Letter to the Editor: Montclair’s Judgment of Solomon Moment

BY  |  Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 1:15pm  |  COMMENTS (31)

letter to the editorAs a 12-year resident of Montclair with two children in the school system, I wanted to voice my support for Dr. MacCormack, the Board of Education, and our educational experts.

Just a little background on myself: I’ve been active in the schools for several years, even serving as the School Action Team Chair in the past. In recent years, though, I’ve diminished my participation in the PTA and SAT because of the acrimonious nature that I’ve found often exists. So I’ve chosen to volunteer in the schools instead, often lending a hand wherever needed and even tutoring children in classes and grades other than my own.

In recent weeks, though, I’ve felt a burning desire to speak up for those of us in the community who don’t agree with the vitriol being spewed toward the school board and superintendent.  There are two issues, it seems; the common core implementation, and the response of those opposed to it.

I’m not an educational expert, so I can’t and won’t opine on Common Core or its implementation.  I can say that I think our children should be more challenged academically, and I welcome anything that achieves that.  I also believe that evidence-based decisions (using data gathered with assessments) are the best means of ensuring success.

As for the actions of those opposed to the Board and Dr. MacCormack specifically, recent events have left me speechless.  It seems that they have resorted to the Tea-Party–like tactics of sabotage and birther-esque, unsubstantiated claims in the name of doing what’s right for our children. It’s almost as though we’ve come to a “Judgment of Solomon” moment when those who purport to advocate for our children act in ways contrary to the long-term well-being of our children.  And perhaps the most unfortunate outcome of those actions is not the discord created amongst those in the fight, but the apathy and withdrawal elicited in those of us on the outside looking in.

Instead of engaging in the fight, I choose to focus on what we all have in common.  And there are several things upon which I think we can probably all agree:

1) We do our kids a disservice when we tell them not to trust their teachers or administrators.  In fact, positive relationships between students, parents and educators are important to our children’s success.

2) Our children need, and deserve, better examples of civility and compromise than what we’re providing.  Sabotaging a test that you don’t agree with, or making unmerited and unsubstantiated accusations against people you don’t agree with, is not behavior we would want our kids to emulate.  The tactic of “You’re wrong and I’m right” may work in politics (although the jury’s still out on that), but it definitely doesn’t work when it comes to raising and educating children.

3)  Dr. MacCormack and the rest of our educators have studied and worked their entire lives to educate children, and they want nothing more than to educate our children.  We may not agree on their tactics, but we should agree that their motivations are earnest.

4) The vast majority of us want to do what’s best for our children.  And whether we agree with the methods being implemented or not, it’s fair to say that the BOE, the Superintendent, our educators, the community and the parents all want what’s best for our children.

This could well be our Judgment of Solomon moment, and each of us is the judge.  As a community member or parent, what should we do? Choose positivity, civility and optimism over derision, petulance and discord.  And support those who value and show those qualities.  I beg the parents and community leaders: leave the educational discussion and debate to our educators. Let’s support them in every way possible.  Let’s speak highly of them to our children.  Let’s attend BOE meetings simply to listen, learn, and ask what we can do to support our educational experts. Let’s give them the time to prepare our kids for the educational challenges that are coming, and let’s hope they succeed.  And let’s always remember that we have a common goal: preparing our children for college, career and life.

31 Comments

  1. POSTED BY R. King  |  October 31, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    Amen!! It had to be said and I completely agree.

  2. POSTED BY latebloomer  |  October 31, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

    I agree that civility and respect are important and should be modeled to our children. However, I heartily disagree with the notion that we should leave educational decisions to the supposed “experts”. Montclair is a town full of very intelligent and aware people who have educated themselves in these matters. Many of us sincerely believe that a testing-centered philosophy is anathema to encouraging our children to grow, develop, and be able to pursue their natural curiosity and love of learning.

    We cannot “support” educational “experts” when we feel that their philosophy is detrimental to our kids’ well being and development. And I for one, though encouraging civility in my children, would never advise them to swallow unthinkingly what authority figures tell them to believe. I encourage my kids to think for themselves, and to question authority when they think its dictates are wrong.

  3. POSTED BY mtclmom  |  October 31, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    Dear Twana,

    Thank you for your comments though you can imagine that I disagree.
    1. There is no relationship between increased testing and common core standards. It is correct that NJ State dictates PARCC but there are examples of schools that have opted to reach the standards in ways that offer richer, deeper assessments for students. Actually, I wonder if Montclair parents don’t look into those alternatives because they are afraid of putting such great responsibility of teaching, knowledge and learning on teachers and students? I only mention this because many paint the opposition to testing as “parents who are afraid of change”.
    2. The model implemented in Montclair–increased assessments–is not a curriculum. The purpose of these tests is really to evaluate teachers through quantitative measures. In one sense, these quarterly tests are really HR tool tied to Marshall Evaluation Rubric adopted in Montclair. Again, no need to meet the requirements of that rubric through increased testing.
    3. I continue to object to the TEA PARTY comparison. I am a progressive who voted for Obama. I am not afraid of change. My concern is that the plan being implemented in Montclair is the same as what we have seen across country and it hasn’t worked.

    It is important that we not adopt an expensive plan that will not achieve stated goals–as well intentioned as it may be. Please see what is happening in NY and across the country to see whether this type of plan has worked.
    There are other ways to reach common core standards. Bloomfield district voted against increased testing; Princeton did also. Montclair schools need improvement but we also have a very good school system–we have higher scores on NJ ASK than state average. Let’s create a plan that builds on our stengths and what works. I think you and I can agree on this.

    I am interested in your perspective and would really like it if you could show me examples of where these methods have actually worked–that would really help me out.
    Thank you for sharing your views.

  4. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  October 31, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

    mtclmom:

    You seem to indicate that the 4 standardized assessments that the students will be given are “increased testing.”

    I’m not clear on whether all or some of the 4 standardized assessments are over and above the amount of tests the students would have taken otherwise, or if the 4 “standardized” assessments simply replace the “individualized” unit tests that teachers typically give students at the end of each quarter. Basically, I’m unsure about what is the “net” increased testing that will be occassioned by the 4 standardized assessments. Do you know? (I realize that that number will be different depending on the teacher, but I’m trying to get a general sense of the amount of “increased testing” to which the the students will be subjected.)

    Also, is the main objection to the 4 standardized assessments the fact that they are “standardized” or because they represent “increased testing” (or both)?

    Lastly, you state that “there are examples of schools that have opted to reach the standards in ways that offer richer, deeper assessments for students.” Do you have any specific examples?

  5. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  October 31, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    I am relatively new to Montclair. I moved here from a school district out west that was actually failing in more ways than I can explain here. I sat on a number of educational committees there (from gifted assessments to school closings), worked with kids who were on the wrong end of the achievement gap, and went to board meetings to speak out about how issues in the school were being handled.

    I also have advanced degrees in sociology and education. I have knowledge of how educational assessment is supposed to work (although it’s not an area I’ve worked in extensively). I’m only mentioning this because there seems to be a false dichotomy between parents and “educational experts” in this discussion.

    I don’t want to disparage the intent or motivation of anyone working in education in Montclair. But I will say that the assessment the superintendent has created will not function the way she claims. We should have never spent $400,000 on this.

    As described so far, the quarterly assessment is supposed to 1. identify weak teachers. 2. prepare students for the Common Core assessments. 3. reduce the achievement gap, and 4. be part of the student’s grade.

    None of these things are bad. The idea that all of them can be achieved by one assessment is ludicrous (as anyone who knows anything about assessment design will tell you). It would be hard enough to develop a test that would accurately measure one or two of these things. The idea that the results of these tests would be used for anything important pains me.

    I’d argue that #3 can’t be achieved through testing at all (achievement gaps are interesting phenomena in themselves–and I can speak to this, but I won’t right now.

    #1 can’t be done well with any test that is graded by a Scantron and where teachers have access to the questions in advance. Even if they don’t have access, you will get a truly limited assessment with multiple choice questions–and these assessments will not actually help you tell the “good” teachers from the “bad” ones.

    No one should even attempt to do #4 until a standardized curriculum (with appropriate textbooks and articulated expectations) is in place. It is unfair and irresponsible to the students to base any part of their grades on this. Also, the test needs to be vetted to make sure questions and answers are clear and well-written. This test hasn’t been.

    And #2, sure. It might work for #2–but probably not. The Common Core tests are suppose to test for critical thinking skills. It’s possible, but difficult, to write a multiple choice test that actually assesses critical thinking.

    I’d also ask what does this assessment provide us with that we don’t already get from the NJASK scores?

    I very much fear that the quarterly assessments have been designed with no clear stated objectives. Because of this, I doubt the results of this assessment were ever going to be worth much even if they hadn’t been compromised (not that I think they should have been compromised–obviously this is not good). But if this is the centerpiece of the superintendent’s educational plan, I would ask respectfully that she reconsider what she’s doing.

    I think a lot of the frustration and anger I see in the parents seems to stem from the fact that the BOE isn’t responding to their concerns. Listening tours are all well and good–but only if actual listening takes place. I don’t feel empowered as a parent here. I feel like attending the board meetings isn’t a good use of my time. I don’t know what to make of a Board of Education that seemed to be in lock-step with a superintendent instead of in a supervisory capacity. I have no idea who I would talk to to make my concerns heard (actually heard–not blown off like I have no right to say anything).

    I think Montclair should be more civil in this matter–but I see that the lack of civility goes both ways. Maybe the parents would quit screaming if the BOE promised to listen (really listen).

  6. POSTED BY thinking4myself  |  October 31, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

    Thank you Twana for this very thoughtful letter.

  7. POSTED BY balancingact  |  October 31, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

    Thank you, angryrabbit. This is one of the most useful comments yet on this topic. The purpose of the quarterly assessments keeps shifting. As you’ve noted, no one assessment could do all of the things that these quarterlies have been purported to be able to do. However, since people like some of these ideas (who doesn’t want to reduce the achievement gap, and/or have better ways to evaluate teachers, and/or improve instruction?) we are left without the ability to make a clear critique.

    Instructional improvement is a possible and worthy goal. We’ve seen it in our schools, with the implementation of the Teachers College Writing Curriculum, for example. It takes high quality professional development accomplished in a climate of trust and respect. Forcing teachers to create and implement four tests is not instructional improvement. It is a waste of time, and will yield neither better learning for kids nor better assessment of instructors.

  8. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  October 31, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    angryrabbit:

    With respect to your #1, according to the district website http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPage.aspx?Id=2177 the interim assessments will NOT be used to evaluate teachers unless the teacher opts to have the assessments factored into their evaluation. Therefore, it is the teachers’ decision whether they want the assessments to be factored into their evaluations.

    Here is the language from the district website:

    “Have you heard that the interim assessments will be used to evaluate teachers?

    These assessments will not be used to evaluate teachers unless a teacher decides to use the district assessments when setting his/her Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) as required by the New Jersey Department of Education.”

  9. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 31, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Judgment of Solomon moment? Give me a break. There is nothing written here that actually has any research to support it. Give me one piece of evidence that actually supports our Superintendent’s methodology, and I maybe I will listen with open ears. Other wise, I won’t simply support someone’s educational philosophy and plan because it reflects “civility” (I ask, was the American Revolution attained only through civility? Women’s suffrage? Civil Rights?).

    Democracy is often ugly, dirty. And in some instances, it requires picketing, hunger-strikes (women’s suffrage), and boycotts. By your thinking, maybe we should exclude the examples where these things were used in American history because some think it’s not “civil”. By the way, is civility backed by research too when addressing the achievement gap? Or

  10. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  October 31, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

    Tallahassee,

    I appreciate your link to the school board’s website. This is not something I had seen before. So thank you.

    However, having the teacher opt in or out doesn’t actually change the fact that the assessment (as designed) is not an appropriate tool for evaluating teacher performance. And given that we don’t yet have a curriculum (textbooks, etc.) in place, it would also be a poor choice for setting SGOs.

    My question to you (and to anyone else who can answer) is what exactly are these assessments for? What are we getting for the $400,000 we have spent that we haven’t already gotten from the NJASK?

  11. POSTED BY latebloomer  |  October 31, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    Exactly, mtclrsown! Nothing gets accomplished by sitting down, shutting up, and deferring to the “wisdom” of those in power. Too often their agenda is not one that benefits us. I teach my kids to think for themselves, and speak up for themselves. Dialogue is great, respect is important, but you have to have a mind of your own and push back when necessary.

  12. POSTED BY iteachthereforeiam  |  October 31, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    wow…just wow…i mean i could eviscerate this letter point-by-point but does anyone really read the book-length comments? would it really change any minds? would andrew gideon and profwilliams still find a way to be dismissive and paint me as the left’s version of a birther? would we wake up tomorrow and still have passion called a lack of civility? would we still have fighting for what’s right, with moral certainty — the best thing our students could witness — called a bad example? would we still have well-researched critiques called “nmerited and unsubstantiated accusations”? would we still have the very opposite of the tea party/birtherism be labeled as such? do you know who called for civility, moderation, an end to vitriol, etc.? people who opposed every positive social change in history — i’m not comparing opposition to the BOE (or, to a few on there who deserve it) to the civil rights movement (though the reform movement insidiously uses the language of civil rights to push their agenda), but we have many historical examples of acrimony and “uncivil” behavior producing positive change…such is the dialectic of history…when it’s too quiet, when we simply trust the motives of leaders because golly gee they must have the best interests of our students in mind (mustn’t they?), then those in power have exactly what they want…

  13. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 31, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

    Twana Davisson, your lack of civility and your disrespect for your neighbors and concerned parents does not assist what you purport to preach. The adults in Montclair do not need to be lectured on manners by people like yourself, members of the BOE and Mayor Jackson. It is highly disrespectful and contributes in no way to a civil and democratic society.

    Accusing people you disagree with of having political or ideological positions is childish and stupid. Then to condemn others for “unmerited and unsubstantiated accusations against people you don’t agree” takes the disingenuous to a new level.

    Stating that you have no expertise in education and then slamming those who do is ridiculous. Just who on the Board of Education has even a teaspoon of expertise in education? Name one person. Then go to the Montclair Cares about Education and count the number of people with expertise participating in that discussion.

    Further you suggest that the posting of the tests online was “sabotage.” Did you not listen to your own hero, Superintendent MacCormack: it was a “security breach.” There has been a “full legal investigation” and no one has been found to have “sabotaged” the tests. The only possible conclusion (for the wasted 1 million+ dollars on these tests) is that it resulted from a failure in due diligence by Superintendent MacCormack. Otherwise pray tell just what happened. Superintendent MacCormack and the BOE will never tell.

    Your points:

    Point 1: We do our children a disservice when we tell them to respect people who have lied to us, who have fired people to protect their position, who do not demonstrate that they are legally employed or following the law, and who make a mess out of their responsibilities. Such people we should never hold up as examples of leadership to children.

    Point 2: “Our children need, and deserve, better examples of civility and compromise than what we’re providing.” Do tell that to Superintendent MacCormack, the members of the Board of Education and the Mayor. You might make a note for yourself while you are at it.

    Point 3: “Dr. MacCormack and the rest of our educators have studied and worked their entire lives to educate children, and they want nothing more than to educate our children. We may not agree on their tactics, but we should agree that their motivations are earnest.” Not true certainly for the Board of Education. Certainly true for the teachers. We certainly do not agree on tactics and that is what the discussion is about. The motivations are irrelevant (though many would question the motivations of the district’s leadership after the total failure in accountability).

    Point 4: “The vast majority of us want to do what’s best for our children. . . . all want what’s best for our children.” “The vast majority” is not the same as “all.” “All” is the appropriate term, But not all are doing all they can. And some, like you, simply don’t know what is good in education.

    “Derision, petulance and discord” all stem from a well thought out and systematic attempt to introduce “disruptive force.” Learn about the people you want to defend.

    “Let’s speak highly of them to our children. Let’s attend BOE meetings simply to listen, learn, and ask what we can do to support our educational experts.” I will not treat my children like idiots. I will teach them to respect others (as you clearly do not), but I will never ask them to sit stupidly by silently and allow “experts” to destroy their thinking and creativity.

    You would do better not to title your rant after King Solomon. You clearly have not a clue about that to which you refer. Certainly you are no Queen of Sheba.

    Everything you have written is either insulting, demeaning, divisive or simply untrue. So do tell, just why did you write this? To what end? Are you afraid of change? Are you afraid of having your children challenged in the classroom? Are you afraid that your children will not grow up to behave as weak and meek as you? Or do you simply want to divide the community and stir up trouble?

    It is perhaps unfair to Superintendent MacCormack and to the BOE, but those who come out to defend their thinking and activities only seem to prove more the point just how worrisome the situation is for the school district.

  14. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  October 31, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

    angryrabbit:

    As I understand it, the quarterly assessments are being given to the students at the end of each quarter to gauge whether a student is learning and understanding the subject matter that is taught in the preceding quarter(s). For instance, after the first quarter, an assessment will be given that covers the subject matter that the students were taught in that quarter. If a student doesn’t do well on the first quarterly assessment, then the teacher will know and can work with that student in any areas of the assessment with which the student had trouble. After the second quarter, the quarterly assessment will cover the subject matter that was taught in the first and second quarters(just like a midterm). By administering the quarterly assessments, a teacher can detect a problem area and “nip it in the bud” so the student’s performance can improve by the 4th quarterly assessment, which is like a final exam.

    The NJASK is given only at the end of the year, so unlike the quarterly assessments, NJASK doesn’t allow for quarterly identification and correction of a student’s problem area.

    Below is a quote from the district website:

    Why are four assessments per school year specified?

    The common assessments are meant to cover a period of time long enough that we expect a substantial amount of learning to occur, yet short enough that teachers can still implement appropriate adjustments in their instruction (i.e., re-teach an area in which many students showed a lack of mastery, repeat a teaching technique that worked extremely well, etc.).

  15. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 31, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

    This past Sunday Superintendent MacCormack wrote to the parents: “The sole purpose of these assessments is to inform our teaching so we may adjust our instruction and curriculum to ensure student learning.” There have been as many purposes and non-purposes for these tests as there have been announcements made about them by Superintendent MacCormack. No one knows what the purpose(s) of these tests is/are and probably no one will ever know.

    Superintendent MacCormack would do well to consider changing her modus operandi and to begin to be transparent, forthright and truthful toward the community. Truly listening might well be asking too much.

    The cost of this “disruptive force” for the children’s education is fast becoming far too high.

  16. POSTED BY unintimidated  |  October 31, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

    The lame attempts of the corporate appeasers to portray themselves as under siege by “tea party” types takes quite a bit of chutzpah, seeing as their champion comes to us directly from the same people who are indeed funding the actual ‘Tea Party’

  17. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  November 01, 2013 @ 12:08 am

    Tallahassee,

    I really don’t have a problem with well-developed quarterly assessments. They could, in fact, offer valuable insight into what is happening in our schools. That is not what we are being offered here. The NJASK, as imperfect as it is, is still a better fit even if it is only given once a year.

    The quarterly assessments, as described cannot “gauge whether a student is learning and understanding the subject matter that is taught in the preceding quarter(s).” They cannot help a teacher “detect a problem area and “nip it in the bud” so the student’s performance can improve by the 4th quarterly assessment.”

    They cannot do this because they are Scantron tests-and Scantron tests are the wrong tool for this type of assessment. You can’t judge essay writing with a Scantron. You can’t judge math ability with a Scantron (because it allows for guesstimation instead of real proof of mathematical skill.) Science is reduced to memorization. History becomes a random set of factoids. All we will be testing for is how well students answer multiple choice questions. That tests a certain kind of learning (and is useful for comparing students in different classrooms/schools), but it is of very limited use as data here. It’s also antithetical to what Common Core is supposed to bring to the district.

    For example, the SAT (which is largely multiple choice) is not used as diagnostic tool for schools. You cannot look at SAT scores and get a decent sense of how to change/improve a school’s curriculum or know what a teacher should do differently/better. It’s not designed for that. If it were designed for that, it would no longer be a multiple choice test.

    Portfolios are a much more appropriate assessment tool for what the district claims it wants to do here. Several teachers suggested it. It was shot down by the superintendent’s office. Probably because it is time-consuming. Decent assessment is.

  18. POSTED BY rubberchix  |  November 01, 2013 @ 7:26 am

    Twana, thank you for your letter, it is a breath of fresh air & reason.

  19. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  November 01, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    angryrabbit:

    So your objection is not to quarterly assessments per se, but to your PERCEIVED form of the quarterly assessments that are being administered here.

    Have you seen any of the quarterly assessments? I have not. Based on conversations that I have had with my child, however, it does NOT seem like the assessments are entirely multiple choice. I, of course, will reserve judgment until I have actually seen the assessments. If you did not opt your child out of the assessments, I suggest you ask your child about the nature of the assessments. If you opted your child out of the assessments, you could ask your child’s teacher for a copy of the assessments that have already been administered.

    With respect to your comment that “[a]ll we will be testing for is how well students answer multiple choice questions,” I think that, despite your feelings, even a multiple choice test has some value as an assessment tool. For example, if there is a section of an assessment focused on reading comprehension skills and the student gets all or most of that section wrong, the teacher could deduce that that student has difficulty with reading comprehension.

    Is a multiple choice test a perfect assessment tool? No. (I realize that there may be some good/lucky guessers out there.) I do, however, believe that a multiple choice does have some value for the purpose of assessment.

    Portfolios may be a better assessment tool, but I don’t know if that is a practical approach. Perhaps there is some type of hybrid that would be workable.

  20. POSTED BY mtclr973  |  November 01, 2013 @ 8:47 am

    @idratherbeat63 well done in proving Twana’s original point.

  21. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 01, 2013 @ 9:05 am

    @mtclr973, all done for you and you alone. Glad you liked it. I just wanted to express my heartfelt appreciation for the high esteem in which Twana Davisson holds her neighbors. I am glad you finally understood her “original point.” However, while the town is debating ordinances on chickens and bees, do you really think we should be inviting everyone to behave like sheep?

  22. POSTED BY rachaelegan  |  November 01, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    Twana, I teach my children to ask questions, and to stand up for themselves and for others. What you suggest we do for the sake of civility, sounds awfully weak and self destructive. I will not teach them to be like that. My children will grow strong and will be well educated, despite your need for blissful ignorance. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. You have helped me to understand where PM and BOE supporters are coming from however, and I thank you for that. i was truely perplexed. It seems you are convinced they are experts and have our best interests at heart. I suggest you read our world history books, and see how many terrible leaders have made this same claim.

  23. POSTED BY mcinmtc  |  November 01, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    Thank you for your letter/opinion, Twana. Thank you, too, to others who have firmly held and well-reasoned opinions that may be different than Twana’s who were able to share them without attacking her personally.

  24. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  November 01, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    Tallahassee,

    I read the article on how the assessments were being developed on Baristanet. Perhaps you should go read them as well. They are largely Scantron, possibly some short answer, incomplete direction, and not at all how the teachers wanted them designed. So, yes, that is my perception. Perceptions can be informed.

    And yes, my objections are to the form the assessments are taking. They are based on my knowledge of best practices of assessment design. This is a legitimate objection. Why do you think it isn’t?

    And I made it clear that I believe multiple choice questions have value as an assessment tool. Frankly, I happen to think that the SAT is a very thoughtful, well-designed test. It serves a specific purpose and it serves it well. And the purpose it serves is quite different from the purpose of the quarterly assessments.

    Let me spell this out as simply as I can. For the stated purpose(s) of the quarterly assessments, multiple choice (and multiple choice with short answers) IS THE WRONG ASSESSMENT TOOL. It’s like trying to diagnose a problem with a car engine with a hammer. It’s a waste of time (and in this case, also $400,000).

    May I ask what is your basis for being so enthusiastic about this method of assessment? If you like quarterly assessments, that’s great–but why don’t you want them to be done correctly? I honestly don’t understand.

  25. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  November 01, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    angryrabbit:

    I never said your concern wasn’t legitimate, I just was trying to get a clear understanding of whether you objected to quarterly assessments in general, or just the quarterly assessments that are being administered in the district. I think your objection is to the latter.

    You ask, “if you like quarterly assessments, that’s great–but why don’t you want them to be done correctly?” I guess by “correctly,” you mean the way you say they should be done.

    Angryrabbit, for all I know, you may be 100% right about the quarterly assessments not being the proper assessment tool. It’s not my field and it seems to be yours. I’m sure, however, that other educators (e.g., Penny MacCormack) would argue that these assessments are a proper assessment tool. All I’m saying is that I think quarterly assessments, in general, are a good thing. If you want the form of the quarterly assessments in this district changed AND CAN PROVE THAT THE QUARTERLY ASSESSMENTS BEING ADMINISTERED WILL NOT ACHIEVE THE STATED GOAL, then fight the good fight and good luck to you in getting the form of the assessments changed. Your argument, however, cannot be that “these assessments will not achieve the stated purpose because I said so.” I would hope that if you (or anyone) presented clear evidence to the BOE that the quarterly assessments as drafted are ineffective in achieving the stated goal, you could open a thoughful dialouge.

  26. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 01, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

    @tallahessee Unfortunately, The BOE President Robin Kulwin has stated clearly “This is not a dialogue.”

    Further you are wrong about who angryrabbit should discuss this with. He should discuss this with Superintendent MacCormack because the specific nature and content of testing is outside of the BOE’s responsibilities (and certainly competences) and belongs solely with the School Superintendent. Sorry, but that is the law.

    If you do not understand how a system works, or how a test assesses, then you may be out of your depth.

    angryrabbit has the stick by the right end. You would do well to listen.

    If you could provide a video of a “thoughtful dialogue” between the BOE and the community or the Superintendent MacCormack and the community, that would be great to see. So far we have only seen PowerPoint presentations and tight lips. The closest the community ever got to a dialogue was sticky notes.

  27. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  November 01, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

    Ok, idratherbeat63, then angryrabbit should address her concerns to the superintendent. You got me there.

    Since I’m out of my depth, rather than these broad pronouncements that these quarterly assessments will not achieve the stated goals, please educate me and direct me to some unbiased literature proving your and angryrabbit’s point. Forgive me, but I can not just trust the opinion of an anonymous poster.

  28. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  November 01, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    Tallahassee,

    I think for all of our saber-rattling, we are more in agreement than not.

    But, a few quibbles. I don’t work for the school district. I have my very own job to do and my very own paycheck to earn. It is not on my shoulders to prove that the quarterly assessments won’t work (even though I know they won’t). It is the district’s job to prove that they will. (So far the evidence I’ve seen is along the lines of “Because data! Blah blah blah. You fear change! What happened in Hartford stays in Hartford. You hate The Broad! Go away!”).

    However, even if I were willing prove the test will fail, I am not finding the superintendent an easy person to talk to. I would love to get some pointers on how one actually addresses this issue with her. Can I call her and have a sit-down (um…no, apparently. She’s busy)? Can I figure out how to get invited to one of those private dinner parties she discusses policy at (I’m new to town and don’t get invited to dinner parties)? Can I go to a meeting and raise it as an issue (or if I do, will she angrily tell me this isn’t the appropriate forum as she did to parents who complained about the lack of textbooks.) If I bring it up at a board meeting, will I be told by the BOE president that it’s not going to be discussed anymore, or will the BOE vice-president tell me my opinions don’t matter because I am not trained as a superintendent (even if I am a trained educator and sociologist).

    And Tallahassee, let me be clear. None of this is on you. But as I said before–I’m new to town. I come from a school district that was a mess (and in a town larger than Montclair) but I never felt like it was hard to talk to the superintendent there, never difficult to raise questions about methodology and have them taken seriously, and where it was clear that the role of the school board was to oversee the superintendent (which included holding the superintendent responsible for maintaining policies and following the law).

    Did they always do what I wanted there–heck no. But I was listened to. I was treated with respect. I was never told I was raising something at an inappropriate time. My school board member was someone I could call or email and expect a response from. This doesn’t seem to be happening in Montclair right now. Was it always like this here?

  29. POSTED BY tallahassee  |  November 01, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

    angryrabbit, I do think that we are more in agreement than not.

    I realize that it is not “on [your] shoulders to prove that the quarterly assessments won’t work.” If, however, you stand any chance of having the form of the assessments changed, I’m afraid you will have to present the BOE and/or the superintendent with persuasive evidence that these quarterly assessments won’t work to acheive the stated goal. No matter how sure you are in your position (again, you may be 100% correct), the BOE and superintendent are not even going to think about changing their opinion unless you (or someone) presents them with persuasive evidence that contradicts their beliefs. People posturing at a BOE meeting, or on baristakids or some other forum, is not going to accomplish the changes that are sought.

    I can appreciate your frustration at being unable to get an audience with the superintendent. I’m not sure what it was like before you moved to town. I’m sure if one were to become enough of a “pest,” (e.g., letters and calls), one could eventually get a sit down with the superintendent.

  30. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 01, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    tallahassee, start your research right here at home: http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/10/mea-town-hall-speaker-discusses-privatization-public-schools/

    Do read the beautiful preamble by BOE Vice-President Lombard (and perhaps my filling of that out a bit).

  31. POSTED BY rachaelegan  |  November 02, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

    Twana, i’m very sorry for my post. I regretted it as soon as I hit send. I am very anxious about what is happening to our schools, and I let that get the better of me. I really am sorry. We’re all doing our best to figure this mess out and I think it is good that we hear each other out.

Leave a Reply

Baristanet Comment Policy:

Baristanet has specific guidelines for commenting. To avoid having your comment deleted -- or your commenting privileges revoked -- read this before you comment. Violators will be banned from commenting.

Report a comment that violates the guidelines to comments@baristanet.com. For trouble with registration or commenting, write to comments@baristanet.com.

Commenters on Baristanet.com are responsible for all legal consequences arising from their comments, including libel, infringement of copyright or actions that threaten a third party. By submitting a comment, you agree to indemnify Baristanet LLC, its partners and employees from any legal action arising from your comments.

In order to comment on the new system, you need to register a new Baristanet account. To get your own avatar next to your comments, sign up at Gravatar.com

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow, Friend, Subscribe