Montclair Board and ACLU Reach Agreement In Investigation, Board Voices Anger With Council

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (64)

Montclair BoardBoard and ACLU Reach Agreement

The Montclair Board Of Education continued to deal with fallout from the assessment leaks from late October at their final meeting for 2013 on December 16. The board’s ongoing investigation into the leak , though, was given a slight boost when their investigator, attorney Mark Tabakin,  presented a resolution to settle a dispute with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over its anonymous client “Assessmentgate” who the board served a subpoena.  The school board and the ACLU amicably reconciled their differences to maintain the anonymity of “Assessmentgate,” who will then in turn provide the board with meaningful information under oath regarding unauthorized released of the interim assessments.  The board voted 6-1 to approve the agreement, which the ACLU signed, with board member Anne Mernin voting against it.

Mernin offered a couple of comments on the issue before the vote. “When the board launched this investigation, I think that all of us believed that we were doing something necessary and prudent for the interests of the schools,” she said.  She noted, though, that when the subpoena for “Assessmentgate” was issued, she thought it raised reasonable doubts in the public’s mind about the investigation.

“The  evidence that I personally have seen does not rise to a level where we should compromise the trust that we have with the public on the need to speak freely to us as a board and the need to engage criticism even if it is passionate criticism of what is being done,” she said.   She still did not believe that it was in the interest of the board or the public discourse to accept the agreement as presented.

Board member Norman Rosenblum had a different take.  He said he saw no good reason to subpoena  critics.  With regard to the settlement before the board, he said, “The issue of the person’s identity is dealt with.  The person does not to have give up [his or her] identity, but [he or she is] agreeing to answer some questions.”  He said it was better to have a particular reason in going after someone with a subpoena.

The group Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS) concluded that  there was no “leak.”  In a prepared statement handed out to meeting attendees, the group opined that scavenger site likely linked to the tests by searching the school disticts Web portals and put the affected tests on a public site.  GoBookee was thought to be the likely scavenger site.

“We believe that there is no person who ‘leaked’ the assessments,” MCAS said.  “There are individuals who may not have been as careful as possible when they placed the tests on a website, but given the rush and lack of care in this entire process, this is not surprising.”

Like the test leak investigation , the school board’s actions on both the test leak investigation and the implementation of the Common Core standards continued to energize critics in the public comment sections of the meeting.  Resident Beth Rubin, a tenured Rutgers education professor, said she couldn’t understand why the board was using the new standards as a means of more testing rather than using them to improve instruction in the classroom.  Resident Regina Jaffe-Walter expressed confidence in the teachers’ ability to adapt to the tests, but she was displeased with the district going beyond the testing required by the state.

Board Talks Council Resolution to Deny Board Access it its Server

The Township Council’s December 10 vote to deny the Board of Education access to its own server was also, predictably, a source of contention.

The Council voted 5-2 with Deputy Mayor Russo, Councilman-at-Large McMahon, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Schlager, 3rd Ward Councilman Spiller and 4th Ward Councilwoman Baskerville voting to deny the Board access and Mayor  Jackson and 1st Ward Councilman Bill Hurlock voting in the Board’s favor.

Though Anne Mernin saw it as the council’s way of encouraging the board to let another entity take over the investigation so the board doesn’t cause divisions in the township, board members Leslie Larson and David Deutsch both saw the council’s actions as preventing the board from exercising its own mandated responsibilities, a move  they found contemptuous.

“On Tuesday, by voting to deny the Board of Education access to its own databases, five members of the Township Council prevented the Board of Education from performing its mandatory duties, thereby interfering with basic fiduciary obligations of the Board to the taxpayers and children of Montclair (N.J.S.A.18A:11-1(d)), Deutsch stated. “It’s important to look past all the heated rhetoric and focus on two key facts. First, the District has experienced a breach of computer security.  Second, it’s now been seven weeks since the discovery of the assessments on a public site, and the Board of Education has been continuously blocked from any forensic investigation of its own systems. This situation concerns me greatly,” he added.

Deutsch went on to emphasize the need to investigate the security of the server and his feelings on the vote:

The district is responsible for massive amounts of student data and Federal and State laws requires the Board keep the information secure, confidential and accessible for years. We have clear evidence of some type of security flaw. We also know the Township and the Board of Education share certain computer hardware and software systems. Given these facts, I’m incredulous as to why five members of the Township Council would undertake the improper and unwise course of action of preventing the Board from examining its own property. I believe by doing so, the Township has now opened itself up to significant liability if there is another recurrence of a security breach, whether regards to the district’s systems or the Township’s. Since no expert has yet to investigate the Board of Education’s server and archives, how can the five members of the Township Council be so confident that our system is secure?  Why are they so confident that all the student information the Board has and which must be kept confidential – such as grades, 504’s, IEP’s, and discipline histories — remains secure?

Finally, the five members of the council who voted “yes” have led the township to take an action for which it has no authority. The Montclair Board of Education spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for its portion of the computer systems. Those systems and the data which they contain belong to the Montclair Board of Education. By prohibiting the Board’s access, the Township has simply converted the Board’s property, improperly, while interfering with the Board’s legal and fiduciary obligations.

For these reasons, I request the Town Council reverse its decision with the utmost speed.

Jonathan AlterAgreeing with the board was MSNBC commentator and Montclair resident Jonathan Alter, an increasingly familiar presence at public meetings regarding education.  He called the council’s actions a “power grab,” and he encouraged the board to respond strongly.

“What the council did was completely out of bounds,” he said.  “They have no right to tell you whether you can access their own server.”  Alter also urged fellow residents to stop dismissing the school board as a corporatist, conservative body trying to privatize public education, noting that the Obama administration has followed the same educational policies.

“Our board is in almost perfect alignment with the Obama administration on almost every educational issue,” he said.  He added that critics must also stop sabotaging efforts to investigate the leak. “If  you are defending the suppression of a good-faith effort to get to the bottom of this unauthorized and possibly criminal violation in intellectual property,” he said, “you are tacitly supporting sabotage.  Who wants to do that?”

Superintendent’s Report

About a third of the three-and-a-half-hour meeting was devoted to the superintendent’s report,  which was not given by Dr. MacCormack herself but by teachers and other administration. Chief Talent Officer Michelle Russell and parent/volunteer coordinator Sylvia Bryant reported progress in accommodating parents to the new Common Core standards through various workshops held with parents over the past couple of months, which they said went very well.  Chief Academic Officer Gail Clarke went over one of three draft handbook of the Common Core standards being readied to distribute to parents, this one for English language arts in kindergarten.  A draft of all three handbooks was made available for meting attendees.

Bradford School Teacher’s Report

Also, the teaching staff at Bradford Elementary School reported that partnerships with the PTA and partnerships between teachers were improving school performance but units of study and an increased emphasis on testing was not working.  The teachers said that too much time was spent on tests, and that the school was being run like a business.  They advocated returning to trimester schedules rather than quarterly assessments and replacing units with “carefully developed” instructional programs, among other things.

Board Vice President Shelly Lombard said she understood how overwhelming the change was, and that the district was trying to catch up. ”We just really were behind,” she said.   “It’s a sea change in terms of standards.  I think it would be unrealistic for us to expect for it to all go absolutely, totally smoothly.”

64 Comments

  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  December 17, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    “Our board is in almost perfect alignment with the Obama administration on almost every educational issue.” —- Jonathan Alter

    And this means, what? (I’ll refrain from the obvious snarky equivalency of healthcare.gov and all this fighting over computer servers.)

  2. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  December 17, 2013 @ 8:22 am

    Mr. Alter’s condescending association of the BOE with the Obama administration seems to highlight his belief that Montclair’s citizens will support anything the President does, and as a by-product, the BOE.

    This lack of reasoning is astounding for someone who seems to be so well-respected for his historical acumen. As someone who voted for the President myself, his educational policies are no different than that of G.W. Bush, under a different name (Race to the Top vs. NCLB). Alter’s statement is disingenuous at best, and condescending at worst.

    Additionally, one only need look at Mr. Alter’s affiliations with Newark Academy and some of his friends on the BOE to know why he is so staunchly in favor of these changes put forth by the BOE. If he is such favor, why not use the MPS instead of using Newark Academy?

  3. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  December 17, 2013 @ 9:14 am

    mtclrsown: When are you going to accept that the assessment policy is what the Board has agreed to now and what was voted for by our appointed decision-makers. Instead of continuing to whine about it – how about working to try and make it better? The democratically appointed board hired a Superintendent who is rolling out a philosophy you just don’t agree with. You don’t like her views. Fine. But the decision is done. Accept it.

    Improve the roll-out. Convince them to delay or modify because of miss-steps or incompetency with purchasing support materials. Just stop pointing fingers and calling eveyone ogres — because they happen to agree with a philosophy that’s already been approved.

    Their philosophical view prevails (apparently it’s the president’s too). Yours does not. And you may even be a minority. That’s not yet clear. Really you and others here need to grow up politically when you have lost on an issue.

    To be 100% clear, I’m not at all telling you to remain silent about the faults of this teaching philosophy which you oppose. As I said, I’m not convinced about it myself. I really don’t know. But the process has spoken. Judgements have been made. Be smart. We do not have direct democracy for our school system. It’s appointed. You can’t vote these people out. So accept that at this point, the assessments are coming. That those chosen to make educational decisions have decided and start contributing to try and make their policy better where you can.

    You are not going to turn it around just by continuing to act as if the policy is wrong and you are right and therefore, they should just listen and stop.

    Instead, as was suggested, organize politically. Start pressuring the Mayor to tell his appointees to stop the philosophy; you can even threaten to recall the Mayor if he doesn’t do it – and use the press to continue to show how stupid the assessment policy is. Create a political wall of opposition over to your side.

    Just stop acting like the issue remains up for debate. It’s not. Move on. Grow up politically and act like a responsible opposition. Convince enough residents about the correctness of your views and use the tools you have to turn this around.

  4. POSTED BY cspn55  |  December 17, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    “Additionally, one only need look at Mr. Alter’s affiliations with Newark Academy and some of his friends on the BOE to know why he is so staunchly in favor of these changes put forth by the BOE”

    I think that this sentiment can be said about any of the commentors here if we knew who they were and what they did for a living. For example – there are acknowledged MEA members/teachers who post here and you can say, “one only need to look at _______’s union affiliation to know why he/she is so staunchly opposed to these changes put forth by the BOE”

    As a parent I am on the fence. My 2nd grader is doing more advanced work than my older one did when he was in 2nd grade – especially in Math.

    When I had conferences with my kid’s teachers (2 in elementary school) they didn’t seem that bothered by common core or the super and I trusted they were being somewhat candid. Was is a young teacher and the other a very experienced teacher. One mentioned that her kids were learning more things that were formerly not taught until the following year but that the class was adjusting well. Both teachers thought that having more time would have been better but they are handling it and will deal with it. One did seem upset that the tests were leaked b/c people put in time, worked hard on them over the summer and now all that work was lost and they had to do it over. From what many wrote here, the assessments were templated so not sure if I believe the actual teacher I spoke with or annonymous posters who may have an axe to grind for whatever reason.

  5. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    “Our board is in almost perfect alignment with the Obama administration on almost every educational issue,”

    Yes, they are in almost perfect alignment with a policy that members of the New York State Regents Board believes is based on incomplete and manipulated data.

    “They are using false information to create a crisis, to take the state test and turn it on its head to make sure the suburbs experience what the urban centers experience: failure,” said Rosa, a former teacher, principal and superintendent from the Bronx.

    http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Common-Core-divides-state-s-Regents-board-5067470.php#photo-5603689

    So, yes, I do believe the BOE and MacCormack are in almost complete alignment with Obama’s education policies. They are doing an excellent job in manipulating data and turning our high performing, Suburban school district into a failure.

    The Bradford Teachers spoke eloquently, passionately and bravely about what is not working. They made it clear the assessments have created an unnecessary burden, they are causing them to teach to the test, that they have no time to go over lessons the children did not understand, they are bogged down in paperwork and that the children are the losers. To so easily dismiss the needs and concerns of our dedicated educators, shows just how out of touch the BOE and MacCormack are and they are clearly more interested in pushing their own agenda then serving the needs of our children.

  6. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    “I think that this sentiment can be said about any of the commentors here if we knew who they were and what they did for a living. For example – there are acknowledged MEA members/teachers who post here and you can say, “one only need to look at _______’s union affiliation to know why he/she is so staunchly opposed to these changes put forth by the BOE”

    I am a stay-at-home Mother of a second grader and a 10 month old baby. I have no affiliation to the MEA and have never held a job in education. I hold a Masters Degree in Applied Social Research from Queens College. I am opposing the BOE, MacCormack and the Common Core because I read, I research and I observe.

    FYI,I have spoken to teachers who oppose the BOE, MacCormack and the Common Core. Many are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Your teacher may have been honest with you or may be espousing the party line for fear of becoming a target.

    I ask you, have you done your due cspn55, have you done your due diligence and read the literature available on the Common Core and Standardized testing? Have you read balanced article on both sides of the issue? If you have any studies or evidence to support your side please forward and I will gladly read and in return forward mine. And then we can have an informed discussion.

  7. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    I would also like to direct you to this article that recently ran in USA Today, which explains there is no educational crisis in this country, but rather a crisis of poverty

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/12/10/education-poverty-international-student-assessment-column/3964529/

  8. POSTED BY glenfielddad  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    I find Jonathan Alter to be completely hypocritical on this point: “… [Jonathan Alter] added that critics must also stop sabotaging efforts to investigate the leak.” When the Obama justice department investigated James Rosen (a Fox News Channel reporter) regarding national security leaks, Mr. Alter had nothing but contempt for the Obama Justice Department. Mr. Alter did not call any end to sabotaging the Justice department’s efforts to investigate the national security leaks. This unrelenting supporter of free speech seems now not to care at all about the suppressive efforts of this MBOE to silence its critics. Mr. Alter, what has changed? Jonathan is my favorite commentator on MSNBC, but I think that he has lost his way here.
    Please check out the transcript to Mr. Alter’s interview with Hugh Hewitt at the following link.
    http://www.hughhewitt.com/jonathan-alter-is-disturbed-by-what-obamas-justice-department-and-irs-are-doing/

  9. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    From that link you proved your own point. Pre-K services – not testing – is where you should be focused on for Montclair. To date, the BOE has refused to get into that issue although it’s clearly the way to turn around the achievement gap problem.

    The the new strategic plan calls for a policy to be developed towards pre-k services by 2014. Well – here we are.

    If you factor out returns from our lower income population, Montclair schools actually perform quite well state wide. Much higher than the rankings show.

    The racial (poverty) achievement gap is where the educational focus should have been. Shame on the older members of this school board for allowing themselves to be bamboozled by former Supt. Alverez. Money kept getting thrown at the problem without tangible results. And they didn’t even know it. That’s the saddest point.

    Today’s appointed task force to review best practices and create program(s) to finally get something done – is long overdue.

  10. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    I continue to ask those opposed to the Common Core, shall we go back to a time when there was NO accountability? Where Black kids failed, everyone knew it, but other than the drop out rate, low SAT scores, there was no real data? What about comparing schools, districts, and States?

    Data is not the enemy. Moreover, I heard it said, and I believe it: teaching to the test all depends on the test. I’ve discovered that adding more quizzes and tests to my classes has benefited both students (they can see issues sooner) and me (I can see spot deficiencies more quickly).

    I cannot imagine having more data is bad. I will agree with the implementation could be better, but then again, considering the complexity, maybe not.

    (The Obama comment was just gratuitous and dumb– and considering his newest award: Lie of the year, unnecessary.)

  11. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    Professor, how do you respond to the NY State Regents board? And the USA Today article?

    When did I ever say I wanted no accountability? I do not believe there was an education crisis until the past administration created one and now the present administration perpetuates it. I believe there are more progressive ways to educate and better ways to enact accountability. I say progress not reform.

  12. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    “You don’t like her views. Fine. But the decision is done. Accept it.” spoton, this seems to be a running theme in many of your comments. My simple answer, is no, not a chance.

    To answer cspn55, I also have no affiliation to the MEA or any union. I know some teachers and friends in various school systems around NJ, but we hardly ever talk about school or educational policy. I’m interested in all of this because I attended Montclair schools and would like to see them improve, not devolve. Any knowledge or experience I have regarding education comes from my involvement with the Bloomfield schools where my kids go and where I have regularly attended BOE meetings for several years where the subjects of the Common Core and PARCC testing have been the subject of much discussion. Our Board in Bloomfield, with parental support, was the first to pass a resolution against additional standardized test in NJ.

    I envy Montclair for its resources, but I worry that it has unwittingly invited in the big players in the corporate education reform movement. The Common Core has taken major hits lately, with state after state opting out, and New York’s very ugly public backlash against the Common Core still unfolding. Montclair has become a must win battleground for the state and the nation for the Common Core supporters, and the irony is that Montclair parents are just now coming to grips with what the Common Core means to their school district and their kids. At the same time, they are realizing that their Super has an educational agenda that may not match the community’s vision. She also has no interest in consensus, is intolerant of dissent, aggressive against her “enemies” and has a way of working that is naturally divisive. That may be how some corporations are run efficiently, but it will not work for education, and it is certainly wrong for Montclair.

  13. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:48 am

    Besides the Obama comment, Alter is still using the word “sabotage” so his depth of interest and understanding of what has occured is certainly in question. Seems he is being used as a mouthpiece, and it shows. Very astroturfy.

  14. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  December 17, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    I’m in favor of holding schools accountable for how they spend our taxpayer dollars. I’m in favor of demanding that the educational system better serve ALL of its students, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds. It’s because of this that I oppose Common Core and their ill-conceived mutant offspring, the Quarterly Assessments.

    There is an interesting study done recently on standardized testing by researchers at Harvard, MIT, and Brown about the limits of standardized testing. In essence, it shows when schools show improved test scores, their students appear to “know more” (i.e., they’ve memorized information and have developed test-taking skills), but that the students show no improvement in real critical thinking/cognitive skills.

    http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/12/standard-test-fluid-skills

  15. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  December 17, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

    Also, Jonathan Alter should be embarrassed. The breadth and depths of his ignorance is really at odds with the patronizing tone that he uses to lecture us little people. He really ought to go read a newspaper or something sometime.

    I’m capable of liking Obama while thinking his policies on education are disappointing. You’d think a guy who writes books about the President would be able to understand that kind of nuance.

  16. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  December 17, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    nycmontclair, you continue to make my point- as does angryrabbit- the USA Today article speaks directly to how schools fail poor (mostly black and brown) kids. But how do we quantify this failure? Where do they fail? What grade? What subject?

    How else other than a test will you know these answers?

    As for idea that standardized tests are bad (again, depends on the test)- and we should be teaching critical thinking. My question is this: If you cannot get kids to memorize the times table, do you really think you can get them to think “critically”? I also don’t think this is an egg/chicken game– you can do both, you can memorize your times tables, then apply that to a question critically. OR you can learn how to approach a math question “critically,” then learn multiplication (I prefer the memorization first method.)

    Because I think critical thinking skills comes first from knowing something.

    But the issue here is data on student success. The old method had none, the Common Core at the very least attempts to begin to give teachers and parents real information on student progress.

  17. POSTED BY stu  |  December 17, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    She also has no interest in consensus, is intolerant of dissent, aggressive against her “enemies” and has a way of working that is naturally divisive.

    Really? Or is this just the anti-Broad party line?

    Baa. Baa.

  18. POSTED BY cspn55  |  December 17, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    “cspn55, have you done your due diligence…..If you have any studies or evidence to support your side please forward”

    My post clearly said, “As a parent I am on the fence” That means I don’t really have a side. I also don’t want to do due diligence on this because I am not qualified to run a school system and trust there are others better equipped than I am to do this. And those qualified others may disagree on the best course of action but I don’t think anything here is all that damaging either way. I expect my kids to do well in school and so far they have done well. If they don’t the blame will fall more on my wife and me than on the school system.

    That said, I do take issue with the tactics many in the anti-superintendent/anti-common core camp have used which has included spreading rumors and lies about people that I think just have a different approach and do not want to sell our schools to some evil corporation. In a perfect world I would like to see these posters proven wrong just because of how poorly they have behaved. However, if it is better for the school system to scrap the super or common core I would be fine with that. I just wish the opponents could act like adults and not resort to the same type of garbage that plagued the mayoral/council election in 2012.

    So far i am happy with the Montclair School system – I liked it when the last super was here and i continue to like it. The teachers and principals we have encountered have all been exceptional. I do find this argument interesting and will live with it however it plays out.

  19. POSTED BY stu  |  December 17, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    Due diligence. Isn’t that a corporate term? Time to get scrubbed down nycmontclair.

  20. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  December 17, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    Professor Williams–You are attacking a straw man here. I don’t have a problem with testing, assessment, or even memorization of the multiplication tables. I have a problem with people who don’t understand how to use assessment properly claiming that it will “fix” every woe that ever hit our schools.

    We already know that our schools are failing certain groups of children. And we have good data about how and when too. We know this because we have banked ten years of No Child Left Behind testing, plus whatever other tests states might have mandated that have shown us that. But the tests themselves are not the solution. If they were the solution, we would have seen some improvement by now (for the record, we didn’t. No one thinks NCLB was an educational success).

    The solution is going to involve rethinking pedagogical methods–which might include implementing better early education programs, providing educational support for students who don’t get it at home, working to improve the funding of underfunded schools, etc.

    Now, as for Common Core. If the purpose of the test were to make sure all school children had mastered a basic set of useful, memorizable, and testable facts–such as the multiplication tables, states and capitals, names of important historical figures, the Bill of Rights, etc., then I probably wouldn’t object to it. But that’s not what Common Core is supposed to do.

    Common Core is suppose develop critical thinking skills. Its mere existence in the schools is supposed to guarantee that our students will suddenly be able to think critically in ways they weren’t before. This assertion itself demonstrates a lack of critical thinking on the part of its supporters. If we want critical thinking skills taught, we must develop a curriculum that develops these skills, and we must rigorously test this curriculum to see that it works (it would probably also be helpful to make sure that all students in the schools get the textbooks/necessary materials for this curriculum–in fact, maybe this should be mandated).

    Then, we should have a test that actually test critical thinking skills instead of one that doesn’t. And then we will have an entirely separate debate on how that test should be graded (because if it is testing critical thinking, it can’t be a simple multiple choice test. And the answers the kids give will be difficult to evaluate fairly. If, as a professor, you’ve ever give open-ended essay question as part of a test, you should understand this.)

    Now, here’s a critical thinking question for you. Why do you think Common Core testing will work to improve critical thinking skills in our students when it isn’t a pedagogical method and doesn’t actually measure critical thinking skills? (Note: the answer “because we need to try something different” will be considered incomplete. Everyone thinks we need to try something different in our failing schools. For full credit you must explain, using critical thinking, why the method you’re supporting is likely to be effective.)

  21. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

    Cspn55, my apologies. I was reading your comment when the baby began to fuss and should have returned to it before responding. I will be more careful in the future.

    I am only asking people to read the studies on the effects of Standardized testing and the research that shows poverty is the problem, not the teachers. Professor, I believe you pick and choose what you want to support your argument. And lest you think I am just some white Surburban mother mother who doesn’t care about the black and brown students, my baby is African American and I care very much what happens to her and all children. What I am saying is testing testing testing does nothing to help any child. I have yet to see how we are improving out teaching methods to reach these children. If all we’re doing is testing but not finding creative ways to meet the needs of our neediest students fail to see how any gap will be closed.

    Professor, I am still waiting for your response to the NY State Regents Board statement. Also, could you address the recent resolution passed by NYC coming out against high stakes testing?

    I also don’t understand why people choose to ignore what not only teachers are saying, but parents in NYC and their children have said about the testing and the common core. They have been living this so you would think they would know what they are talking about.

    Change should be productive and well thought out. I support accountability and tests that are well written and accurately reflect what is being taught and is developmentally appropriate. I am looking for a robust curriculum and well rounded students.

    Again, I am asking for research that supports the approach MacCormack has chosen. I am happy to read and discuss.

  22. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  December 17, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    hungryhare, I asked a simple question. That you see the question as a “stawman” is odd. Moreover, rather than answer my question, you only offered your own (very long) question.

    You state, “We already know that our schools are failing certain groups of children.” But fail to offer anything that can be done– “rethinking pedagogical methods” sounds good, but ah, what is that in practice? — that’s the sound of crickets.

    But from this, I take it you were fine with the old way?

    As I stated, the implementation is the problem- teachers who are unsure of what to do, with little help from an ever expanding administration is not a means to success. However, this is a monstrous change, so I wonder how it could have been done better. (I also fear that young teachers or those thinking of teaching will see this and turn away.)

    With that, I continue to wait for someone to tell me what their plan is– scrapping the Core for the old system that failed so many cannot be the answer.

  23. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  December 17, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    stu, do you disagree with what I said? Do you think that the Super is NOT any of the things I have written? I have gotten to know a few different Supers the last few years and they tend to be better listeners, more tolerent of opposing voices (even if they disagree) and they try hard to build support for their policies among teachers and parents. The kind of top down, “I’m the leader, follow my vision, discipline must be maintained” sort of attitude that MacCormack seems to have is more suited to the board room than public education.

    FWIW I had learned of CC and PARCC long before I knew who Broad was. While I have not written off CC yet completely, the more I get to know about the involvement of the likes of Broad and Gates in education the less I like them.

  24. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  December 17, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

    Frank, not to feed stu and the likes of the anti-anti-Broad/Gates backlash, but I did note this in the article you posted…

    “The diocese is a member of the National Catholic Educational Association, a lobbying group for Catholic education based in Washington, D.C. that recently received more than $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to put toward training for teachers on the [Common Core] standards.”

  25. POSTED BY stu  |  December 17, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

    SSP…Take a look at how much of the teachers union dues goes for lobbying efforts.

  26. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  December 17, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    Spoton…

    “..the decision is done. Accept it.”

    How about the 17 states that currently have adopted the Common Core that are now asking to delay or stop the implementation altogether? That’s because the adoption was rushed, rammed down before research was even done to prove the Common Core does anything it purports to do. But those states just need to just accept it, right? Just bend over and take it, make it smooth, or get out of the way, huh? Just hand over millions to Pearson to dictate our educational policy? Yes, let me just get out of the away. Some civic duty.

  27. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  December 17, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    Profwilliams,

    I am sad about your reading comprehension skills. Truly.

    Your question may have been simple, but that doesn’t mean the answer will be. So yes, my answer was long. But it was an answer. The only question (which you ignored, don’t think I didn’t notice) is at the end. -50 points.

    If you think I’m fine with the old way, go back and read what I wrote. In fact, in the very question you ignored, I said that “everyone thinks we need to do something different in our schools.” Everyone includes me. (That’s an example of critical thinking skills in action. Cool, huh?)

    And if you heard crickets when I used big words, that says more about you, I’m afraid. Go back and try to read it again more slowly.

    You will probably be appalled to know that we actually agree on much here. Implementation of effective teaching methods is the issue. I don’t have all the answers to what those methods might be. But I don’t have to have those answers to recognize that Common Core/standardized testing isn’t it.

    I do know that methods that have worked well to improve the achievement gap (such as nutrition programs, pre-K education, ESL programs, tutoring, mentoring, job programs, and college placement, etc.), can also be described as “programs with are continually underfunded in the United States.” Maybe if we freed up some of that money we keep throwing at ineffective assessment plans, there would be some kind of a solution.

    I should probably check with Jonathan Alter though. Since he’s important and stuff–and knows how Obama supporters are supposed to behave. (See, prof, we probably agree about Jonathan Alter, too.)

  28. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  December 17, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    SSP, 

    That is why I thought it was worth posting….the article has a little something for everyone.

    Here are two more. The 2nd one was interesting as the organization was cited in the background of one of the facilitators at the MCAS workshop.

    http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/common-core-sees-delayed-pushback-leaving-educators-to-scratch-their/article_0c4f0642-6675-11e3-a568-0019bb2963f4.html

    http://www.edtrust.org/dc/press-room/news/michigan-lawmakers-move-state-forward-on-common-core

  29. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  December 17, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    hungryhare,

    I get it: if you say a lot, I won’t notice that you have failed to offer any real alternative to any problem or issues you presented. You said we need to do something “different.” Ah, ok. What exactly does that look like? (There are those crickets again….)

    Even for someone like me- with my low reading comprehension- I can see right through you. Oh, and your recommendation for the achievement gap has that same scattershot approach that never works. (But if you insist, include something about the homelike and family in your calculation).

    Forgive me, but this has turned into a bore for me. My little brain can only handle so much, and I’d rather concentrate on All Things Considered.

    Enjoy the snow!!

  30. POSTED BY flynnie  |  December 17, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

    Hello Professor,

    What do other reforms look like? There are many options, and here are a few.

    Smaller class sizes. There have been numerous studies conducted which show that smaller classes increase student achievement. And by smaller, I do not mean 27 students as opposed to 30+; I mean less than twenty. Teachers in those classrooms have a far greater ability to assess and address individual student needs.

    Better teacher training. Alternate route programs and Teach for America (with its whopping 5 weeks of traning) are not turning out the best teachers. Teacher education programs should be extended; internships during training (such as student teaching) should be expanded; new teachers should be properly mentored for at least two years, and mentoring should continue throughout teachers’ careers. Delaying tenure is also a good idea, and those who do not prove themselves effective in the classroom should not stay.

    Expand early childhood education. There’s so much information on this I do not even know where to begin.

    Extra supports for low-income children. From after school programs to tutoring to college and job placement, these students’ needs should be prioritized and not merely paid lip service.

    Increase teacher pay. Yes, you read that right. What intelligent young person wants to enter a career with so many demands, so much disrespect, and so little compensation if he/she can earn more elsewhere?

    Then, of course, there are the other seemingly smaller reforms like nutrition programs that have true impact upon student learning.

    Additionally, you ask how teachers can be held accountable without testing. Well, let’s look at Finland, the consistent winner in international rankings. They do not give their students standardized tests. They do have arduous teacher training, continual mentoring, high salaries, and smaller classes. Their teachers are held accountable by adminstrators who are also highly trained and educated and are not political appointees, and they are held accountable by the communitites in which they work. Their teachers are also very well respected.

    There are other options to testing, but enacting them would take true public commitment and money. Why bother going through such an arduous process for true reform when it is so much easier to blame teachers and schools for failing? (I am not implying that you, personally, do this, but it’s clear that so very many people do.)

  31. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  December 17, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

    mtclrsown “Just hand over millions to Pearson to dictate our educational policy? Yes, let me just get out of the away. Some civic duty.”
    ————
    I see that you might be in need of some common core reading comprehension and political sophistication assistance.

    I never told you to stop opposing the underlying testing philosophy. I just advised you to accept that in the short term, this policy was being rolled out by decision-makers and that you should do your best instead to assist the transition, while still opposing the policy. I advised you (and others) to stop whining from a position of weakness as if your views were right and that THIS ALONE would change the leader’s minds who wanted assessments.

    Instead, I suggested you get off your duff and work the problem (as you saw it) politically, maturely as opposition. I suggested bringing to bear pressures where you could better convince everyone of the intellectual superiority of your view.

    Clearly your position and those of others here are not in the majority yet. I suspect most residents are just unsure at the moment. They don’t like the contentious politics, but most still agree that some common core curriculum is needed to compete in the 21st century. Therefore, they are willing to give the new Super’s policies a chance.

    If everyone was convinced you were right, the Township would all likely be up in arms now. They’d be furious that the Fried School Board hired a Superintendent with these “testing” views, providing little public input into that decision and further, reportedly gave her a multi-year contract without any review period first to see if it was a good fit. Everyone would be very angry now that she instituted a dramatic policy of change where there was not yet complete buy in from the start.

    Instead, while it appears there is a good sized vocal group in opposition, most parents still seem willing to give the policy a try at this point. That is an observation only.

    Why this “blind” support even with uncertainty and loud opposition? Because Prof. Williams is correct. The schools were not doing GREAT before. And that is really the political problem you’ve never addressed.

    We were lied to about the achievement gap for years, which showed no improvement after hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were spent. Our rankings actually dropped during the last 10 years – even though the schools are quite good in many ways for higher income populations. And although Mr. touchy-feely Alverez made our PTA moms here feel great and involved doing bake sales for books as he talked his PC talk – actual, quantifiable educational results lagged.

    Something needed to change.

    So I say to you the same thing I said to beat63. Where were you during that time of fiscal irresponsibility? Why weren’t you (and others) out demanding a better educational return on your tax dollar then. And so why all the fuss now just because of more “testing” – an educational policy some clearly do believe is the way to better identify mediocre teaching and to identify learning and retention issues to help quantifiable results.

    Even if your vision is 100% correct and the assessments are 100% wrong for Montclair, the arguments and political strategy used to date have not been compelling. They have not changed the decision-makers minds. And they have not moved enough of John and Jane Q public yet to demand a complete change of direction.

  32. POSTED BY angryrabbit  |  December 17, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

    ProfWilliams,

    You are correct in one respect. I’m not offering solutions to the problems I’ve presented. I don’t claim to nor do I have to. I can say that the rational behind Common Core and the quarterly assessments is flawed without offering a whole new educational system to replace it. I don’t have to be a fireman to yell when someone’s house and/or pants are on fire.

    This does not make me a supporter of the status quo. It makes me someone who does not want our schools to adopt worthless and unproven assessment system instead of reforms that might actually work.

    If you are interested in reforms that might actually work, read Flynnie’s post. Flynnie’s post is fantastic.

    If you want to defend Common Core, then do so. But if you expect to defend it by claiming that the “old method” didn’t produce data on student success, then I’m going to correct you. We already have 10 years worth of this data from the No Child Left Behind assessments. One of the things this data shows is that testing doesn’t do much to improve schools

    And while you owe me none of your time, If you have other arguments, then I’d love to hear them (from you or anyone else).

  33. POSTED BY cameyer  |  December 17, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    Apparently Jonathan Alter believes that his celebrity entertainer status exempts him from having to think before he speaks. His suggestion that we should accept the BOE’s and the schools administration’s policies and actions because they align with the educational policies of the Obama administration (and, after all, Montclair voted for Obama) is patronizing in the extreme. Is it beyond his comprehension that one could be receptive in principal to Common Core while objecting to the the BOE’s obsessive use of resources, at the exclusion of other needs, on standardized testing and on the current ridiculous investigation?

    Alter speaks of a power grab by the town council, as if the activities of the school system, even investigative activities, are solely the purview of the board of education. Unlike the BOE, the town council is elected and answers directly to voters.

    There’s one way to determine once and for all whether those who object to the BOE’s current direction and actions represent a sizeable part of the community or a small group of cranks: Moving to an elected BOE. The time has come for this change. There has been concern that an elected board would jeopardize the magnet school system and its underlying goals. I’d answer that it is in trouble now. If the individual schools are gradually stripped of resources that enable each to be unique, and the focus becomes uniformity in service of standardized testing, why should a parent accept the idea of sending his or her child to any school but the one in their neighborhood?

  34. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

    It really strikes me that when certain proponents of High Stakes testing, Common Core, etc. are presented with real alternatives or challenged to present evidence supporting their positions, they suddenly become non responsive.

  35. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

    the council’s way of encouraging the board to let another entity take over the investigation so the board doesn’t cause divisions in the township…

    The Council, in other words, is merely trying to keep the Board from pissing people off…? Good lord.

  36. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 17, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

    Alter is right on every point.

  37. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

    Alter wouldn’t send his own kids to a school that would test them to death at the expense of world language, art, music and — oh, right — textbooks. yet he has the nerve to lecture public school parents whose objections — agree with them or not — are heartfelt. Worse, Baristanet thinks Alter’s opinions are more important than what the Bradford teachers have to say. Because….why?

  38. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:34 pm

    and if I were Mr. Cummings, I would call up the honorable Mayor and say, if you don’t make these appointed and BOE hardliners stop the witch hunt, I’ll see you call in court when I sue the #$&*%! out of them and the town for defamation of character.

  39. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 17, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

    I was also struck by how much space Mr. Alter’s comments received and how little the Bradford teachers received. They gave the bravest, most impassioned presentation I have every witnessed. They did not hold back on what they perceived as being wrong with the Assessments, the constant testing, having no time to research a lesson before moving on, no text books, having to spend inordinate amounts of time grading the Assessments and other paper work and having so little time for their students. They were truly amazing and received a standing ovation. In my opinion, they deserve an entire article on just their presentation. They are an outstanding credit to their profession.

    I offer my congratulations to the Bradford teachers for having the courage to speak openly and honestly.

  40. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    The teachers said that too much time was spent on tests, and that the school was being run like a business.

    What else did they say, nycmontclair, other than being “impassioned” and “brave.” Give us the gist.

    My guess is that Steve Maginnis, who is an excellent reporter, has done an adequate (at least) job of summarizing the teachers’ views in the line above. It is pretty much what you’d expect teachers to say. Don’t let the schools become a business? That is not a cogent criticism, it’s a meaningless talking point. Too much time is spent on tests? I’m sure from the teachers’ perspectives that’s true, but how is this insight helpful for policy? The teachers do not sound like they’re balancing the needs of the system as a whole, with the gamut of abilities among schoolchildren and teachers plus conflicting politics on the local and national level, with what they see in the narrower world of their particular classrooms.

    A school system is not a mom and pop store, it is a large, complex organization of humans, with decentralized funding and policymaking and little coordination. Teachers are the most important workers in this system, without a doubt, and they should genuinely be listened to, but they don’t see the big picture–that’s not their job. The people who are positioned to do that are the Board of Ed, the superintendent etc. Letting teachers call all the shots is the last thing we want. It would be chaos. You’d have to barricade the doors from all the irate parents.

  41. POSTED BY nomo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    Flynnie: “What do other reforms look like? There are many options, and here are a few.”
    You make some great points. Interestingly, every one of your points is incorporated in the Strategic Plan.

    Smaller class sizes – part of the strategic plan, and already being implemented. This is not a change that can happen in one year, but over several years can be accomplished.

    Better teacher training – This point is so important to the new Superintendent that in her re-organization she created a position dedicated to teacher support, training and mentoring. (Chief Talent Officer) as well a curriculum-based supervision and mentoring from the district

    “Expand early childhood education”: Agreed, and a tough issue in Montclair. Many have worked hard to bring back public pre-school, but the issue is separate from the issue of Common Core implementation.

    “Extra supports for low-income children”: Agreed, again. IMANI provides excellent support for many, as do the many after-school programs. Much more needs to be done, but again, its a separate issue.

    “Increase teacher pay”. Take a look at the latest contract. Our teachers are in the very top in the state. Despite what the Union reps would have many believe, the board worked really hard with the Union to give good benefits to the teachers.

  42. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 18, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

    The Bradford teachers would like their teaching assistants reinstated, they feel the curiculum is developmentally inappropriate, they are having to spent countless hours grading each assessment, thereby taking valuable time that could better be spent dealing with their student’s needs, they have no time to reteach anything the students didn’t understand before moving on to the next unit, the assessments were poorly written and written in haste, they would like the assessments to match the timing of the report cards, three times a year rather than quarterly. And would like the MEA reinstated on the BOE agenda. Textbooks and other resources to support them. Teacher training.

    This is just a quick summary.

  43. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

    Okay, that sounds pretty bad.

  44. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 18, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

    There was more, but hard to recall everything. One other thing that did stand out to me was they’re not having time to use manipulatives in Math. The reason that stood out to is because I had just had that discussion with a friend who was an award winning NIshuane 2nd grade school teacher. She taught there for 14 years before leaving to stay home with her son. I showed her my son’s 2nd grade math homework and she explained why some of it was developmentally inappropriate and then when on to explain the importance of using manipulatives. I know they used them in 1st grade because I volunteered weekly. This year I see no evidence of their use and my son confirtmed that for me.

    I had also wondered why my teacher did not have an assistant. It took her two months before she had time to test my son for his reading level and then recently just moved him up again without testing him, I suspect because she was too busy and she could obviously see he was ready. Last year the teacher was able to break the kids up into small groups and hoe he and her assistant wou of work individually with the groups. I don’t see how that would be possible now.

  45. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

    How much of that is standard complaining about not having enough to do your job right yada yada (which anyone will do if given half the chance, myself included) and how much is due to changes brought on by the current supe?

    In my experience the teachers in the elementary schools varied wildly in quality. We’ve went from years of bliss to years of despair and back again many times, and that was before all this horsepuckey.

  46. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

    Eliminating assistants, for instance, is a cost cutting measure that has nothing to do with curriculum, I’m pretty sure.

  47. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 18, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

    I agree eliminating the assistants was not due to curriculum changes. Frankly, in my opinion all of it is coming from the Superintendant and not driven by the Core Curriculum. Whe, I am no fan of the Core Curriculm, I do believe there is a better way to implement it which is why I am having a problem with the current implementation.

    For instance, as I have made clear I do not like standardized testing as a form of assessment. But in this case the Superintendant has introduced testing above and beyond which is required by the Core and clearly from what I have heard and seen for myself, they were rushed and as a result poorly written. I don’t see how this is productive. If the tests and curriculum were developmentally appropriate, well written and more substantial than multiple choice I would have fewer reservations. The Bradford teachers were not saying no tests, they were saying high quality tests and less intervals so they can take the time to actually teach curriculum in the way it should be taught.

    I just don’t see why some people think it unreasonable to want fewer tests that are high quality and more substantial than multiple choice tests and to include other methods in evaluating a student’s progress and to not use high stakes testing that has been shown to cause overwhelming stress on students and can be unfair to teachers.

    I believe my son is much more than a test score. The work he does in class can not just be compactly measured on a computer with multiple choice and some short answers. In math, that does not actually show the work he does. It shows he is good at narrowing down the answers. In language arts what does that show? Again, that a student can narrow down the answers?

    I believe the curriculum should be robust and that our students should be well rounded. Emphasis should not be merely placed on a couple of subjects and then tested on only aspects of that at subject. Tests should be robust. Math should have children showing how they arrived at an answer, language arts should have essays as well as some short answers to show not just surface comprehension but to demonstrate a deeper meaning.

    You see, I am not afraid of change. I am afraid we are not teaching our children how to really think.

  48. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  December 18, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

    In a continuous improvement environment, lower frequency testing generally results in a lower level of quality.

  49. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 18, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    Please provide a link to the research that supports this theory so I may study it.

    And any research that would support high stakes testing if that is what you are also supporting as well as standardized testing would be appreciated as I have been unable to find anything.

    Thank you

  50. POSTED BY marcella  |  December 18, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

    “Eliminating assistants, for instance, is a cost cutting measure that has nothing to do with curriculum, I’m pretty sure.” But everything to do with ensuring curriculum is implemented in a way that is successful.

    Given the new legislation of tenure reform it should be quite easier to fire teachers who are just down right dreadful. I never needed data in determining which teachers were dreadful and have encountered only a couple throughout the education of my 3 children. Don’t get me wrong there were a lot of teachers I liked better than others but I think a lot of that had to do with how compatible teachers and students are. I never had a problem in addressing teachers or holding them accountable which I have come to find out is very hard for some parents. It seems some parents are fearful of retribution being paid to their children. So I can understand any intense feelings associated with bad teachers but I don’t understand the total lack of value for the job they do. In addition to think that this new ideology is going get rid of bad teachers is the furthest from the truth. The truth is if you are a hard worker, effective, take pride in your work but then are made miserable and set up to fail, you are going to leave. I do believe that the new tenure legislation lets effective teachers transfer their tenure to other districts. Sorry if I went off on a couple of tangents but I am trying share some familiar perspective with regards to public schools and teachers/parent relationships.

    To end, if anyone is gung ho about this because they think it will be the answer to getting rid of bad teachers, I think they are going to be in store for a rude awakening. Unfortunately our children’s happiness will be impacted while this unfolds.

  51. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 18, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

    Please provide a link to the research that supports this theory so I may study it.

    Ha, this is the best line I’ve heard in a while.

  52. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 19, 2013 @ 12:09 am

    You started to lose me at “I believe my son is much more than a test score.” OF course your son is more than a test score, every kid is. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t collect data. What bothers me about anti-reformers is that they often seem to be closed to the notion of gathering information about what kids know and using it to measure how well thing are going. If education is going to be improved system wide then there has to be standardized testing, because that’s how you gather data, and that’s going to detract from the ideal of teaching (kids showing how they arrived at the answers, etc). There are ideas out there about less invasive kinds of data gathering than high-stakes testing, which we can all agree provides a crappy educational experience, but unfortunately those are too far off to be useful here.

    As for your frustration about what’s going on in your kid’s class, I am completely sympathetic. I’ve been through it. There is nothing worse than sitting in the wings while your kid wastes away in a classroom that’s going nowhere.

  53. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 19, 2013 @ 12:13 am

    Having said that, I think it’s harder to kill a kid’s natural curiosity about the world than is commonly believed. What goes on in the home, around the dinner table, etc, is mega important.

  54. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 19, 2013 @ 6:54 am

    A couple of thoughts I would like to express. People throw around the world reform like it Just applies to one method. If you don’t agree with the current approach you are anti-reform. Well if that’s case, than I would like to describe us “anti-reformists” as “progressives”. None of us have said we don’t want change, though there are a few people who think if they accuse us of that often enough it will be true. We want a progressive teaching experience for our children. One that is robust and well rounded and does not result in teaching to the test and narrowing down their experience based off of only certain data being collected.

    Progressives have not said we want no data. We want high quality data and we want it collected in a variety of progressive and high quality methods. If using a platitude like “my kid isn’t a test score” loses you, that is a shame. Because the reoccurring refrains that we are afraid of change or we don’t want data loses me. People are being very closed off to what everyone is actually saying. Which is a shame because when I read your words Wallerro it seems to me we share a lot of commonality in what we are wanting.

    As for this current situation, I wish we could have looked at the Common Core, their requirements, etc. and began a open dialogue about how we could best meet those needs without rushing in and I’ll preparing our teachers and students and parents and instead spent these fe months working together to come up with a rich, robust teaching experience for everyone. And perhaps have prevented all this bickering and stress.

  55. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  December 19, 2013 @ 9:32 am

    I am having a hard time reconciling your request for documented support of the theory I mentioned with your statement “We want high quality data and we want it collected in a variety of progressive and high quality methods.”

    Considering the perishable nature of the data I am referring to, I must think we have a basic misunderstanding of what the data is to be used for and at what level. With a trimester system of testing aligned to the report card issuance, one test would be useless for corrective action as it comes at the end of the school year. That leaves 2 actionable tests that the teachers are requesting with no corrective action possible for the last 1/3rd of the school year. If the purpose is not for corrective action, then I would suggest that only 1-2 tests are necessary and let the classroom teachers/individual schools use their own methods for in-year assessment and corrections.

  56. POSTED BY cspn55  |  December 19, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Nycmontclair – “As for this current situation, I wish we could have looked at the Common Core, their requirements, etc. and began a open dialogue about how we could best meet those needs without rushing in and I’ll preparing our teachers and students and parents and instead spent these fe months working together to come up with a rich, robust teaching experience for everyone. And perhaps have prevented all this bickering and stress.”

    So you wish we could have looked at this sooner? Please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t common core announced a few years ago – like 2010 or something like that and that if you wanted a Race to the Top (or whatever it was called) grant for your state, then you had to adopt common core? With you having a 2nd grader (I do too) neither or us likely paid any attention to it, but I would think that the school district and the MEA knew that this was coming and would have been better prepared by now. Again, I didn’t pay much attention but I don’t really recall an anti-common core argument or a discussion of ideas on how to implement it coming during the tenure of the last superintendent or from any of the the voices on this site offering critism of the common core now…… no discussion at all until this superintendent was hired. So I think there are two issues here:

    1- common core – you would think we would be better prepared for this but we weren’t. I don’t blame the current superintendent for this – she just got here and has had little time to implement a strategy to address this requirement. While her listening tour may have been somewhat gratuitous in that EVERY opinion wasn’t taken into consideration, I would imagine it was because she doesn’t have much time to get us in line for the implementation of these standards.

    2- the current superintendent – her broad academy background has been under attack since MacCormack got here. To that end, many here have said that she is a corporate, pro-charter school, anti-teacher, wanting to tear down the district so she can rebuild it her way, data collector who doesn’t care about kids or education and who hobknobs with Senator Booker on our dime. She also apparently lives in Connecticut, may have been born in Kenya and hates Christmas.

    I don’t know the superintendent and for all I know she may be a complete jerk. What I do know is that for the first time in the several years I have been in this school system, I get periodic updates on BOE meetings and other school district informatiuon (Straight from the Superintendent or whatever it is calll which no doubt, IRB63 and some others will say is just propoganda) and have ben happy with the teachers we have and progress my kids are making in school.

  57. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 19, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    When I say “anti reformers” I’m thinking about Diane Ravitch. I never said you were against change, but Ravitch seems to be–her argument boils down to “things are fine, leave them alone.” I don’t disagree with much , maybe most, of what you say. My point is just that it stands to reason that improving the system as a whole is going to involve doing some things, like testing, that seem unnecessary on the ground. But I find it difficult to untangle what the super is doing from the common core from the general chaos of life in K12, and the tendentious and hyperbole on both sides doesn’t help, which is why I like engaging with people like you.

  58. POSTED BY spotontarget  |  December 19, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    nycmontclair says – “As for this current situation, I wish we could have looked at the Common Core, their requirements, etc. and began a open dialogue about how we could best meet those needs without rushing in and I’ll preparing our teachers and students and parents and instead spent these fe months working together to come up with a rich, robust teaching experience for everyone. And perhaps have prevented all this bickering and stress.”
    ———–

    The one thing of commonality I think we can all agree. This was very poorly rolled out practically on the ground and politically with parents. Change is difficult, no matter what. However, given a virtual 360 re-orientation being implemented, this all needed to happen slower, with more input and more sensitivity. More “listening” was required well after the testing plan was revealed – which clearly was the Superintendent’s policy intent all along. Even if we are now behind moving into Common Core.

    Penny MacCormack clearly came to the table with a philosophy and a process from the start – beyond the six month “listening” tour. Many of today’s concerns from these pages needed to be addressed and countered as part of that “testing” plan reveal and roll out after.

    And this is part of the political pressure which should now be brought to bear with the Mayor and the Board. Because while there is clearly a difference of educational opinion here, we can at least agree that on the community relations front, for getting buy-in and the manner of instituting change, the Board and Super get a D for politics and process.

    Perhaps that elect-a-board vote might be reconsidered once again?

    There’s a way to roll out change. Even change that a good number of people don’t agree with. It requires a respect for different opinions. It needs a a willingness to openly and directly engage and debate positions for a period of time as part of the roll-out. Then, people can accept that even if their views don’t prevail, they are at least truly heard.

    That clearly was not done here. Instead, it’s happening off-line now, in these pages and at Sunday seminars. And this is a good part of the conflict.

  59. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  December 19, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    I think the most important element in managing change is leadership. I think cspn55 made some good points and I would add that the MPS management has not addressed some of the systemic issues for many years – and they have not been pushed to do so.

    We just had an election 18 months ago where education was the overwhelming #1 issue. That certainly would have been a time to discuss the issue as a community and with the candidates.

    So, mistakes happened all around: community, elected officials, BOE/MPS/MEA. What I leaves a bad taste in my mouth are the tactics.

    I read stories about the implementation problems across the 45 states that signed up to Common Core and I don’t see the type or the level of tactics that go on here in Montclair.

    Clearly this planned implementation will not happen in the time window and scope. Recent actions reflect this.

    Someone has to assume a leadership position to move on to Plan B, whatever that becomes.

    Without leadership, managing the other elements of major change will just wallow – or worse, entrench in their existing states.

  60. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  December 19, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    CsPN55, reality is certainly perception. I too am happy with our teacher and my so is doing well. I am not happy with developmentally inappropriate math, not being told about pre-assessment tests, the ambiguous nature of what the assessments will be used for, not being notified my son was taking the first quarterly assessment, and glossing over what was actually said at the BOE meeting (I was there). However, what concerns me doesn’t concern everyone. Fine.

    Just because the prior administration didn’t prepare for the Common core does not then excuse the current administration from rushing in hastily. We had another year to prepare so it seems to me assessments could have been written well, text books purchased, provide training to teachers, etc without racing to do it over a summer. And yeah, maybe look at places like NYC to see their experience has been and learn from it. NYC just passed a resolution abolishing high stakes testing. Clearly, they have experience with it so frankly I don’t understand why the Reformers are calling this new or change. New for Montclair but NYC and other towns have lots of experience with it. Lots of evidence it doesn’t work.

    And why is no one responding to the NY State Regents Board coming out and saying there is no education crisis, but rather the Government is manipulating data to create one, so Suburban schools can feel like failures? I can post that link again if you’d like.

    I have said before I am quality willing to read anything Reformers have to show evidence that testing is the way to go and the Common Core is appropriate. In the mean time, I would like you take a look at this link to an article by Anthony Cody http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/12/who_decides_what_is_taught_in_.html

    I would certainly appreciate people reading it and then continuing the discussion.

    Thank you.

  61. POSTED BY assessmentgate  |  December 19, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    FYI – why I chose to settle rather than battle with the Montclair BOE:

    http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/12/aclu-nj-montclair-board-education-reach-settlement-subpoenas/

  62. POSTED BY nick danger  |  December 19, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

    “Chief Talent Officer” – PLEASE!!!

  63. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  December 19, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    spotontarget is right. I appreciate very much his/her contribution here. It has taken time for people to understand what some have been saying for a long time, but this discussion is starting to progress.

    The failure in Montclair’s education, today and really for so long, has been a failure in leadership. It is not fundamentally about adopting the Common Core and Assessments, but rather about holding those in leadership positions accountable, accountable before the community and accountable before the law.

    Human beings are born learners. They thirst for learning both how to do things as well as how things are. Every child, even the most severely handicapped child, wants to know. A good classroom, a good school, a good school district treasures and promotes this natural thirst for knowledge.

    Much more discussion is needed in Montclair about the Common Core curriculum and the associated tests. But this is happening now, thanks to people who still have the courage to speak out about their reservations regarding the path Superintendent MacCormack is taking education in the town, and thanks everyone more and more wanting to know and understand about education and the politics that attend to it.

    Behind the Common Core is not a real attempt to close the achievement gap; behind the Common Core is not an educated understanding of education; behind the Common Core is not a democratically decided agenda for education; behind the Common Core, is rather a huge amount of private, cooperate money that does see public education as a possible way to improve private gains.

    It would be easy to say that the discussion on the Common Core and its associated assessments should focus only on how, and how much time, to implement them. But the Common Core is entirely antithetical to good education, especially among those most disadvantaged. But Washington and Trenton have tied money to the Common Care, and this is really what makes the argument.

    For Montclair to resist this will require an enormous engagement on the part of the public. It is not a simple matter. Already we have seen fundamental rights of innocent people trampled on by government officials.

    The question is, Does anyone really want the uniqueness and wonder of their child subjected to a common curriculum and a common testing system? School can be as much a limiting factor to the desire to learn as a directional and stimulating factor. There are so so many ways to educate a child. Is a common core and standardized testing really what you want, not only for the natural desire to learn you child has, but also for the creativity and inventiveness each child has? Would Montclair dare to be different?

    But the most important question today remains the political reform or education in Montclair. Few seem willing to even entertain this question; but without solving this, any curriculum, any approach to education will falter and ultimately fail.

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