Sunday, March 9, 2014

Eulogy for Public Education Part 2: What happens when a child vomits on a test? Bag it & send it to Trenton!

Some of the New Jersey educators who testified at the State Board of Ed meeting on March 5th

Yesterday’s post focused on written testimony and letters that people submitted to the State Board of Ed. Today’s quotes are based on notes I took while people were testifying. I tried to live Tweet, but Wi-Fi/cell service is lousy at the board offices—at least if you have AT&T.

The two board members who were assigned to hear testimony in our room were Edie Fulton and Jack Fornaro. Edie is a retired educator and past president of NJEA, so she knows first hand what educators are going through. Jack has a long career in both the public and private sectors. Both were very engaged. They did not sit stone-faced like many local board of ed members do; they asked questions and made comments. They nodded in agreement and understanding.

And as for the title of this blog post? Yes, indeed, that test has to be bagged and tagged. Unbelievable.

From a special education teacher:
Thank you for looking over the light reading our members have sent you (the binders full of letters)… Why are we using an assessment that’s been proven not to work (SGOs/SGPs)? … There aren’t allowable accommodations for brain-injured children to take standardized tests… If a child refuses to take the test, is that an accurate reflection of the student’s and teacher’s abilities? … If a child [vomits on a test], SOMEBODY has to bag that test and send it to the state.

From a parent advocate:
Why are the citizens of New Jersey so disrespected? (complaining about the board’s unresponsiveness to her inquiries) … Has the CCSS been internationally benchmarked? … The US leads the world in scientific papers published and Nobel Prizes won. Is our education system so bad?

On the massive amounts of test prep time and the technological failures experienced:
Precious learning time is being stolen from our students… Many technology problems with Chrome Books… Students can’t annotate text on them, yet that’s how we teach them to decode text… Is it fair to base my SGP on a test that’s not being administered under optimal conditions?
Deborah Smith Gregory from the NAACP talking about Cami Anderson’s recent presentation to the State BOE, and the conditions in Newark in general:
  • Why didn’t any of you ask her questions?
  • She did not mention English language learners or special needs students in her presentation.
  • You didn’t ask any questions about the TFA staff hired on top of advanced teachers in the ‘holding pool’.
  • Why aren’t violence issues addressed with such vigor as student achievement?
  • We demanded Cami not be renewed, but she was, with a $50,000 bonus for minor results in some schools and declining results in her ‘turn-around’ schools.
  • We demand the state investigate the money being spent in Newark.
  • Anderson is derelict and deleterious and she must go.
  • Anderson treats us like a colony of slaves!

From a classroom teacher who is also a local association president:
This whole process was started on a false assumption. New Jersey does not have failing schools… Micromanagement does not lead to better student achievement… Despite all this, things are not getting better in schools. Teachers are leaving because they can no longer do this to children… I am frequently asked:
  • Can they fire me if I’m not at where I should be in my lesson plans?
  • Can I still hatch chicks in the classroom?
  • Can I still paint with my students?
  • Can I still sing with my students?
Edie Fulton comments:
We don’t have the power to slow down PARCC. (Fornaro says it has to come from the state legislature.) Lesson plans are for subs. So much of what we (teachers) can do is spur of the moment.
 (If only that were still true.)

From a member of the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education:
There is no research to indicate that raising the minimum GPA requirement for entry into a teaching school from 2.5 to 3.0 is good.

What else is new?

Speaker continues:
If that goes through, are we breaking a contract with applicants? ... Teachers are leaving the profession, but they sure don’t want to enter it… Too much testing (Speaker mentioned that there is too much testing of our education majors. They now have to pass the PRAXIS 1 & 2. It’s becoming too expensive.)… If we are going to have higher standards, they should be higher for everyone (wink, wink to TFA)

On yet more testing:
One teacher spoke about her district administering the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test. This is the test that many Seattle teachers refused to administer because the students don’t take it seriously, it’s flawed, and it’s being used to evaluate teachers—a purpose for which it’s not intended. She also spoke about tech staff fixing tech glitches while her class was trying to take tests on Chrome books—including re-booting machines and fiddling with student login info!

At this point someone in the other room is testifying—yelling so loudly they are almost drowning out the speakers in our room. Turns out is was Deborah Jackson, a parent activist from Newark. Loud applause when she was done. Edie joked that our room has to do better when applauding for our speakers.

From a retired teacher and representative of the Alumni Association of South Side High School in Newark:
More than one person is calling for an investigation into Cami Anderson’s financial dealings in Newark… She is moving Newark Vocational School—which has a great culinary arts program—to another building so central office can take over that building. The new building has no facilities to accommodate the culinary arts program.
On Anderson’s One Newark Plan:
  • Where are the objectives for learning and moving our students forward?
  • Where is the long-range goal?
  • Where are the timeline and benchmarks?

More on technology:
We are assessing our students’ technology skills—not their knowledge of math and language arts!

A teacher on the new evaluation system:
I want to live in the 4’s (Note: under the new evaluation system, in which teachers are assessed on a 1-4 scale, we have been told to ‘live in the 3’s and vacation in the 4’s”.)… Chokes up as he asks how to put a number on a teacher who teaches kids to support aging Vietnam veterans?

A middle school special education teacher on testing her students:
I had to administer 138 tests in 4 days to 69 students. I felt like I couldn’t breathe… Their weeks are filled with tests… I surveyed them about how they felt about it all. They responded: unnecessary, scared, nervous, useless, stressed… Evaluations are subjective!

The next step in this process is to make sure our elected officials in Trenton hear these and other stories—your stories. They have the power to slow down the implementation of PARCC. They have the power to ensure that TEACHNJ is properly implemented. Parents and community members also need to learn more about what’s happening in their local schools. Most parents have no idea what’s coming next year with PARCC. They have no idea how difficult this new test is, nor do they know what happened in New York last year as test scores plummeted. Teachers in my district recently took sample PARCC tests and were shocked at how difficult they were.

Educators, if you have not already done so, please send your letter to the State Board of Education, PO Box 500, Trenton, NJ. 08608, and send me a copy, too. I’ll continue to compile and post them in batches. And don’t forget to contact your state representatives and demand they step in and stop this madness. Their contact info is here