Tag Archive: testing

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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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.  

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
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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…

ICYMI, Watch: The Other PARCC

I’ve been in a flu fog for days, so somehow forgot to post this when it came out a few days ago. It’s local, it’s Jersey, and whether you have kids in NJ public schools or not, it’s worth your watching. It’s where your money’s going, in many cases it’s why your neighbors are aggravated.

Also read this slammin’ letter published both in the essential source for coverage of what’s happening to Newark schools, Bob Braun’s Ledger, and also in Huffington Post. It is titled PARCC is 30 Days of Destruction, and it’s signed by 35 teachers at Newark’s Science Park High School, consistently rated one of the top public schools in NJ and the nation.

This is what’s going on:

The Other PARCC – Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

My #PARCC refusal letter

A Central NJ parent I know, has already written and sent a letter like this one. But she also asked her own children to write an essay to their principals explaining their own reasons why they didn’t want to participate in the tests. Her 7th-grader – Anna, 13 – concluded her essay with this: “PARCC is a waste of time for parents’ worried minds, students’ exhausted brains and teachers’ valuable time.” – Rosi

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield.


Readers, feel free to modify this letter to suit your needs.

February 25, 2015

Dear ——————,

We are writing to inform you that, as per our parental rights under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, we are refusing to allow our daughter, ————-, to sit for the PARCC PBA and EOY.  

The selling of #CCRAP

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

In a previous post I compared the selling of PARCC to an as-seen-on-TV gizmo that promises to make your life perfect for only “3 easy payments of $19.95.” But unlike the Veg-O-Matic, frustrated, white suburban moms, and parents of all colors in all locales, have quickly discovered that the cost of the PARCC and its conjoined twin, CCSS, is anything but easy. They’re standing up and fighting back in droves. And that doesn’t sit well with the folks who market and sell this hokum. So, as Anthony Cody recently reported, somebody created an easy-to-use “How to Talk About Testing” ad campaign guide complete with a cute little bunny rabbit graphic and a classroom-friendly layout and fonts. I guess they figure if they treat parents like second graders, all will be well.

I wonder how many “easy payments of $19.95” this cost? And who created it? And who it’s being sent to?

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