Category Archives: Uncategorized

“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

Parent Power Pushing Against the PARCC

Dear Readers,

Thank you and a warm welcome to our new subscribers!

The PARCC is coming up fast. Parents all over New Jersey are speaking up.

Parent activist and artist Elana Halberstadt created this drawing, “Parent Power!”

"Parent Power!" by Elana Halberstadt, 2015

“Parent Power!” by Elana Halberstadt, 2015

 

This image has been shared widely online, especially via Save Our Schools New Jersey Facebook post last week. As of this writing, it has been “liked” 183 times and shared 60 times. If you haven’t been to the SOSNJ website or Facebook page yet, go there! Excellent information updated daily, and some seriously awesome advocacy work by all volunteer members that will inspire you, give you hope, and move you to action.

Here’s a compelling letter in The Montclair Times, 2/19/2015, from Montclair parent and resident, Martha Evans:

The Montclair Times letter, by Martha Evans: “Parents: exercise right to refuse PARCC”

FEBRUARY 19, 2015    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015, 12:31 AM

Parents: exercise right to refuse PARCC

Controversy continues to escalate around the PARCC tests replacing NJASK — and for good reason.

People should pay close attention to why the vast majority of states planning to administer the PARCC have ultimately rejected it. Their reasons are the same ones we should all consider in deciding whether to subject our own children and teachers to these experimental new tests that lack credibility and unfairly discriminate.

The PARCC is designed to fail 60-70 percent of students — this has been borne out around the country, including among high achievers. While the scores won’t affect placement this year, make no mistake; that data will forever remain on the record of every child who takes the PARCC. Their scores will factor into teacher and school evaluations this year.

Superintendent Penny MacCormack has continued to repeat our state’s empty mantra — that the PARCC will provide more data than the NJASK ever did. This is simply not true. Teachers will never see the convoluted, developmentally inappropriate questions on the PARCC, let alone what students answered right or wrong.

With no diagnostic value, the PARCC will disrupt 12-14 days versus two for NJASK. At an estimated cost of $80 per student, Montclair will shell out roughly $350,000-$400,000. That’s excluding the district’s massive $2.1 million tech upgrades that went way over budget — and were made with no tech plan in place.

Despite MacCormack’s ongoing insistence to the contrary, last week’s report at the BOE meeting made it clear that Montclair schools are not tech-ready for the PARCC.

At the same meeting, our Board of Education put to rest Superintendent MacCormack’s persistent denial that families have the right to refuse the PARCC. Montclair joined 134 other districts and unanimously passed an official refusal policy. Every family should seriously consider using it.

Martha Evans

Montclair


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New Jersey parents and residents are waking up and pushing back against the PARCC in droves! Grassroots  Cares About Schools groups are continuing to form all over the state. And last week in neighboring Clifton, NJ, via the Clifton Journal,  families stood up to protest the PARCC at their local Board meeting.

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And, if you’re new to this conversation, or trying to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on, or just want to read a really excellent piece, Jersey Jazzman’s post offers an enlightening and comprehensive, spot-on overview of the state of public education affairs.

And what can you do?

The next Montclair BOE meeting is tomorrow, Monday, February 23, 2015. It promises to be a very interesting one in light of recent developments as reported in The Montclair Times  and Tap Into Montclair in the past few days:

Superintendent MacCormack resigned, and her Assistant, Matthew Frankel, has also resigned.

The MPS budget is showing a shortfall of $6M!

The MPS principals sent a letter /statement to the MBOE.

PrincipalsLetterPrincipalsLetter2

The public portion of the meeting is expected to begin at 7:30pm. Please check the MCAS fb page for updates. Come to speak or come to listen and show your support for our community. We are in this together. PARENT POWER! 

We hope to see many of you there!

Warmest wishes,

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

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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.

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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.

 

Video

Testimony in Trenton against PARCC: Parent, teacher and student power

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Dear Readers,

The turnout at the open testimony in Trenton, NJ yesterday was terrific!

Here’s a round up of a few articles, blog posts, and written and videotaped testimony that we’ve collected. You may also see more on the Montclair Cares About Schools or Save Our Schools New Jersey Facebook pages or via Montclair Education Matters blog.

Bloggers:

Sarah Tepper Blaine, Montclair parent
http://parentingthecore.com/2015/01/07/speaking-truth-and-democracy-to-new-jersey-state-board-of-education/

Colleen Daly Martinez, Montclair parent
http://whattodowiththekidsinmontclairnj.blogspot.com/2015/01/my-1715-testimony-at-nj-board-of.html?m=1

Marie Corfield
http://mcorfield.blogspot.com/2015/01/qotd-nj-boe-president-drops-bombshell.html

Students testimony:

Testimony from 10 year old:

And 2nd grade student Saige Price:

Press:

NJ105.com
http://nj1015.com/debate-over-new-jerseys-parcc-test/

NJ.com
http://www.nj.com/education/2015/01/parcc_exams_blasted_by_parents_teacher_students_at_open_forum.html#incart_river

NJ Spotlight
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/01/07/anti-testing-turnout-puts-state-board-of-education-to-the-test/

Special Ed. parents, take note:

Testimony at Trenton yesterday from Allendale, NJ parent, Julie Larrea Borst:

It was a really good day at the State Board of Ed meeting. Some very good testimony provided by teachers, admins, students, and parents. Here’s mine:

7 January 2015
Good afternoon, my name is Julie Borst. I am a resident of Allendale and the parent of a special needs student who is currently a sophomore in an out of district placement at Pascack Hills HS in Montvale.
I am co-founder of Allendale Parents of Children with Special Needs; an organizer for both Save Our Schools-NJ and United Opt Out-NJ; a member of Ridgewood Cares About Schools; and a member of New Jersey BATs. My comments today are my own.
I am here to discuss the impact of standardized testing on students with disabilities. With the recent announcement of the PARCC exams as a graduation requirement, NJDOE and NJBOE have a responsibility to our most vulnerable students to provide an alternate path to graduation. The choice between PARCC, SAT and ACT is not an actual choice for students who are not performing at or even near grade level.
The continued mincing of words, “there is no ‘opt out’ available in NJ” is causing confusion for parents who are new to this process; and the statement is misleading. While the proper language is “refuse,” no parent should have to be faced with understanding that nuance. When a parent chooses to exercise their 14th Amendment rights, districts, NJDOE, and NJBOE should be supporting that decision, not having a play with words.
I urge you all to consider the “appropriateness” of standardized testing for these students. Is it appropriate to subject a student who educationally operates at a 5th grade level to 10th grade test? If that question was asked about a 5th grade student being required to take a 10th grade test, everyone would laugh and say it’s unthinkable. It’s absurd to even consider it. So why is that same logic not applied to our most vulnerable students?
I won’t even get into the absurdity of the “PARCC Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: (which states) Because a student’s disability may affect how well he or she does on the test, accommodations can be used to overcome or cancel the
effects of the disability…” It’s statements like this that make it impossible to take PARCC seriously.
Now, let’s presume there is no way out for SWDs taking PARCC in order to get a diploma. Then what? As a parent, my goal is to get my daughter as prepared as possible to enter the adult world as a functioning member of society. No standardized test going to help her become that person. Especially if there is no way for her to earn a diploma, the bare minimum needed to obtain a job.
There must be alternatives for PARCC and for graduation requirements. They must be offered in a timely and concise manner as this now affects this year’s juniors. Any alternatives, like portfolios, must be done in such a way as to not overtax teachers’ time. As of January 6, 2015, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no guidance for Special Services Teams on portfolios. We’re already four months into this school year and this is unacceptable.
There must be guidance on these issues and soon.
Thank you for your time.


 

This opinion piece (not part of Trenton testimony) on why the “reforms” are so hurtful:
http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/01/njs_education_reforms_are_more_hurtful_than_helpful_opinion.html#incart_river

Lastly, here’s a list of 12 reasons to oppose the PARCC from SOSNJ and which was published just before Christmas.

That’s it for now.

Stay warm, everyone!

All of us at Montclair Voices

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Happy, merry everything!

Dear friends,

Wishing you and yours light, joy and peace this holiday season!

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From all of us at Montclair Voices

 

Video

What people are saying about the PARCC and high stakes testing

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Dear Readers,

It’s going to take a while to unpack last night’s Board of Ed. meeting which didn’t end until well past midnight.

While we try to do that, bake, light candles, wrap gifts, cuddle with our kids, clean up spilled stuff, and play with kittens, we’ve got this:

A letter from a parent to the BOE, a ten  year old’s compelling and heartfelt comments at the meeting, a short animated film about what testing can feel like for a child, and an article written by  a teacher in Chicago that includes many points that hit home here in Montclair, NJ.


Letter sent to Board of Ed. members by email prior to BOE meeting on 12/15/2014:

Dear  Mr. Deutsch, Ms. Mernin, and all Members of the BOE,

I was a regular at Board meetings in spring 2013 through the end of February 2014. Since then, I have not been able to attend. As I’m unable to be there yet again tonight, I’m writing to express my support for the resolution scheduled for your vote this evening.

I respectfully urge all MBOE members to please vote YES for the
humane parental refusal resolution that
would not be punitive and will not include “sit and stare” policies.

My second grader is not yet subject to the PARCC exam,
but he and his classmates are already experiencing (for the second year
in a row) a narrowing of the curriculum and a loss of magnet richness,
increased stress,  and confusion for parents, children, and teachers.

There’s a hyper focus on math, writing, ELA, and a lot of worksheets and tests,
mostly created by Pearson.
Many of these (especially) math worksheets are developmentally inappropriate
and too wordy and confusing.

There’s barely time for art, music, social studies, science, library, and Spanish.
Our children need a much more engaging learning experience.
They need to play, experiment, and explore with hands on, project- based learning.

That once well known, progressive school district our family moved to Montclair
for appears to be disappearing. Authentic teaching and learning cannot be achieved by high stakes testing, PARCC prep, mini PARCCS, tests to practice for the PARCC or endless worksheets.

The joy has been gone from our schools now for almost two full years.
It’s time to bring it back. And in the meantime, it’s time to say YES to
a resolution that will allow parents to opt out/refuse the PARCC or any other standardized testing
that does nothing but sort and separate our children, informs us what socio economic background they might be from, and which does nothing to teach
them but turns them into people  following
test directions, filling in the bubbles–instead of blowing them.

The current landscape is rough for many of us who have children
with special needs in the system. They’re among the first to be hurt by these
changes, by high stakes testing, by standardization, by “rigor”, “college and career ready” data driven reforms.

I see the mind numbing worksheets. Wasting our children’s brains and imaginations on useless, stressful, busy work; lessons that serve Pearson, perhaps, but not our children.

Thank you for your consideration and your YES vote for a humane policy
for MPS.

Next, please consider a humane, educationally sound, progressive strategic plan for our district
instead of the race to nowhere and the many children being left behind plan that is currently in place.

Sincerely,

Elana Halberstadt


 

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Why is it we can’t we have our children run the BOE? 

A very smart and brave 10 year old student, Elizabeth Blaine spoke up against the PARCC at the BOE meeting.

Here’s what she had to say via The Washington Post:

And video, too.

http://youtu.be/m0hTl638Exg


 

Once again, we heard many teachers speak out at the BOE meeting. Visit Montclair Education Matters blog for more  local teacher voices.

Here a teacher from Chicago writes about PARCC damage. And, yes, it is relevant to New Jersey:

An excerpt via Diane Ravitch blog:

Katie Osgood, who teaches in Chicago, describes what the Common Core and PARCC have done to her classroom. Whatever the children read is decontextualized, lifeless, bare of interest, skill-based.

They are engaged in “close reading,” following David Coleman’s ideology.

She writes:

My school is drowning under the ridiculous Common Core Standards. Everything I know to do to inspire my students is forbidden. Instead, we are forced to deliver truly horrible curriculum in developmentally inappropriate ways with pacing charts that move so fast all our heads are spinning. My students with special needs are shutting down, acting out, or just giving up entirely. Sometimes I hear them whisper, “I hate school”. And they are right to think that. All the teachers are upset. And every time we ask “Why? Why are you making us do this?” the answer is always the same. PARCC is coming….


 

A lovely short-short film, The Testing Camera by Peter H. Reynolds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PABNMIG5VJc&app=desktop


 

Happy Chanuka to all celebrating!

Warmest wishes from the team at Montclair Voices

 

The people speak up!

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Made in June 2013 after a BOE meeting in which parents, students, and community spoke up against the Strategic Plan and high stakes testing. The BOE voted to approve the plan.

 

Dear Readers,

WOW! Last night’s Montclair Board of Education meeting (11/17/2014) proved that more and more parents
and community members are becoming aware of  the destructive policies being implemented by the NJDOE, Superintendent, and BOE.

Friends, people are experiencing the damage and harm it is causing our students, teachers, and schools in general. Lost learning time is only one of many things sacrificed to test prep for PARCC.

There was a terrific turn out, especially for a cold, rainy Monday night.
One after another,  passionate, caring, knowledgeable, thoughtful  community members stood up to publicly call on our Superintendent and BOE to pay attention, to listen, and to hear the community’s dissatisfaction with the status quo.

One by one, speakers took to the mic to express outrage, concerns, make statements, and ask questions. This is our town, our school district, and we will continue to stand up and speak out for OUR children.

While we’re busy unpacking all that transpired last night, we want to
thank district parent and blogger, Sarah Tepper Blaine from parentingthecore for sharing her comments made at the BOE meeting last night (11/17/14) on our Facebook page and we’re happy to share them here as well. Please read her post and share it with friends, neighbors, and fellow parents.

For anyone else who was in attendance last night, please keep your statements coming in to us here at montclairvoices@gmail.com. We want to post more comments so more people can read and find out what’s going on in our district!

Together we can make a difference.

Thanks for all you’re doing!

All of us at Montclair Voices

Welcome to Montclair Voices with a Walk in the PARCC

Dear Readers,

This is our first blog post from Montclair Voices! A new place to speak up about our schools.

Let’s jump in and get right to it.

PARCC! Is it a new parking regulation? No, it is the new high stakes tests coming to NJ schools this spring.

For some background, see this post from TeacherBiz, Dear Commissioner Hespe, Can we talk .
We think she hits  the nail on the head responding to Commissioner Hespe’s latest statement about the scare tactic options for parents interested in opting out or refusing the PARCC. And for a terrific roundup of even more reactions, check out Marie Corfield’s post, Hespe Opens Floodgates.


And this #mcasparentvoices was received from a district parent on October 30, 2014:

Parents had a very insightful session with the freshman guidance counselors at yesterday’s “Navigating Freshman Year” night.

A parent brought up the question of how to go about opting a child out of the PARCC assessments. The head of guidance at MHS, Mr. Willieneil French said he wasn’t sure yet if we would be able to opt out. Another guidance counselor interrupted and said there would be a Q & A at the end to answer specific questions.

Parents were asked to submit questions on index cards.

Mr. French responded later that parents will be able to opt out but that they were still working on the process and couldn’t say what that process would be.

When will they have an answer for parents? Shouldn’t they have a plan in place by now?

 


Makes you wonder, right? What exactly is our district’s plan for parents wanting to opt their children out / refuse the PARCC? We don’t know yet.

But, we can tell you that our Take the PARCC
event is  coming up on November 9, 2014 from 3-5pm.

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We hope you’ll join us. If you can’t go, please consider passing this on to a friend,  neighbor, or fellow parent who  might want more information about the new  PARCC testing.

This is a great chance to come see what the PARCC  tests are all about –to experience them hands on for your  very own self.  Participate in a discussion with other concerned parents, educators, and community members who are all asking the same questions you might be curious about. Or just  listen. Please know, if you’re confused about PARCC —you’re most definitely not alone! 

Hespe’s recent statement has galvanized a movement already gaining steam. Together, we can start to make sense of things and work to make things better for all our students and our schools.JamesBaldwin

If you have a story or an idea or art about testing or any topic relevant to our schools, please send them to us for consideration at montclairvoices@gmail.com (for more on this please visit our About page).

We look forward to reading your stories and sharing them with others.

Thanks and until next time,

Montclair Voices