Montclair Cares About Schools Warns Against More Testing and Superintendent’s Corporate Mentality at Forum

BY  |  Monday, Oct 07, 2013 7:45am  |  COMMENTS (46)

Montclair Cares About Schools

Montclair Cares About Schools, an advocacy group supporting improved public education in the township school district, held a forum yesterday, October 6 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair to discuss where the schools are headed.

The forum, moderated by critical psychology professor and Montclair resident Michelle Fine, found great displeasure with the rush to rigorously test students and questioned the motives of Schools Superintendent Penny McCormack, who she said implemented the tests with the approval of the school board over the objections of residents. Fine and the panelists suspected that Dr. MacCormack’s tenure at the Broad Superintendents Academy, an institution financed by investor Eli Broad—famous for his embrace of corporate management styles to public education—suggested an attempt at “reforming” Montclair schools to a business model.

“Education is not big business!” Fine declared.

Educator and Montclair resident Stan Karp said that rigorous testing was meant to meet impossible federal education standards set by No Child Left Behind, with unfunded mandates and decreasing state aid driving up local taxes stating, “The Common Core testing is not going to be helpful to our schools, our kids or our teachers.” With state support for education drastically cut from 20 percent in the early 1980s to 8 percent today, Karp noted, the pressure to push charter schools and vouchers to undermine public education is increasing.

Debra Jennings, executive co-director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, said that Eli Broad’s namesake foundation has been brought in to “consult” with local school districts and offered “community management” services that sound good on the surface but are really efforts to force a business model on the school system by taking away the power of teachers and their unions and placing more power under superintendents, who are normally not accredited properly to the needs of the districts. Jennings cited the development of “chief officers,” with their enhanced powers and responsibilities, as examples of the corporate mentality. Sharon Krengel, coordinator of Our Children/Our Schools, an education advocacy network, cited examples of how school districts such as Bayonne refused to accept extra responsibilities and assessment costs without the money to fund them. Krengel said that such advocacy has stopped – so far – efforts to forces vouchers on New Jersey public education.

Much of the blame for the hostile attitude toward education was laid at the feet of Governor Chris Christie, who has slashed education funding and dismissed pre-school education as “babysitting.”

Jonathan AlterLocal residents and officials expressed frustration with how teachers have been denigrated and disregarded, and both Karp and Township Deputy Mayor Robert Russo agreed that teachers should be included in the process of reform to establish good faith between educators and administrators. Montclair resident and best-selling author Jonathan Alter said that the rhetoric must be toned down to restore civility, and cited school board member Leslie Larson’s association with  Uncommon Schools, a board her husband has sat on, as an example.  Because neither was being paid for their service, Alter said, there was no conflict of interest, contrary to popular wisdom.

Montclair Cares About SchoolsAlter also said that the Common Core State Standards by themselves were not threatening and shouldn’t be feared, noting that it puts all students in America on a national standard.

Montclair Education Association (MEA) president Gayl Shepard said she hoped to keep the conversation going. The MEA will participate in a town hall meeting at 5 pm at the Montclair Art Museum on October 30.

46 Comments

  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  October 07, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    Not a big business? I’ll check my taxes to see if that’s true. Or the price of textbooks, technology, “experts,” “consultants,” etc.

    It’s not big. It’s HUGE BUSINESS. With Unions, management and consumers (UGH!!!! Yes, we parents are the consumers of this education-industrial complex.)

    I don’t have a problem with the tests. I have a problem with “educators” scared to be evaluated in any way. Or who are scared to be accountable. Or fail to see that the use of accumulated data, will show where, at what point, the achievement gap occurs.

    Or should we go back to the old ways: Hoping that educators are right, because they “care”?

    Alter’s point is right on the money- a national standard is nothing to be feared. But judging by some, like those who embarrassingly equate this “struggle” with that of the Civil Rights Movement, fear and an unwillingness to change is the name of the game.

    So while the implementation could have been better (Obamacare?), the idea is worthwhile, and will be beneficial to our kids.

  2. POSTED BY willjames  |  October 07, 2013 @ 10:32 am

    A new book by Diane Ravitch, REIGN OF ERROR: THE HOAX OF THE PRIVATIZATION MOVEMENT AND THE DANGER TO AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, is directly relevant to the issues being discussed / debated here in Montclair. Highly recommended reading for anyone who wants a thorough accounting of the critique of the “reform” movement.

    http://www.watchungbooksellers.com/book/9780385350884

  3. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    Prof,

    Show me the research that proves that more testing is worthwhile for our kids. Frankly, your problem with “educators” is your broad-brushed preconceived notion that educators don’t want to be assessed, which is absurd and patently false. That is a continued talking point of those who seek anti-union sentiment and union-breaking. Teachers assess constantly, whether via written assessments or discussions, papers, projects, etc. As a result, they could be held accountable already.

    The issue for “educators” is HOW they are being held accountable. If you can provide one shred of evidence that says more testing actually leads to better teachers and better achievement, I’d love to see it. Oh, and I’d like to see research that hasn’t been commissioned by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Academy, Uncommon Schools, and the Walton Foundation since they are all pro-charter, pro-privatization of education.

  4. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  October 07, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    @ mtclrsown, The failure of our schools, particularly as it relates to Black students, is proof that the model you support fails. That you seek data to prove the value of data is curious. But I cannot see how tracking grades of students often, in various forms, is bad.

    How else do you quantify the quality of education?

    Grades? But if you want proof, perhaps you should have been following the discussion back when NCLB was passed, how it was implemented, changed, debated, how Race to the Top was born from it, and finally what the Common Core hopes to achieve.

    But it appears you just want us to…. what? What’s your plan? How do you compare students, teachers and schools without data and tests?

    Also, I’m pro-Union, but I have seen (from the inside) how Unions work for themselves first, everyone else second. Likewise, I have seen Management work for themselves first, everyone else second.

  5. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 07, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    Congratulations to Montclair Cares about Schools and Michelle Fine for showing how a respectful and civil discussion of education is still possible in Montclair. It has been a long time since there was a public meeting on education in Montclair where one could feel proud to be part of the town. They also provided the opportunity for the community to hear experts on education and listen to facts that were not selected and bent to a private agenda.

    Jonathan Alter has no background or expertise in education. One supposes that his support of corporate education and his close friendship with the Larsons is also “no conflict of interest, contrary to popular wisdom.” Alter’s position on the Uncommon Schools, teachers, and public education is clear: http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.be/2011/06/douglas-massey-on-diane-ravitch-and.html His interest in the Montclair Public Schools even clearer: he is himself the result of elite private education and he sends his children to the prestigious Newark Academy (in Livingston). Surely, this is a man with no vested interests and even fewer conflicts of interests, he would have us believe. Would that some of the people supporting corporate education because if favors their perception on tax rates would be honest when stepping up to the microphone.

    Popular wisdom is not always wrong. It is difficult to believe that a member of the Montclair Board of Education would not support education in Montclair simply because they are not being paid for it. Similarly, if Mr. Larson sat on the Board of the Uncommon Schools, one assumes he supported that school system. If he did not or does not, he should say so. Similarly for Mrs. Larson.

    It is time for the BOE members and the School Superintendent to end their dishonest rhetoric and inject openness and honesty in their communication with the teachers, parents and children. A civil discussion depends on all parties sharing openly their knowledge, their information and their intentions.

    Some of the comments here are unfortunate. There are many proven ways to effectively evaluate teaching and student progress without subjecting children to learning by the numbers and using their time and intellectual capacities to circle dots on standardized tests created by corporations.

    This may be “where America is heading,” but America will only get there if the good citizens lend their uncritical support to it and silence those who bring reason to the discussion.

  6. POSTED BY sohobound  |  October 07, 2013 @ 11:49 am

    Well said Prof. The obstruction and hostile environment is all about protecting the “huge” business the teaching unions have become and want to continue to be.

    A little less hostility by the MEA with a little more support for the members of the Board of Education WHO VOLUNTEER to help improve the schools FOR the STUDENTS would show some credibility that the Unions care a little about the education for the children in the schools more than power and $.

    Speaking of power, how can Sean Spiller objectively support citizens’ interests by serving on the Board of School Estimate when he is an executive for a teachers union and his election was funded in large part by unions? This is a total conflict of interest. It is a huge business working to get bigger.

    How about the Newark teachers’ union not supporting the application for a $30M Federal grant to improve the schools there reported in today’s WSJ? I guess the school district there is doing just fine as is. Why work cooperatively to improve the school district any more.

  7. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 07, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

    Fine and the panelists suspected that Dr. MacCormack’s tenure at the Broad Superintendents Academy, an institution financed by investor Eli Broad—famous for his embrace of corporate management styles to public education—suggested an attempt at “reforming” Montclair schools to a business model. “Education is not big business!” Fine declared.

    Crypto Marxist horse puckey.

  8. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  October 07, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

    @ idratherbeat63,

    The “unfortunate” comments here is from you: tell us all, exactly what does Alter’s education or where he sends his kids have to do with his ability to speak on the subject?

    Our last two Democratic Presidents, who “support” public education, famously sent their dear children to a private school instead of a DC public school. Why? Because that was the best choice for them. They had a choice because they were rich. Did/Does that disqualify them from an opinion? The best part of that, of course was Obama’s failure to fund the successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (I believe he soften this stance after public outrage.)

    That’s hypocritical. But Democrats get a pass, I guess.

    However here, you qualify Alter’s comments because of where he sends his kids to school. That is low, and despicable. I hope you rethink this line of reason.

    Thankfully, this organization and its supporters will have no real impact on the Town’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.

  9. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 07, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    profwilliams, again you misunderstand, and again this leads to more unfortunate commenting.

    Mr. Alter stated Mr. Larson serving on the Board of an Uncommon School was no conflict of interest simply because Mr. Larson received no payment for this. If Mr. Alter or you understood “conflict of interest” and did not put yourselves above popular wisdom, you would know that financial interests are only one form of interests. When people with no professional background in education take public positions on education, it is indeed of interest to people to know how they educate their own children. One would think that if someone living in Montclair truly believed in the district’s education they would not send their children to private schools in Livingston. The fact that Mr. Alter does “choose” to do so, does show something about his values and preferences in education. You may not see or understand this, but others do.

    You are probably correct when you state that: “this organization [Montclair Cares about Schools] and its supporters will have no real impact on the Town’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.” The School Superintendent and the BOE have only continued to close ranks and shut out respectful and civil debate with teachers, parents and children. Still these courageous people who refuse to be shouted down and do understand education should have our respect.

    sohobounds support of your position with his reference to Newark, only demonstrates further how far you are from understanding education in Montclair: “How about the Newark teachers’ union not supporting the application for a $30M Federal grant to improve the schools there reported in today’s WSJ?”

    The Newark Teachers Union rejected participation in the application that was part of the Federal Government’s Race to the Top funding because a large part of the funds would go from the public schools to private corporations for consulting and testing services. (The teacher’s also thought it ridiculous to spend millions on earbuds that would provide “instant feedback” on their education.) Newark teaching do know what the impact of corporate chartered schools are on education.

    (Small sidebar for your “progressive” stance on education: Joanne Weiss is the director of the Race to the Top funding competitions. She is the former COO of NewSchools Venture Fund that has received millions of dollars from the Eli and Edythe Broad and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations to promote the spread of chartered education. I suppose once again I am being “low and despicable” by referring to her choices in education.)

    You can pretend that it is the teachers’ fault that education in Newark is so bad and Montclair is headed in that direction. But you should perhaps look closer at the impact of Chartered schools in Newark and how they have affected the education gap. Is this really what you want in Montclair?

  10. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

    “more testing”

    At Back To School night at Hillside, one of my son’s teachers spoke of “assessments” and what the district is doing. The requirement is for four assessments. He was already doing well more than four before this “change” came.

    Many classes were doing four or more already. So why do we continue with the myth of “more testing”. I’d agree with calling it “different testing”, since the tests are to be shared across the district. But more? A pre-test, a couple of midterms, and a final, and we’re already at four…and that doesn’t count the “standardized” assessments we’ve long had, such as NJASK or DRA2 or such. It also ignores “unit tests”, or whatever analog applies to the given materials.

    Is this mythology reflective of the meeting’s quality?

    Again: people are “making noise” (both metaphorically with misinformation, and literally in some cases with shouting down speakers at meetings) while working against what appears to be their own agenda. Want to complain about state and federal level cuts to education? I’m with you (and probably even more of a proponent of this higher level funding than you; I’ve sound economic reasons why the use of local taxes is a mistake). But mix in all the nonsense attacking a long-standing educator such as Dr. MacCormack or accusing the Police of providing armed security for school halls or ignoring that our teachers are building our curricula and so on, and you merely get reasonable people annoyed.

    Meanwhile, people seeking a more reasonable tone at meetings and looking to give our new administration a chance to succeed should review and hopefully sign the petition that’s at http://goo.gl/698Els and, if so desired, share it with others in town.

    …Andrew

  11. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 07, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    Walleroo your post reminds that the Montclair BOE trolls are constantly trying to say something ridiculous that will derail intelligent debate. This way they can cry that parents lack ‘civility.’ I suspect the only Marx you know is Groucho. Here is a quote by Marx that applies to posts such as yours:

    “He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.”

  12. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    “But you should perhaps look closer at the impact of Chartered schools in Newark and how they have affected the education gap. Is this really what you want in Montclair?”

    See http://www.nje3.org/index.php/quest-founders-fight-on-for-charter-school-in-montclair for a notation of Dr. MacCormack’s opposition to a charter in Montclair. That may also be found in http://www.baristanet.com/2013/03/montclair-third-ward-community-meeting-schools-parking-nishaune-well/

    “MacCormack also expressed her opposition to a charter school, saying it would adversely affect the public system.”

    I mention this because of the Tea-Party-like conspiracy theory that the new superintendent is a part of the BOE’s secret plan to bring charter schools to Montclair despite the BOE’s long-standing and often-stated opposition.

    This is another one of those issues where people might be on the same side – opposition to the Charters – if it weren’t for the outrageous misinformation.

    …Andrew

  13. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

    Pr

    Since you refuse to provide any credible research that actually supports the ideas put forth by this BOE and the corporate “reform” movement, allow me to address some of things that need to change to help students of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. These are in no way novel, and no way my own, since Diane Ravitch has offered most of them (she, a one-time supporter of these reforms, has seen fit to actually become a spokesperson against such reform because she too was on the “inside”, such as yourself).

    1) Want to improve education? Address growing poverty in this state in the country. Since 2008, poverty in NJ has gone up close to 20%. Not all children are created equal, nor have access to tutoring services, college counselors, or even know they are eligible for IEP’s or 504′s under the law due to possible disabilities. Just look at the AP classes at the high school and you can see the haves/have nots.

    2) Stronger teacher ed programs. Make the requirements harder. Don’t just make the GPA 2.5 and assume that teachers can simply be anyone. Put money into more rigorous teacher’s ed programs (like those in other countries) and then maybe teachers will be viewed as professionals instead of “those who can’t, teach”.

    3) Stop claiming the more testing addresses the achievement gap and the testing mania. It does nothing of the sort, and has not. If you don’t see the business of education (Pearson getting $180 million from the federal government to implement the Common Core, which is also a product of…Pearson), and only see the “business of the union”, you’re cherry-picking what you see and don’t see. Testing is money/profit driven and has nothing to do with addressing the achievement gap. You know what addresses the achievement gap? Eliminating poverty and…

    4) Smaller class sizes…which the superintendent claims is not above 30 (as if this is something to be proud of), even though my child sits in a class at the high school, at 36. Smaller class sizes allow for teachers to regularly check-in with students, in-class and out of class, rather than one child out of 30+. Research done by numerous, independent researchers not affiliated with any of the foundations I’ve mentioned before, support such things.

    5) This point may go along with teacher ed rigor…enough with the demonization of teachers. “Reformers” claim to want to attract the best and the brightest, but what person in their right mind would come into an environment where they are being assessed in ways that aren’t back by any research? Who in their right mind would want to get paid $60k after 9 years in the profession to be told they a) make too much money and have “cadillac benefits” b) are the cause of low test scores while ignoring the other variables that absolutely exist (namely poverty) yet are continually not addressed and c) incentivizing teaching with merit pay will increase achievement, as if the way to an educator’s work ethic and achievement is through their pocket (even though merit pay has not shown to provide any difference in achievement).

    I’ll say it yet again, since you seem to ignore it…I have not come across one teacher who has said “I don’t want to be held accountable.” nor one who has said “don’t assess”. I have not read of one union that has said as such, including the MEA. The MEA (and the NJEA) have agreed to tenure reform and new evaluations. It is the method, yet again, by which teachers will be assessed (via testing), which yet again (ad nauseum), has not proven to be a credible link of a teacher’s effectiveness.

    No one has said things don’t need to improve…what area of life, in general, can claim that? It doesn’t mean you then do historically bad policy as a means of “improvement”.

    Btw, this president is in no way a supporter of public education, no matter what he says. So don’t use that as an example. Arne Duncan and the race to the top prove that, in spades.

  14. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    Andrew,

    My guess is that you didn’t believe much of what Dr. Alvarez had to say to the public, which is why it is unnerving that you simply give Dr. MaCcormack a pass. The fact is, if she lies on her “Have you heard?” website, you don’t think she’d lie in a public forum? Undoubtedly you will not agree with my statement that “she lied” and you’ll most likely define what is a lie and what isn’t a lie. But when my child sits in a class of 36 and I read the superintendent’s own words which “misinform” (the word you so readily use for anyone who opposes the BOE), then why would I give her a pass? Why wouldn’t I think she’s hiding other things?

    Where are you, in your fiscal hawkish-ness, asking how much any of this is costing the district? Why haven’t I heard from fiscal hawks about the survey that wasted $100k last year and hasn’t been heard from since? Where are the fiscals hawks about the amount of money the superintendent has spent down at CO, while class sizes bulge? Where are the fiscal hawks when it comes to writing “curriculum” over the summer (when it was really writing tests that are not state mandated)? It’s amazing how when collective bargaining is going on, hawks will be the first come out and mention the waste of teachers/support staff, etc but don’t seem to hold the BOE and Super accountable.

    Just understand that when federal funds for the PARCC assessments run out next year, districts will be left to pay the cost of those assessments that Pearson is making a dime on, and our taxes go to.

  15. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 07, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    Walleroo your post reminds that the Montclair BOE trolls are constantly trying to say something ridiculous that will derail intelligent debate. This way they can cry that parents lack ‘civility.’ I suspect the only Marx you know is Groucho. Here is a quote by Marx that applies to posts such as yours: “He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.”

    Calling someone an idiot may not be the most effective way of delivering a lecture on civility.

  16. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    “My guess is that you didn’t believe much of what Dr. Alvarez had to say to the public”

    That’s interesting. Why would you guess that? In fact, I’d no reason to mistrust him. I still have only one reason, though admittedly it is a big one. Still, it could have been accidental rather than deliberate, so I remain unsure.

    “Where are you, in your fiscal hawkish-ness, asking how much any of this is costing the district?”

    That’s a reasonable question. Part of the answer is that I’m not opposed to spending for the schools as long as it is spent well. Perhaps this makes me less of a fiscal hawk than you expect.

    It cost us more to have our curricula home-grown, for example, than to buy off-the-shelf but I see this as worth the cost. I also hope that this may end up saving us money in the long term, though this is far from certain.

    “when it was really writing tests”

    I expect that assessments are a part of the written curricula, but it is erroneous to claim that it is only “tests” that were written.

    As for a survey: Wasn’t this information used to guide the strategic plan? More, that plan calls for additional surveys in response to certain requests for the district’s responsiveness in the series of meetings with which the superintendent started. In other words, the requests and therefore the plan expressed a need for the district to have certain information. The surveys in the plan are a response to this.

    As for CO staff: as far as I know, the only new position (as opposed to reorganized positions) is the K-3 reading person. If this helps improve our education of language skills in those formative years, it is to me money well spent.

    Someone complained at the last BOE meeting about the hiring for some type of position working for the business administrator as if this were a new position, for example. As was stated at the meeting: it is not a new position.

    However, this does remind me that I want to do something. Previous budgets had headcounts associated with line items. The last budget did not. I’d asked the interim administrator to “leave a note” for his replacement that this should be put back into the report for the next cycle (the one that is coming up). I want to also make this suggestion to him directly.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Having a headcount is useful for us to see exactly how things are and are changing. It also provides a sanity check for the business people. For example, I found an error associated with K-5 librarians last year that likely would have been caught more quickly had the head count been included.

    As for class size bulge: Are you speaking of the Watchung K? I agree that this is a significant (and long term) concern. I also note with concern that some people are blaming this on Skyward, which is silly. That alone suggests that it requires further investigation; I’d be less concerned if a human were to admit that he or she made a mistake (perhaps in programming Skyward).

    [Admittedly, though, it is tough to admit error in this toxic environment.]

    On the other hand, many parents are apparently refusing to change out of those oversized classes. So…while I think the cause requires more investigation, I’m not sure what the proper solution would be.

    Or are you speaking of different classes? Where else are class sizes going up?

    …Andrew

  17. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    Andrew,

    Just to address a couple of things…the survey that was handed out was only one-part of the “Tripod” survey, which was supposed to also include parents and teachers. If the survey was given in April/May, and the Strategic Plan finally approved in June, how much could this plan have really been impacted by the results of the survey? My guess is that the Strategic Plan had long been in the works, not simply two months before its approval (if the survey was really supposed to inform the plan).

    Additionally, why weren’t the other two parts of the survey given, like the creators of the survey intended? If it is supposed to inform the decisions being made about the district going forward, why not?

    Secondly, class size bulges are happening throughout the district, including classes with special education with no support.

    Lastly, I mentioned fiscal hawkish ness above because I don’t think we have even seen close to what this BOE and Superintendent have actually spent on CO positions, “curriculum” (which, if they actually thought about it, could have been done during the school year without having to pay anyone extra for anything). This goes to show you the bad planning by this super.

    What’s going to happen if we find out next year that the district is actually in a fiscal hole after being $13 mill in the black? Who will you blame? I’m pretty sure I know who the superintendent and the board will blame….the teachers/support staff, etc. But never their own budgeting ineptitude and blank check writing. I just have a feeling…the district will be so far in a hole when it gets done, that we won’t even be able to talk about class sizes rationally. Every class will be huge because staff will be let go to make up the costs.

  18. POSTED BY cspn55  |  October 07, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    MtcOwn…. I would also like to know what class has 36 kids in it? Is in an elective course And how is this a blatant lie? the “have you heard” superintendent web site says the following:

    3. Have you heard that classes are overloaded and some have 34 students?

    On average our class sizes are no different now than they were five years ago. We are working with the principal and parents at Watchung School to address kindergarten classrooms that are larger than we would prefer. In addition we are working with the principal at the high school to keep class sizes in line with new contract language as best as possible.

    Where does she swear that class sizes are below 30?

    The bottom line is that no matter what the superintendent does, certain posters here and people in this town hate her for some reason. They see Broad Foundation background and she is bad in their eyes even if she has stated over and over that she is not a proponent of charter schools in a place like Montclair.

  19. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

    cspn55,

    Last week when the site went up, it was 30. Why has it been moved to 34? My guess is that the superintendent didn’t even know that classes were that big at the high school. And no, it was an honors level course in one of the core subject areas. If we are to say that 30-34 is an acceptable number for my child to learn in, well…I’d say we have a problem. And especially if that class has a number of children who may be special ed and require one on one attention. Then it may even be a legal issue.

    Secondly, I guess this gets to my bigger question. I, including many others, have called for transparency and welcome it. But my question is, if one’s message was clear and concise and not mixed, why would you need to create an entire webpage dedicated to apparent innuendo?

  20. POSTED BY sohobound  |  October 07, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    With all the new development projects being discussed, the class sizes might end up increasing even more. Unfortunately, the income to the town from these projects will go 5% to the county and 95% to the town. Zero will go to the school under PILOT programs. Lets hope none of the 200-300 units going into the DCH/Centro Verde property have school age children, same with any buildings going up at Walnut and in Upper Montclair.

  21. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

    “I’m pretty sure I know”

    Of course you are.

    As to the survey questions you’re asking: First, I know that the plan was being tweaked until relatively late. It was presented to the BOE, questions asked and comments made, and a modified version was presented at the next meeting. So no, two months was not too late.

    As to the other parts of the survey: I’ve no idea. Ask. It’s something of a departure from the prefactual certainty that seems too common here, but I like to think that it isn’t that radical an idea to actual get an answer by asking a question rather than by making one up.

    “Then it may even be a legal issue.”

    I cannot speak to class size issues in general, esp. given the lack of detail you’ve provided, but I have to believe that a parent of a child with an unsatisfied IEP would respond strongly and promptly, up to and including said legal action.

    …Andrew

  22. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

    “Zero will go to the school under PILOT programs.”

    That is a very real problem if true. It won’t affect class size directly, but it could – esp. if those projects bring in additional students – cause our school taxes to grow. If there’s resistance to that growth, then class size could be impacted.

    …Andrew

  23. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 07, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    “why would you need to create an entire webpage dedicated to apparent innuendo”

    Ask factcheck.org.

    …Andrew

  24. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  October 07, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

    Andrew,

    Correct me if I’m wrong here…but factcheck.org is not run by politicians who need to be fact-checked. So, the superintendent creating her own “fact-check” page is a little absurd.

  25. POSTED BY Kristin  |  October 07, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

    I’m very sorry I was unable to attend this forum. Thank you, Steve, for the information.

    And for what it’s worth, I have known perhaps two or three teachers who were in any way averse to being evaluated. However, as someone with an administration license and who has been the evaluator a time or two, I can share that the teachers assigned to and willing to take on remedial classes and the kids with truancy or emotional issues would be the ones to suffer greatly with testing as a larger component. Much depends on who is doing the evaluation and how familiar that person is with a teacher’s classroom style and students. It’s incredibly difficult to be objective when evaluating a classroom teacher. Any administrator who doesn’t constantly check and honestly question herself is doing her school and staff a disservice. (I’m just using the feminine because I am feminine, not as a pointed reference to any one administrator. And I can’t believe I feel the need to clarify that.)

  26. POSTED BY unintimidated  |  October 08, 2013 @ 12:10 am

    I see two main problems with what people are calling ‘evaluations’. Tenure is simply another word for due process, and the state decided to do an end run around tenure by setting up the current evaluation scheme. It only makes sense if you presume a priori that schools are failing to remedy social inequality and that teachers are the reason. The first problem is that the evaluation system is based on data that does not reflect teacher performance, for the simple reason that IT ISN’T DESIGNED TO DO SO. The second problem is that it is also designed in such a way as to insure that a certain number of teachers are judged to be ineffective. Even if every single student in NJ scored a perfect score on the state assessments, and on their SATs, and all went to Harvard, at least 20% of their teachers would still be judged to be ineffective. Does this make ANY sense?

  27. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 08, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    Brother Andrew Gideon:

    I laughed when I saw you pushing that silly petition put together by Penny supporters in order to concoct some frightening image of educators and parents that disagree with many of the changes being pushed on our lovely town. The only incivility I have experienced comes from certain Montclair BOE members (and their supporters) trying to stir up badly needed pro reform Brouhaha. By the way, you must write some real convoluted computer code (just a thought).

    Check the names of some of the signers of that laughably misleading petition. As if you didn’t know, this is what is commonly called astroturfing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing. There seems to be some palpable fear that real grassroots groups in Montclair will do what they have always done – push back on really bad ideas. What better way to address that fear than to say your opponents are not civil, in order to quash real debate.

    For the record, I’m not necessarily against reform; I’m against Penny’s brand of reforms. This is not an unusual or unreasonable position. I have endured weeks of reading your angry, rambling, and even misleading posts. I think it is time you read some of mine.

    I hope we are going to become good friends on this forum.

    Your new friend,

    Judah MaccB (call me JD)

  28. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 08, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    “The only incivility I have experienced comes from certain Montclair BOE members (and their supporters) trying to stir up badly needed pro reform Brouhaha.”

    You’re free to ignore whatever you wish, I imagine. People that were at the meeting can each make their own judgment, as can those that watch the TV34 rebroadcasts (or view the meeting on TV34′s “on demand” site).

    “I’m against Penny’s brand of reforms”

    I have noticed that this seems personal; there were complaints about our new superintendent on the town blogs the day after her appointment. This is well before anyone had a chance to see what she might do here.

    A quick example from this forum: http://kids.baristanet.com/2012/08/penny-maccormack-named-as-montclairs-new-superintendent/

    I also note the similarity between this and the GOP’s meeting on the eve of the President’s first inauguration. A strategy was chosen to oppose anything at that early date, before anything that would ultimately be opposed could have been proposed. We’re seeing that blind opposition now.

    …Andrew

  29. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 08, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    the current evaluation scheme… only makes sense if you presume a priori that schools are failing to remedy social inequality and that teachers are the reason.

    Evaluations are meant to determine how well someone is doing a job, no? Which seems reasonable, at least in theory.

    the evaluation system… is also designed in such a way as to insure that a certain number of teachers are judged to be ineffective.

    Really? It specifies a quota of teachers who must fail? Because that would of course be absurd. Or does it merely evaluate teachers on a curve?

    Does this make ANY sense?

    Does it make sense to have an evaluation system in which everyone always comes up roses?

  30. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 08, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

    For the record, I’m not necessarily against reform; I’m against Penny’s brand of reforms.

    Hahahaha! Good one.

  31. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 08, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    Wallerloo? “Now there’s a man with an open mind — you can feel the breeze from here!” – Marx

  32. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 08, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

    Brother Andrew:

    I have nothing against Penny personally, and if she lived near me in Montclair we would probably be the best of neighbors. Although, I never see her in Montclair – outside of BOE related meetings. Does she shop at our local King’s or A&P?

    My friend Penny did not arrive as some tabula rasa on which Montclair’s uniqueness as a community was going to write (shape) itself and make its own contributions; she arrived with an agenda that got here long before she did.

    Some folks hear the name Broad Academy and swoon with delight, others bristle with disgust at the mere mention of that ill conceived academy (I admit the latter applies to me). Those two reactions follow Broad (and Broadies like Penny) no matter what community is unfortunate enough to be afflicted with their reform s. If you study at Broad you have an agenda. Agendas can be agreed with or disagreed with, but Penny did not arrive in our community without a specific and hardened ideological perspective. Her views are unwavering. I know with absolute certainty from my own experience with her that she is not open to any intelligent alternative views, other than the ones she came with. She has data on her side and everyone else’s data is ‘not actionable’ (her words).

    What do you make of those misinformed communities like Bloomfield or Princeton who have spoken against the kind of reforms Penny and BOE members are trying to introduce here? Are they all Tea Party people? What about those misinformed parents in NYC that are now out in force against the Bloomberg testing nonsense?

    Penny doesn’t listen to people like me because of her loyalty and commitment to Broad-style reform; however, she might listen to friends like you. Please tell her that she and our appointed board (soon to be elected) are in for the fight of their lives. It isn’t personal; it’s all business.

    It’s going to take a lot more than astroturfing, wasted money on marketing campaigns, and trolls on community forums (Wallerloo). In the end, she may actually have to listen and take into account opposing views. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Montclair community is listening to every word she says and watching every move she and the BOE are making—especially what is presented as data. We are doing this for our children – all children in our community. We want Jonathan Alter’s children to be able to send their children to school here.

    By the way, our friend Alter wanted to frame opposition to Penny’s reforms as Tea Party complicity. It was a silly rhetorical device. He knows the left is divided on a lot of questions and one of the biggest divides is education. Nonetheless, I applaud him for listening and participating. The opposition to Penny and her reforms are coming primarily from progressives in our community. The coalition is made up of a broad spectrum of people (African Americans, Latinos, Educators, Teachers, Scientists, Business People (the nice ones), Gays, Lesbians, Students, and everything in between). The left is fighting the left here. You should search us out; I bet we have more in common than you think.

    I dare you to argue less and reach out more to those who disagree with you. Civility is a two-way street my friend.

    See you at the upcoming BOE meetings.

    JD

  33. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  October 08, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

    jdmaccb,

    When you address other readers with sarcastic names, refer to the superintendent of schools by her first name as if you’re chummy and then write negative things about her, and allege that the parents who signed the civility petition are part of an “astroturf conspiracy,” and could not possibly be parents who disagree with you, you block any meaningful debate and discussion.

  34. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 08, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

    Oh, snap!

  35. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  October 08, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

    I didn’t realize that Mac is a Broad Academy graduate. This would explain a lot, especially the general distain for public input from the “uneducated”.

    Roo old pal, you know I love you, and “Crypto Marxist horse puckey” gave me a loud laugh, but the track record for districts taken over by Broad grads is questionable at best and there are very good reasons to be concerned about the direction she will take education in Mtc.

  36. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 08, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

    Dear Georgette:

    I call Penny by her name at BOE meetings; Penny calls people by their first names too. Is there a reason why I should call her by her last name? I have a title too, but that does not seem to matter much. Why should it?

    I openly state that I disagree with her. Is this forum only for people who agree with her and BOE positions? That would be most unfortunate. Did you ask Wallerloo not to call Dr. Michelle Fine’s comments “Crypto Marxist horse puckey?” That comment is what got me involved in this conversation; it set the tone.

    I want meaningful debate, but you need to moderate comments on both sides. If you openly adopt a position against one group of parents, then this is not an objective forum.

    As for the Astroturf comment, I heard one of the supporters of the petition at a BOE meeting use that very same word. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Will you moderate the debate fairly on both sides? I certainly hope you will – even if you disagree with me and others.

    I would hate to end my new friendship with Andrew and my relationship with this forum just when it got off to an interesting start.

    Judah MaccB

  37. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  October 08, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

    The message is to play nice and it goes for anyone who leaves a comment.

    I don’t care what side of the debate you’re on.

  38. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 08, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

    Dear Judah MaccB,

    I was sitting there trying to decide whether it was worth pointing out the contradiction between your professed desire for truth and intelligent discussion and all your name calling etc, when Georgette’s note appeared. What a gift! The reason I couldn’t decide is that I figured, on the one hand, discussion is always a good thing, but on the other, you are so apparently tone deaf that is would fall on, um, deaf ears.

    Here’s an example. Unless you are concealing any past identity on this site extremely well, you are relatively new here. By contrast I have been a fixture here, for better or worse, for something like 10 years. I am a known quantity. Which is not to say that I deserve favored treatment, only that for you to strut in and start clucking about moderating both sides… well, it’s just ridiculous. Have a little humility, man!

    I truly am flattered that my remark about Dr. Fine’s comments ferreted you out of your nest. I would point at that I made that comment about her comments, not the person herself, who by her actions seems to be an active, engaged and intelligent woman who has every right to her opinion.

    Her comments, alas, were claptrap. What I object to is her invoking “big business” in this debate, as though any contact with that world automatically disqualifies someone from having anything to do or say about education. Heaven forbid someone should borrow knowhow from one area of human affairs and bring it to another. But that’s for another day.

    Yours sincerely,
    Metternicht von Klink Walleroo

  39. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 08, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    Dear Mr. von Klink Walleroo:

    My opinions of you and your comments are now a matter of record on this forum. I certainly hope your posts did not go unchallenged for the past ten years. If so, I certainly look forward to the next ten years.

    Georgette wants us to play nice. Her sense of fairness compels me to kindly oblige.

    I thank her for allowing the discussion to continue.

    Judah MaccB

  40. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  October 09, 2013 @ 12:05 am

    Less civil comments have been made on other pages here lately and have been left unchallenged. Please be careful about selective enforcement.

  41. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 09, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    the track record for districts taken over by Broad grads is questionable at best and there are very good reasons to be concerned about the direction she will take education in Mtc.

    Fair enough, Pete. I am sure you’re right. For all I know, MacCormack is the anti-Christ. However, hiring a schools superintendent and then immediately beginning a campaign to have her fired without giving her a chance to fail is a silly way to conduct affairs. Also, in my experience, no group is more close minded than educators when talk turns to change. Eventually it’s going to bite them in the ass.

  42. POSTED BY walleroo  |  October 09, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    My opinions of you and your comments are now a matter of record on this forum.

    I’ll take that as an olive branch.

    I certainly hope your posts did not go unchallenged for the past ten years.

    I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over that.

    If so, I certainly look forward to the next ten years.

    You know how this is going to end, don’t you?

    Georgette wants us to play nice.

    I always play nice goddammit.

    I thank her for allowing the discussion to continue.

    Me too!

  43. POSTED BY jdmaccb  |  October 09, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

    von Klinky!!!

    You were up early. You’re right about the olive branch, but I’m not very fond of olives.

  44. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 13, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

    “others bristle with disgust at the mere mention of that ill conceived academy (I admit the latter applies to me). Those two reactions follow Broad (and Broadies like Penny) no matter what community is unfortunate enough to be afflicted with their reform s.”

    I’d never heard of “Broad” before; I doubt I’m alone in this. However, you readily admit your bias. That’s at least part of the problem right there. People are “bristling” w/o giving the person appointed a chance. As I’ve pointed out here before, she can do nothing right. If she says A, people complain. If she says not A, people complain.

    Meanwhile, we’ve meetings such as that of last week where she piles a huge amount of data on us. This may seem like a lot with which to keep up – and it is – but it also means that there’s no hiding. Whether her policies succeed or fail, we’ll see it.

    This alone is a vast improvement over the previous administration of our schools.

    “What about those misinformed parents in NYC that are now out in force against the Bloomberg testing nonsense?”

    From what I can tell, these are people that are concerned with their images rather than reality. A tougher test means scores drop. Does that mean that we should never seek out further challenges for our children?

    It’s not as if the kids have changed. The complaints have about as much merit as someone complaining of being measured 6ft one year and 1.8m the next. Nobody shrank!

    We’ve had years of reports of US students falling behind our international peers. Now we’ve reports of this extending into the workforce:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/business/economy/stubborn-skills-gap-in-americas-work-force.html

    Meanwhile, the value of an HS diploma has been depreciating:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/business/college-degree-required-by-increasing-number-of-companies.html

    Employment is just the one aspect. The results of “low information voters” are all through the news right now. Our nation depends not just upon our kids being prepared for the economic world, but also for the political world.

    Our kids depend upon us – and the schools we provide – to prepare them for the world at large. It’s not our kids that are failing; we’re failing them. We need to do better.

    People can argue for the status quo, but we see where that path is leading. The changes we’re seeing in the district aren’t likely to be perfect – even the superintendent says this. Yet they are a start. As we’re given more complete information than ever before we can see what’s working and how, and evolve the plans accordingly.

    Or, we can settle for what we’ve been doing and let our biases or prejudices – “preconceived opinions” – control the education we provide to our children, leaving too many of them unprepared for the world into which they’ll graduate.

    …Andrew

  45. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  October 13, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    Andrew, if you were measured 6ft one year and the next year you are measured at 1.8m, then indeed you did shrink.

    Everyone knows that the US education system is falling behind education systems in most advanced countries around the world and everyone has daily experiences of the impact of this on the workforce. Your brilliance is pedestrian.

    That you never heard of “Broad” before reflects your own lack of education and real interest in the Montclair School District. It is not because someone is “new” that they are allowed to make one bad education decision after the other. It has costs. The taxpayers pay and so do the children.

    Montclair’s education is turning into a Central Office fortress. And now the good teachers and staff are being further driven from the schools. There is no regret on behalf of Superintendent MacCormack for firing the Glenfield principal for her own failures, and one doubts if Mr. Grosso is the kind of education leader that would have put his name on the letter about the police moving into Glenfield School. Of course he did not receive the positions he applied for. He is not the right “material/data” for the School Superintendent. She will be pleased to appoint one of her own people into his position.

    Somehow you want to come across as a parent who cares. Perhaps some think you are simply naive. But your insistence on supporting clearly bad decisions for Montclair’s education makes some wonder if you perhaps have other interests or aspirations.

  46. POSTED BY agideon  |  October 14, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

    “It is not because someone is “new” that they are allowed to make one bad education decision after the other.”

    The complaints started about this long-time educator long before she started working here. It seems that the major decision for which she is being faulted is accepting the job.

    “There is no regret on behalf of Superintendent MacCormack for firing the Glenfield principal”

    More misinformation. She clearly did regret it, but felt it necessary given the circumstances. Perhaps this wasn’t important enough for you to have attended one of the meetings where she discussed this.

    “But your insistence on supporting clearly bad decisions for Montclair’s education makes some wonder if you perhaps have other interests or aspirations.”

    Anyone that disagrees with you must be out to “destroy education”? This is just more of the same Cruz-like hyperbole.

    It’s actually rather sad, in a way, for some anonymous poster to be accusing me of a hidden agenda. I’m not particularly well known by any means, but I don’t try to hide my identity. From that identity, one can – with a little research – see my very strong agenda: my two young children in the Montclair schools. My aspiration is that they, and their peers, receive an excellent education.

    …Andrew

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