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.
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:]
Claudia Amanda Pecor
Richard R. Selander
Marcellus D. Green
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.”
“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.”
After a four-day sit-in and a meetung with State-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson, Newark Student Union members agreed to end their occupation of her office. They apparently won no concessions from her, but achieved widespread attention for their grievances.
Readers of this blog learned here on February 12 that Chris Christie of New Jersey told Republicans in Iowa that he had “grave concerns” about the Common Core. Today, the Washington Post ran the story, with some juicy additional details.
How did I get the news before the Washington Post? The blog has readers in Iowa who sent the story as soon as it happened. Thanks to all readers for being my eyes and ears across the nation!
Reporter Lyndsey Layton pulled out this fabulous quote from Governor Christie’s recent past:
And Christie’s Feb. 9 comments about the Obama administration were quite different from what he said 18 months ago, when he appeared in Las Vegas at a summit organized by KIPP, a national chain of charter schools. Christie, who supports charter schools, was interviewed at the summit by David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic Media Company.
This is what Christie said at the August 2013 event:
“We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the president than not, and with (Education) Secretary (Arne) Duncan. They haven’t been perfect on this but they’ve been better than a lot of folks have been in terms of the reform movement and I think that part of the Republican opposition that you see in some corners of Congress is a reaction, that knee-jerk reaction you see that’s happening in Washington right now, that if the president likes something, the Republicans in Congress don’t and if the Republicans in Congress like something, the president doesn’t. It is this mindset in D.C. right now that says we have to be at war constantly because to not be at war is to show weakness and to show weakness is to lead to failure and I just don’t buy that.”
A spokesman for Christie did not respond to a request on Tuesday for an explanation of the change of position.
An interesting sidelight of the story in the Post:
Though Christie alleges it has been a federal problem, the federal government plays no role in implementing academic standards: It is prohibited by law from getting involved in curriculum decisions or teaching methods.
So, class, how many think that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top “played no role” in promoting the Common Core? How many think that federally-funded tests (PARCC and SBAC) have no bearing on curriculum decisions and teaching methods?
A show of hands?
Meanwhile, back in the Garden State (aka New Jersey), parents and teachers are in open rebellion against the PARCC testing of Common Core. Will Governor Christie speak up?
A reader posted this link to a billboard fund in New Jersey. Help get the word out to New Jersey parents. Send a gift of any size to help.
Funny, I was thinking about the millions that the rightwing “Center for Union Facts” has available to buy huge billboards in Times Square and full-page ads in the New York Times to attack unions and teachers. And here is a campaign to raise $8,000 and change. If everyone who reads this blog sends in $10, the organizers of the campaign will meet their goal.
Meanwhile, if you want to get involved, think of direct action, people power, demonstrations and sit-ins that cost nothing but show the strength of our numbers and the power of our ideas.
Parents and students are the most powerful participants in the education debates for a simple reason: No one can fire them. Furthermore, they are not simply kibitzers or think tank pundits: Their lives are involved in the decisions about education. Here is a thoughtful comment by a parent in New Jersey, where the rebellion against high-stakes testing is in full swing:
I think it is extremely important for all educators to take the high road on this and not let justified anger cloud the logical arguments. I would encourage the NJEA President, Wendell Steinhauer, to sharpen his criticism and clearly articulate parental as well as educator concerns. I would also encourage him to have his association develop their own professional development / educational programs for teachers, working with schools. We all have many things to learn – it is a continuous process. Partnership with the “other side” – for the worthy goal of providing a wonderful education for our children – that would be difficult for Governor Christie to make less of.
I informed my local board of education during public comment that my son (6) will not be sitting for the PARCC testing (if it is still around) when he reaches third grade. I am quite serious as I feel PARCC and everything behind it is not in the best interest of any student – any teacher – any grade. Testing 8 year olds for career readiness is in itself inappropriate. Basically Common Core attempts to centralize everything – and this robs the spirit from the classroom. I feel this process it is hurtful to students for several reasons not limited to these:
1. PARCC will be administered on computer rather than paper which places pressure on our youngest of students to learn keyboarding (my son is already learning in first grade) and be exposed to computers even before they have had the experience and develop the proper motor skill to form letters correctly. The computer forms letters perfectly at the push of a button. In the perfect world I would prefer students be on computer much later. Students would benefit by working with real materials rather than inundating elementary schools with I-pads, laptops, “smart-boards” and all the other hardware “sugaring” up classrooms our youngest occupy. Tight school budgets are spending yet more on hardware just to accommodate computerized PARCC. It would make much more sense to give just one test on paper. A school’s network infrastructure, computer operating systems, and labs are not designed as a professional testing center is – and should not be. Tests of this kind are documents that require paper and are more practical on paper. Give an appropriate and elegant test once per year on paper and get the results to their teachers in a week. Perhaps that might be helpful.
2. The type of questions I found on PARCC in taking a practice test caused me a huge headache as they were twisted and confusing. I would not subject a young mind to such an assessment. In addition, activities in the classroom should not be centered on what is on this test. This robs the classroom of spontaneity – teaching moments – and valuable digression into areas of interest. A one size fits all top down totalitarian style mandated test is counter to our land’s free and open spirit.
3. Data collection – I will not have 400 points of data collected on my son and held in a database of a private company (already under investigation) for unknown future use. Centralizing this is an invasion of my son’s privacy and disrespectful. I will not have a third party testing company hold his data. Every parent needs to be concerned about this – it is Un-American! More than enough data to inform instruction can be obtained in various ways within the school itself.
4. Two tests per year are given. Massive amounts of instructional time is lost. Two tests because they will be used to evaluate teacher performance. This is flawed logic. There are way too many variables in the lives of students that can have dramatic effects on how they do in school. In addition, over evaluate a staff and you will have no time to inspire – no energy to motivate. Yet more tests, in most cases, are also administered for the so called “Student Growth Objectives“ – one more bad idea gone wild. Administrators have more than enough information within the building to inform instruction. In addition, local school districts are surrendering to a micromanaging overreach by the federal and state governments – as are teachers. What will be next? Teacher lesson plans from headquarters? We are going down a dangerous and undemocratic road.
An educational leader, in my opinion, must be a catalyst – must be the cause of positive excitement about the world – like of the world, real curiosity, knowing of the world! The American poet and philosopher Eli Siegel stated “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it“ and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope Mr. Hespe and other leaders will respectfully find out more about his important philosophy and extremely effective teaching method.
I believe that we are presently in a situation where teachers and students are not lifted up – but instead, insulted through SGOs, endless data collection, performance rubrics, and more. A once more collegial relationship is being replaced by a corporate style data collecting and crunching top down management – (a la McDonald’s) filling out endless computerized evaluations of teachers digitally warehoused by a centralized and privatized third party company. If more weight were given to supporting and lifting our teachers – more resources given to motivating, exciting, and further educating them – it would, in my opinion, be very wise – as our students, our children, my child, would benefit. We are missing that boat all should be on – parents, teachers, administrators, elected, BOE members, and our children.
I intend to be a vocal critic / advocate for my son and all his classmates at PTA meetings, BOE meetings and even council meetings in my own town. I hope more and more parents will object to mandating of Common Core / PARCC / teacher over- evaluation, and hope that the state reconsiders how it sees its schools, its teachers, and all its young residents across a most uneven (and unfair) financial spectrum. What is desperately needed is people centered decisions and laws – not profit centered.
I believe Dr. Maria Montessori saw children as individuals and respected the differences – and different rates of development found in each young mind – this is needed – not a one size fits all (profit centered) approach. Most importantly, in order to have schools be more successful everywhere, the state must work hard to close the huge financial gap within and between communities and lift communities rather than attempting to privatize schools in the most needy areas. That is no solution and an ugly cop out by our government that increasingly seems to be on the side of the profiteers – not the people.
David Di Gregorio, Parent
Englewood Cliffs, NJ