Archives for category: New Jersey

The state-appointed superintendent of the Camden, Néw Jersey, public schools announced that five public schools would be handed over to private charter chains. These schools will receive “significant” renovations to prepare them for the takeover by private managers. Three private organizations–KIPP, Mastery, and Uncommon Schools–have been designated to take over the schools and students.

“”This marks a new beginning for five of Camden’s most-struggling schools,” predicted Paymon Rouhanifard, the district’s state-appointed superintendent. “We hope this will be remembered as the moment we turned the corner.”

“A different view came from Save Our Schools New Jersey, an education-advocacy group. It asserted the schools were being “given” to private operators “to ensure a forced supply of students.”

“The people of Camden had no say in this decision,” said the group, which noted the city district is under state control and does not have an elected school board.

“Current staffers at the five schools would have to interview for new positions with the renaissance schools, Rouhanifard said.”

Read more about the superintendent here and here. Here is Jersey Jazzman’s description of his resume: Teach for America, Goldman Sachs, And a high staff position in the Néw York City’s Department of Education. He was 32 when Governor Chris Christie appointed him.

New Jersey State Commissioner of Education David Hespe was appointed by Governor Chris Christie, which suggests that one should have low expectations for starters. But Jersey Jazzman decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, because at least he wasn’t Chris Cerf, who resigned to work for Joel Klein at Rupert Murdoch’s company.

 

But when Hespe approved the expansion of a charter school in Hoboken, claiming that it would have no segregative effect on the public schools, JJ couldn’t believe that Hespe could say this with a straight claim. JJ shows that the charter schools in Hoboken do not serve the same population as those in the public schools: they are whiter and more advantaged. Of course, the expansion of the Hoboken Dual Language School would have a segregative effect! JJ lays out the facts and figures.

 

JJ warns:

 

The charter school community’s claims to the moral high ground are null and void when Hoboken’s charter school expansion is based on the distortions found in Hespe’s letter. He and his department have turned a blind eye to the real and serious effects of the charters on the city’s school district.

 

In doing so, Hespe and his top brass at the NJDOE show they are ideologues, uninterested in a rational assessment of the consequences of their policies. And, again, it’s not just charter schools: PARCC, One Newark, the state superintendents, and all the other issues before this department are not being evaluated with rigorous, evidence-based methods.

 

I had high hopes for David Hespe; they have now been dashed. Hunker down, New Jersey: when it comes to the NJDOE, things won’t get better before they get worse.

 

 

Marie Corfield, teacher and education activist, tells here the worst PARCC story she ever heard. It is short and sad.

Can you top this?

The connections between Pearson and the Néw Jersey State Department of Education are close, reports Bob Braun:

“Bari Anhalt Erlichson, an assistant New Jersey education commissioner and chief testing officer who supervises PARCC testing throughout the state, has a personal connection of sorts to PARCC’s developer, the British publishing giant Pearson. Anhalt Erlichson is married to Andrew Erlichson, a vice president of a company named MongoDB. MongoDB (the name comes from humongous database) is a subcontractor to Pearson, developing its national student database that provides the larger company with access to student records in New Jersey and the nation.

“Anhalt Erlichson wrote a memorandum to New Jersey educators March 17 defending the actions of her department and Pearson in monitoring the social media of New Jersey students while they took the PARCC tests. She blamed the uproar caused by the revelation of the cyber-spying on the failure of parents and educators to understand social media.

“She did not mention her personal ties to a company that profits from the business relationship to Pearson–and the state education department….

“State education department spokesmen declined to answer inquiries about Erlichson’s connections to MongoDB.”

Thousands of students refused the PARCC test in Néw Jersey, including 1,000 students at Governor Christie’s alma mater, Livingston High School.

In one district, 30% of the students refused to take the test.

Bob Braun posts an eloquent letter written by 35 teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, one of the top schools in New Jersey.

 

The teachers write:

 

To Whoever Will Listen:

 

We are teachers at Science Park High School in Newark, New Jersey, and we are deeply disturbed by the thirty days of disruption being forced on our school. In the coming weeks, like the rest of New Jersey, we will be forced to administer the PARCC exam. A few weeks ago we saw the schedule: three weeks of testing in March, followed by three weeks of testing in May. This total does not include the additional week of make-up testing following each of the three-week periods. This total does not include the days of mandatory test preparation to familiarize students with the exam’s very specific computer interface. This total does not include the thousands of hours of training of teachers and administrators to plan, schedule, and execute this exam. We honestly believe that The State of New Jersey, by forcing us to administer this time-devouring test, is engaged in behavior destructive to the educational well being of our students.

 

We believe that the thirty days of disruption could just as easily be called the thirty days of destruction. Science Park High School is a Blue Ribbon school. We, like many teachers in Newark and throughout New Jersey, have dedicated huge parts of our lives to making certain that our students receive an excellent education. We come in early. We stay late. We give up our weekends. We wouldn’t change our dedication because we love what we do. We love the students we teach. Our love forces us to say something.

 

We do not believe that parents and administrators who work for the State of New Jersey understand the destructive impact this testing will have on our ability to teach students. Some teachers will be removed from their classes for a week. The second week that same teacher may not have any students because they are being tested. In the third week they may have only partially filled classes. The disruption will continue with some students still absent from class during the fourth week of make-up exams. Then we have spring break, three weeks of teaching in April, and in May we test for a second three-to-four week period. We say again, in May we test for a second three- to four-week period!

 

We value our time in the classroom with our students. Teachers are important to the educational process. It is wrong to stop the educational process for close to 17 percent of the year to administer an exam. We could talk about further objections, like the use of a confusing computer interface, or the use of an exam that many highly educated and successful people have difficulty completing. But thirty days of testing is sufficiently outrageous and — we believe — indefensible.

 

There are three questions this schedule raises that demand answers:

 

1. Why is 30 days of testing disruption more beneficial than 30 days of classroom instruction? We have never heard a pedagogical justification for this and could not imagine what one would be. Explain to us how this is about the education of our children.

 

2. How much are the State of New Jersey and private foundations spending on the creation, training, execution, and grading of this exam, and who is financially benefitting from this? There is so much in education that we cannot afford, that we must fund out of our own pockets. There are so many teachers and clerks and drug counselors and attendance counselors who have been laid off, in our own building, in our district, in our state. What is the financial bottom line?

 

3. If this PARCC exam is so valuable and good, how many of New Jersey’s top private schools have adopted it? Is Delbarton or Newark Academy or Pingry subjecting their students to the “educational benefits” of this exam?

 

Although we, the undersigned education workers, do not represent the entire faculty at Science Park High School, we are confident that every member of our faculty shares our critique of this exam. We are even confident that many principals and superintendents not brought in by the current regime share our critique. Yet many are afraid to speak out because they fear retaliation against themselves, their principal, or even the entire staff or school if they dare voice their honest, professional opinion.

 

We who have signed this letter cannot live in fear. We are offended by the situation in which we find ourselves, in which education policy is dictated by billionaires who never taught a day in their lives, while our patiently gained professional expertise is ignored. Even worse, we are offended by a situation where many honest, hard-working education workers feel afraid to voice their professional opinion for fear of backlash.

 

What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about the First Amendment, yet did not voice our professional opinion? What type of teachers would we be if we taught our students about civil rights movements, yet neglected to defend them from this exam? With these questions in our conscience, we are not afraid to issue this clear statement.

 

We love teaching. We love our students. Our collective educational opinion is that PARCC’s thirty days of disruption is bad for our schools and bad for our children.

 

[Bob Braun’s note: Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to reproduce the signature pages of this statement. However, these are the names appended to the statement. Because the names were hand-written, I may not spell some correctly. Corrections are requested and will be made ASAP. My apologies for any mistakes. Here is the list of names in the order they appear on the statement:]

 

 

Branden Rippey

Hubert McQueen

Filip Spirovski

Kim Schmidt

Jose Gomez-Rivera

Anthony Moreno

Luan Goxhaj

Patrick Farley

Ana Serro

Cheryl Bell

Jonathan Alston

Randy Mitchell

Claudia Amanda Pecor

Justin Mohren

Cristiano Liborio

Carolina Parasiti

Doretta Sockwell

Aziz Kenz

Marta Ilewska

Veronica Naegele

Richard R. Selander

Chaunte’ Killingsworth

Jim McMahon

Marcellus D. Green

Michelle Benjamin

Peter Wang

Mario McMiller

Ben Patiak

Lisa Bento

Lorenzo Cruz

Jeanina Perez

Pamela Cole

Ana Aranda

Joseph Okil

Philip Yip

Thanks to the dedication of parents, students, and educators, the legislators in Néw Jersey are listening. Citizen action works! Protest works! Organize, mobilize, demand what is right for children and good education.

Reader LG reports:

“On Monday, the NJ Assembly voted YES in a landslide to delay the use of PARCC testing for three years. The uses cited would impact student placement, student graduation and teacher evaluation. Next the bill goes on to the senate for discussion and vote.

“This does not necessarily eliminate the PARCC in NJ, at least this year, but I predict a disaster after the PARCC results come in and then a parental pushback so large that the legislators will cave and dump the test.

“At our NJEA Legislative a Conference last Saturday, we heard from a senator who feels there needs to be a moratorium but who also feels that three years might be too much. The assembly sure didn’t feel that way. Regarding the opt out bill, we shall see.”

A comment from Néw Jersey:

“Just remember, in New Jersey the buzzword is “refuse” in stead of opt-out. It’s just a small semantic difference, but the schools are telling parents “there is no opt-out option.” HOWEVER (and the schools will not say) that a parent can REFUSE to have his or her child tested via the PARCC.”

Mercedes Schneider reviews what is in store for children in Néw Jersey when they take the PARCC test:

“PARCC testing in New Jersey is scheduled to begin March 2, 2015. The NJ PARCC testing “window” will not end in March, but will continue into April, May, and June, depending upon the grade level and whether the test is part of the PBA (performance-based assessment), which is given 75% of the way through a school year, or EOY (end of year), which comes 90% of the way into a school year.

“For third grade, New Jersey schools must schedule 4.75 hours for the English language arts (ELA) PBA and EOY PARCC and 5 hours for the math PBA and EOY PARCC.

“Just shy of 10 hours of schedules testing time for a third grader.

“For fourth and fifth graders it is a full 10 hours.

“For sixth through eighth graders, almost 11 hours.”

Why is it necessary to spend so much time to find out whether children can read and do math?

Some parent groups are urging opting out.

The opt out talk has grown so loud that DC-based Education Trust has sent opinion pieces to Néw Jersey papers urging parents not to opt out. Schneider points out that Education Trust is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation.

New Jersey parents: do not subject your children to 10 hours of testing. Opt out.

If education is the civil rights issue of our time, as “reformers” often claim, then the students of Newark should sue Governor Christie, Cimmissioner Hespe, and Superintendent Cami Anderson for violating their right to a high quality education.

Bob Braun reports a study showing that the ongoing disruption in the lives of students, families, and educators have failed.

“A report compiled by the Alliance for Newark Public Schools reveals that so-called “Renew Schools,” city schools singled out for special attention–Anderson would call it “reform”–not only did not produce the student progress she predicted–but, in fact, lagged behind schools throughout New Jersey whose students have the same socio-economic and racial characteristics.

“So, after 20 years of state control and four years of experimentation by Anderson, the best the state-run Newark school administration has to offer fails in comparison to schools in the poorest school districts throughout New Jersey.

“This report…revealed that, with respect to 2013-2014 academic performance, all seven (7) Newark, New Jersey, Renew Schools significantly lagged or lagged their peer schools across the state.

“In the area of student growth performance, six (6) Renew Schools lagged or siginifically lagged their peer schools…”

“The analysis also shows that Newark has failed to meet its promised academic progress targets established as a condition for the granting by the federal government of a waiver of the draconian provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Under the law and under the waiver, student progress was measured for tracked for various subgroups based on race, language skills, poverty and other factors. According to the analysis, “The Renew Schools did not meet any of the 56 targets.”

And more:

“The commissioner also hinted he would, despite her failures, renew Anderson’s contract for another year. Hespe, once a well-respected educational administrator, clearly has moved to Chris Christie’s alternate universe, an Orwellian place where truth is lying and success is failure.

“It’s an embarrassment not because she failed but because of the pain and disruption Anderson caused creating the so-called “Renew Schools.” Under her plan, new principals were brought in, entire staffs were fired, schedules were changed, days were lengthened, millions of dollars were spent–including on outside consultants with close ties to Anderson–and it all has come to nought.”

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