pretty systematically silenced in the public sphere about their concerns about the common core, the PARCC, and the implementation of both.  If teachers cannot speak out, they cannot educate well-meaning parents who otherwise take for granted that their kids are in good schools, getting a good education.

I am frankly flummoxed by the fact that the Broad Academy, where Penny McCormack was trained to be a Superintendent, is considered so prestigious. It seems to me that its bragging point that it accepts “leaders” from all industry whether or not they have any experience in the education of children is highly suspect as a marker of prestige, unless one is a cynic who really believes that the school system is a mess and educators have really no idea how to improve themselves.  In my field one would not consider attending an “academy” that is not accredited and has no real overseeing body to which it is accountable.

While MacCormack herself comes from an education background, it is known that people at the Academy are prepared to expect opposition when they come into a community, presumably because people are lazy-minded, resist change, etc.  MacCormack said such things herself when she explained the reason for teachers’ opposition to the changes involved in the common core by saying “It’s hard work.”  I heard her say that at a Bradford meeting in which teachers and parents were invited to come have “a conversation” with her.  I could not have imagined a more condescending response and I felt for the teachers who had clearly worked very hard and with great care and creativity in educating my children.  It was a seductive and facile way of dismissing authentic, thoughtful, and intelligent misgivings about this whole endeavor.

I am not a cynic.  But I did come to believe that if the common core and the PARCC could be so rapidly pushed through a thoughtful, integrated town like Montclair with its history in progressive education, then it could or should easily sail through anywhere else.  Other places in the country are pushing back.  Other states are pulling out of their commitment to implementing the common core and using so much of their class time and financial resources to preparing for the PARCC.  If those bold decisions are not happening at the top (i.e., governors and State departments of education) then the push has to come from the bottom; from parents, from teachers, from town BOEs, and even from students who are savvy (and already capable of “critical thinking”). Why shouldn’t Montclair live up to its history of thinking and acting outside the box?

In the very least I ask you to look for a replacement for Dr. MacCormack who has no association with the Broad Academy and whose professional history includes a record of open-mindedness, creativity, support for teachers, honest interest in hearing from parents and students, and real cooperation with the community of which s/he is a part.  I also think it would be in keeping with Montclair’s spirit that in this zeitgeist of high stakes standardized testing you consider hiring someone who is intelligently skeptical of this as the next best thing that is going to solve the problems of education and suddenly wipe out the effects of racial and income disparity among students.  Especially at this time, as opposition to what has been going on in the district and to the philosophy and approach of Dr. MacCormack, it seems wise to consider someone who is more balanced, more genuinely respectful of teachers and parents, and whose own philosophies are more in keeping with Montclair’s progressive history.

Respectfully and Sincerely,

Eileen Russell
Montclair, NJ


 

If you have letters or ideas or art you wish to share with us for consideration  on this blog relating to any Montclair school and education issues, including PARCC testing, PARCC refusals, the budget crisis, and more, please send an email to montclairvoices@gmail.com  with the subject line, “SUBMIT TO BLOG.”

Thank you for reading and sharing this with others.

Montclair Voices

MBOE Budget Meetings: Where, oh, where did the money go?

Dear friends,

Good day to you.

Due to snowfall yesterday, there was a two hour delayed school opening in Montclair, and the PARCC was postponed from today, to tomorrow, 3/3/15.

While we gather links, press clips, blog posts, and pictures from yesterday’s amazing event in Montclair with filmmaker Michael Elliot, we’re jumping back to last week’s BOE meeting on
2/23/2015.

We collected a few pieces you might want to read before this evening’s budget meeting. One thing on so many of our minds is:

where$

Here’s the BUDGET WORKSHOP MEETING  info from the MPS website on 3/2/2015 at 1:30pm:

The MBOE Budget Workshop meeting on March 2, 2015 will commence at 4:30 pm in the George Inness Annex Atrium at 141 Park Street. It will then go immediately into Closed Session and reopen at approximately 7:30 pm for the Public Session.

The MBOE Budget Workshop meeting on March 5, 2015 will commence at 5:30 pm in the Atrium and go immediately into Closed Session reopening at approximately 7:30 pm for the Public Session.

The MBOE Budget Workshops will air live at 7:30pm on Mon., March 2, 2015 and Thurs., March 5, 2015 on Comcast/FiOS 34, FiOS Channel 33 and will stream live.

 

PARENT VOICES:

Parent, Laurie Orosz made these comments at the BOE meeting on 2/23/2015.
We are adding a link to the Noam Chomsky piece she referenced in her comments and include here via Creative Systems Thinking blog:

My son, a third grader at the Charles H. Bullock School, will not be taking the PARCC exams.

Noam Chomsky, in a recent interview for The Progressvie Magazine, stated “The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.”

The PARCC assessments are especially harmful and meaningless. Having taken a practice exam at a Montclair Cares About Schools, Take the PARCC event, I can say these tests are confusing, needlessly wordy, at least two grade levels too advanced and measure nothing but one’s endurance to sit through a frustrating, tedious test.

The PARCC is just one of several, unfunded mandates, recently imposed on our schools by bureaucrats and the wealthy elite. Under the pretence of closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field, these reforms are designed to demean and demoralize our teachers, fail our students, chip away at public education and legalize institutional racism.

Montclair doesn’t exist in a bubble. What is happening nationwide and statewide is happening here.

Almost three years ago, a Broad Superintendent Academy graduate, without any public input, was appointed Superintendent of our schools. The Broad Superintendents Academy isn’t certified, has no state approvals, isn’t subject to outside monitoring, doesn’t require a background in education and trains people in corporate disruption techniques. Broad Superintendents have consistently devastated school districts.

When Dr. MacCormack assumed her position, we had a significant surplus in our budget. Now, as she announces her resignation, we are left with a deficit of millions of dollars and our schools in ruins.

Montclair, once envied for our progressive and diverse schools has become an embarrassment. Class sizes have swelled, curriculum has been narrowed, test prep has run rampant and our schools are now facing horrendous budget cuts.

I want to know what happened to cause this situation and who is going to take responsibility for such an egregious and destructive lack of oversight.

An independent, internal audit should be conducted and Dr. MacCormack should be immediately relieved of her responsibilities. An interim Superintendent should be appointed who is familiar with and respects our magnet program and who values and respects public education.

The search for a new Superintendent should be open and involve input from our Principals, teachers and all stake holders and should lead us to an individual who will help rebuild our schools and return Montclair to its position as a leader in public education.


And this Letter to the Editor:

The Montclair Times letter by Chris McGoey: “Superintendent and her budget must go”

FEBRUARY 26, 2015    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2015, 12:32 AM

THE MONTCLAIR TIMES

Superintendent and her budget must go

Board of Education President David Deutsch has announced Superintendent Penny MacCormack will stay in place until an interim is hired through a paid search. This is unacceptable.

The Principals’ Association has called for MacCormack’s immediate removal, dumbfounded by her insistence that millions of dollars of cuts must come from school programming and staff, leaving them “uncertain of how we possibly got to this place.” The Montclair Education Association and community have echoed that call.

With no confidence, MacCormack’s preliminary budget proposal (which she did not bother to come to present) has no credibility. Her budget claims a projected $10.9 million shortfall. The budget requires that certain unnamed classes be cut and others be combined, that related arts (physical education, art and music), middle and elementary school electives, and athletics be cut. The budget cuts books and supplies, makes kids with special needs give up current paraprofessional support, cuts speech and occupational therapy, cuts teachers and healthcare, and proposes that taxes be raised.

These are false choices framed by an untrusted leader with no vested interest in what happens to Montclair going forward.

Millions have been diverted from the classroom into support for continual assessing, PARCC testing, evaluation, data collection, consulting, legal fees and Common Core curriculum. That money lies hidden in layers of Central Office hires, unhelpful professional development, over-purchased and unplanned tech, and hidden off-budget-line expenditures like the $860,000 unbudgeted tech expenditure disclosed at the Nov. 17 BOE meeting.

This budget deprives children of education to pay for testing and reforms.

We don’t need to wait and pay to search for an interim.

We need to install Felice Harrison today as the NAACP has requested.

Get an independent auditor to look at the books.

Cut the money tied up in the reforms that are wreaking havoc on our schools and budget.

Chris McGoey

Montclair


 

Will we see you at the meeting tonight? Bring your questions and comments.

Stay well and warm,

Montclair Voices

 

 

“The Other PARCC” film released today at 5pm

 

Dear Friends,

It’s finally happening!

RefuseFilm

 

Parents, teachers, students, activists, and community members gathered on this snowy afternoon in a room filled to capacity, to celebrate the premiere of a short film by Michael Elliot. The film was made with support from Montclair Cares About Schools and the collaborative efforts of too many people to name here right now.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Save Our Schools New Jersey for their tireless advocacy on behalf of our public schools and their incredible information  and handouts which were distributed at the event.

A special mention must go to the remarkable students  from the Newark Students Union. If only everyone would listen to them! Or the teachers, as in this brave and incredible letter from the teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, who refer to the PARCC as “30 Days of Destruction,” via Bob Braun’s Ledger.

And  of course, we thank Mr. Elliott for his artistry, vision, and extraordinary efforts to create this film for release on the eve of the PARCC.

We are united in our mission and vision to reclaim public education for all children.

Many people in the room this afternoon are refusing the PARCC, here in Montclair, Newark, Paterson, and all over the state. New Jersey begins PARCC testing tomorrow, Monday, March 2.

At 5pm today,  The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High Stakes Testing, was released  via this link.

Please watch and share widely.

Bloggers across New Jersey are also posting this and we expect it to also be posted nationally.

Here are two blogs by amazing and inspiring women we’re so proud to know as fellow activists and friends. Both  are featured in the film:

One is by The Education Activist, Melissa Katz:

One is by The Edu-Sage’s Companion, Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price:

Okaikor

So much work to do. We go forward.

Warmest wishes,

All of us at Montclair Voices

"Parent Power!" by Elana Halberstadt, 2015

“Parent Power!” by Elana Halberstadt, 2015

PARCC Refusal Meet Up: In Our Own Voices, Sunday, March 1

Dear Friends,

You’re invited!

RefuseFilm

Free tickets are going fast! Please RSVP via EventBrite link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/parcc-refusal-meet-up-tickets-15904851840


Meet with parents and students who are refusing or thinking about refusing the PARCC. 

Enjoy the premiere of “The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High Stakes Testing,” a short documentary film by Michael Elliot made with support from MCAS, before it is released nationally Sunday night. Michael has also made a refusal film for Change the Stakes (see below) and has worked with Class Size Matters. 

Also meet Michael and the parent and student Refusers from Montclair and across New Jersey who appear in the video.

Parking is available at Bay Street station parking deck on Pine Street for $7. 

Refreshments will be served. 

See you there!

All of us at Montclair Voices

On the superintendent’s resignation and the budget in Montclair

Dear Readers,

We’re sharing with you the latest MCAS Newsletter which went out this morning, 2/20/2015. Please take note of the section on the budget, as it is especially urgent. We hope to see you at the BOE meeting on Monday evening.


MCAS Newsletter – February 20, 2015

Dear friends,

As we expect you know, Superintendent MacCormack has submitted her resignation.

This news came days before the board of education will present a draft budget that by many accounts will show a deficit of several million dollars.

Several of us from MCAS sent a statement to the board members Thursday asking that in light of the difficult budget process that is about to start, they accept the superintendent’s resignation effective immediately. We share that statement with you below.

We also want to alert you about the serious budget issues the district may face this coming year.

Please try to come to the board meeting Monday, Feb. 23.

Make your voice heard. It is crucial at this time for all of us to to ensure that any budget cuts do not hurt our classrooms and schools.

_________

Here’s the statement we sent: 

Dear Board of Education members:

With the news of the resignation of Superintendent MacCormack, we as members of Montclair Cares About Schools are writing to respectfully request that the Board of Education accept her resignation effective immediately and appoint an interim superintendent to steer our community through the difficult school budget process that is about to begin.

The announcement of the superintendent’s resignation comes less than a week before the board is expected to release a draft budget that, by many accounts, includes a shortfall of several million dollars.

This deficit comes on the heels of a 4.1 percent tax increase this year coupled with the spending down of millions of dollars in surplus.

It is critical that our community be able to address the issues surrounding this deficit – including how it happened and how to address it – with an open, honest and respectful dialogue.

As the Rev. William Barber, head of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, has said: A budget is a moral document.

We need a budget in Montclair that reflects our community’s values by supporting children, educators and our children’s classrooms over all else.

Unfortunately, the current district leadership has very often caused parents, educators and other community members to feel unheard and disregarded. The current leadership has also failed to provide straight answers or accurate and timely information, all of which are crucial to an open and productive budget process.

An interim superintendent who is respectful of Montclair’s values and history of integrated schools and who has a demonstrated commitment to progressive public education could help to change this dynamic now at this crucial time when our board is about to make spending decisions that may affect our district for years to come.

We and many other parents and community members hope that this change in leadership will mark a positive turning point, leading to a decision-making process in our district that is more inclusive and genuinely welcoming of the views of parents, educators and other residents.

In light of the budget decisions before us, we believe it is critical that the district begin that new more open and inclusive approach now with new, interim leadership.

Thank you very much for your attention and consideration of this matter.

_______________________

Budget alert!

The board is expected to release a draft budget Monday that will require cuts, a tax increase or both.

We’re writing to ask each of you to try to attend the meeting this Monday, to pay close attention to the school budget this year and to make your voice heard.

Where: MHS auditorium on Park Street

When: Monday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m., with signup for public comments usually beginning around 6:30

The district is by many accounts projecting a shortfall of several million dollars.

We want to remind you that this shortfall comes after the district raised taxes 4.1 percent this year and spent millions of dollars in surplus funds. This raises key questions:

  • Where did the money go?
  • Will budget cuts hit our children’s classrooms and schools? Or will they be kept far from the classroom?

Over the last few years, we have seen troubling trends in how the district has spent our tax dollars:

  • Central Services has bulked up, adding so many new administrators and other staff that the total number of staff has grown by 50 percentsince 2008-09, from 33.4 to 51, as of last fall. This increase came over a period when district enrollment stayed about the same.
  • Legal fees have skyrocketed from $167,000 in 2011-12 to more than $500,000 last year and $350,000 budgeted this year.
  • Technology spending has soared, totaling about $2 million or more this year alone – much of it to prepare for the PARCC – and without the district’s bothering to create a technology plan to ensure that the new technology enhances learning.
  • Communications costs more than doubled in the first nine months of this year over what was budgeted, $125,000 budgeted vs. $288,000 actual. Most of this is for new communications staff to handle what is essentially public relations for the superintendent.

As the district has gone on this spending spree with money outside the classroom, our paraprofessionals – the teachers’ aides who serve as a lifeline to our most vulnerable children – are increasingly hired only as substitutes with no benefits and no job security.

______________________________

Our school budget should reflect our values and vision for our schools. The budget plays a large part in determining what happens in our schools and classrooms each day:

  • When paraprofessionals are brought on as substitutes with no benefits and low pay, that hurts the morale and reduces the stability of the workforce of educators whom our children depend on.
  • When programs are cut and never restored – such as elementary school instrumental music and Writer’s Room – that reduces the learning opportunities open to our children.

As parents and community members, we can make sure that our district’s budget reflects our community’s values and our education goals for our children.

Thank you.

Please check out our Facebook page for updates.


If you’d like to receive MCAS newsletters directly to your email
in-box, please send a note to montclaircaresaboutschools@gmail.com
with “SUBSCRIBE TO NL” in the subject line.

If you’d like to submit stories or any other material for consideration and posting on Montclair Voices, please email us at:
montclairvoices@gmail.com
with the subject line: “SUBMIT TO BLOG”

Thank you and stay warm!

All of us at Montclair Voices

 

 

Test-refusal resolution before Montclair BOE & upcoming events

Dear Readers,

There’s a lot going on in town, in the state, and nationwide. The resistance /refusal movement is growing and we urge all interested parents, residents, and community members to continue to speak up and engage in conversations, on social media, wherever you are comfortable.

Together we are making a difference!

Also, if you haven’t seen this yet, SOSNJ has put out a great resource on PARCC and refusal. Please check their Facebook page and website for excellent information and advocacy.

Thanks for all you do.

Montclair Voices


 

Note to readers: The information below was previously published via email /newsletter and on Facebook on 1/23/2015. 

Dear friends,

We wanted to let you know about these important meetings and events coming up. Details below.

  • Monday, Jan. 26: BOE vote on “Parental Refusal of Standardized Testing Policy.”
  • Wednesday, Jan. 28: The Art and Poetry of Teaching, upstairs at Tierney’s
  • Sunday, Feb. 8: Standardized, the movie on testing that everyone seems to be talking about will be shown in Montclair
  • Tuesday, Feb. 10: Take the PARCC event at MSU

Monday, Jan. 26: BOE vote on Parental Refusal of Standardized Testing Policy

The Montclair Board of Education will do a second reading and vote on the “Parental Refusal of Standardized Testing Policy,” introduced in December.

Come lend your voice in support of this very important resolution Monday night. 

Where: MHS Auditorium, entrance on Park Street

When: Monday Jan. 26,  Public meeting begins at 7:30 pm, speakers sign-up sheet available at 6:30 pm.

The Parental Refusal resolution says: “[S]ome parents may choose to have their children decline to take one or more of [the PARCCs].

“[T]he policy of the MBOE is that the parental decision to decline testing should be met at the district level with educationally appropriate and non-punitive responses.The proposed resolution directs the superintendent to “establish a procedure in accordance with this Policy.”

Background: Montclair had a policy like this in place last year for NJASK. The PARCC, which will be given starting in early March, is a new, unproven test. Parents have asked for months for a humane policy for students whose parents choose against having their children take the test. Other school boards have passed parental refusal resolutions, and recently the president of the New Jersey State Board of Education acknowledged that no one can force children to take a standardized test. Montclair needs a consistent, clear policy to ensure that when the PARCC is administered in our schools, students who do not take it will be given productive, alternative activities in another room.

Come and show your support for the proposed policy.

_______________________________________________________

Wednesday, Jan. 28: The Art and Poetry of Teaching – a fun evening of music, comedy, spoken word and poetry performed by our teachers!

Ready to beat the end-of-January chill? If you haven’t reserved a spot yet, there’s still some space left at what promises to be a fun and inspiring event featuring performances by some of our talented teachers from Edgemont, Hillside, Montclair High School, Mount Hebron, Renaissance, and more!

We’re celebrating creative teaching and creative teachers. We hope you can join us.

Where: Upstairs at Tierney’s Tavern http://www.tierneystavern.com/

134 Valley Road, Montclair

When: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7 to 9 p.m.

Admission: Free. To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-art-poetry-of-teaching-tickets-15109298318

Register now for the Art & Poetry of Teaching

There will be light refreshments and a cash bar.

Audience members must be age 21 or over to attend.

 

Co-sponsored by the Montclair Education Association and Montclair Cares About Schools

____________________________________________________

Sunday, Feb. 8: Standardized, the movie on testing that everyone seems to be talking about

The film – Standardized, Lies, Money, and Civil RIghts: How Testing is Ruining Public Education – 

is a must-see movie that has been shown around the country including recent screenings all over New Jersey. Now you can see it in Montclair!

Many of you have asked for it, and we got it. Come join us for a showing.

Where: the Firehouse, the community room at the Montclair Fire Department headquarters

When: Sunday, Feb. 8, 3 to 5 p.m.

Admission: Free. Space is limited so please be sure to register at https://standardized.eventbrite.com.

Register now to see Standardized 

From the filmmakers: “For decades, standardized testing has been a part of public education. Within the last ten years, however, education reform has promoted even more testing. Test scores, mistakenly viewed as effective assessments of student ability and teacher/school effectiveness, are anything but. Standardized sheds light on the invalid nature of these tests, the terrible consequences of high-stakes testing, and the big money that’s involved.

logo

________________________________________________________

Tuesday, Feb. 10: Take the PARCC event held at Montclair State University

Have you tried a PARCC practice test yet? Parents who have taken a practice PARCC say that it is a powerful and informative experience. Here’s another local opportunity to Take the PARCC in a group setting and engage in discussion about high-stakes testing. A great follow-up to Standardized. Sponsored by the Essex County Education Association (ECEA).

Where: Montclair State University Conference Center

When: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 7 to 9 p.m.

Admission: Register at : ECEAONLINE.ORG 

ECEA can be reached at 973- 736-5650, eceaonline.orgecea@comcast.net

Remember, if you can’t make this Take the PARCC event, you can try a sample PARCC on your own at this site: http://www.parcconline.org/practice-tests and judge the test for yourself.

Check out the Montclair Cares About Schools page on Facebook for information on these events and more.

 

Parent testimony to State Board of Education in Trenton, NJ

noparccbutton

Dear Readers,

Almost 100 people gave testimony against the PARCC in Trenton on 1/7/15.

Here’s one outstanding piece. We hope you’ll read it and will share with others.

Thank you!

Montclair Voices


 

1/7/15 Written Testimony of Christine McGoey
before SBOE Members Lepore and Fornaro

Thank you State Board of Education Members Lepore and Fornaro for hearing my public testimony.

I think public testimony is very important because it injects reality into what is happening to children and education in our schools today. The Common Core Standards, linked to PARCC testing, that would generate supposedly necessary data, were presented to us by our district and our state and federal governments as a seamless package for how to create better education.

I am here to say that in practice those theories are detrimental to our children and our schools and are hurting education.

In my experience, the standards are largely developmentally inappropriate, teaching to the PARCC is narrowing the curriculum, and together they are draining resources for tech, testing and CCSS curriculum from our school budgets that could be better used in the classroom. School has changed dramatically for the worse in the two short years since CCSS and PARCC preparedness has been in place.

I am the parent of two public school children in Montclair, NJ. I have been an active volunteer in our schools, devoting many hours on numerous projects over the years for the PTA and on family and community engagement.  During the past holidays I participated in organizing the Thanksgiving Multi Cultural Feast, ran the Snowflake Village, made fudge for the the Holiday Sing. I have baked countless cupcakes, served breakfasts and raised funds. I don’t speak for any organization here, but I believe that my close involvement has given me a real understanding of our schools, kids and parents.

My children are 6 years apart. I have a tenth grader and a fifth grader. My younger child is currently attending the same elementary school his older sibling attended, with many of the same excellent teachers and a great Principal–all doing their best.  But he is not benefiting from the same great kind of education his older brother received.

His older brother experienced a curriculum that advanced kids in ways that fit them. Now, CCSS and PARCC require kids to think like mini-adults to be advanced.

I do not intend to argue the merits of CCSS here, but to give you a flavor for what I mean, my older child received a solid elementary school foundation in basic math skills like math facts, multiplication and division, that quickly created automaticity and allowed him to pursue higher math concepts as he got older.

Montclair parent, Christine McGoey gives her testimony to State Board of Ed. Trenton, NJ, 1/7/2015

Montclair parent, Christine McGoey gives her testimony to State Board of Ed. Trenton, NJ, 01/07/2015

Last year, instead of solidifying basic math facts, CCSS had my younger son’s class devoting months to developing skills in things like writing equations without solving them, and a multi-stepped, unhelpful process for division called “area modeling” so misaligned with the way children think that the entire class spent hours on math homework every evening. The effort required of younger children to learn these alternate skills, clearly not keyed to their developmental levels, took up the time normally invested in actually learning division or practicing to automaticity in multiplication. CCSS sent a class of fourth graders on to fifth with destabilized math skills. We had to do those things at home.

In language arts, reading levels have been ratcheted up with no underlying research–only the conviction by CCSS writers that if you make it harder kids will have to be smarter. At one of our BOE meetings last year our then curriculum director explained how kindergarten reading levels had been arbitrarily boosted by CCSS, and how the district believed these were too high, so they had split the difference and only raised them half way–as if this were a better approach. (Elementary school reading levels now reach up into former middle school levels and kids and schools are accountable for skill levels way above their ages regardless of developmental readiness.)

My older son had a rich and full social studies curriculum in elementary school. This year I would say my younger son has had next to none, no projects and only one test after reading a few chapters. My younger son has not mentioned social studies and I have seen no social studies work for months. At back to school night, one of his teachers informed us that given the amount of material CCSS required them to cover in math and language arts, the children would unfortunately be doing less social studies.

To date, our district of 6,700 students has spent something close to 2.1 million dollars on tech upgrades and computer equipment related to PARCC. Our Superintendent is now saying that given these expenditures our district faces “hard choices” in this upcoming budget cycle.

Money that could be used in the classroom, is pouring out of the budget into the hands of tech and testing and CCSS curriculum companies.

My children, husband and I took the PARCC practice tests at a community event with about a hundred other people. My husband and I both have  a number of higher degrees, but we could not answer many of the questions.  The test was poorly written, missing context, not giving clear choices.The fifth grade test contained multiple operations in each math question and was much too complex. The technology piece was daunting. We could not imagine how even reasonably prepared children could do well on such a test.

(Here is a link to a letter I wrote about taking the PARCC. http://www.northjersey.com/opinion/opinion-letters-to-the-editor/montclair-letter-by-christina-mcgoey-taking-parcc-is-an-eye-opener-1.1133836)

The test seems rigged for failure.

In fact, in NY and other states where CCSS tests have been given, the cut scores alone have done exactly that. NY failed 70%. The SBAC, the other consortium test, is set to be administered with a cut rate that will fail up to 68% of kids in math and 62% in language arts (The rate fluctuates with grade. The full scoring system is set out here:  http://www.smarterbalanced.org/news/smarter-balanced-states-approve-achievement-level-recommendations/) Commissioner Hespe will not announce the cut scores for NJ, claiming they have not been set yet with the PARCC consortium and that this will happen in the summer–after the tests have been taken. But if these tests are to compare apples to apples as we have been told, how can the NJ cut scores be any better?

And if the test is designed for failure, then the data stream that is generated by the PARCC and follows and judges our children through the longitudinal data system set in place, is designed to label them with failure.

And the rating of teachers, principals and schools tied to test data, is designed for failure.

Instead of seeing the seamless package for good education we had been promised CCSS and PARCC would provide, we now see each separate piece as not only ill conceived and faulty, but as harmful.

We know through experience that the standards are both developmentally inappropriate and failing to provide a good, foundational education.

We know that ratcheting up the level of work is not teaching, merely piling it on and creating stress without purpose.

The emphasis on meeting all the CCSS criteria that will be PARCC tested are wiping out valuable areas of study like social studies.

The test is designed for failure. The data that will rank and sort and follow our children and invade their privacy is set not for success, but for widespread, purposeful failure.

As parents we are dismayed and disillusioned.

We feel our government and Departments of Education at Federal, State and Local levels have let us down and are following a course harmful to our children’s education and dangerous to public education as an institution.

We have brought our concerns to our local BOE and Superintendent, only to be told we must appeal to the State BOE.

We supported bill A3081 that would have allowed for a full and complete examination of CCSS and high stakes PARCC testing and felt this bill shouId have been brought to a vote in the Senate.

I am here today to tell you that as a matter of protest, our children will not be taking the PARCC.

And we are so concerned about education that we have decided we will not vote for any candidates who mindlessly support PARCC or CCSS.

We ask the SBOE to exercise its power to reexamine PARCC and CCSS, to hold full hearings on these topics with wide public input,  and to pass a statewide test refusal/ opt out policy.

Thank you.

Christine McGoey
Montclair, NJ