Tag Archives: humane opt out policy

Parent testimony to State Board of Education in Trenton, NJ

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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

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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