Montclair School District Explains New Curriculum/ Assessments Design With a FAQ Page

BY  |  Monday, Jun 10, 2013 7:30pm  |  COMMENTS (10)

montclairThere are changes coming to the Montclair School District and the way students will be taught and assessed beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. To explain the changes to parents, the district has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

The first question explains why the Montclair Public School district is implementing a new curriculum and new, common assessments:

The State of New Jersey — along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia — has adopted a set of academic standards that define what students need to know and be able to do at each grade level in order to be college and career ready. These Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by New Jersey in 2010, and every public school in the state is required to implement them.  The CCSS are more rigorous than the state’s previous academic standards and require increased emphasis on the critical thinking and problem-solving skills we know children will need to master to be successful in the future.  The curriculum that will be developed in Montclair to support teachers’ classroom instruction will include clear learning objectives, common quarterly assessments, and resources all aligned to these new, more rigorous academic standards, or expectations.

Integral to our students’ success is the ability of our educators to know which students are progressing well, which students require more help, and which students need to be challenged beyond these adopted standards as the students move through a given year of instruction. Checking students’ progress will be accomplished, in part, through the implementation of teacher-designed assessments conducted at quarterly (10 week) intervals throughout each school year.

In a nutshell, students will have common assessments district wide, creating consistency throughout grades and schools. The assessments will be created by teachers collaboratively.

The page also clears up a common fear that parents and educators have: “Will the use of these new assessments force our teachers to “teach to the test?”  The response given is:

These assessments are aligned with classroom instruction; therefore, preparation for these assessments should not be any different from other classroom assessments.  It is important to note that these district-wide, teacher-generated assessments will be at least 50% performance-based (i.e., require critical thinking, writing, problem-solving) so that they align with the new state-adopted assessments from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which will also be 50% performance-based.  The PARCC assessments will replace NJ ASK testing in grades 3-11 in school year 2014-15

The Montclair Public School district supports the development of assessments that include an even greater percentage of performance-based or authentic assessment designs. Educators agree that student responses to more authentic or performance-based assessments give us a clearer picture of student thinking and problem-solving skills; they also more clearly indicate areas where students struggle.

These assessments will help us more deeply understand what our students have learned – in general and specifically in relation to the new CCSS.  The new common assessments will not simply be additional, scanner-graded, multiple-choice standardized tests.

Read the entire FAQ page for full details on the new curriculum / assessments that will be implemented next school year an then tell us what you think about it in comments.


  1. POSTED BY connor  |  June 10, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

    A lot of this is not telling the full truth. There is much more to this plan that the BOE isn’t talking about.
    They haven’t involved students at any step in this process. Don’t you think we deserve to have a say in this? We, even as high school students, can see how bad this plan is… there is something wrong here…

  2. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  June 10, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

    “Authentic assessment designs”-this phrase does not correspond to reality. They keep telling us we need better assessments, but can’t decide what an assessment is let alone how to measure it. I believe that’s called a sham.

  3. POSTED BY rachaelegan  |  June 11, 2013 @ 6:16 am

    This statement-
    “The page also clears up a common fear that parents and educators have: “Will the use of these new assessments force our teachers to “teach to the test?” ” is not accurate.

    If you look at the actual experience that NY has already had with PARCC, you will find that nothing is “cleared up”. Teachers here in NJ, just as in NY, will end up being forced to teach to the test.

  4. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  June 11, 2013 @ 9:13 am

    This is so disingenuous. Create a FAQ page for parents and taxpayers, who are having the entire Montclair School system uprooted by a corporatist. This is all smoke and mirrors and the BOE has greenlighted it all without even presenting it, in its entirety, to the public.

    Additionally, I can’t help but feel that Barista actually does nothing here to question anything that is being given them. Maybe they don’t feel they are journalists, but do they not ask questions? In fact, do you simply copy/paste that which is given to you? “The page also clears up a common fear that parents and educators have: “Will the use of these new assessments force our teachers to “teach to the test?” How about you ask: how is this so? Teachers evals will increasingly be tied to student test results, so why wouldn’t they teach to a test? Weak reporting, and borderline working for the BOE.

  5. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  June 11, 2013 @ 9:32 am


    The purpose of this post was to point out that the district created the FAQ page. To inform parents that it’s there and what the district is saying.

    We have, and will be, posting more education stories to have an open dialogue on the district’s and the state’s education system and reform movements that are against them.

    One example is the Op-Ed we ran questioning the new teacher evaluation system:

  6. POSTED BY alic314  |  June 11, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    This is a nationwide program, 44 states have signed on so far. It’s been in the news for a few years now. I work in publishing/book selling, and we have been having conversations about the CCSS for almost 2 years at this point. While the plans for implementing CCSS aren’t cohesive(anywhere-to think that the Mtclr BOE is pulling a fast one is just ridiculous! talk to any librarian, educator, book seller or publisher about how this is going, it’s the same story everywhere), the idea of the CCSS itself is not a bad thing. The entire purpose is to teach critical thinking, and it is primarily based on reading.
    Highly recommend this piece from Publisher’s Weekly from May 10th-foind it is one of the more common sense approach to what we are looking at over the next few years:

  7. POSTED BY kmed  |  June 11, 2013 @ 10:16 am

    The timeline and process described for designing and rolling out these assessments is extremely concerning as well. The small size of the design teams and the quick turnaround that they are aiming for are _huge_ challenges if they hope to come up with valid assessments that are tightly linked to a curriculum that still has to be revised.

  8. POSTED BY agideon  |  June 13, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    I’ve been reading a lot of commentary about “this topic” (about which I’m being deliberately vague for a reason explained below) for a while. The NYTimes had some recent articles which generated a lot of readers’ comments which I found especially illuminating.

    The difficulty is that this is not one issue. There are several distinct and orthogonal issues. Unfortunately, people are mixing them up and this has caused a lot of confusion in the discussion.

    There are, for example, quite separately: (1) the new curriculum, (2) student assessments, and (3) staff assessments. Any one of these three can be discussed independently; any one of the three might have been pushed as an issue by the federal and state DOEs. It just so happens that all three are an issue at the same time, which is why people are treating them as a single topic. And, of course, there is a relationship. But the new requirements for staff assessments could have been imposed by the state with no changes to the curriculum, for example. They truly are separate topics.

    There are topics to consider with respect to the new curriculum. I’ve seen numerous citations of – at best – obscure text in its descriptions of topics/questions to be considered by students, for example. Is that deliberate? Are they regionalisms? Are they simply examples of poor writing?

    One of the more fascinating topics that was often mentioned in NYTimes comments was the concern that the curriculum was too demanding for some students, though not others. A lot of comments mentioned the need for differentiation at that level: what we expect from our students. A small number that I saw recognized that this was a path to reintroducing separate vocational and academic tracks in our schools.

    Not coincidentally, I expect, there was also a recent article describing the recent increase in the use of tracking in schools.

    This is just a start. There are plenty of other topics regarding the new curriculum worthy of discussion: topics that would be worth having even if we had no assessments of either students or teachers! But as long as every discussion of the curriculum devolves into a commentary about testing or assessing, we’re precluded from having those discussions.

    Those other issues – assessments and testing – are worthy of discussion as well, and we should continue to have those conversations. But we can discuss the topics w/o mixing in the issue of a curriculum change, thereby permitting us to really deal with the issues.

    For example, the district plans to involve teachers and other staff to create our own home-grown district wide assessments of students. Long essays? Portfolios? We’ll see; I’ve heard many options discussed. But these will be Montclair-specific; not imposed by the state or authored by an outside firm.

    The Superintendent has, most recently with her meetings on the drafting of a strategic plan, pushed us to have these discussions. Having attended those meetings, I am excited to see the degree of interest many have in how our school system’s delivery of education to our students can be improved. I confess, though, to a hope that we’ll see more parents more involved in these discussions.

    I expect that, if we can recognize that these really are multiple conversations, that will help. Parents that feel strongly about high-stakes testing, for example, shouldn’t be forced to try to make their points in a discussion of (for example) a math curriculum. That doesn’t serve the need to address either topic.


  9. POSTED BY agideon  |  June 13, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    “This is all smoke and mirrors and the BOE has greenlighted it all without even presenting it, in its entirety, to the public.”

    This is certainly true, as there weren’t multiple meetings where the entire community was invited to participate in the drafting of the strategic plan. There haven’t been multiple related presentations at BOE meetings where public comment was invited. I’m sure those of us that imagined that we attended these various meetings were merely sharing a common delusion.


  10. POSTED BY rachaelegan  |  June 14, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

    We were invited to many meetings to be heard, however we were getting this new testing system wether we liked it or not. Other states who have had some experience of it, are now beginning to reject it. Pearson will be paid millions to test and test and test our kids, while we can’t afford to bring the Spanish teachers or teacher’s aids back.

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