Monthly Archives: January 2015

And the fear-mongering NJDOE spake these words, saying:

We are the Department of Education, who have brought thee out of the Land of Failure and Ignorance, and toward the House of College and Career Readiness.

Thou shalt have no other Educational Authorities before us.

Thou shalt not read nor attempt to interpret any statements the Commissioner of Education has made to njspotlight.com about district autonomy, read or attempt to interpret NJ-specific PARCC policy manuals, regard the definition of a “Non-Testing Student” provided by Stephanie the PARCC Customer Service Representative, read Strauss Esmay procedural guidelines, form or join a grassroots advocacy groups that inform thee of ways and reasons to “opt out” of mandatory testing, or pay attention to any Boards of Education or Superintendents that have issued “humane” PARCC “refusal” guidelines. Thou shalt not worship any of these groups, nor serve as volunteers or organizers for them, nor share their Facebook posts, Internet links, or Test Refusal Templates.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Department of Education, its Commissioner, PARCC, Pearson, the NJSBA, the NJPTA, the NJCC, or the NJPSA in vain, either in private, in writing, on Facebook, on Twitter, on NJ 101.5, or in sessions of public testimony, for we will not hold him guiltless that commits such acts in any forum.

Thou shalt remember the Testing Day, to keep it holy during Time on Task. For nearly ten hours shalt thou labor, and when thou hast finished, thou may rest to restore thy strength for any additional testing We deem is necessary to determine thy College and Career Readiness.

Thou shalt ignore thy father and mother, should thy father and mother attempt to refuse testing for thee, for thy father and mother are as ignorant as thou art with regard to PARCC testing. Otherwise, thy days will be long and filled with Disciplinary Consequences.

Thou shalt not refuse to test, or else thou shalt Sit and Stare.

Thou shalt not pollute the testing environment by fidgeting, drawing on paper or school furniture or other property, coughing loudly, flaunting thy refusal in the face of thy test-taking peers, possessing forbidden electronic devices or works of fiction, requesting to use the lavatory, flushing toilets, uttering inappropriate remarks under thy breath, making squeaking noises by shifting in thy chair, restoring factory settings to or installing viruses on thy Chromebook, or engaging in other forms of “misconduct” as determined by Us.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighboring district’s humane PARCC test refusal policy, nor any district’s BOE members or administrators who speak out against Sit and Stare, nor any district’s expensive technology, bandwidth, or district-isssued headphones, nor any “alternative placement locations” for non-testing students.


 

Thou shalt obey these moral imperatives and engage in appropriate testing behavior, or else thy school will be punished and unfunded, thou wilt be deemed Unready for College and Career, and thy life will be ruined and thy teacher will be fired.

 

http://parentpreviews.com/legacy-pics/ten_commandments.jpg

So Sayeth the New Jersey Department of Education.

 

 

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New Jersey voters on standardized testing: ENOUGH.

Last month, NJEA and the D.C. based Mellman Group, Inc. conducted a New Jersey statewide survey of 1,000 likely voters, and the results were overwhelmingly clear: when it comes to issues facing today’s public school children, teachers and parents know best. 

The NJDOE, legislators, and other non-educators? Not so much.

While virtually every polling question used in the survey is worth discussing (you can see the complete results of the poll here, here, and here, and you can read an op-ed from NJEA’s Wendell Steinhauer and Save Our Schools NJ’s Susan Cauldwell here), I’ll limit myself to a few:

First and foremost, voters confirmed a long-acknowledged phenomenon that’s not limited to New Jersey: that people are generally very happy with their public schools and their public school teachers.

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Despite their confidence in New Jersey’s schools and teachers, though, voters are concerned about the direction in which public education in New Jersey is heading—because of mandates being imposed by the state and federal governments—and an overwhelming percentage of both parents and voters believe that there is too much emphasis on standardized tests in teaching public school children.

The concerns? Standardized testing “causes stress for students”; “takes time and money from other educational priorities”; forces teachers to “teach to the test”; does not “provide a good measure of each individual student”; and is “given too much weight when used to make decisions on teachers, schools, and students.”

(This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the statewide and nationwide debates about PARCC testing, but somehow, many people–including NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe–still believe that parents and educators with concerns about the assessments represent a very small percentage of the population.)

According to the survey and in response to the testing craze, a majority of parents and voters oppose making PARCC tests a graduation requirement; want to “limit the number of hours spent on standardized testing”; want to “stop giving standardized tests to students below the 3rd grade”; want to “give parents the right of refusal [opt-out] so that their kids don’t have to take standardized tests”; and want testing companies to disclose both the amount of profit they make from taxpayer money spent on standardized tests and the political contributions they make with such profits. In short, they favor the creation of a testing Bill of Rights (see slide at the bottom of this post) that addresses these concerns.

Why? The poll results speak for themselves:

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And not surprisingly, parents and voters ranked teachers and parents the most trustworthy people on the issue of standardized testing. Only 12% of parents and 15% of voters believe that the New Jersey Department of Education has credibility with regard to this issue, and only 3% of parents and 4% of voters believe that state legislators are trustworthy when it comes to issues surrounding high-stakes testing.

(It’s worth noting here that when the Delran Education Association hosted a “Take the PARCC” event for nearly 500 parents, educators, and community members, not one legislator attended even though more than a dozen received personal invitations. Commissioner Hespe got a personal invitation, too–but he didn’t show up either.)

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This slide alone is worth sharing widely. The message is clear!

 


It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the consensus among likely voters about standardized testing could be more overwhelming. Yet despite statewide and nationwide opposition to testing and other reforms, many powers that be refuse to deviate from their “we-know-better-than-you-what’s-best-for-kids” course.

And while the NJDOE, the NJPTA, the NJSBA, the NJPSA, and legislators all over the state continue to cheerlead for high-stakes standardized tests and dismiss the glaring concerns of people who actually know what’s good for children, they reinforce the concern that this level of bureaucratic interference in public education is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

And parents, educators, and voters say ENOUGH.

Enough of empty, unfounded, and inflammatory statements like George Bush’s ridiculous claim that “rarely is the question asked: ‘is our children learning?” Teachers assess their kids every single day.

Enough of non-educators cheapening and oversimplifying the learning process by claiming that standardized testing is simply a necessary and innocuous way to measure students’ academic progress.

Enough with the empty claims that unproven standardized tests produced and scored by error-plagued, corrupt, for-profit corporations will somehow give us valuable information about the children we see and interact with every day. In my 14 years of teaching, a standardized test has NEVER told me something about a child that I didn’t know within the first month of school. Ever.

Enough of federal and state policy constructed solely around the quest to hunt and root out all the nameless, faceless “bad teachers” that supposedly plague our schools despite overwhelming evidence which shows the opposite.

Enough with inhumane policies that attempt to force even our smallest children to take tests that their parents and educators know are worthless.

Enough with education policy that’s driven by a fundamental belief that teachers are, as a profession, “bad,”  that students and schools, in general, are “failing,” and that incessant testing is the “solution” to the problems facing public education.

And enough with legislators and other education officials who refuse to engage in discussions about standardized testing and other reforms with parents or educators.

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NJ 101.5’s Eric Scott on David Hespe’s refusal to engage in a public discussion about PARCC

All this in the state whose schools are consistently labeled–using multiple measures and not just standardized test scores—as the best in the nation.

All this in the state whose leaders have determine that sweeping, top-down, one-size-fits-all reforms are necessary for all public schools because teachers are ill-equipped to assess their own students–and despite glaring evidence that the poverty, violence, and inequality that plague many urban NJ districts correlate directly with the academic struggles of students in those regions.

And all this in the state that’s led by a governor who insists that high-stakes standardized tests, no-excuses discipline policies, longer school days and years, the Common Core, and PARCC are absolutely necessary for all of our public school kids—yet he pays tens of thousands of dollars per year to send his children to a school that operates according the exact opposite philosophies.

So here are some ideas for New Jersey’s education policymakers and policy-promoters:

If your only experience with K-12 education is your own as a student, please acknowledge that you cannot possibly speak about the complexity of a child’s education or the educational climate in today’s public schools with any kind of authority.

If you criticize children, parents, and teachers without having any idea of what goes on in public schools every day, either make a concerted effort to visit schools, talk to parents and students, and talk to teachers before you make dangerous generalizations–or just stay out of it.

If you promote or create education policies based solely on “data” that you’ve “unpacked” and numbers you’ve crunched from your seat behind a non school district-issued desk, have the respect to defer to the professionals who make a career out of educating children and the parents whose children suffer every day from your arrogant, ignorant, and ill-conceived policies.

If you hang your hat on reforms that sound good in theory but are fundamentally flawed in practice, please reevaluate your own understanding of K-12 education and the extent to which you’re entitled to speak as an authority about it.

If you have been elected to represent the people of New Jersey, you need to listen to what those people are saying about Common Core and PARCC–and respond accordingly. (Thank you to those legislators who are already doing so.)

If you fail to see the value in local control of education and in district and educator autonomy, please visit the communities your policies affect and speak with stakeholders there.

If you send your children to schools that are exempt from the reforms you impose on other people’s children, please ask yourself why you feel that your children don’t need to be assessed incessantly by flawed measures–but other people’s children do.

If you’re unwilling to have a discussion about educational reforms with the people those reforms affect every day, you should step down and make room for someone who is.

And if you’re still sure that PARCC is a great test that we should impose on all of New Jersey’s public school children every year, please take the test and publish your scores.  

Because as we speak, desperate parents who love their kids’ teachers and schools are discussing home-schooling and private-schooling options because the death-grip of an over-reliance on standardized testing in public schools is becoming virtually inescapable. Desperate children are learning to hate school instead of love it–because programs they enjoy and value have been cut in the name of test prep. Desperate teachers who have lost autonomy and whose professional judgment has been deemed worthless are fleeing the profession that’s become virtually unrecognizable to them. Desperate school leaders are doing everything they can—even when their directives go against what they know to be best for children–to ensure that test scores in their buildings go up so their schools aren’t turned over to private corporations. Desperate taxpayers are watching as hundreds of millions of dollars are diverted to testing corporations and data-mining companies because of unfunded mandates imposed by state and federal governments. And a new wave of teachers who have no basis for comparison and think that test prep is what teaching is all about are pouring into our schools—particularly in urban areas—and blindly accepting the scripted models that are being fed to them in the name of “accountability.”

But then again, maybe these really are end-goals of the educational policies promoted by many of the powers that be in New Jersey: “prove” failure and use it as justification to drive people from the public school system and into the hands of private corporations.

Enough.

 

Call for a testing Bill of Rights--and encourage your legislators to do the same.

Call for a testing Bill of Rights–and encourage your legislators to do the same.

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PARCC requires a new and unprecedented kind of test prep

On January 14th, Star-Ledger guest columnist Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, published an opinion piece advising New Jerseyans to “Give NJ’s new PARCC tests a chance.

In her column, Wright offers a message that’s typical of Common Core/PARCC supporters: that PARCC tests will “more accurately gauge our students’ mastery” of the new standards and will “lead to higher levels of student achievement”– even though neither of these claims has been or can be substantiated.

But rather than focusing–again–on the glaring, numerous, and undeniable problems with PARCC tests (see here for the Delran Education Association’s position statement on high-stakes standardized tests, and see here for Save Our Schools New Jersey’s “The 12 Reasons We Oppose the PARCC test,” and see here for Seton Hall professor Chris Tienken’s debunking of five PARCC claims), I’ll address another issue Wright brings up: that of “teaching to the test.”

Wright claims:

“Issues of accountability have also led to concerns that teachers will ‘teach to the test,’ narrowing what kids learn. Fortunately, this apprehension is unfounded because of the way PARCC works. No longer will a focus on ‘test-prep strategies’ such as ‘eliminate one answer you know is wrong and guess from the remaining possibilities’ work.”

Really?

First of all, it’s interesting that Wright is so quick to dismiss traditional test-taking strategies like answer elimination, especially given that such a practice actually requires students to think critically about the options presented and use the process of elimination to arrive at the best answer. Also, PARCC assessments still do include multiple-choice questions (although it is true that some require that students choose more than one answer per question), so I’m not sure why Wright feels discussions about answer-elimination will suddenly disappear.

But more importantly, how long does it take to explain such a strategy to children? Have any schools shaped curricula around practicing multiple-choice answer elimination in the past? I doubt it.

Wright is, in her blurb about test prep, correct about one thing: that answer-elimination strategies will not be the “focus” of teachers’ efforts to prepare their students for PARCC assessments.

Why?

Because PARCC assessments are as much a measure of a student’s technological readiness as they are of the skills they claim to assess.

Exhibit 1: Study Island/Edmentum 

Edmentum is a program designed to ensure that students “are ready for the next generation of assessments” and are able to “achieve standards mastery with actionable data.” In recent years, districts all over the country have purchased subscriptions to Edmentum programs like Study Island, and in some cases, teachers have been directed to assign Study Island practice to students either during class time or for homework.  From the Edmentum website (emphasis mine):

Edmentum’s PARCC Preparation Bundle, featuring Study Island and Edmentum Assessments, addresses the individualized test prep needs of your learners by offering choices for students working above, at, or below grade level to ensure that every student attains academic success.

Browse virtually any education-related discussion board or social media page and you’ll understand the extent to which public school students all over the country are being assigned–and graded on–“PARCC-like” or “Smarter Balanced-like” activities and assessments, and you’ll see testimonies from frustrated teachers who are required to assign such work despite the fact that they know that their time–and their students’ time–would be much better spent in a host of different ways.

Unfortunately, Edmentum is only a small indicator of the larger problem: that there’s lots of money to be made when lots of students score below proficient on Common Core-aligned assessments and require “remediation” in the form of–you guessed it–test prep.  (That many students don’t have access to technology at home is a completely separate issue, and such students will be at a disadvantage compared to their wealthier peers and will lose more instructional time to test-prep programs like Study Island. Don’t let anyone tell you that Common Core testing will close the “achievement gap,” because the opposite is true and this is one reason why.)

But we aren’t going to test-prep for PARCC, says Ms. Wright.

Exhibit 2: “PARCC Testing Tips”–and other similar preparatory measures

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A parent recently posted this document, which was sent home with her elementary-level child, online (I’m not sure of its origins of the document or the exact grade-level it was meant for), and other parents immediately added that their own children had received similar instructions on “computer skills” and “keyboarding”–specifically so those students could prepare for the PARCC.

Is this not test-prep, Ms. Wright?

Have teachers not been directed to devote instructional time to getting students on laptops so they can learn to drag and drop, cut and paste, and use a trackpad?

Is this sort of test prep not less valuable than strategies that require students to think critically about multiple answers in order to eliminate incorrect options?

And does time spent on this sort of instruction–instead of on meaningful activities that foster critical thinking and a love of learning–not result in a “narrowing of what kids learn”?

Yes: our test prep is now focused on ensuring that students are comfortable (if that’s possible!) with the PARCC interface–and that they’re able to type quickly enough to respond to open-ended questions, manipulate a mouse, cut and paste, drag and drop, and stay calm when glitches come up.  (And glitches WILL happen; see this article, posted yesterday, which describes systems crashing, log-on problems, and program failures that plagued a New Mexico school’s attempts to administer the “controversial” PARCC test, or this article, which describes what happened when parents and community members tried to log on to practice PARCC tests at a Take the PARCC event.)

To be clear: I understand why teachers feel pressures to teach to the PARCC test, and I understand why administrators feel it necessary to direct teachers to do so–for a few reasons.

First, PARCC assessments are so different from other standardized tests that students must have a certain degree of exposure to the system’s interface in order to even be able to think about dealing with content. The PARCC system is not user-friendly (students must be able to deal with multiple tabs at once, they’re only able to see a very small portion of a text at one time, and often answers and texts cannot fit on the same screen–so students must scroll back and forth while working on one problem), and the issues it presents were overwhelming for me when I attempted the test for the first time last spring and were independent of the issues I had with the actual content and construction of the assessment. So yes–if students’ first experiences with the PARCC system comes when they sit down to take the actual assessment in March, many kids will be lost. (Also, remember that we’re already expecting high failure rates on PARCC tests.)

Secondly, and more largely, how can we expect educators to not push test-prep when the results from PARCC tests (and other Common Core-aligned tests) will be used to close schools, fire teachers, and standardize curricula?

Consider this: earlier in the week, NY governor Andrew Cuomo said that he wants standardized test scores to count for 50% of teachers’ evaluations because teacher evaluation systems are “baloney.

50%. Think about the implications of such a mandate. (And see Jersey Jazzman for more on Cuomo’s failures with regard to education.)

While the weight of test scores on teachers’ evaluations in New Jersey isn’t that high (yet), Race to the Top requires test scores to factor into teachers’ evaluations. Funding is tied to this mandate.

But again, this testing craze doesn’t promote teaching to a test. Right?

I wonder: if Ms. Wright were a classroom teacher with students who were scheduled to take the PARCC in a couple of months–and if her livelihood depended on her students’ test scores–would she think differently about the “test prep” she assures concerned citizens won’t happen with PARCC?

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Guest post: Michael Kaminski’s response to the 1/20 @NJSBA memo

Michael Kaminski is a high school history teacher with 23 years of teaching experience. He is also the president of the Delran Education Association.


 

I’ve read the January 20, 2015 release from the New Jersey School Boards Association, “Your Local School Board, Your Students and PARCC: Frequently Asked Questions” and quite frankly, it’s not worth the internet bandwidth that it takes up. I’m still trying to figure out why you’re speaking up now – on this issue – in support of PARCC and sit and stare, when your silence has been deafening on so many other important educational issues. Nevertheless, your FAQs require some more appropriate answers, so here they are.

Are school districts required to administer the PARCC assessment?

NJSBA says yes, and on that lone point we can agree. Unfortunately, no one in educational leadership seems to understand what the term “administer” means. Does it mean “manage the operation or use of,” “to provide or apply; to put something into effect,” or even “to give ritually?” Apparently, the NJSBA believes that the term means “to force children to take” and if they don’t take it the first time, “to give habitually and repeatedly until they finally submit and take the darn test” because that is precisely what the majority of school administrators across the state are intending to do come March and May: administer and then re-administer the PARCC for as long as it takes to achieve compliance.

Must students participate in the PARCC assessment?

NJSBA says yes. Interesting enough, they correctly assert that state regulations contain the following provision: “…all students at grade levels 3 through 12…shall take appropriate Statewide assessments as scheduled.” Interesting because the Supreme Court has weighed in on the use of the term “shall.” In Cairo & Fulton R.R. Co. v. Hecht, the US Supreme Court sated: “As against the government the word “shall” when used in statutes, is to be construed as “may” unless a contrary intention is manifest. In George Williams College v. Village of Williams Bay, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin stated that “shall” in a statute may be construed as “may” in order to avoid constitutional doubt. In Gow v. Consoliated Coppermines Corp, a Delaware court stated “If necessary to avoid unconstitutionality of a statute, “shall” will be deemed equivalent to “may.” I think this sufficiently makes the point – but let’s see if a “contrary intention is manifest.” Even Commissioner Hespe stated in his September 30 memo that “…these advanced students are not expected to take a PARCC End-of-course assessment in mathematics, but must still demonstrate competency in mathematics to receive a state-endorsed diploma.” So, the Commissioner has acknowledged that “shall” is “may” and not “must” – at least in this case. But how about in others? According to his October 8 memo, the Commissioner said that “The NJDOE is not requiring students to take any commercial test as a condition of graduation but will allow schools to determine graduation readiness in a number of different ways.” Doesn’t sound like “shall” means “must” to me… But let’s pursue one other avenue. From that same memo: “Is a student who does not pass a PARCC end-of-course assessment required to retake the assessment”? Hespe’s DOE says “No. A student is not required to retake an assessment or retake the course.” Huh? So you “shall” take this completely meaningless test that you’ll only be “required” to retake if you refuse to respond to the questions. But no one else will. It doesn’t sound like the NJ DOE meant “must” when they said “shall.”

Do statutes, regulations or court decisions permit students to opt out of the state testing program?

NJSBA says no. But that’s not the whole truth. While there is no provision for “opting out” in New Jersey, other states do have such provisions. Somehow, those states are able to violate the conditions of the federal NCLB Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and the 95% that the NJSBA refers to later in its document with impunity, but in New Jersey, they want us to believe that we cannot. So…we can’t opt out. Technically true. But WE COULD REFUSE.

What action should a school district take if a student refuses to participate in PARCC?

NJSBA cites Hespe’s memo that says that districts are “not required to provide an alternative educational program for students who do not participate in the statewide assessment.” So they are not required to…but they can. Here, the Commissioner clearly understands the concept that “shall” means “may” but not “must.” Districts absolutely can provide an alternative educational program. Just ask Bloomfield, Delran, Robbinsville, Milburn, Woodbridge, West Orange, Little Egg Harbor, Mahwah, Berlin Borough, Union Township, Waldwick, Washington Township, Swedesboro, Montville, and Princeton. Even the NJSBA admits that “districts have the discretion on how they will address situations” related to test refusal. Clearly. Thank you.

The NJSBA goes on to state emphatically that “the Spring 2015 PARCC Test Coordinator and Test Administrator Manuals provide guidance on what NJ school districts should do when a student refuses to take the state assessment.” No doubt they do. I completely agree with you. Pearson has stated that test refusals are “non-tested students” and the PARCC manual clearly states that non-tested students are prohibited from even entering the testing environment. So, on this issue, we agree. Students who refuse cannot enter the testing environment, meaning that they cannot be forced to “sit and stare.” Doing so would be a violation of testing security and would put school administrators at risk of losing their certification – since they are the ones who are insisting – on the behalf of the DOE – that students must “sit and stare.”

What is the impact on the school district if students do not participate in PARCC?

According to the NJSBA, the sky will fall. They cite the Commissioner’s October 30th memo and claim that districts must meet the 95% requirement. For some reason, both he and the NJSBA fail to mention that NJ has an NCLB waiver. School districts that do not receive federal Title I monies have NO OBLIGATION to meet the 95%. See FairTest.org’s piece on this. We are under NO obligation to meet those testing requirements. Even schools that receive Title I funds are not at risk of LOSING funding for failing to meet the magical “95%” – they would simply be told to re-direct a small percentage of their Title I funds for “remediation” purposes. So, let’s not get fooled by them holding funding over our heads, because honestly, even if this were true – if we’re only testing because we’re afraid of losing funding, what does that say about the testing itself? Threaten – Test – Punish. What a wonderful educational climate we’re living in.

But what about the Average Daily Attendance? Well, the NJSBA got it right. Schools could be adversely affected if their average daily attendance over a three-year period falls under 96%. All I can say to this is – perhaps the NJSBA and Commissioner Hespe and some of the more heavy-handed Superintendents in our state should not be suggesting that we keep our children home from school during testing days unless they want to risk losing funding as a result of their own advice. Better yet, maybe test refusals should consider keeping their children home during testing as leverage against Draconian “sit and stare measures.”  You want my child to sit and stare? My response will be to keep them home and then you might actually risk losing your precious testing dollars. Race to THAT top.

NJQSAC? Low participation rates “may” negatively affect your QSAC outcome. There are too many variables here to consider…and the NJSBA took a page out the Hespe playbook here. They were so intentionally vague you can’t even tell if there’s any shred of truth to this. Well played, NJSBA. I challenge you to offer proof that districts will lose funding for failure to meet PARCC participation levels specific to QSAC. As a matter of fact, I challenge you to offer proof that ANY DISTRICT ANYWHERE IN NEW JERSEY will lose funding under ANY of the conditions that you mention in this portion of the document. (Waiting patiently…)

What is the impact on students who do not participate in PARCC?

NJSBA wants us to believe that there’s some “valuable information about his or her academic progress and needs that will not be available.” Um…like what? What is PARCC going to provide that your child’s teacher cannot provide? What is PARCC going to provide that is any different or better than what Hespe’s last failed attempt at standardized testing (NJ ASK/HSPA) provided? And while I’m on that point – why should we believe that Hespe can suddenly get this testing thing right when he admitted during his presentation at the NJEA Convention that ASK and HSPA failed to provide us with the data we needed to really assess how we’re doing. So we tested for a decade based on his recommendation and now he returns to the big boy seat in the DOE to tell us all he was wrong all that time – but, seriously, this time he really knows that he’s gotten it right? Or, that PEARSON has gotten it right? Sorry. I just cant buy that.

Then, NJSBA adds a threat about “excessive absences.” You’re the one telling us we should be absent to avoid testing. Just you – and the Commissioner – and his cronies.

May a school board adopt an opt-out policy?

NSBA says “there is no explicit statutory or regulatory prohibition against such a policy.” Thank you. Good day.

But what about the “Code of Ethics for School Board Members?” I’m pretty sure that treating both tested students and non-tested students compassionately is in direct alignment with the Code of Ethics. Our schools are entrusted to care for our students – every single one of them – whenever they are in their care. It’s incomprehensible to me that this could somehow mean that school boards “can’t” or “shouldn’t” create opt-out/refusal provisions, but SHOULD enforce sit and stare policies. I challenge the NJSBA to explain to me how “sit and stare” jives with the Code of Ethics.

There’s no reason to discuss the remainder of the NJSBA document. But, I would make some recommendations to the NJSBA:

  • Start attending the DOE open public testimony sessions. There, you’ll come to the realization that NJ residents are NOT happy with the PARCC and are not pleased with the Commissioner’s response to test refusals.
  • Attend the PARCC Study Commission open public testimony sessions. There will be hundreds of citizens testifying about how bad the PARCC is – and about how they want the Commissioner and school boards across this state to come up with non-punitive, educationally sound responses for test refusals. It will be overwhelming. Trust me.
  • Listen to NJ 101.5. I can’t believe I’m suggesting anyone listen to this station which has been notorious for its bashing of public school teachers, but even they get it. This test is bad. Sit and stare is bad. Pearson is the devil.
  • Ask your members…your own local BOE presidents. Ask them what’s been happening in their own districts. They’ll tell you the same thing. People want answers. And they are not the answers you’re giving them. They’re not the answers in your January 20 document.

New Jerseyans want responsible, student-centered, educationally-appropriate activities for test refusers, and while that’s the most immediate concern connected to the upcoming PARCC administrations, New Jerseyans also want to have a say in what has been a completely one-sided conversation on testing. I believe that they, like me, are fed up with the over-testing of our children and they want it to stop.


 

*Adding: In response to a number of public posts–primarily from parents–criticizing the 1/20 memo, the NJSBA posted this response on its Facebook page:

 

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PARCC manual: students “refusing to test” must be “dismissed from the testing environment”

*This is an updated/corrected version of an earlier post, which was published in error before it was ready.

**You can download a complete copy of the 2015 PARCC Spring Test Coordinator Manual, which is nearly 150 pages, here.

***This post was originally published on January 21st, 2015. Please see notes at the bottom, which were added as more information–and responses to individual parents from the NJDOE–was reported.


 

As many people have recently discovered, the PARCC testing manual states that “non-testing students” and other “unauthorized visitors” are “prohibited from entering the testing environment.” And last week, PARCC Customer Support representatives confirmed that “non-testing students” include those whose parents have refused testing on their children’s behalf.

So according to PARCC, non-testers should not enter the testing room. At all.

Despite the directives set forth in the PARCC manual, though, some superintendents across New Jersey are still insisting that children whose parents have refused testing will not be placed in an alternate setting–and instead must “sit and stare” in the testing room with testing students.

This kind of policy is problematic for both testers and non-testers for obvious reasons, but it’s also problematic because the PARCC manual specifies that students “refusing to test” must be “dismissed from the testing environment.”

Here are the specifics:

1. Section 5.10 Develop a Test Administration Plan Logistics Plan (pages 29-30 of the manual):

“If applicable, establish school policy for dismissing students and/or allowing them to read a recreational book after completing units and communicate this information to students. Refer to Appendix C for your state’s policy.”

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2. Section 6.4.2 Dismissing Students for Misconduct (page 39 of the manual)

“The Test Administrator has the authority to dismiss any student for misconduct. If student misconduct warrants dismissal, collect the student’s test materials. The student will then be dismissed from the testing environment.

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3. Appendix C is the “State Policy Addendum,” and pages 102-105 detail New Jersey-specific policy. In reference to sections 5.10 and 6.4:

“STC calls LEA Test Coordinator immediately to report student misconduct (i.e. refusing to test, disruptive behavior, unauthorized electronics, cheating.) STC completes testing irregularity/security breach form documenting situation and provides form to LEA Test Coordinator. LEA Test Coordinator contacts Office of Assessment immediately upon receiving call from STC. LEA Test Coordinator must upload completed testing irregularity/security breach form to PearsonAccess within two days.”

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*Adding: the “misconduct” label is relatively standard language in standardized test coordinator manuals. In their NJASK refusal letters last year, many parents specifically requested that their children’s tests be voided using the V2 code listed in the NJASK manual. No children were punished for this refusal code. See here for more info.

Again, if we are to assume that Test Administrators must follow the PARCC protocol that’s outlined in the Test Coordinator Manual (and what’s the purpose of a manual if not?), students whose parents submit written refusal notifications should not be permitted in the testing environment in the first place.

If administrators disregard PARCC protocol and knowingly place non-testing students in the testing room, those administrators must then, according to the PARCC manual, dismiss the non-testing students from the testing environment.

So why put them there in the first place?

The bottom line is this: refusals can and should be acknowledged and accommodated.


 

*Adding Part II: As any educator who has administered or proctored a standardized test knows, failure to comply with procedures outlined in the testing manuals can be considered a breach of security, which can cost teachers their certifications. If teachers or administrators knowingly allow children who refuse to test into the testing environment–despite explicit direction from PARCC not to do so–what will the consequences be for those professionals?

*Adding Part III: There are reports that NJDOE representatives have responded to inquiries about language in the PARCC manual by insisting that they interpret the phrase “non-testing student” differently than PARCC does–and that students who refuse the test are not “non-testing students.” If this is the case and the NJDOE blatantly disregards the NJ PARCC policy, does the NJDOE have the authority to allow “unauthorized electronic devices” in the testing room, for example? Or otherwise make arbitrary, politically-motivated language interpretations to discourage refusals? What’s the purpose of a testing manual with state-specific procedures?

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Irony: NJCSA “ethics” complaint promoted by “Darth Vader” of PR

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association filed an ethics complaint against Rutgers professor Julia Rubin, co-author of a report on the Garden State’s charter schools, for using her Rutgers affiliation to lend credibility to her research. (!)

The 37-page report, which is the first in a series of three (the second is expected to be released soon) by Rubin and Rutgers Graduate School of Education doctoral student Mark Weber, presents publicly-available data that clearly shows striking enrollment and demographic differences between populations in New Jersey’s district and charter schools.

The NJCSA isn’t refuting the report’s findings–it’s complaining that Rubin’s identification of herself as a Rutgers professor “lends credibility” to her work. (Note: if anyone is looking for ways to attack academic freedom, this type of complaint is a good start.)

Here’s where the irony of this “ethics” complaint becomes glaring: not only is the complaint unfounded, the NJCSA deliberately distorts the Rutgers University Lobbying Communication Policy in an attempt to give legitimacy to its argument (emphasis mine):

Rubin also claims the complaint misquotes Rutgers’ policy, deleting the phrase “made on behalf of Rutgers” to change the meaning of lobbying communication. And it omits the list of what is not considered a lobbying communication by the school — her activities, she says, fall under that category.

http://www.njtvonline.org/news/video/rutgers-professor-faces-ethics-complaint/

 

(So ethical! For more information on just how ridiculous the complaint is, see Marie Corfield, Jersey Jazzman, Bob BraunPeter Greene, Diane Ravitch.)

But even more irony: the NJCSA’s PR representative/”spokesperson” Michael Turner, who appears in this NJTV piece about the complaint, has been referred to as “Darth Vader” for his lobbying and public relations efforts on behalf of other groups–namely “builders and polluters”:

Michael Turner is a vice president of the MWW Group and heads the company’s toxic waste and development practice.

“If builders and polluters are on the dark side of New Jersey’s environmental wars, Michael Turner is Darth Vader,” writes Alexander Lane. “A public relations man and lobbyist, he has fought for the Windy Acres development in Hunterdon County, the Xanadu project in the Meadowlands and a strip mall near Edison Township’s beloved Oak Tree Pond.

He represents Shieldalloy Corp. as it seeks to leave radiological contamination in South Jersey, Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co.’s corporate descendants in their bid to leave dioxin in the Passaic River, and Roseland Property as it defends a decision to leave chromium under condominiums in Weehawken.” Lane profiles Turner’s career as an employee of the MWW Group, a PR firm that brainstorms how to “discredit opposition” such as the Interfaith Community Organization, the Meadowlands Conservation Trust and the Hackensack Riverkeeper. [1]

“He represents all the bad guys in the state,” said Bill Sheehan, the
Hackensack Riverkeeper. “He’s more or less a mercenary.”*

So in summary: if one does not like the findings of a report based on publicly-available data, one should demonstrate a clear lack of ethics in constructing, filing, and promoting…wait for it…an ethics complaint.

 

 


 

*Additional source:

In a toxic world, he cleans up nasty public relations – Michael Turner as Darth Vader

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BY ALEXANDER LANE
Star-Ledger Staff
http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1136266738312300.xml&coll=1

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NewsFlash 2: According to PARCC, “sit and stare” violates PARCC policy

*UPDATE: This post was originally published in January. Since then, PARCC has backed away from the responses cited below and has redirected questions about testing policy to states and districts.

There have been a lot of education-related developments in New Jersey in the past week, and many people are taking to social media to join the ongoing discussion about federal and state testing mandates and the extent to which parents and districts must abide by them.

In last week’s NewsFlash, I linked to testimony given by parents, students, and educators at the January 7th State Board of Education meeting. Today’s buzz is about email communications from PARCC “Customer Support” specialists to parents–aka “customers”–about who is and isn’t allowed in rooms where PARCC testing is taking place.

But before we get to those communications, and since many people new to the testing debate are confused by mixed messages they’re receiving from district administrators, internet sources, and other parents, let’s revisit and address one of the most frequently-asked questions on sites like the Facebook group Opt Out of State Standardized Tests–New Jersey: “Can I opt my child out of PARCC testing?” 

Well, the short answer is yes–although the term “opt out” is problematic since there is no established “opt out” provision in New Jersey. Instead of asking to “opt out,” parents must submit notification that they’re refusing testing on behalf of their children.

And while it’s true that districts are required by law to administer PARCC tests, here’s a quick list of the reasons that refusals can and should be accommodated all over New Jersey:

  1. Last week, NJ State Board of Education President Mark Biedron acknowledged that “nobody can force your child to put their hands on a keyboard” to take a test.  This is obvious.
  2. Also last week, NJ Education Commissioner David Hespe said–when asked about how districts should handle refusals–“Every district should apply its own policies. […] We should not automatically assume that coming to school and not wanting to take the test is a disciplinary problem.” This seems obvious too, and it’s part of the reason districts like Bloomfield and Delran have been able to adopt student- and family-centered testing policies.
  3. Contrary to what many administrators would have parents believe, districts will not lose funding if fewer than 95% of their students participate in PARCC testing.  It’s not surprising that some districts are using this threat against families, particularly since Commissioner Hespe himself cited it in an October memo as a reason districts must test all students. (The 95% participation rate was an NCLB mandate, and New Jersey has an NCLB waiver. See FairTest.org for a detailed explanation of the 95% participation rate issue.)
  4. District officials cannot tell parents to keep their children home during testing days and make-up days.
  5. The Spring 2015 PARCC Test Coordinator Manual specifically states that “unauthorized visitors,” including “non-testing students,” are “prohibited from entering the testing environment.”  This seems obvious, too. Do we really want to a) force a child to stare at a computer for hours at a time if his/her parents have refused testing, and b) have children who are trying to concentrate on testing in the same room with kids who don’t have to take the test? What kind of “testing environment” would either of those scenarios create? (See below for screenshots from the PARCC manual.)
  6. According to PARCC Customer Support representatives, “If a student is not taking the test for any reason, they are considered a non-testing student. This includes the parent refusing the student to take the test.” (Below is a screen shot of an email to NJ parent Sharon Devito, who contacted PARCC to inquire about non-testing students. After Sharon got a response from PARCC, other parents from New Jersey contacted the company with similar inquiries. By mid-day, it seemed that PARCC was redirecting parents to state and district policies, which begs the question: if states and districts can ignore/change/interpret-how-they-wish PARCC security policies, what good is a test coordinator manual and why should any of it be adhered to?? See Melissa Katz’s post for more info.)
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Email from PARCC to NJ parent Sharon Devito

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PARCC Test Coordinator Manual

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PARCC Test Coordinator Manual

I’ve seen many letters from administrators in New Jersey who have denied refusal requests and insisted that parents cannot keep their children out of testing, and the short list above addresses virtually every one of the points administrators cited in those letters.

So to sum up: NO, we can’t force students to take tests. YES, NJ districts have the autonomy and authority to accommodate refusals without imposing punitive measures. And YES, “non-testing students” must be placed in alternative settings–both to preserve the integrity of testing environments and the well-being of all children in the school.


Adding: On a larger scale, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The decision to refuse testing is one that should be made by families based on what they feel is best for their children.  If you’re new to the testing discussion and you’re wondering why so many people all over the country are keeping their children from participating in high-stakes standardized testing, see the Delran Education Association’s position on high-stakes standardized testing here.  You should also explore PARCC practice tests and sample items to get a better understanding of what the assessments are asking of our children.
  2. That there is so much confusion and conflicting information about testing should be a red flag to anyone paying attention to the testing debate. But perhaps most concerning is that it seems that until this point, policymakers never anticipated that they’d be challenged in the way they’re being challenged now; instead, they assumed that parents and educators would just accept any policies that came down the line, regardless of whether or not those policies were actually good for children. The more parents and educators speak out about overtesting, the faster policymakers will be forced to address those concerns, release revised policies and guidelines, etc.
  3. Remember that 26 states initially signed on to PARCC, but since then, more than half of those states have since removed themselves from the consortium. (This is not likely to happen soon or without a big fight in New Jersey, since New Jersey is a “Governing State in the PARCC Consortium” and NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe serves on the PARCC Governing Board.) Further, while there are certainly flaws that are exclusive to PARCC and Pearson, Common Core states that drop PARCC are still required to fulfill a federal testing mandate by administering Common Core-aligned high-stakes tests. Refusing testing and pressing officials to drop PARCC, for example, are certainly worthwhile endeavors that address immediate concerns–but PARCC is a symptom of a much larger problem that starts at the federal level.
  4. Developments at the federal level: Race to the Top loses all funding in a spending bill released by leaders in congress, and since testing really is all about the money, it’ll be interesting to see how this affect states and current policies. Also, Arne Duncan is insisting on keeping annual testing mandates in an upcoming revision of NCLB. 

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Chris Christie: warm in a luxury box at Lambeau while Camden High kids have no heat

The temperature in Green Bay at this Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys will be in the upper teens. But don’t worry: New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be well shielded from the cold.

It’s not clear if the governor will be traveling to Wisconsin in a private jet*, as he did to Dallas when the Cowboys faced the Detroit Lions last week, but he will–once again–sit with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in a warm, toasty luxury box while the Green Bay masses watch the game in the cold. (Christie has announced he’s paying his own way this time to “keep silliness out of the football season.”)

While news of Christie’s Cowboy-love isn’t new, recent media coverage of him groping Jerry Jones in celebration has renewed banter about the significance of the governor’s Cowboys allegiance. His sharpest critics have leaped to criticize the governor for deliberately flaunting his fandom in the faces of his constituents, most of whom are Eagles and Giants fans, but others have scoffed at those critics–citing a “who cares which football team he likes?” stance.

But this is about so much more than a football allegiance.

(Disclosure: I grew up and live in South Jersey, about 15 minutes across the bridge from Center City Philadelphia, and I’m a loyal Eagles fan.  My father, who grew up in Jersey City, is a Giants fan. Are our teams bitter rivals? Yes. Do I hate my father as person because he’s a Giants fan? Not really Of course not; that would be ridiculous.)

For most offended New Jerseyans, Christie’s Cowboys love affair simply added fuel to what seems to be an eternal flame of Christie offenses–virtually all of which smack of the hypocrisy, corruption, arrogance, and immorality that are characteristic of oligarchs everywhere. There was Bridgegate; now there’s Tollgate; there were the shouting matches with teachers and students; there’s the constant disparagement of public employees; there are the pension lies and offenses; there’s the Port Authority contract that was awarded to Jerry Jones’s firm; there was all that shady stuff Mark Halperin and John Heilemann wrote about in Double Down: Game Change 2012; and there are lots of other offenses that I don’t have time to list here.

But one of Christie’s worst offenses is his refusal to adequately fund New Jersey’s public schools, which have missed out on $6 billion under his watch.

Among those feeling the worst effects of those cuts are students in New Jersey’s urban districts, where they and their teachers go to school each day without even the most basic needs.

Case in point: just yesterday, Stephen Danley–an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers Camden–published this post, which describes the conditions at Camden High from the perspective of a teacher there:

I teach at Camden High and spent the entire day in a building without heat. This is not unusual. We wear our coats and are advised to wear “thermals.” When a cold snap hits, it is brutal.

Danley’s post circulated quickly, and the above report was corroborated by another teacher who worked in Camden:

As a retired teacher who taught in Camden for years and a suburbanite who took a job in Camden instead of offers from suburb districts because I thought I’d be more helpful in Camden, I can affirm that this happens. Not only in the winter and there’s no heat in the building, but in the early start of school and in May and June when the old buildings are over 98 degrees and no AC is provided. I used to put at thermometer in my room so I knew what the temp was. The other problem was that if we did have heat ion the winter, the boiler in the building was so old that the rooms were sometimes over 100 degrees … Hotter than than it was in the summer. As teachers, we wished the parents would come in and just sit a few minutes in the classroom and then make complaints. This has gone on for years in Camden.

(Read both of Steve Danley’s posts in their entirety. They’re fabulous.)

Chris Christie refers to schools like Camden High as “failure factories” that “send children on a no-stop route to prison and to failed dreams” because of adults who “enjoy higher benefits, higher salaries and lifetime pensions.” (Yeah, those greedy teachers who’ve chosen to devote their professional lives to urban children. It must be so nice for kids and teachers to wear snuggly thermals to work each day because their buildings aren’t heated.)

What Christie fails to acknowledge is that under his watch, the financial misappropriation that plagues urban districts all over the state comes at the expense of traditional public school students, who are being turned over-in many cases without their consent–to largely unaccountable, privately-managed charter operators. 

So is Chris Christie entitled to root for whichever NFL team he likes? Obviously. Is it offensive that he purposely disparages a good portion of his constituency in discussing his love for the Cowboys? Yes. Is that alone reason enough to hate him? Not necessarily (although I know many Giants and Eagles fans would say it most certainly is). And would Camden High have been heated properly if Christie stayed home to watch football from home? Obviously not. That’s not the point.

The point is this: Christie’s private jet-setting, luxury box-sitting love affair with Jerry Jones and his organization highlights the kind of excess the governor clearly enjoys and regularly flaunts–while poverty rates go up, incomes go down, and children go to school in conditions that would shock most people in New Jersey.

And that’s disgusting.

Enjoy your private jet and the warmth of your luxury box this weekend, Governor Christie.

And when you feel the sting of the Green Bay cold as you hurry from your private jet to your limo to Jerry’s luxury box at Lambeau, think of how hard it must be for Camden’s kids to learn when they feel that same sting within the walls of their school.

 

*Adding: The Dallas trip last week was reportedly a “gift” from Jerry Jones, although many have speculated that Christie’s security detail was paid for by NJ taxpayers. According to the S-L’s Tom Moran, Jones’s “gift”–transportation in a private jet, seats in the owner’s box, field access–probably cost between $125,000 and $150,000

 

Adding: NJ Spotlight article in response to Christie’s State of the State address

Save Our Schools NJ on Christie’s funding lies re: Camden

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NewsFlash: NJ superintendents are allowed to accommodate PARCC refusals!

A crowd of nearly 100 parents, teachers, and students gathered in Trenton yesterday to testify at an open-topic session of the State Board of Education, and the overwhelming sentiment was clear: PARCC needs to go. (See links at the bottom of this page to media coverage of the meeting and both written and video-recorded testimonies.)

Anyone following Opt Out of State Standardized Tests–New Jersey, Save Our Schools NJ, or other social media advocacy groups knows that the sentiments expressed at yesterday’s meeting are representative of a much larger anti-testing movement that reaches well beyond The Garden State’s borders—one which NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe virtually denied existed as recently as November.

Though statements about a district’s role in determining how to handle refusals have been attributed to Hespe in the past, many superintendents have told parents that because the state doesn’t have a formal “opt out” provision, all children must sit for the PARCC exam–and for other standardized assessments.

Here’s a big part of the reason why:

In late October, Hespe issued a memo to Chief School Administrators with regard to “Student Participation in the Statewide Assessment Program.” It said, among other things, that:

  • “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires schools with stuents in grades three through twelve to demonstrate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In order to make AYP, a school must ensure that assessments have been taken by at least ninety-five percent (95%) of enrolled students in each subgroup, i.e. special education, English language learners, low income, race/ethnicity. Federal funding of key education probrams is dependent upon districts meeting this requirement.”
  • “In accordance with the above, State law and regulations require all students to take State assessments.”
  • “All students shall take the PARCC assessment as scheduled.”
  • “Districts are not required to provide an alternative educational program for students who do not participate in the statewide assessment.”
  • “We encourage all chief school administrators to review the district’s discipline and attendance policies to ensure that they address situations that may arise during days that statewide assessments, such as PARCC, are being administered.”

(See here for my response to Commissioner Hespe’s memo, and see here for a direct link which explains–and debunks–the 95% participation rate myth.)

Citing Hespe’s memo, many New Jersey superintendents have responded to parent refusal letters by claiming that students are not permitted to refuse tests, that students refusing tests will be forced to “sit and stare,” and/or that parents who don’t want their children to participate in PARCC testing must keep those children home on test administration and makeup days. (Many administrators who made this claim were also sure to remind parents that unexcused absences would be dealt with according to school policy).

But yesterday, when asked how districts should accommodate test refusals, Hespe said this (emphasis mine):

Every district should apply its own policies. If a student comes in and is disruptive, you should have a disciplinary policy for that. If they’re not disruptive, you should have a policy of what to do with that child. We should not automatically assume that coming to school and not wanting to take the test is a disciplinary problem.”

Further acknowledging that attempts to force children to participate in state tests is futile, state board President Mark Biedron repeatedly acknowledged, during yesterday’s meeting, that “nobody can force your child to put their hands on the keyboard.

So, to sum up:

Because the Commissioner of Education says districts have the autonomy to decide how to handle test refusals, and because it’s impossible (and unethical) to force a child to take a standardized test, superintendents and boards of education can and should institute humane and child-centered policies–like the ones implemented in Bloomfield and Delran–that respect families’ rights. 

There’s no reason not to. It’s as simple as that.


Links to media coverage and written/video-recorded testimony:

  1. PARCC Tests Get Trenton Hearing (Asbury Park Press)
  2. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBERS PUT TO THE TEST BY ANTI-TESTING TURNOUT (njspotlight.com)
  3. Marie Corfield: #QOTD: NJ BOE President drops bombshell
  4. Sarah Blaine: Mom spells out problems with PARCC Common Core test (Washington Post–The Answer Sheet)
  5. Saige Price: NJ State BOE Public Testimony-Second grader
  6. Ten Year Old speaking before the NJBOE
  7. Raisa, a 7th grader, testifies at State BOE meeting
  8. Delran Education Association President Michael Kaminski’s testimony
  9. NJ State Board of Education Public Testimony-Jean McTavish
  10. Steinhauer: NJEA far from alone on PARCC concerns
  11. PARCC exams blasted by parents, teachers, students at open forum (nj.com)
  12. Montclair parent Colleen Daly Martinez’s testimony
  13. TCNJ student Melissa Katz’s testimony
  14. Testimony from Skyler Alpert, a 6th grader in Livingston
  15. Manalapan parent Jacklyn Brown’s petition (which also served as testimony) to David Hespe
  16. Susan Cauldwell’s testimony (Save Our Schools NJ)
  17. Tamara Gross’s testimony (Cinnaminson)
  18. Video of Gina Verdibello’s testimony (Jersey City)
  19. Melissa Katz: Mr. President Mark Biedron: Do Our Kids Deserve Less?
  20. Basking Ridge parent Lisa Winter’s testimony

*If you testified and would like your link to be included here, please leave a comment below.

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How reformy can the National PTA get? See its most recent publication for the answer.

As a teacher and a community member, I’ve seen the wonderful things that can happen when a district has a good relationship with its local PTA. I’m certainly not alone in my respect and admiration for parents who dedicate their time and efforts to helping to make our schools and communities the best they can be, and the PTA parents with whom I’ve worked closely over the course of my teaching career are some of the best people I know.

It seems, though, that there’s a growing disconnect between local PTAs and the national group to which they belong (the National PTA has accepted millions from the Gates Foundation, and a hefty portion of that sum was earmarked specifically to promote the Common Core), and that disconnect–or, more accurately, the National PTA philosophy  that created it–is glaringly obvious in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Our Children magazine:

In this issue of Our Children, celebrated Principal Steve Perry talks about the important role PTAs and parents play in closing the achievement gap.

Perry stresses the importance of parent engagement for minority children who may go to less-than-stellar schools.

While few people would argue that an achievement gap (which is more accurately described as an opportunity gap) exists and needs to be addressed, Perry’s controversial philosophies about the subject should raise a red flag for PTA members all over the country. The Our Children story does provide a bit of background information on Perry’s upbringing and its influence on his career, but the information its editors neglect is much more telling than what’s written in the text of the article.

Where to start?

Well, Steve Perry’s “success” is so controversial that my good friend Jersey Jazzman devoted an entire series to “America’s [self-proclaimed] Most Trusted Educator”:

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show–Part I

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show–Part II

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show–Part III

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show–Part IV

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show–The Final Debunk

Jazzman concludes, with research to support his findings, that Perry’s Capital Prep serves far fewer students with disabilities or who live in extreme poverty than other Hartford schools–and that Capital Prep has extremely high student attrition rates and mostly inexperienced teachers because of frequent turnover. Yet despite Perry’s quest to only educate certain children (particularly those who submit to his “no excuses” policies and produce favorable test scores), his school still cannot boast superior academic outcomes. Ultimately:

Dr. Steve Perry’s own record as an educator is hardly superior; there is no reason that anyone should listen to his ranting and ravings against teachers and their unions on the basis of his own accomplishments (or lack thereof).

Equally important and frighteningly telling are all these posts by Connecticut blogger Jon Pelto, who keeps a close eye on Dr. Perry (and about that “Dr.” title–Mercedes Schneider looks at Perry’s “slight on scholarship” dissertation here)–and who has exposed evidence of Perry corruption, plagiarism, and alliances with anti-teacher, anti-union, and anti-public school associations.

Oh, and there are also those pesky allegations that Capital Prep students who commit even minor disciplinary infractions are made to sit at the “Table of Shame” or eat lunch/endure an entire academic class period standing up.

See EduShyster’s coverage–make sure you click on all the embedded links–of Dr. Perry’s antics at a speaking engagement in Minneapolis, wherein he referred to teachers’ union bosses as “roaches” and blamed teachers for the “literal death of children.”

See this post from Ebony Murphy-Root, a former teacher at Perry’s Capital Prep–and read it with Steve Perry’s assertion that “there are too few talented teachers available” in the back of your mind.

See here for another teacher’s description of Perry’s “bullying and intimidation” techniques, which contribute to Capital Prep’s “hostile work environment.”

See here for tweets in which Steve Perry essentially called Randi Weingarten and Diane Ravitch racists–and for more stats on Capital Prep.

Or, if you really want to be entertained, just browse the rest of Dr. Perry’s Twitter page.

 

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Is Dr. Steve Perry really the type of “educator” the national PTA wants to promote? Is his “no excuses” philosophy what the majority of America’s parents want for their children? Is his practice of excluding the neediest or lowest-performing students from his school consistent with the National PTA’s “Every Child” philosophy?

And perhaps most importantly: are local PTA members aware that Dr. Steve Perry is being promoted and celebrated by their parent group?

Yikes.

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