Archives for category: New Jersey

In New Jersey, David M. Aderhold, the superintendent of schools of West Windsor-Plainsboro, called out Governor Christie’s “reforms” for the frauds they are. He says it is time to fight back. I add him to the honor roll for his independence and support for children and public education.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/09/22/op-ed-what-the-public-doesn-t-know-can-hurt-our-students-our-schools/

He writes:

“The unspoken message is that the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education believe they can change educational outcomes by implementing a system of standardized tests, data points, and accountability measures. They believe that if you create “valid” and “reliable” assessment instruments, that all students will magically succeed. Through a blind allegiance to standardized assessments, the NJDOE and NJSBOE have failed to provide the support, programs, and professional development that would work to ensure that all students succeed….

“As a community of parents and educators, we must come together to rebuff the politicization of public education and insist that these changes are met with opposition and disapproval. We cannot remain on the sidelines as upheaval from the politics of education clouds what is best for our children. We must remain vigilant and centered on the essence of our work, which is to ensure the highest-quality educational experience for all students.”

In a warning to the people of Massachusetts and Georgia, this parent in Red Bank, New Jersey, explains her community’s fight against a charter school that has drained resources from the town’s public school and increased segregation by luring mostly white students.

She writes:

Many years ago, a small group of Red Bank parents started talking about how upset they were that the Red Bank Borough schools were terribly underfunded and terribly segregated, mostly due to the charter school in our small town.

For years, a group of us did our best to ignore the negative effects the Red Bank Charter School was having on our schools and community. We hoped these effects would go away, and magically we would be properly funded and less segregated. We worked tirelessly on fundraising, asking for community support (for arts, music, etc.) and doing our own recruiting of parents to help even out the segregation issue.

But as time went on, evidence of the negative effects caused by the charter school continued to present themselves — whether it was in annual cuts to our school programs, broken friendships and neighborhoods, or simply being exposed to class pictures from the mostly white charter school.

I tried to turn the other cheek and focus on our schools and making them better. I became highly involved in the Parent Teacher Organization and worked with state politicians on our arts programs and underfunding.

Success was achieved. We restored our string instruments program with the help of our superintendent and many community partners. We also maintained our valuable elective classes such as Chinese, AVID (college-prep) and Project Lead the Way (engineering). We were making great strides through the leadership of our very smart administration, involved parents and community.

Then everything came to a head last year when the charter school asked to expand. We were faced with the already existing negative effects multiplying — less funding, deeper segregation. Our community was floored. But we pulled together to block the expansion. As we did, we had a chance to educate our larger community even more about the negative effects the charter school has on our district.

It was like unpeeling an onion, one layer at a time, and examining the funding model, segregation, student academic achievement, programming, budgeting, school communications, and more. And with each layer, we became more and more astounded and shocked. The data supported our deepest fears: We were indeed living in the most segregated neighborhood in New Jersey — yes, our “hip town,” our cool little town of Red Bank, the same Red Bank that Smithsonian magazine, The New York Times and many others have written about as one of the best small towns in America. The data and information we uncovered was the dirty little secret that creeped below the headlines.

Eric Shininger is a principal in New Jersey. He comes from a family of educators. He is appalled by Governor Chris Christie’s continual attacks on educators who have dedicated their lives to children. He explains he essentials of Christie’s agenda to destroy public education in the Garden State.

He writes:

“Let’s look at some of the ridiculous decisions Governor Christie has made to derail a great education system:

“Reduced state funding for schools over the years to pay for tax cuts for his rich friends. His latest wisdom is articulated in this article: Chris Christie’s Education Plan Is Shocking: He Wants to Give to the Rich and Take From the Poor.

“Eliminated cost of living adjustments (COLA) for all retired educators who gave their all for kids

“Vetoed a mandatory school recess bill, even though research had shown how important it is to student learning.

“Pushed forward a few unfunded mandates (Common Core, PARCC) that have taken away precious funds from improving what really matters. Schools had to front the money for quality professional development, curriculum revision, and technology to support these mandates. Years later many states have backed away from PARCC. The once strong 26-member consortium has now dwindled to 7. For all the hoopla, PARCC has told us nothing we didn’t already know from previous assessments. To make matters worse, NJ has been the only state to make this a graduation requirement in the near future.

“Imposed superintendent caps to drive out some of our best leaders. Many states have welcomed them with open arms and pocket books as good leaders are often worth every penny

“Followed through with a value-added system for evaluating educators, which by the way has no supporting research. He doubled down on this recently by increasing Student Growth Percentile (SGP) scores to 30% of an educator’s overall evaluation. This latest change was pushed out on Wednesday, August 31, just days before schools welcomed back students. On Monday, a few days later, Education Commissioner David Hespe resigned. A bit shady, huh? In all, the new regulations completely give up on quality teaching and simply shoot for compliance. This was most likely done because people were overburdened with paperwork, but no consideration was given as to the effect of the regulations. The entire SGP issue is a nightmare as in some cases they rely on arbitrary numbers

“Refused to fully fund the public pension system that he committed to in 2012 while pushing all the blame for the state’s economic woes on teachers, policemen, firemen, and other public sectors committed to the well being of all.”

Christie leaves the education system of his state worse than he found it. His bullying of educators is inexplicable.

New Jersey has decided that teachers are now fully familiar with the Common Core and PARCC testing, even though most kids “fail” it, and henceforward the rise or fall of test scores on PARCC will count for 30% of teacher evaluations. Previously they had counted for only 10%.

This method has been debunked by the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association. It has been in use in Colorado and in many states for five years without producing any results.

This is faith-based policy.

http://www.nj.com/education/2016/08/nj_parcc_tests_teacher_evaluations.html

The only sensible aspect of this change is that it counts only for teachers who teach the tested subjects in the tested grades. In neighboring New York and in other states, this discredited method applies to all teachers, and they are judged by the scores of students they didn’t teach in subjects they don’t teach.

In New York, an outstanding fourth grade teacher, Sheri Lederman, sued the state after receiving a low rating. The judge ruled that the rating system was “arbitrary and capricious.” For now, the rating system is in abeyance. At some point the Regrnts and Legislature will have to clarify how this ruling affects state law.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education David Hespe will step down and be replaced, at least temporarily, by his deputy.

New Jersey is only of only five states and D.C. that still administers Pearson’s PARCC exams.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went to an open meeting with parents and other concerned citizens where the topic was the impoverished district of Camden, which has been under state control for three years.

In the meeting, education activist and Camden resident Sue Altman debated Governor Christie and didn’t back down. This video is going viral.

All Christie knows about education is that 1) it costs too much, and, 2) charters do a better job for less.

Altman explained that the charters don’t enroll the same demographic as the public schools.

Public ed advocate/Camden resident Sue Altman stood up and held her ground against Gov. Christie for nearly 6 minutes – correcting him on how long the state’s run Camden schools, calling him out on the hypocrisy of planning far less for Camden than his own administration’s report says is needed, reminding him the kids there can’t even drink the schools’ water….At one point, Christie just gives up and throws Altman the microphone.

For context about the event and about Camden, read this post by Professor Steven Danley (who happens to be Sue Altman’s husband).

Sue is a star. The way she handled the Governor, with knowledge, persistence, wit, and a smile is a lesson to all of us.

PS: I corrected this post to show that Sue is not yet a parent. She and Steve were married this summer.

Teachers in Middlesex County were surveyed about their views of PARCC testing. New Jersey is one of the few states that continues to participate in PARCC. Originally, there was a consortium with 24 states. Now there are five.

Here is the discouraging, but not surprising, findings:

Middlesex County Education Association Releases Findings of First-Time Survey of Teachers After PARCC Testing: Finds Significant Problems

June 2016

Some 1285 Middlesex County teachers and school professionals voluntarily and anonymously participated in a survey regarding the impact of the PARCC standardized test on students, schools, and instruction. In the most comprehensive survey conducted in New Jersey to date, the results showed serious issues for the new testing regimen. The major findings of the survey include:

• Feedback from the test was significantly delayed or not distributed to teachers.
• Conditions under which the PARCC test was taken draw into question the validity of the results.
• PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and raised concerns for many parents.
• The new test is a significant drain of instruction time and a disruption to classes.
• As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library media centers and computers as well as special services and programs.
• The testing/evaluation environment has had a negative impact on teachers and staff.

Delay in Receiving Feedback

In spite of the NJ Department of Education’s promises of rich feedback from PARCC testing to teachers to improve instruction, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and Mathematics) did not receive their students’ spring 2015 test scores until January 2016 or later. Another 24% never received them. After the state spent $22.1 million dollars and local districts spent millions more to implement the PARCC, less than 2% of these teachers found the data collected from PARCC to be an improvement from past state standardized tests.

Validity of PARCC Test Questionable and Students Impacted Negatively

Nearly half of educators reported directly observing administration problems, technical or otherwise, which could have negatively impacted student test scores. In addition, 59% reported observing students refusing to take the test seriously, resulting in invalid scores. In spite of these issues, the state of New Jersey continues to use PARCC test scores as part of evaluations for teachers of tested areas grades 4 to 8 and these scores are projected to play a larger role for more teachers in the future.

PARCC testing has had a pronounced effect on many students. 57% of school teachers and support staff reported increased anxiety and depression among students related to testing and 42% reported increased negativity and loss of interest in school by students overburdened by testing. Only 14% reported no observed problems for their students. One teacher wrote, “My first graders are worried about future testing.” Another teacher noted “I recently looked at old yearbooks – ten years ago our kids did fantastic learning projects. Now, all we do is data driven instruction and testing.”

A notably high percentage, 60% of educators, reported parents expressing complaints, apprehension, or concerns about the PARCC test directly to them. This reflects the previously publicly reported concerns of parents shown by the tens of thousands of New Jersey children who opted out of the PARCC test last year at their parents’ request.

Impact of PARCC Testing on Instruction

In terms of lost instructional time to PARCC, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and mathematics) reported spending 11-20 hours on PARCC testing this year and 35% spent more than 20 hours in PARCC testing. In addition, 38% of these teachers estimated spending another 6 or more instructional days on test prep, and nearly half of these teachers lost additional time to pre-testing to identify weak students before the PARCC test. Over 36% reported that their schools purchased commercially prepared pre-tests for use prior to the PARCC.

Educators widely reported that PARCC testing resulted in the closing of library media centers and loss of access to computers for extended periods of time, disruption of class schedules and routines, and loss of time for special services such as speech therapy and counseling. Advanced Placement teachers complained of the loss of valuable instructional time just prior to the AP tests for college credits. Other teachers commented that the guidance department, child study teams for special education students, and much of the school administration were barely available for up to a month for testing. A special education teacher reported that many special education students had substitute teachers for several weeks while their special education teachers administered the PARCC to other students in other grades.

Impact on Teachers and Professional Staff

As a result of the new evaluations for students and teachers, 91% of those surveyed reported an increased workload, primarily in the form of increased paperwork and documentation of work done rather than increased time working with students. Nearly 62% reported that PARCC testing has had a definite negative or strongly negative effect on themselves and their colleagues.

While 83% reported that 5 years ago they were either satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs, only 34% said they were satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs today. Representative of many of the comments in the survey, one teacher stated, “I have always loved my job, but the last few years with the implementation of the state testing and new teacher evaluation system, I am seriously considering retiring early and dissuading my own children from seeking this profession.”

Another teacher commented, “I wish I could just TEACH and do the things in my classroom that I know will lead to real learning based on the needs of my students and not on some politician’s ever-changing agenda. I am truly saddened by what is happening; the students are not being served. This is the first group of students I have had that have been working with Common Core standards their entire school careers, and I must say that they are the least prepared and have the biggest skill gaps of any
group I have had in decades. Rushing through developmentally inappropriate material in order to score well on a test that supposedly measures “deep” knowledge and application (on a timed test, yet!) does not do justice to our students or our profession.”

About the Survey and for More Information

The Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee collected data from 1287 Middlesex County educators who voluntarily responded anonymously to an online survey between May 9 and June 12, 2016. Respondents work in all major districts in the county including East Brunswick, Edison Township, Highland Park, Middlesex, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Brunswick, Spotswood, and Woodbridge Township. Elementary school teachers and professional staff represented over 38% of the respondents; middle school composed 32% of respondents; and high school participants were 29% of the total. Just under 9% have been in the profession for less than 5 years, 20% had 5 to 10 years in the profession, 43% have worked 11 to 20 years in the profession, and 28% have more than 20 years in the profession. This breakdown is generally representative of the profession as a whole.

Questions regarding this survey can be directed to Ellen Whitt, Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee, whitt.ellen@gmail.com or 732-771-7882.

Sarah Blaine, former teacher and current lawyer, blogs at Parenting the Core. She is the parent of two children in New Jersey’s public schools. She prepared testimony in opposition to the proposal to use the PARCC test as a high school graduation requirement.

In her testimony, she reviews what New Jersey law says about the responsibility of the New Jersey state board of education. She maintains that its action to raise the high school graduation requirement to “college and career ready” is in direct conflict with state law.

So what do the statutes the Board’s regulations seek to implement require? N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-1 et seq. require that the Commissioner develop a graduation exit test to be approved by this Board in order to obtain a State-endorsed high school diploma. Id. at 7C-1, 7C-2, 7C-4. The Statewide assessment test must be administered to all 11th grade students. Id. at 7C-6 and 7C-6.1. It must measure those minimum basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically and socially in a democratic society: specifically, the test must measure the reading, writing, and computational skills students must demonstrate as minimum requirements for high school graduation. Id. at 7C-1, 7C-6.1. Further, if a student uses a comprehensive assessment option instead – i.e., the portfolio option – the student’s use of the portfolio option must be approved by the Commissioner of Education. Id. at 7C-4.

The problem is that the graduation requirements enshrined in the proposal for the Class of 2021 forward do not meet the requirements set forth in the statute.

First, the Statewide assessment test must be administered to all 11th graders. See N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-6; 7C-6.1. Under the Class of 2021 forward regulations, however, the tests that students will be required to obtain passing scores on to earn their high school diplomas, however, are the 10th grade ELA test and the Algebra I test. By definition, the 10th grade ELA test will not be administered to all 11th graders statewide.

The Algebra I test is even more problematic, as many students across the state take Algebra I (and therefore the Algebra I PARCC End-of-Course test) as early as 7th or 8th grade. It also, of course, makes no sense to tell children as young as 12 that their high school graduation depends on their performance on a test they’re taking now. Further, making obtaining a Proficient score on the End-Of-Course test for a course often taught in 7th or 8th grade a high school graduation requirement might well have the unintended consequence of discouraging districts from offering accelerated math programs to qualified students.

Second, I’ve scoured the PARCC consortium website in detail, and nowhere does it say that the PARCC ELA 10 and PARCC Algebra I tests were designed to measure whether students have achieved those minimum basic skills all students must possess to function politically, economically, and socially in a democratic society. Instead, PARCC is focused on assessing college and career readiness – a laudable goal, but a much higher standard than the minimal basic skills standard the Board is authorized to employ in approving a test to determine which public school students in the state will be denied high school diplomas.

Read her testimony in full. She links to the relevant statutes.

The bottom line is that the state board has created a disastrous situation. Students in New Jersey have taken the PARCC tests. Most have failed the tests. Most students will not qualify for a high school diploma. If they fail, as most will, they will have to get the permission of the state commissioner to submit a portfolio of work instead. This is a recipe for chaos and demoralization.

This is nonsense. The sooner New Jersey gets a new governor who cares about students and public schools, the better off the state will be.

The best development now would be a lawsuit to force the state board of education to comply with state law and common sense.

Governor Chris Christie made a big deal of pretending to get rid of Common Core, but he tenaciously stayed with PARCC, the federal test of the Common Core standards. Now the state board of education has voted to make PARCC a high school graduation test, starting in 2021.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/south-brunswick-cranbury/sections/education/articles/south-brunswick-opting-out-of-parcc-testing-no

This is insane.

To begin with, no standardized test should be a high school graduation test. They are normed on a bell curve, which guarantees a high failure rate. The children who do not receive a diploma will disproportionately consist of children of poverty (most of whom are African-American and Hispanic), children with disabilities, and English language learners.

Next, it is clear that the PARCC test produces high failure rates. Most students in New Jersey failed it last year. Only about 25% passed the algebra and geometry tests; only 40% of high school students passed the 11th grade ELA tests.

http://www.nj.com/education/2016/08/new_jersey_parcc_results_2016_released.html

What plans has the state made for the tens of thousands of students who will not get a high school diploma?

Please, ACLU and Education Law Center: Sue New Jersey to stop this travesty, this injustice towards children.

Jersey Jazzman, aka public school teacher and Ph.D. candidate Mark Weber, wrote a blistering reproach to the charter school cheerleaders who have persuaded Governor Chris Christie that charters accomplish more with less. This enables Christie to propose an outrageously inequitable plan that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

He shows how certain loud charter zealots in New Jersey have argued that charters in Newark are way better than Newark public schools, despite the clear evidence that the charters enroll a different demographic and have high attrition rates.

He points out that when honest critics point out the verifiable facts, they can expect to be slimed and smeared by the charter cheerleaders, who glory in the privatization of public schools.

Weber reviews the shameless attacks by charter zealot Laura Waters and refutes her claims with data, evidence, not rhetoric.

He concludes:

I’ve spent more time answering Waters’ post than it deserves; however, I’m doing so this time for a reason. Chris Christie has proposed a radical change in school funding — one that even Peter Cunningham agrees is pernicious for this state’s neediest children. Yet how does Christie justify his plan? With stories of charter school “success.” And who has sold this tale?

Laura Waters, Peter Cunningham, and the well-heeled charter school operators themselves. In their zeal to pump up charters and shoot down honest critics like Julia Sass Rubin, these fine, reformy folks have set up the students who attend New Jersey’s urban, public, district schools for a huge cut in their schools’ budgets.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t ever pretend that I don’t have a point of view. I’m a New Jersey public school teacher and I am damn tired of being blamed for things completely out of my and my colleagues’ control. I think the celebration of charter school “success” is largely a pretext for beating up teachers unions, gutting teacher workplace protections, and cutting back even further on public school funding, particularly in urban districts. I think charter cheerleading keeps us from having a real conversation about the structural problems related to race and economic inequality in America.

But now we’re seeing the consequences of unbridled charter love are even more dangerous than mere charter expansion. Charlatans like Christie are using the very arguments charter cheerleaders spout daily to make the case that we can simply turn our backs on urban schools and their students. So long as a few charter schools get better than average test scores — by whatever means necessary — it’s perfectly fine to cut the budgets of urban district schools.

This awful rhetoric can be laid directly at the feet of the charter industry and their willing saps in the media — and that includes the professional reformy propaganda machine that exists solely to counter informed critics like me or Bruce Baker or Julia Sass Rubin.

I won’t speak for Bruce [Baker] or Julia, but I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me when I say this: I am not against school choice or charter schools per se. I started my K-12 career in a charter school. I think there are worthwhile reasons for having charters and other forms of alternative schools. I have been teaching long enough to know not every kid is going to fit well in her neighborhood school, and that there are good reasons to offer other choices. I think there are charters that have practices that may well be worth studying.

So folks like me and Bruce and Julia may have a point of view our opinions, but we aren’t questioning charter cheerleading simply as a reflex; our criticisms are reasonable and informed by the evidence. Do you disagree? Fine, I’m happy to debate.

But understand: your ill-informed, statistically-inept charter cheerleading is no longer simply about justifying your own school; it’s now being used to excuse a wholesale defunding of our urban public schools.

Do you really want that on your hands?