Tag Archives: PARCC refusal

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

 

 

 

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

“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

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.

logo

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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.