Tag Archive: PARCC

Where is Our Apology Governor Christie??

It has been a banner week for the man-who-would-be-president here in New Jersey. This week Governor Christie raised the art of spin to new heights by suggesting the abysmal polling numbers in New Jersey reflect our desire he remain our Governor rather than leave us for higher office. He redefined poor judgement by delivering a profanity laced speech at the Legislative Correspondence evening. And he revealed his delusional tendencies by demanding an apology from the press corps for making him seem guilty for Bridgegate.

Well Governor Christie, I am writing to say that I demand an apology from you. The list of reasons is long, so I will highlight the obvious reasons that you owe me and the people of New Jersey a lot of apologies.

First, for lying, breaking your promise, and not honoring the contract you signed on state pension benefits. You ran for office on the promise you would not touch state pensions. Then you touched them with a contract that required the state make payments in exchange for increased contributions from the state workers. They paid.

More PARCC drivel from the Star Ledger

Cross-posted from my blog, Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Oh my! The NJ DOE shill Star Ledger editorial board is at it again. This weekend’s propaganda piece is about Education Commissioner Hespe’s proposed punishments for school districts that don’t hit the 95% participation rate on PARCC, the magical test that can determine if your third grader will get into the college of their choice (it just won’t help you pay for it).

The exam is like an MRI for education. It can tell us where kids are failing and help diagnose the problem, even when it’s hidden in an otherwise well-performing district. But because parents in more affluent communities have become increasingly suspicious of the state test itself – not unlike the overwrought side-eye given to childhood vaccines – what’s now at risk is funding for kids who are most vulnerable.

WHAT?! “An MRI for education”? Vaccine refusers? Government more concerned about students not taking a deeply flawed and harmful test than they are about children not getting life-saving vaccinations? Did somebody put Crazy in the water?! I’m sorry, please excuse me while I clean up the coffee I just spit out, and adjust the antenna on the tin foil hat Tom Moran accuses me of wearing. I’ve simply got to find the comedy channel source of his claim.

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Christie Threatens Parents for Opting Out of PARCC

promoted by Rosi

In his town hall in Cedar Grove today, Governor Christie was told by a parent that her daughter opted out of the PARCC test.  Christie responded by reminding the crowd that opting out comes with consequences, such as reduced services and higher taxes.  

“There’s nothing I can do to stop you,” said Christie, “But then don’t complain later that you’re not getting the money that you used to.”

So parents are pressured into allowing their children to take a test with dubious benefits, administered by a company that stalks their children via social media, out of fear that already struggling schools with will suffer further financial strain. The Governor should not use our children as pawns to further his political agenda, allowing parents to make decisions regarding their children’s education without this kind of threat.

Can God save the children from #PARCC?

The prolific Diane Ravitch picked this up as well, asking her national readers if they had anything to top it. Promoted by Rosi. Cross-posted with Marie Corfield

This is the worst PARCC story I’ve heard:

A friend of mine who lives in one of New Jersey’s many wealthy suburbs with excellent schools and parents who routinely hire tutors for their children as early as first grade was with her daughter at a children’s Stations of the Cross event at her church.

The 14 Stations of the Cross are specific locations or ‘stations’ throughout the nave of a church where small sculptures or paintings depict the Passion of Christ starting with his condemnation to death and ending with his body being placed in the tomb. To ‘do the stations’ one moves through them chronologically, praying or reflecting at each stop. Every Catholic religious instruction program teaches children how to do this during Lent.

In this particular program hands-on activities were set up at each station. Children could write notes about any number of things as they related to the stations: people they needed to forgive; people from whom they needed forgiveness; things for which they were sorry; things they wanted to do better; etc.  

PARCC Espionage – Let’s Do More!

In the Theater of the Absurd, what’s more absurd than the truth? Well, maybe the lawless chatter of 8-year-olds! Promoted by Rosi.

Tap Phones. Hack Emails. Bug The Little Bastards’ Bedrooms.

Earlier this week, veteran New Jersey education writer/editor Bob Braun broke the story that Pearson PLC, the developer of the new PARCC standardized test, has been monitoring students’ social media posts. As reported by NJ Spotlight:

In each case, Pearson confirmed that as part of standard security, it looks for students who may be divulging questions on Twitter or other public social media platforms.

Pearson and representatives of the PARCC consortium, as well as a spokesman for the state Department of Education, all defended the practice as necessary to maintain the integrity of the tests, and they said the monitoring is only of public sites and publicly available information.

A breach of PARCC, according to a statement from Pearson, includes any time someone shares information about a test outside of the classroom – from casual conversations to posts on social media.

Casual conversations? Sounds serious. But if loose lips on or offline have the potential to bring down a multibillion dollar test, why are they only monitoring public sites? Isn’t that like only watching for nuclear missiles lobbed at us from Mexico? Or only following Kim Kardashian on Snapchat?

Links between NJ education and Pearson are cozy indeed

Cross-posted with Bob Braun’s Ledger, which is daily reading for us here at Blue Jersey. Bob is Star-Ledger’s longtime education editor and columnist until his change of address two years ago. The Pearson monitoring, now national news, was the result of Bob’s reporting. – Promoted by Rosi

BLOGERLICHSONMR-300x300Bari Anhalt Erlichson, an assistant New Jersey education commissioner and chief testing officer who supervises PARCC testing throughout the state, has a personal connection of sorts to PARCC’s developer, the British publishing giant Pearson. Anhalt Erlichson is married to Andrew Erlichson, a vice president of a company named MongoDB. MongoDB (the name comes from humongous database) is a subcontractor to Pearson, helping to develop its national student database that provides the larger company with access to student records. Pearson later sold the center to Hobson’s which no longer deals with MongoDB.

[photo: Andrew Erlichson/LINKED-IN]

Is the PARCC Really Worth All This Bother?

Hot discussion going on in comments below Jazzman’s post this weekend (find that here). So, this is the follow up. – Rosi

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman
.

There’s a good discussion of PARCCgate based on my post from this weekend going on here at Blue Jersey. Bob Braun also expands on his original post, the one that started all this, with a new story from East Hanover. Turns out Pearson Education, the  company that makes the PARCC, is at work across the state, monitoring and reporting on student social media activity that they believe compromised the security of their test.

One thing that’s been left out of the discussion is just how big a change PARCC is for New Jersey High Schools. Prior to this year, students only had two state tests to take between their freshman and senior years: a Grade 9 biology exam, and the HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment), a Grade 11 general test of knowledge.  

When Pearson Monitors Students, They Prove the Inferiority of Their Product

Update Monday morning: I’m moving this up to the top again, because of the conversation going on below Jazzman’s excellent diary. – Rosi


Over the last day or so, several extraordinary events in rapid succession – veteran journalist, now blogger, Bob Braun posts a blockbuster story revealing PARCC test creator Pearson as creepers “monitoring” student social media, and  then directing NJ Dept. of Education to discipline students. Some hours after he posted – with the story getting heavy attention – there was a DoS attack on his site. Read on – then please consider sharing this story to your own contacts. – Rosi

Cross-posted at Jersey Jazzman.

UPDATE I: Watching Hills Regional High School has released a statement about the incident below.

Full disclosure: my K-8 district “feeds” into WHRHS, but I am not employed there as it is a separate district. I do not know who the student is but it is possible he is a former student.

UPDATE II: Looks like Bob’s post is back up for now, but it’s loading slowly — possibly because this is such a big story and he’s getting tons of traffic.

Also: here’s a report about what Pearson — again, a foreign corporation — expects from students regarding test security and social media. But I can’t find any equivalent information at the PARCC website or from NJDOE. Were parents and students expected to seek this out themselves?

By now, you may have heard that Bob Braun, veteran education journalist and a personal friend, published a blockbuster of a story yesterday: Pearson Education, Inc., creator of the PARCC standardized test, has been monitoring students’ social media use and, in at least one case, reported what they considered to be a violation of their test security.

Even worse: Bob’s site has been under a “denial of service” attack since shortly after he published the report. As of this morning, I’m still not able to access Bob’s story at his blog, but not to worry: Bob published his story on Facebook, where it appears to be immune from DOS attacks. Here’s an excerpt:

@NJSBA and PARCC: Going Along to Get Along?

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

The resistance to the PARCC — the new, standardized, computerized tests being administered in New Jersey beginning this month — continues to grow. Parents, teachers, and students are rightly concerned that these tests are taking too much time, are unnecessarily complex and confusing, disadvantage students with less access to technology, and narrow the curriculum.

In response to the grassroots movement to opt students out of the PARCC, a coalition has formed, consisting of various education stakeholder groups across the state. We Raise New Jersey includes the NJPTA, the Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, JerseyCAN, and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA).

I find this list to be very interesting. As my blogging bud Darcie Cimarusti points out, the national PTA has received millions of dollars in funding over the years from the Gates Foundation, the principal driver of the Common Core standards to which the PARCC is aligned. JerseyCan also gets funds from Gates, among other reformy groups.

But it’s the NJSBA that really caught my attention. This is a group that is supposed to serve school boards across the state. And yet the PARCC is clearly an unfunded mandate from the state on local school districts, draining resources away from operations and toward the administration of tests. This is especially onerous for local school districts who have had to upgrade their computer networks, yet received no additional funding from the state.

I would think the NJSBA would have lobbied against the PARCC; at least, they should have insisted that their member school boards receive funds from the state to help defray the costs of this mandate. Instead, they’re supporting a testing regime that will hurt the bottom lines of their member school boards’ budgets. Why are they going along with this?

Perhaps because the NJSBA itself is an unfunded mandate. Let’s go back to 1997, when the funding of the NJSBA was a source of contention:

For more than 80 years, state law has required every school district in the state to be a dues-paying member of the New Jersey School Boards Association. But that could change with the passage of a bill pending in the state legislature that proposes making membership in the statewide organization voluntary.

The suggested change has stirred some controversy over which setup would better serve the state’s 1.2 million public-school students. And some school board members are accusing lawmakers of trying to weaken the school boards association as payback for the organization’s vocal opposition earlier this year to new education funding laws.

The school boards association provision is only one of several dozen state mandates that would be abolished under the legislation, which is scheduled to face the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees today. The school boards association and its supporters are calling for legislators to amend the bill to keep association membership mandatory.

[…]

Districts pay an average of $11,700 in annual dues to fund the association’s $8.9 million budget. Association advocates say it would cost far more for districts to replicate the services their dues provide. Belluscio said association lobbying efforts have led to legislative changes that have saved school districts hundreds of millions of dollars.

But legislators who support the change say that lifting mandatory membership would force the association to be more efficient and more accountable to its constituents.

They also point to neighboring Pennsylvania, where 500 of the state’s 501 school districts voluntarily participate in the school boards association. In fact, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that mandate district membership in school boards associations.

If membership were made voluntary, Belluscio said, the school boards association would have to shift resources away from direct services to marketing itself.

But observers say that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For the Pennsylvania association, that has meant tailoring services to constituents.

“We’ve had virtually 100 percent membership over the years,” said spokesman Thomas Gentzel.” We like to think it’s because we provide a good array of services for our members and we have to be responsive to them.”

And then there’s the issue of the possible political motivation behind New Jersey’s proposed legislation.

“There has been some talk that this is kind of a payback move,” said Lindenwold school board member Jim Dougherty.” There is some discussion that the legislature and the governor are more than a little ticked off because of the position the association took in the funding situation.” [emphasis mine]

The NJSBA, it seems, has a history of walking on thin ice: piss off the wrong people, and its unusual source of mandatory funding could be put in jeopardy.

Fast forward to 2010, when the NJSBA once again found its mandatory dues questioned:

The publicly financed lobby for New Jersey’s school boards is spending millions to renovate its headquarters, even as local districts face massive state aid cuts, defeated budgets and construction proposals, and pending teacher layoffs.

The New Jersey School Boards Association collects more than $7 million a year from 588 member districts, which are legally required to join. It has socked away so much in dues and conference fees – $12.3 million, an amount greater than the group’s annual operating budget – that it is paying cash for the improvements.

It also paid $1.6 million in cash for 10 suburban acres where it had hoped to build an $18 million conference center. But the board abandoned that plan and put the land back on the market.

The most recent projected cost for the headquarter’s renovations was $6.3 million. But that figure could grow an additional $600,000 to $1 million, as the contractor decides whether to fix or replace the building’s walls of glass windows, officials said. In the meantime, its 70 employees – including five lobbyists paid to influence legislation – are working in leased office space. [emphasis mine]

Remember, this was back in 2010, when local school budgets were being decimated. In those lean times, the practices of NJSBA were not siting well with taxpayers or legislators:

The School Boards Association has come under some criticism in recent months, after The Record reported that its staff is enrolled in the state-run health and pension systems, even though they are not government employees. Workers at two other Trenton lobbying groups – the Association of Counties and the League of Municipalities – also are in the programs, as a result of 1950s legislation that declared they were acting in the public interest.  

In all, New Jerseyans will fund retirement payouts and lifetime health benefits for 107 non-government employees with combined pensionable salaries of $7 million. Right now, taxpayers are giving $1.3 million a year to 62 retirees of the groups. Gov. Chris Christie has said the benefits arrangement must end.

Given all this, the NJSBA found, once again, that its funding was under scrutiny:

Last year, New Jersey districts paid $7.6 million in dues – a 73 percent increase from the $4.4 million paid in 1999, according to the association’s financial reports. In 2009, it also had revenue of $2.7 million from conference fees, ad sales and services.

This year, dues will be 5 percent lower, said Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the association. Each district will receive a $2,000 credit to apply toward services. As a result of the law Corzine signed, the group also has replaced its annual three-day Atlantic City workshop with a shorter program in Central Jersey, which shortens the drive for most participants and eliminates the need to stay overnight at school board expense.  

Belluscio also pointed out that many districts get back their dues and then some because of their affiliation with the association’s energy cooperative.  

The give-backs to the districts pleased Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), who in December had proposed making association membership voluntary rather than compulsory. Last week, he said he is withdrawing the bill.

“It seems to me that the service they’re providing is very helpful, especially as we’re going through this transition between potential consolidations, upheavals in school districts and things of that nature,” Burzichelli said. “I applaud them for taking the steps they’re taking.”

See how it works? Don’t make waves, keep legislators happy… and nobody messes with your source of revenue. Win-win. Want another example?

Plug “NJSBA” and “SFRA” into Google. SFRA is the School Funding Reform Act, the state’s school aid formula, which has not been fully funded since Chris Christie came into office and is now $6 billion behind what the law dictates. You would think the group that represents local school boards would be apoplectic over the state’s repeated refusal to come up with the money its member districts are due.

But the best I could find from NJSBA in the last few years on school underfunding — a period where inequality between high and low-spending districts has increased rapidly — was this, from 2011:

“The New Jersey School Boards Association believes in fair and equitable distribution of state aid,” said Raymond R. Wiss, president of the New Jersey School Boards Association via release.  “In 2008, NJSBA supported the principles of the School Funding Reform Act, based on the act’s recognition that at-risk students attend schools in communities throughout New Jersey, not just in 31 communities.  The 2008 funding law also attempted to help those middle- and moderate-income communities, which suffer from high property tax burdens and still have been unable to fund their education programs at levels considered adequate by the state.

“Today’s court decision does not resolve these matters,” Wiss concluded.

That is some weak, lukewarm tea — probably because it’s several years old. In fact, some of NJSBA publications on the underfunding of SFRA read, to me, more like apologies for the Christie administration than indictments. And if they’ve had anything to say lately about the Bacon lawsuit, which seeks to remedy the underfunding of rural New Jersey school districts, I haven’t been able to find it.

Now, the NJSBA might make the case that lobbying for the full funding of SFRA isn’t part of their mandate. OK… then why dive into the debate about PARCC? Why actively lobby and dispense pro-PARCC propaganda with groups like the NJPTA and JerseyCAN? Why take a stand on this issue at all if NJSBA won’t even take a strong stand on getting their member districts funding the state itself says they are due under SFRA?

It looks like NJSBA has learned its lesson: if you want to get along, go along. They should embroider it on the pillows in their new offices…

xxxxx

ADDING: The New York State School Boards Association is a plaintiff against the state in a lawsuit for equitable funding. I guess the NJSBA is too busy redecorating to get involved in that fight around here…