Tag Archives: montclair public schools

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I’d rather be at this park!

Dear Readers,

We received this  fantastic drawing from Noah Farjani, 7th Grade.

Thank you, Noah!

ParkNF2015

Friends, feel free to express your thoughts and feelings about the upcoming PARCC test or any education-related or MPS schools’ topic. Art, stories, poems, questions—send them our way  for posting /sharing here!

Thank you!

All of us at Montclair Voices

 

 

 

Can we trust their data?

Dear Readers,

Below is a slightly updated version of comments made by Michelle Fine at the Montclair Board of Education meeting on Monday, November 17, 2014:

A Closer Look at the Strategic Progress Report 

A year ago, on October 8, 2013, the Montclair Times reported that the achievement gap had widened in Montclair schools. David Deutsch referred to the gaps between economically disadvantaged African Americans and non-disadvantaged Whites, as “massive.”  Shelley Lombard said, “If anybody can address this and start to do something about it, it’s Montclair. That’s why some board members are very enthusiastic about Penny MacCormack.”

Then in October 2014, Gail Clarke presented the Achievement Gap analysis to the public. I draw your attention to one chart: High Expectations for All: Race and Ethnicity. Ms. Clarke told the public that the Black-White gap had narrowed on 9 of 15 measures.

Some might see this as cause to celebrate, but there are serious problems with the presentation of the data: problems of omission and commission. After consulting with a team of three statisticians, I summarize the errors in data presentation and interpretation below, and for this evening will identify at least one serious policy issue that Board must address. My comments derive from a simple comparison of the chart presented to the public and the raw data in the Appendix and on the MPS website.

What’s missing? In the full report for 2014, economically disadvantaged Black children are never compared to non-disadvantaged Black children nor to non-disadvantaged White children. This statistical omission is ironic, given that the race/class gap was such a cause of such concern in 2013 when the Board was suggesting that Superintendent Alvarez had underestimated the gap.

What’s wrong with the data? This year, when you are assessing the MacCormack administration, not only did you fail to provide critical comparisons of low- income African Americans to non-disadvantaged Whites, but the data you did present to the public consistently overstated the percent of Black students who scored as proficient when compared to data in your own Appendix. The discrepancy is as high as 13% on the 3rd grade ELA, 11% in 4th grade, 8% in 5th, 7% ELA 6, 14% in ELA 7, 13% in ELA 8 and 4% in HSPA for ELA 11. The same patterns can be found in math.

Stated plainly, the key comparisons from last year are not available to the public and the data presented to the public systematically and inaccurately skew in the direction of claiming substantial achievement gains among African American students.

I have no way of knowing if this is human error, cherry- picking or strategic misrepresentation of only the non-economically disadvantaged African Americans. I have contacted both Gail Clarke and George Glass with the hope that they can help me understand the conflicting information.

The public deserves accurate reporting and fiscal responsibility. At this point “correcting” the chart is necessary, but no longer sufficient. The larger issue at stake is one that has haunted this administration for years: questions of accuracy, honesty and lack of public trust.

As I understand, the Board voted to grant Dr. MacCormack and perhaps one of her Chiefs a “merit bonus” based, in part, on these presumably narrowed gaps.

My question to the Board is simple: Will these merit bonuses be held in escrow until we have numbers we can trust?

Michelle Fine


 

 

 

What we lose to testing and test prep

Dear Readers,

We received this from a district parent:

My husband and I chose Montclair for the school system. We have been happy with the magnet system and my child has thrived in the rich arts programs offered in the schools attended. Our happiness has faded over the last school year. The amount of testing and time preparing for tests is out of control. Now we face PARCC. This district has claimed that PARCC is not a curriculum and they won’t be teaching to the test. I can hardly believe this is the truth when my child comes home and says they are using chrome books in Social Studies class. Two full classes were used this week for PARCC practice and the teacher has mentioned that hopefully they’ll be doing this once a week.

My husband and I are getting very concerned as to how much this high stakes testing is taking away from actual learning. The amount of time preparing for a test, and then the amount of time taking the test, which will be given twice a year now. We realize that these aren’t just concerns for Montclair, but it is affecting education everywhere.

Yet, we have heard of school districts that are pushing back on this type of testing. Not Montclair!

When we reached out to the Montclair BOE, their answer was that its a state mandate. People also address similar concerns regarding these tests at BOE meetings, only to get blank stares back. I have to say, we’re seriously reconsidering where we want to live to get the best education for our child. We desperately need new leadership who will fight for what is right for our child and all of the children of Montclair. I haven’t seen any signs of that yet.


 

AlfieKtime

Parents—ask yourselves this excellent question from Alfie Kohn:

“What was taken away from my children’s education in order to make them better at taking standardized tests?”

Do you see less hands on, experiential learning? What about field trips? Is there less time for art, music or gym? Fiction? 

What kind of homework are you seeing come home in your child’s backpack? Is it primarily multiple choice worksheets? 

Consider asking your children’s teachers, principals, the Superintendent, and the BOE members: What learning time is being lost due to test prep, especially for the PARCC? How much time are students spending on PARCC test prep in class and/or at home? 

For more on the PARCC, come to our Take the PARCC event happening on Sunday, November 9 from 3-5 pm. 

takeparccrevised

Like what you see here? Please pass it on.
Have a story to share? Email it to us at:
montclairvoices@gmail.com

Thank you!

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.

takeparccrevised

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