Tag Archives: PARCC

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:

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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

 

 

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.

clifton3 clifton2 Clifton1

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Video

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

noparccbutton

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

Video

What people are saying about the PARCC and high stakes testing

NCLBtest

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


 

ktestscore


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

 

BOE Meeting 12/15/14: Advocacy makes a difference

MBOE humane opt out policy up for a vote this evening at MBOE meeting 12/15/14

MBOE humane opt out policy up for a vote this evening at MBOE meeting 12/15/14

Dear Readers,

So much has been going on! It’s a hard time of year to keep up with all the notices, emails and with the holiday swirl, its no wonder so many of us are strapped for time.

But every voice raised for our children matters. Every email, letter, blog post, or conversation we have about the issues facing our schools, our children, and our teachers–brings us one step closer to creating change in our community.

So, it’s up to us, parents. It really is up to us to stand up and be heard. And when we can see the positive results of our actions, as you’ll read below, we know there is strength in numbers.  Every single one of you that steps up to the mic at a BOE meeting, or sends an email, or shares a post on Facebook, or does a bit of research and shares it with a friend  — is part of a collective —PARENT POWER!

Parent advocacy has made a difference. If you have a few minutes, we hope you’ll read this latest MCAS News alert published yesterday, 12/14/14 via email and also on the MCAS Facebook page:


 

MCAS News alert: Opt-out policy for PARCC before Board of Ed. Monday, Dec. 15, 2014:

Dear friends,

Your advocacy has made a difference.

The Board of Education will tomorrow, Dec. 15, vote on a “Parental Refusal of Standardized Testing Policy.”

The fact that the board has put this on the agenda is entirely due to your making your concerns heard at board meetings and through other communications.

Now it is important that the board pass this resolution.

Please come to express your support. The board needs to hear from parents! 

Where: MHS Auditorium, entrance on Park Street
When: Monday night, Dec. 15. Public meeting begins at 7:30 pm, speakers sign-up available at 6:30 pm
What to do: You can sign in before the meeting to speak. Just come to show support for the resolution. Bring a friend. Forward this email to other parents.

The Parental Refusal resolution states that:

“[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.”

This is important because it would mean that parents who decline to have their children take the PARCC would not have to worry that their children would be forced to “sit and stare” during testing times. Instead, the district would respond in an “educationally appropriate and non-punitive” way, such as by having the children engage in productive alternative activities in another room.

Other school boards have passed parental refusal resolutions, including those in Bloomfield and Delran, with parents in communities across the state calling for similar measures.
The PARCC is a brand new test, and Montclair Public Schools need a consistent, clear policy that addresses what students who refuse the test will do while the test is being administered. Parents have been asking for months for a humane policy. Come lend your voice in support of this important resolution Monday night at the MHS auditorium.

Why are so many Montclair and New Jersey parents considering refusing the PARCC tests for their children?

They are concerned about:

  • Developmental inappropriateness — many test items include content and or require skills that are beyond that grade level
  • Testing overkill — long sessions spread over two testing windows each year, one 3-week window in March, one 2-week window in April – May. This is more testing hours for children and high schoolers than needed for college grads for the LSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
  • Narrowing of curriculum to tested topics
  • Loss of class time for curriculum in other non-tested subjects
  • Mandated data tracking of children in the state and nationwide
  • Defining children and their futures by test scores and other aggregated data that could follow them through life
  • Ranking and sorting of children, schools, educators, and then applying a wide range of sanctions for low scores, including potential loss of teachers, principals, programs, schools and privatization
  • The potential for the setting of unrealistic and punishing cut (passing) scores such as has occurred in other states where failure rates on new tests have been as high as 70 percent. The NJ Department of Education will set the cut or passing scores next year after students have taken the tests, raising concerns that they will set the cut score at a level to produce whatever passing or failure rate they want.
  • The squandering of billions of dollars of education funds in New Jersey and nationally to computerized testing.

Judge the test for yourself.
You can take a sample PARCC on this site: http://www.parcconline.org/practice-tests

For a deeper discussion of these issues, please visit Montclair Cares About Schools on Facebook.
A copy of the resolution can be viewed on MCAS Facebook, or at http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPageFiles/44/141215.pdf. The resolution is on page 43 of the PDF.

Thank you.


And, for an in depth look at the PARCC exams, check out Montclair Education Matters post, “Dissecting the PARCC Propaganda.”


 

Many of us will be at the BOE meeting  tonight and we hope to see you there!

If you like this blog, please share it with a friend or neighbor. The movement is growing every day. Thanks for doing what you do.

Stay warm and well,

All of us at Montclair Voices

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All in the PARCC Family: On presentations and transparency

Dear Readers,

We received this from a district parent who attended the PARCC Family Presentation at the George Inness Annex of MHS on 11/13/2014:

Gail Clarke, who led the PARCC Family Presentation, mentioned that the PARCC has been field-tested around the state and that the results were excellent.  What she didn’t mention was that the results of these field tests were not released to the public – so we’ll just have to take her word that they were a success.  The same way that we’ll have to take her word that, as she stated, teachers “won’t be teaching to the test” or filling up valuable class time with test prep (which, as we’re learning, is simply not true).

One of the slides in her presentation listed info about how the PARCC results will be used.  Two of the ways in which they’ll be used were especially interesting:

  • To assist teachers in supporting students
  • To inform parents and students on progress towards “on track” college and career readiness

The first point makes no sense, since as Clarke stated, scores from the March and May tests won’t be shared with students/parents until September or October.  How then can teachers “assist” and “support” their former students, who will be learning all new material in their next grade level?  Also, it’s tough for teachers to “assist” and “support” students when they don’t have their students’ specific test results to refer to, since from what we’re learning, specific question-by-question PARCC results won’t be made available to teachers.

The second point is so vague and general, it’s laughable – and so perverse, it’s sickening.  Which colleges in particular are being referenced, and which careers?  And are we to believe we should be using the PARCC results to measure whether children in elementary and middle school – and even the first and second years of high school – are on a path that, unless corrected, will lead to lifelong failure and humiliation if their scores aren’t high enough?

To top off the non-transparent farce that was this presentation, questions needed to be pre-submitted by attendees.  Those that were selected for answering were chosen based on whether they were critical of the PARCC, Central Office, the Board of Ed, or the NJDOE (or as Clarke said, “political”).  If they were, they weren’t answered.

All in all, the presentation achieved Clarke’s goal of perpetrating the dishonesty of the NJDOE as well as silencing honest discussion from concerned parents about the PARCC.

P.S.  Speaking of dishonesty and non-transparency, Clarke said that the PARCC would be downloaded when administered to students in order to avoid problems with online interruptions or connectivity difficulties.  I learned from teachers that Clarke told them that the test would be administered live on the Internet.  And Central Office wonders why they have a credibility problem.


For another parent’s thoughts on yet another PARCC Family Presentation, head on over to Sarah Tepper Blaine’s blog parentingthecore, or click here for her post.

This statement made by a teacher at the 11/17/2014 meeting and posted via Montclair Education Matters, offers an additional perspective.

An excerpt:

Finally, concerning the PAARC standardized exams and the Core Curriculum Standards, I would like to quote Dr. Chris Tienken, Assoc. Prof. at Seton Hall University and co-author of ‘The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth and Lies,’ who spoke recently at a Montclair Cares for Schools forum and said: “All these standardized reforms… rest on pillars of sand.” He further added that ‘one-size-fits-all curriculum standards’ seeks to homogenize education. “Local school boards have been reduced to state adopted polices.” And he added, “Testing is not learning. Test preparation is not teaching.”

The video of Dr. Chris Tienken’s remarks was posted on Montclair Cares About Schools’ Facebook page.


JLhappy

As we get ready for holidays,
we’re thankful: to you (for reading and sharing).
Thankful for brave parents and teachers who send us stories (keep ‘em coming).
Thankful to every one who speaks up and works for democracy and justice here and everywhere.

Warmest wishes,

All of us at Montclair Voices

 

The people speak up!

BOEmeet2

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

Why my child won’t be taking the PARCC

takeparccpic1

By Laurie Orosz

My biggest take away from the MCAS sponsored “Take the PARCC” event held Sunday, November 9 at the Bay Street firehouse is: not only can we refuse the tests on behalf of our children, we owe it to them to do so.

I’ve always opposed standardized testing. As a product of the New York City school system, I learned early on there was very little connection between what I did in the classroom and my performance on the tests. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the PARCC sample test.

There are several sample tests to choose from, in Math and Language Arts and in various grades. I’ve got a background in Language Arts, and am a mom of a third grader, so I chose to take the 3rd grade Language Arts sample test.

Rigorous? Critical thinking? Deeper meaning? These buzz words are spouted endlessly by our own Central Office staff, but none of them actually apply to this test.

The words that came to mind were: Multiple choice. Tedious. Text-heavy. Inappropriate. There’s no way my son, a good student, would be able to manage this test.

His computer skills are fine for his age, but this test involves a lot of going back and forth between the questions and the text. It takes coordination, development, and focus that I don’t see in the average 8-year-old—or in my son.

As to the skills being tested, since my son is still learning how to write a paragraph, writing an essay is beyond him at this point, let alone writing one under timed test conditions. The close reading technique they’re testing, largely denounced by most educators, simply demonstrates how well a child can: 1. Re-read a paragraph and 2. how patient he can be reading the questions.

There were approximately 100 participants and after we completed our sample tests, there was a lively question and answer period. It became clear that people who tested on tablets (I used an iPad) had a much better testing experience with the interface than those using laptops. So, a child who already has difficulty using a mouse is double in trouble because he might suddenly get kicked off and could lose all his work. How frustrating!

As I found the Language Arts test to be boring and developmentally inappropriate, many people felt similarly about the math questions. No one had anything positive to say.

The Q & A was followed by several knowledgeable and impassioned speakers who testified (despite the Superintendent’s claims to the contrary), to how these tests are resulting in a narrowed, test prep curriculum and how it is harming our childrenThis post by John Wodnick first appeared on the new blog, Montclair Education Matters.

I was especially moved by speaker, Latifah Jannah (the full text of her comments is below). I also share the sentiments in this letter to the editor from a Montclair resident and parent.

We learned these tests are good for technology and testing companies but not for our children or their teachers. They’re unfairly tied to teacher evaluations, put unnecessary stress on our children, and potentially label good schools as failing. They will widen the achievement gap and beginning in 2016, are being tied to high school graduation, potentially causing graduation rates to plummet.

takeparccpic2

Technically, we can’t “opt out” because we didn’t “opt in.” But we can refuse. As parents, it is our job to protect our children. They’re not wards of the state. When they walk through school doors, we don’t suddenly give up our parental rights. We must not abdicate our responsibility. If something isn’t good for them it is our job to protect them from it. Which is why I will be refusing the PARCC for my child. So can you.


Latifah Jannah, former longtime Student Assistance Counselor in Montclair Public Schools, grandparent of student currently in Montclair schools, graciously provided us with the text of her comments:

Read: “Harlem” / (Dream Deferred) by Langston Hughes

What happens to the deferred dreams of children as we prepare and push
Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders to fit onto the lockstep staircase of Common Core and PARCC?

What happens to the 6 yr old who dreams of being a scientist? Whose face is full of wonder as he talks knowingly of the difference between mammals and reptiles and why he is warm-blooded and snakes lay eggs? Who wants to learn about how bees make honey from a beekeeper? How long before the red circles, red do-overs, and red x’s on the weekly tests take their toll? Who has been told by his peers that he can’t read because he stumbles over words as he tries to sound them out or comes home and announces that he is a failure (his word) because he couldn’t say the sight words fast enough? What do parents do when they find out that their child is being placed in a general Ed support class during the day because the child’s understanding of a story is not “right”. Is there time now for a dream when your child is labeled as deficient? Now there is talk of extra help, maybe a tutor after school, if possible, and frustration that somehow and for
some reason, your child is not learning.

Peter Greene writes in Curmudgucation that we have a duty to teach young children how to journey through life with strength, confidence, and skill. We need to teach them how to find their way to solutions, whatever problems face them. But you can’t measure this with a single one right answer for everyone standardized test. For our young children we must value the journey over the
destination.

We often hear about Finland and their high rating from the Program for
International Student Assessment-a triennial international survey which
evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15 yr olds.

Recently, Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg gave the keynote address at the NJEA convention in Atlantic City. As reported, he spoke about 5 things you won’t find in Finland that affect education:

  1. Unhealthy competition-in Finland the focus is on providing a great school for every child, not a competition between schools and teachers based on test scores.
  1. Standardized testing-Finnish children earn top scores on PISA without taking standardized testing or test prep, taking one standardized test at the end of their education experience when they are 19-the focus is on individualized learning and children receive no grades in their 1st 5 years of schooling-it’s illegal to grade small children.
  1. Test based accountability-Finns don’t see the need to test everybody every year, but take samplings to measure student achievement.
  1. Obsession with the myth of teacher effectiveness-teachers in US are in competition with each other because we are told that our schools are populated with an overwhelming number of bad teachers. In Finland, teachers work collaboratively, and discussions are about school effectiveness rather than teacher effectiveness.
  1. Marketing school choice-private schools are illegal, parents choose from public schools, and there is a great focus on school equity. Charters and competition do not solve the problems of inequity of school funding and the social issue of income inequality, but instead, make those problems worse. He also noted a few things which can improve education, i.e., equity in school funding, focus on the health and well being of children, not cutting the arts, music, and physical education. Respect of teachers and teacher collaboration and empowerment, so that teaching remains a valued career of longevity, and not just a job to something else.

And that children must play. Researcher Sergio Pellis, of the University of
Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, in an August, 2014 report aired on National
Public Radio, makes the connection between free play (no coaches, umpires, or
rulebooks) and brain development, particularly in terms of social interaction.
According to Pellis, countries that have more recess tend to have higher
academic performance than those whose recess is less.

Also, Finland has universal day care for all children until they enter school at
age 7. As a side note, Theodore Roosevelt didn’t read until he was 7, but was a
voracious reader for the rest of his life, as well as maintaining a life long
curiosity about the world around him.

Speaking of history, is PARCC the beginning of the end for social studies and
history? Social Studies time is now being used for test preparation 1-2x weekly
in local schools. Education writer Alan Singer in the Huffington Post recently
wrote in an article titled Common Core and the End of History, that the NY state
board of regents voted unanimously that students did not have to pass US and
Global History exams in order to graduate from high school. In June, 2010, the
regents eliminated middle school social studies, history, and geography
assessments so students could concentrate on test preparation for high stakes
testing for standardized reading and math assessments. Social studies was
eliminated as one of the tests on NJASK a few years ago.

So, I started with Langston Hughes and I will end with him:

Read – “Dreams”

Latifah Jannah


 

Here are the two poems by Langston Hughes that Ms. Jannah read at the Take the PARCC event:

Harlem

By LANGSTON HUGHES

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884

Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Source: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Random House Inc., 1990)

Dreams

Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/dreams

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.

 


Thanks for reading and sharing with others.

All of us at Montclair Voices

 

 

 

 

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. 

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Thank you!

Montclair Voices