Blog: A Declaration of Peace, So We Can Have Some Progress

BY  |  Thursday, May 07, 2015 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (87)

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Baristanet-BlogsIn a few short weeks, impossibly, my youngest child will graduate from Montclair High School following the footsteps of his brother and sister and closing a seventeen year journey with the Montclair school district for our family.

My sister once said, jokingly, that she wouldn’t have any more children because she wouldn’t want to do PTA again. Many of us can appreciate that sentiment, but I cannot regret any of the hours I have spent reading with kindergarteners, cooking for class projects, hosting Toasts for Teachers, running book fairs or participating in the endless fundraisers to buy books for the library or send kids on field trips.

Perhaps most significant were several years I spent on the School Action Team at MHS, where I found I could be actively involved, make my voice heard and hear others’ voices. We effected real change. Partnering with Principle James Earle, a school administrator committed to working for excellence and to hearing about what works and what doesn’t, we were able to start slowly turning the tanker in a better direction, and I believe the students at MHS are getting a better deal than they did five or six years ago.

But oh, how far we still have to go. And oh, how unlikely it is that we will get there, unless the teachers, administrators and parents work together.

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Somehow in the last few years we have come to a strange place where we look at each other as adversaries rather than collaborators. Yet education is nothing if not a collaboration between adults to figure out what our children need to learn, and how to teach them.

I like Common Core. I hope that didn’t make some turn the page or click to the next article. I like the idea that we could reorient our approach, take another look at what we are delivering, and how. It seems absurd to me that an educational system based on one developed by the British Empire with a primary goal of delivering good clerks is one we want to hold on to. We have to think about the skills and knowledge needed in the 21st century and how best to present them to children.

I don’t like standardized tests. Never have. I hate that time of year, and relished those years my kids didn’t have to take them. But I also understand that it is impossible to make any kind of educational policy without them. It is impossible to understand systemic problems without data. They are, in our world, a necessary evil. So why don’t we work on making the tests good ones, and as infrequent as possible?

I love our teachers (I was one myself right out of college, and it was the hardest job I have ever had). But I will never categorically support all teachers. My children have had teachers of the “change your life” variety. They have had teachers who were on their way to becoming hugely successful. They have had teachers who needed lots of support and supplemental learning. And they have teachers who should not be in the profession.

We all know this is true. And those teachers who are changing lives on a daily basis need to know that we all understand the difference and support those who are or one day will be changing lives.

Isn’t that ultimately the goal of education? To offer a young man or woman something they cannot get anywhere else — knowledge. Book knowledge, yes, but also life knowledge, knowledge about how to learn.

On Monday night two Board of Education members, Shelly Lombard (former president of the Board) and Leslie Larson attended their last meeting. They each spoke eloquently to these issues and the discord we have in this town. Leslie said that “to resist efforts to create positive change or to pursue innovative new ways to change the often dire status quo – particularly when this resistance is motivated by fears that are not about the kids – is simply a terrible thing to do.” She is so right. If we are not constantly innovating and changing what we do we risk complacency, or what Shelly called “peace without progress.” As she said, “Are we willing to make hard decisions or are we more interested in appeasing adults than taking care of the children who go to school in our town?”

We cannot afford to remain where we have arrived after two years of acrimony and accusations. We must all put aside our poison pens and sarcastic remarks, and start listening, and responding to what is actually said. We have to put away slogans and pre-conceived ideas and recognize that everyone at the table in Montclair has a place here. My point of view is no more sacred or right than yours, so I’ll listen well.

How about a declaration of Peace, so we can have some Progress? Who will join me?
 

 

Editor’s Note: We thank all the commenters for their contributions to the post. Comments are now closed.

87 Comments

  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 07, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

    I imagine this might sound like a good idea, I mean who doesn’t like Peace? But a closer view only shows that this is what YOUR “Peace” looks like: “If we are not constantly innovating and changing what we do we risk complacency…” But I don’t subscribe to this idea.

    I don’t think we should be on a never-ending quest for the new and innovative. The failure and subsequent scandal of the iPads in the LA Unified School District is instructive (Here: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/28/rotten_to_the_core_how_an_apple_mega_deal_cost_los_angeles_classrooms_1_billion/)

    Give me a school board that supports great teachers (this does NOT mean rolling over during contract negotiations), is accountable to parents and respectful that most folks want the best, but may have a different idea of how to get there– and I’ll be happy. On the learnin’ side I’d be happy with ensuring that our kids have an equal opportunity for rigorous classes, that curriculum allows for teacher creativity, and we don’t fall for the “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

    A new iPad, app, test, or other “innovation” is not the answer.

    So rather than a declaration of “Peace,” how about simple respect of opinions that differ from yours? That’s where I’d start. (And though it took time, I think that’s what we got.)

  2. POSTED BY helenm  |  May 07, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

    Profwilliams: I don’t apologize for having opinions, and apparently mine differ from yours. That does not mean I don’t respect your opinions, just that I disagree. Actually, as I re-read your post, the only thing I disagree with is the idea that innovative ideas cannot produce the results you seek. Anyway, Isn’t teacher “creativity” another word for “innovation”? I think we can have some really constructive conversations about our schools resulting in positive improvements by listening respectfully and trying to understand each other rather than just reacting.

  3. POSTED BY justonce  |  May 07, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

    Thank you, helenm, for an honest, well-thought-out post. Crossing my fingers that more people can get on board with your “listen well” philosophy.

  4. POSTED BY oliver  |  May 07, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

    Wise, reasonable words, Helen–and thank you for giving so much time and energy as a devoted school volunteer!

  5. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 07, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

    I think the current favored term is reimagining…a relatively safe term because of its lack of baggage.

    A newly realigned, new majority BoE faces 5 key issues: revenues, superintendent, instruction quality, curriculum, and expansion. Aside from the newly reconstituted Board, there is low-hanging fruit in each of these areas. Low-hanging defined by ease & speed of implementation. Let’s see how we do on these this year and the start the harder ones next year.

  6. POSTED BY pelberg  |  May 07, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

    Thank you!

  7. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  May 07, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

    Great idea, but how can there be peace when two very poisonous groups in town only formed out of bitterness and loss? Yes, I am referring to MSW and MKF (who are most likey the same person).

  8. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 07, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

    @ helenm, No one is asking you to apologize for having “opinions.”

    And no, creativity is not innovation. One can be a very creative musician without being innovative (Beck is very creative, but not too innovative though he uses someone else’s innovation– sampling/hip-hop for example– in his creativity. Or a Jazz musician, certainly creative, but rarely innovating the form because the form requires one to stay within certain musical boundaries– or risk being considered “fusion.”)

    But I would never go as far as saying every creative person is innovative. Teachers are creative, but very few “innovate” the profession.

    Still, pardonmyfrench makes my point: how to have “peace” when folks disagree (I added, disagreeing on what “peace” is).

    Democracy in action- sides arguing for their point of view doesn’t scare me. It’s unfortunate when it degrades to acrimony, but arguing forcefully is what democracy is. Seeking a Kumbayah moment is not.

    (Though I believe what we may agree upon is that once the arguing is done, a decision must be made and all should move towards the shared goal….. Feels old fashioned I know.)

  9. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 07, 2015 @ 7:01 pm

    It seems that I could have written an article also seeking peace by explaining why I don’t like the Common Core or maintaining the status quo of test and punish reforms that this country has been instituting for well over a decade and explaining why standardized testing doesn’t work and contributes to the achievement gap.

    Peace at all costs is not peace. It’s people being subservient to those in power. As pinged out, we have two (probably the same people) [redacted] groups attacking people because their opinions differ. They do not seek an open dialogue and do not respond to alternative solutions.

    There is absolutely no evidence the Common Core is effective but plenty of evidence of its flaws and standardized testing has been used for a long enough time to know it does not lead to closing the achievement gap but does lead to plenty of negative outcomes.

    This country was based on people seeking a better life and religious freedom which then translated to freedom for all and not just for religion. This was a Republic, a place where people could argue different opinions without fear of hate groups attacking.

    If people see what they believe to harmful reforms should we really not speak up? Just sacrifice our children to keep the peace? My children will always know their parents fought to preserve their education and the education of all children. If that means I am perceived as someone who doesn’t want to keep the peace or worse, frankly I don’t care. It’s what my children think of me that matters.

  10. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 07, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

    Helen,

    I think nycmontclair is fairly representative of the MCAS values. If so, I think you have the answer to your question.

  11. POSTED BY tonyrod  |  May 07, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

    Professor what are you even saying? Sometimes you are contrarian to the point of incoherence. We do need creativity and innovation and they are, for all intensive purposes (as my daughter says) the same thing.

  12. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 07, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

    Sorry, Frank.

    But you cannot claim to support “peace” while simultaneously slagging folks who disagree with your point of view.

    The values of those who do not support Common Core are no more or less than those to support it.

    OR is “peace” only possible when I oblige you with my acquiescence?

  13. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 07, 2015 @ 9:50 pm

    I support peace? Where did you get that idea? Nobody has campaigned for peace since the early 70’s. It’s passé.

  14. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 07, 2015 @ 10:13 pm

    Sorry I won’t bow down to you n the name of Peace Frank. I know you once again mean to insult me, but as I stated, it is the opinion of my children that matters to me.

    As anyone who reads my comments know, I present plenty of research to back up my statements. I also provide links to articles that discuss alternatives to standardized testing. Has anyone ever provided research to back up their beiliefs in common core, Stqndardized testing or the VAM systems? no, they haven’t. As I have stated, I have spent two years researching these reforms. How am I qulaified? besides being a parent I do hold an MA in Advanced Social Research. Does that make me better than anyone who doesn’t hod an advanced degree of any kind? nope. It just means I was trained n research techniques, statistics, etc. so I understand how good studies should be constructed, research should be ingeroreted,’etc. I have yet to find anything to support these reforms and I have asked many times for reformers to provide such research and nothing.

    So, if I don’t have the values you praise Frank, good for me. I believe in stating my opinion, backing it up with facts and like most parents, fighting tooth and nail to protect my children.

    I think history has shown us enough times, thaat you can not sit by if you believe a wrong is being done. So, I exercise my rights to free speech and to direct my children’s education. And I supprt everyone’s right to do the same.

  15. POSTED BY helenm  |  May 07, 2015 @ 10:49 pm

    Pardonmyfrench, while some may consider those two groups to be formed out of bitterness, others see MCAS as bitter. That’s the point. As long as you make assumptions about intent rather than listening to content, we are stuck.

    Nycmontclair you also made my point – of course you could write the same piece with different opinions! We can disagree but still work together toward a common goal of finding the best approach for our kids. Common Core hasn’t had enough time to yield the results you are asking for (and how would we know if we have no means of collecting objective data…) but the status quo is unquestionably problematic. So why focus on degrading comments about individuals rather than constructive dialogue about methods, theory and practice? Time to focus on our similarities rather than our differences.

  16. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 07, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

    Helenm, I am tryng to focus on Methods, theory and practice. I do not want my children experimented on. There are over 500 devolopmenatl experts who denounced the Common Core for the younger kids. Jason Zimba is on video admitting the math standards are not good enough for select colleges . Pilot studies should have been conducted before rolling out an untested set of standards throughout the country.. and by the wayRne Duncan and President Obama send their children to schoos that do not use Standardized tests to evaluate teaches. The Obama’s children do not learn Common Core. Why is it good for my kids but not theirs?

    So, if you are suggesting to me that we can finally have the discussion about best practices and you have information to present to show me why we should confinue with the status quo of No Child Left Behind and the new implementation of the common core and VAM systems and you will look at the information I have not just denouncing these reforms but showing what I believe are some very exciting alternatives I would be very happy to have that dialogue. That is after all what I keep asking for.

  17. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  May 07, 2015 @ 11:41 pm

    Part of the problem is that neither the State Dept. of Education, nor do most school districts really engage in open debate about educational policies or practices. Here, if we had conducted such an intellectually honest debate first, giving all sides their due within the context of bringing in the last Superintendent, I think much the acrimony and disharmony would have been ameliorated within the democratic process. The process itself would have captured the heat – but with a path for resolution.

    Early on, the BOE really should have fully presented and vetted the POV of the Super being hired. They knew she came in with a clear philosophical direction that would have rocked the boat. That’s why they hired her. They didn’t really deal with that politically. P.M. had a known Christie Administration linkage and a Broad Academy tie-in coming into a Blue Wave town. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have been hired. It just means those who should have known better did not see the potential for political conflict resulting. However, even after she was hired, we still needed to debate her underlying reforms and testing roll-outs proposed – with that debate directly sponsored by the BOE.

    We needed all sides to have a real opportunity to present their positions. Then the system could have officially voted , or reinforced its policy direction in support of her reforms. This is democracy in action and yes, people here do play more respectfully after when they see this kind of open process (i.e. the $3 million dollar Senior Center vote a few years ago). Instead, the acrimony and disagreement was left unstructured, constantly heard but not unaddressed. It’s still being worked through here.

    If there had been some structured process for debate first..even if you still didn’t like the BOE’s voting result after — that’s democracy. People respect it more. Once a policy is voted on following debate, now the only thing to do is to pressure your elected officials to change school board members. But there is more respect still for “the process”. People are willing to work within this representative system when they feel the deck was not stacked from the start.

    Working this way, healthy opposition does not implode a community like it did here. We just blew it politically.

  18. POSTED BY johnqp  |  May 07, 2015 @ 11:50 pm

    What’s so funny about PARCC, Love and Understanding ??

  19. POSTED BY fmoccio  |  May 08, 2015 @ 3:47 am

    Ir was moving hearing about your family’s generational journey through the MPS. This is truly a testament to the useless and over used redundant standardized tests thrust on Montclair by a decision in Trenton where these same legislators would not even fund it, I guess that’s how important these new so-called dynamic changes mean to the public school system in New Jersey. I will join you Mr. Rubacky — in a collaboration with principals, teachers, unions, students, administrators — and hold hands against venture “vultures” who are preying on our children, and hard-earned taxpayer dollars. I will not join you for an “unjust Peace” in order to further feed the frenzy of greed sweeping the k-12 educational public school system; but I can’t imagine as an honest man, you wouldn’t possibly be calling for this. Congratulations on the success of generations of family members succeeding — despite the fact that teachers and active parents like yourself — ensured a solid and sound education without the frenzied fantasy of raising the educational bar through “standardized tests”. BTW, Thomas Alva Edison would agree with this if I have read you correctly.

  20. POSTED BY flynnie  |  May 08, 2015 @ 6:24 am

    nycmontclair’s point about CC being invalid and untried is a very important one. Looking historically, there has been a great deal of educational innovation over the past century. In general, new methods, techniques, etc. have derived from practice and theory, and then they have been piloted in small programs before spreading to the general public. They have had peer-reviewed studies conducted and articles written about them before they have spread.

    None of this has occurred for the CC. They did not grow out of pedagogical practice; they were created in corporate headquarters. They did not stem from the ideas of practicing educators. They were not piloted in any way; they were not peer-reviewed; they were not in use in any classroom anywhere before being published and accepted by government agencies, who then pushed them upon districts. Claims of their efficacy have come not from students, parents, and teachers but from a PR department.

    I agree with the Prof’s take on creativity and innovation. One of the main sticking points of the CC is that they do not allow for either; they determine what skills are to be taught and how they must be taught. Math problems must be solved their way, and essays must be written according to their format.

    Accepting this in the name of peace is not an option; it’s acquiescence.

  21. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  May 08, 2015 @ 7:16 am

    Helenm, I will have to disagree. How can people see MCAS. As bitter?. I see them as fighting against policy that is unfunded and untried. They hold public forums to inform families, some of which I have attended. The other two seemingly formed only to attack them, while claiming to be for kids first! How absurd when their only movements have been to attack people. First MCAS and the Spiller. That’s bitter.

  22. POSTED BY helenm  |  May 08, 2015 @ 7:35 am

    Reading the last couple of comments made me realize something. The two groups are not having the same discussion. The one side is talking big picture philosophy (Martin, nycmontclair) and the other side is focused on little picture – how do we run the schools better, given the current constraints and requirements.

    So here’s a new suggestion: let’s have two separate conversations. Let’s support the efforts of the Board of Ed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities and improve facilities, support teaching and teachers, and bring our schools into the 21st century in terms of technology and other resources. On a parallel track, let’s work on the big picture issues -here, but more effectively, at the levels where such decisions are made.

    The real problem with the debate is the sense of evil being attributed in both directions. Someone above said s/he didn’t want his/her children to be experimented upon. I think that is what we all feel. I feel my kids were failed by the structure and curriculum they were given – that’s why I want badly to see something else. I am not married to Common Core, and I hear your points about the pilots programs etc. these are interesting things to talk about.

    Peace, in my view, means calling a truce so we can get things done! Let’s work on the two tracks I mentioned above. I this is actually one of the best and most civil discussions I’ve seen in two years!

  23. POSTED BY helenm  |  May 08, 2015 @ 7:40 am

    Pardon, it’s all a matter of perspective. I don’t think anyone is bitter. Just terribly frustrated. Please don’t dwell on ascribing motivations to others. Read the comments from both sides. Everyone is attacking. I’m asking that we move forward in good faith. I know it’s hard to put aside but for heavens sake there are good points and good work being done everywhere.

  24. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  May 08, 2015 @ 7:42 am

    Pardon, but I meant to attach this recent article I stumbled upon. It describes the struggle in education right here in our own town. Peace is what you wish for, but what Montclair had during the tenure of it’s former Superintendent didn’t have the set up to be peaceful, now did it?
    http://www.alternet.org/education/long-reach-and-deep-pockets-corporate-education-reform

  25. POSTED BY Liz George  |  May 08, 2015 @ 7:44 am

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  26. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  May 08, 2015 @ 8:20 am

    Don’t mean to keep harping but for clarity of view – the failure here for me is not one of educational position taken by either side. It has been the lack of leadership to channel and focus this controversy. It’ been the failure to use our democratic process to develop an agreed policy position — and then move it ahead. So the difficulty is not that there are discrepant positions, still being debated here – but how the BOE politically did not address them.

    Why? I’ve had some current board members tell me they didn’t see themselves as “politicans” — that they only wanted to deal with operating issues and budgets. Wrong. Just because it’s an appointed position doesn’t mean sitting on the BOE is not “political”. One recently told me they no longer even read the Montclair Times because they felt the coverage was so biased. This mindset is at best naive, but also indicative for how the Board has been unable to own up to and address the public’s dissent. The solution to bad press and public push-back is to sell your own position better. Conversely, you read the signs and decide to change it. You do not put your head in the sand and just circle the wagons.

    So without some new “process” path developed (given a just changed board majority)..either in context of a new Supt. hire or immediately following – unless someone within steps up with a “leadership” position to work through our issues — I fear the BOE’s culture of political behavior with residents may still continue down the wrong path.

    It’s behavioral, structural and at this point culturally systemic. That’s what needs to change.

  27. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 08, 2015 @ 8:31 am

    Helenm, yes I do understand your point about supporting the BOE and teachers in dealing with the current situation, etc.

    My point has always been that change at a national level begins at a local level. That protesting that what we don’t believe in is necessary to effect change. So to go before the BOE to request they review the information and data on the common core and testing and joining with other towns who have renounced unfunded mandates, etc. in order to send a message to the State.

    That we need to look carefully and thoughtfully at out tech needs and who the vendors are we are purchasing from.

    That we look thoughtfully at our curriculum. We purchased envision math from Pearson for instance. Pearson, as I pointed out in other threads is under Federal investigation, has acknowledged to many test mistakes and is being derided for their homework errors. The homework my son comes home with often has poorly worded or ambiguous questions. I think we can do better than this.

    So, I would like to work on a local level to effect change at a national level while also improving our schools and being thoughtful about spending, tech upgrades and improving curriculum.

  28. POSTED BY fishoutofvodka  |  May 08, 2015 @ 8:37 am

    All right, helenm, I’m listening.

    I’ve heard nycmontclair explain in detail why she doesn’t like the Common Core or the PARCC. I’ve seen her be specific and back her opinion with data. I have a lot of respect for what she presents.

    Are you willing to tell me what it is about Common Core that you do like? And not just that it’s innovative (because, like the prof, I don’t find innovation for innovation’s sake very compelling), but specific examples of why you think this particular innovation is a good one. I will listen.

    If you think the PARCC isn’t great and doesn’t collect the objective date we need to informed educational policies (which you seem to indicate in your article–but maybe I’m misunderstanding you), are you willing to stand with–or at least not oppose–the parents who want to opt their kids out of the test? Or do you think their children should take the test anyway?

  29. POSTED BY helenm  |  May 08, 2015 @ 8:58 am

    Ok fish. What I have read and liked about Common Core has to do with developing conceptual tools. The problem, I think we all probably agree, is in the implementation and curricular development. I need more time than I have at the moment…

  30. POSTED BY fishoutofvodka  |  May 08, 2015 @ 9:17 am

    Totally understand about needing more time, helenm. I’ll still be listening when you get a chance to answer more fully.

  31. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 08, 2015 @ 10:02 am

    Jeez, profwilliams & fmoccio, maybe you need to clarify what you each mean by the term “peace” because on the face of it, I’m not a supporter of “peace”. If you are up to it, you can also say what Ms Lombard meant by “peace without progress” and how it aligns with your views..

  32. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  May 08, 2015 @ 11:59 am

    Martin, you’ve summed up the essential issues at the heart of all of this. Very well said.

    “The solution to bad press and public push-back is to sell your own position better” – So true, and if it doesn’t sell, then adapt, and modify your position. Certainly don’t harden your position, become secretive and closed off, and don’t hire PR people to separate you even further from the people you serve. As you say, the unanswered questions fester.

    “I fear the BOE’s culture of political behavior with residents may still continue down the wrong path.” – It likely will continue in some form unless and until there is an elected board, as there is no pressure on appointed board members to be responsive to the public. Running for a board position requires talking to people, listening to people, and putting your views out into the light of day for scrutiny. If you lack those abilities, then you may well not get elected.

  33. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 08, 2015 @ 12:06 pm

    @Frank, Huh?

    Define “Peace”? I didn’t bring it up, nor would I in the context of common core (I think using the term for this, minimizes its impact). Because really, PEACE?

    How does this town discussion and the writer’s want for “Peace” square with, say the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978? Ah, not much.

    Hell, even Rodney King didn’t ask or “peace,” he just wondered, “can’t we all just get along?”

    So, sorry. I will not be defining peace as it relates to the Common Core or any of this conversation regarding the Common Core.

    That’s a childish and silly understanding of a powerful word and theory. As well as moving directly against the cherished ideal of democracy and its need for vigorous debate.

  34. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  May 08, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

    Great add on State Street Pete. You got it. I hope others do too.

    My only divergence is that those in appointed BOE spots can and should also act like they are “representatives”…which as you say “requires talking to people, listening to people, and putting your views out into the light of day for scrutiny.”

    It doesn’t necessarily have to come from being elected if they would just see their roles in this light. Unfortunately, too many sitting over the last fifteen years I’ve watched have not…especially the willingness to express and debate views openly and be willing to engage on that policy level.

    Consequently, like you..I’ve come to support an elected board (reluctantly)..still hoping to see a ‘cultural’ shift under our current system.

  35. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 08, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    POSTED BY profwilliams | MAY 07, 2015 @ 8:00 PM
    Sorry, Frank.
    But you cannot claim to support “peace” while simultaneously slagging folks who disagree with your point of view.

    Neither did I. Never mind.

  36. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 08, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

    I don’t know education, but I do know a little about change management and process.

    We focus on the top down solutions – and rejecting them mostly – before we have even buy-in to our perceived or actually deficiencies. In short, we don’t agree on the problems. Example of a few of those problems include advancing students that are not adequately prepared for the next grade. Not supporting teacher training/support which implies that the instructional quality needs to be better. Being terribly short-sighted and uncoordinated when it comes to addressing the student cohorts holistically from K-12. A fundamental disconnect between what our public schools should be providing and what they are, in fact, providing. And the big one – we don’t have a consistent infrastructure and culture for managing continuous improvement….and partly why we lack good leadership. Leaders need support, too. Maybe more so. Especially, part-time ones. Great organizations thrive and wither on their culture of continuous improvement.

    On a State level, I don’t support PARCC (fatally flawed) nor Common Core (derivative). I think tenure is an outdated concept. NJ is a dyed-in-the wool Home Rule state. To me, the quality of the public good of education, in our Home Rule culture, should be driven locally with State mandates kept to a minimum and funded at least 50%. But, I think our priorities should be on what we can control – and hold ourselves accountable to.

    On the local level, I think, if using a level playing field, charter schools here would perform at the same level as our public schools and are not going to meaningfully address our issues. I think better teacher evaluations are not a near-term need. I don’t know enough about the issue of paying for advanced degrees. I don’t automatically buy into class size being the root cause of schools in ability to deliver a quality education. I don’t like individual PTAs funding their respective schools. I question the degree of latitude given our individual schools in managing the operational side and the curriculum side of their education deliverables. I believe in Pre-K, but we have to increase our revenues. I think we will throw in an increasingly larger % of taxpayer money at our schools before we know how to best allocate it. I think we need to explore a level of standing working groups to do the heavy lifting of policy screening to serve the BOE, and as a matter of policy, with unconditional support of the district’s management. Further, these groups should be a mix of being aligned by issue/function as well as some aligned around grade level groupings.

    Pursuing greatness is rarified air and no organization can begin to realize progress to this end without objective measures of results. Let’s start by measuring what makes us good and what doesn’t.

  37. POSTED BY dherron  |  May 08, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

    Peace and progress, an interesting position to advance.

    But we must first examine and understand how we got here. We will never fully have peace or progress as long as some people are kept out of the process, for whatever reason.

    Honesty must be the order of the day, and we are not there yet.

    We must first be Honest. PM was never fully vetted, yet BOE members have insisted, continuously, that she had been fully vetted. Untrue. This deception led people to conduct their own vetting. That vetting uncovered some rather disturbing information, which the BOE was aware. This selective vetting and failure to disclose information has resulted in protracted discord.

    There was never any real discussion about opposing viewpoints about the hiring process, and the resulting political conflict may be a lasting legacy for Montclair. Our BOE failed to show any leadership, as the communities’ pot was boiling over, and residents becoming outraged about the lack of transparency in so many of PM and the board’s actions, including the hiring of PM. Did the BOE not see the storm coming their way, or did they simply decide to ignore it.
    The BOE needs to take ownership of its process, or lack of a open process, and its resulting turmoil that it has created.

    Peace cannot be achieved as long as the opinions of some are valued, while others, who are assumed to be in disagreement, are kept out of the discussion and process.

    We must be honest; we have not seen a BOE demonstrate support for great teachers, or a BOE that is accountable and respectful of parents’ views- all parents’ views.

    Ensuring that all kids have an equal opportunity to rigorous classes has been surely lacking in Montclair, for quite some time.

    One clear example; who is or is not benefiting from rigorous classes at MHS. One only has to review the racial disparity of high honors and AP classes at MHS, as well as the grossly segregated Small Learning Communities.

    Our BOE has been reluctant to address the racial disparity and segregated Small Learning Communities, and PM failed to reply to a 9 month Fed investigation with the US Dept of Ed, (Office of Civil Rights), seeking answers and documents concerning such issues. Such investigations rarely go away, and why would PM and the BOE choose not to cooperate with such an investigation?

    Peace and progress, yep it’s going to take some new thinking and a change of behavior by our BOE, and they must understand, many residents are unhappy.

  38. POSTED BY qby33  |  May 08, 2015 @ 4:21 pm

    So happy to see people on here talking about the roles of the BOE. For a long time they have been acting like the public is nothing but a nuisance! I suppose that’s because they aren’t elected, but I can’t fully buy that. Especially since SOME members clearly care what the public has to say. At one meeting a speaker had to point out to our two outgoing members that is is extremely rude for the two of them to be chatting while people are coming up to the mic with very serious concerns. I’ll add that one of the two also repeatedly told the public that these meetings were for the board to get work done. She made the public feel as anything they had to say was no big deal. If a person comes to that mic and sits through those incredibly long meetings, I would bet they feel like what they had to say was important. But a few up there make it quite obvious that they don’t. That has been one of the biggest problems of the past couple of years. Then when they leave they act as if the public was rude to them, when in fact repeatedly they were the ones who were rude. For this reason, I too support an elected BOE!

  39. POSTED BY tonyrod  |  May 08, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

    It’s time, we really do need an elected board. Thank you for this column Helen, you make great points and truly agree that the only way we’re going to make progress is if we can sit and talk like adults about the future of Montclair. We’ve seen this insane negativity for too long. And pay no mind to the Professor, if you came in tomorrow and said ice cream tastes good he would find a reason to argue.

  40. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 09, 2015 @ 8:24 am

    Ice cream is dee-lish-us!!!

    And we do need an elected Board, some of us here have been advocating for this for years.

    Enjoy the Day!

    (See, in a democracy, it’s perfectly fine to disagree vehemently, yet still be friendly, and sometimes friends. Let’s not forget that.)

  41. POSTED BY paolo  |  May 09, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

    I wonder if there would be general agreement with the statement “Each of Montclair’s children receives a good education”?

    In spite of a 10% to 15% drop out ratio
    And a small % who do not read at grade level
    And “bad teachers” who are well known in the system
    And a relatively small % who take advanced placement classes
    And a smaller % who score 3 or higher on advanced placement tests

    Maybe the first thing to do is assure that basic needs are being met for all kids.

  42. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  May 09, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

    I recall a similar call for “peace” in 1968:
    “The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount what divides us, and cement what unites us.

    To lower our voices would be a simple thing.

    In these difficult years, [we have] suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

    We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

    The speaker: Richard Milhous Nixon. His version of peace looked a little different than his words too.

  43. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  May 09, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

    Greetings,

    Newcomer here, doing business under given name. Even though my wife and I are “child-free, I’ve lurked here because 1) I’m interested in education issues and 2) the issues are really important(you know, “children are our future.”)

    The dialogue here is impressive; smart, well-informed (especially at the local level), well written, and mostly civil, but it does sometimes get a bit circle-jerky; round-and-round with opinions flying and very few facts offered to inform or anchor the conversation.

    That’s where I come in. I casually follow the education research by economists (my trade) so I will try to contribute findings from that literature when I comment. The economist perspective is only one, of course, so when other feel compelled, they can add findings from education researchers, etc. Viola, circle jerk gets broken!

    My first offering will be very, very provocative; I will challenge an esteemed poster here, and I will say a kind word about charter schools

    In his comment above, Frank Rubacky said:

    “On the local level, I think, if using a level playing field, charter schools here would perform at the same level as our public schools and are not going to meaningfully address our issues.”

    Hmmm. My understanding is that AGAP is one of the biggest problems in Montclair, and there are several studies by economists showing that charters schools are actually most effective with minority and low income students.

    Here is line from abstract from one such study published in 2013:
    “The fact that urban charters are most effective for poor nonwhites and low-baseline achievers contributes to, but does not fully explain, these differences.” The study is Josh Angrist, MIT economist, and co-authors and is publihed in very respected (peer reviewed) economics journal.
    URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/app.5.4.1.. A.

    I found the paper plausible; thee authors did a “natural” experiment using the MA charter lottery where they compare various outcomes of “identical” applicants that got into charter schools to those that didn’t. The former fared better.

    Take a look and see if you buy it. Even if you don’t buy that one, there are others studies showing charters actually help most for low income minority students. So what do you think: should Montclair experiment with charter school, for five years say, to see if it helps with AGAP?

    Sorry for long comment. Any future comments will be regulation length.

  44. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 09, 2015 @ 10:53 pm

    Welcome don morgan!

    You will get some predicatable blowback from other posters…and you can probably predict who/what/when. Bu, you will likely see a couple of new ones because you are using SEII information. As Ms Fine is an leading voice in methodology, I suspect you -even as a casual observer – will be able to figure out how this will play out.

    As to the study, I think it is worthless as it doesn’t remotely apply to a Montclair scenario. I think you know that and cherry-picked some outcomes to make a point. You were right to challenge my statement. I made no effort to support my belief.

    I did expect some commentary on the outside funding practices. What do you think about that as an economist?

    There is only one thing more anonymous in Montclair than our “all about the kids” grassroots organizations and that would be advocates of charter schools in Montclair. You seem to be the first to come out for it, but not for economic reasons?

  45. POSTED BY flynnie  |  May 09, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

    Hello, donmorgan. Here’s the rest of the abstract you cite, as you only include one sentence:

    “Lottery estimates suggest Massachusetts’ urban charter schools boost achievement well beyond that of traditional urban public schools students, while nonurban charters reduce achievement from a higher baseline. The fact that urban charters are most effective for poor nonwhites and low-baseline achievers contributes to, but does not fully explain, these differences. We therefore link school-level charter impacts to school inputs and practices. The relative efficacy of urban lottery sample charters is accounted for by these schools’ embrace of the No Excuses approach to urban education. In our Massachusetts sample, Non-No-Excuses urban charters are no more effective than nonurban charters.”

    Interesting. It seems that “nonurban charters reduce achievement.” Reduce. Not good. Maybe we should not try one here. Additionally, the urban charters that show “relative efficacy” rely on the “No Excuses approach,” which means they remove or expel students who do not perform well on standardized tests and/or who present behavior problems. The Northstar Academy in Newark, for instance, follows this model. Here is a link to the jersey jazzman’s article about Northstar and attrition. As he clearly opposes charters, feel free to ignore the opinion, but please pay close attention to the data represented on the charts and graphs. It is quite evident that they only reduce the achievement gap for some students. If MPS were to expel all students who do not do well on standardized tests, then we, too, would have great statistics. I do not believe that expulsion is the answer to closing the achievement gap.

    http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2013/08/charters-that-kick-out-kids-have.html

  46. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 10, 2015 @ 8:32 am

    Hello don morgan!

    Comparing “urban” schools to Montclair is wrong. While we sometimes fall into this category, urban is usually a euphemism for Black. And those “urban” schools are usually majority Black Montclair is not. According to the US 2013 Census found at facfinder.census.gov, we are 25% Black). And “urban” neighborhoods are also poor. Montclair is not. According to the same source, we have a medium household income of 95K.

    Those “urban” schools are a bad comparison to us. Just like comparing Glen Ridge or another majority White district to Montclair, because of their lack (almost non-existence) of Black folks- Glen Ridge/Cedar Grove/Verona are <3% Black, any comparison on any level cannot stand because race plays such a critical role in education.

    Moreover, because of our Magnet system, students are not pushed through under achieving schools as they sometimes are in “urban” schools. As I often say here, our grads go to Harvard, West Point, Essex Community and "Work." This is our diversity.

    This is why we are special. And why many of us, including me, do not see a need for a charter school. Because if you don't like your elementary school, you have 5 others to choose, if you don't like your middle school, you have 2 others, and HS. Well, we only have one, but it has 6 small learning communities.

    Charters may be a good idea in a poor, urban or rural, homogeneous environment, but that ain't us.

  47. POSTED BY paolo  |  May 10, 2015 @ 9:55 am

    Charters may be a good idea in a poor, urban or rural, homogeneous environment, but that ain’t us.

    ============

    are you offering “us” on behalf of all Montclair families, prof? One size may not fit all.

    Plenty of school choice exists in Montclair, if you have the bucks.
    Montclair families have a Newark Academy, Montclair Kimberly, Seton Hall, Lacordaire etc choice open to them. Why not give a choice to other families who don’t have that option?

    If 10% or more of Montclair’s children fail to complete school, that suggests a problem needs to be resolved.

  48. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 10, 2015 @ 10:26 am

    Ah paolo, you just made my point.

  49. POSTED BY lennybrave  |  May 10, 2015 @ 11:09 am

    Welcome Don Morgan!

    You will get some predicatable blowback from other posters – mostly Frank himself. Don’t mind him; he’s harmless. His posts try to be clever…

    I have read some of Dr. Fine’s works, and she her views on education are worth reading. I searched for Rubacky’s name on Amazon to see if his books on education might provide a different perspective. I typed “Rubacky” and got “Full Body Massage” by Mimi Rogers. I ordered the book.

  50. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 10, 2015 @ 11:46 am

    Oh, and paolo,

    “Bucks” are not needed when you fill out your school choice form here in Montclair.

    It’s FREE.

    You do know that, right?

  51. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  May 10, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

    A hearty welcome Don Martin.
    Yes, by all means we should try a Charter in Montclair. Since Charters tent to take the most needy, what a huge help that would be! Oh wait, they really don’t take the most needy I see now as I read through the data provided by flynnie. So what a Charter really might do is take funds AWAY from the most needy to serve those students the Charter will accept. Hmmmm…no thanks. Any other suggestions?

  52. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  May 10, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

    Good catch on abstract, Flynnie. I should have included that. I omitted because I thought AGAP was essentially an “urban” issue, as in minority and lower income students testing below their nonminority, higher income counterparts. (Please take note, profwilliams; AGAP is not about the Montclair families earning 95K, and I know Montclair is not the Bronx.

    As I said, there are other studies by economists that find that charters seem may be most effective for minority, lower income kids. Here is first paragraph of Angrist paper

    “A growing body of evidence suggests that urban charter schools have the potential to generate impressive achievement gains, especially for minority students living in high-poverty areas. In a series of studies using admissions lotteries to identify causal effects, we looked at the impact of charter attendance in Boston and at a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school in Lynn, Massachusetts (Abdulkadiro et al. 2009, 2011; Angrist et al. 2010, 2012). Boston and Lynn charter middle schools
    increase student achievement by about 0.4 standard deviations (σ) per year in math and about 0.2σ per year in English Language Arts (ELA). Among high school students,attendance at a Boston charter school increases student achievement by about 0.3σ per year in math and 0.2σ per year in ELA. Lottery studies of charter schools in the Harlem Children’s Zone (Dobbie and Fryer 2011a) and a Washington, DC charter boarding school (Curto and Fryer 2011) find similarly large gains. Studies
    of Chicago and New York charter schools also report positive effects (Hoxby and Rockoff 2004; Hoxby, Murarka, and Kang 2009; Dobbie and Fryer 2011b).

    My impression of econ. lit. on charter schools (as I said, I only follow this casually) is that charters do seem to improve outcomes for minority, lower income students, if not all students. First sentence in intro. suggests economists agree (miraculously!) on that and are now trying to decipher that finding, hence deep drill into “No excuses.” Do you agree with that assessment of econ. lit. Flynnie?

    You also noted that “If MPS were to expel all students who do not do well on standardized tests, then we, too, would have great statistics.” That might be true, but not through “cherry picking” channel you allude to. Evidence from a recent economics study (I will link in later post) finds that expelling disruptive (and not in the good way) students benefits the other, well-behaved students. But before getting into how a charter might, might help with AGAP, would rather see if there is consensus, based on econ. lit. that they might. If we wade into how they might or might now help, before agreeing on whether they might help, it’s circle jerk time.

    Frank, by “outside funding practices” do you mean hedge funds/corps. funding charters? I don’t really have a view on that, though I do find opposition a bit mystifying. You ended with question: “You seem to be the first to come out for it (charter schools), but not for economic reasons?” Two things: 1) I didn’t actually “come out” for charters; I asked a question to provoke conversation, and 2) if you are asking if I would benefit financially from charter schools, the answer is YES; my hedge fund is long charters and short public schools. Mwaaaaaaaaaa! I jest, I jest. I work for a quasi-government organization and have no vested interest whatsoever in charter schools.

    Thanks for replies. This is interesting so far.

  53. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 10, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

    No. What is the economic argument for a charter school in Montclair?

  54. POSTED BY fishoutofvodka  |  May 10, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

    I am not, as many might guess, completely anti-charter school. I think they are useful in specific situations–but with that said, I do question some aspects of how charter schools are being labeled “more effective” in the paper you cite, DonMorgan.

    What is meant by “effectiveness” here? Usually this just refers to test scores–and as most sociologists can tell the economists, test scores are a poor substitute for actual educational attainment. They don’t have a great deal of reliability or validity, meaning they haven’t been proven to predict which students will actually succeed (in employment, future education, etc.) and which ones won’t.

    You also seem to dismiss the expulsion of disruptive students at charter schools as problematic. But it is hugely problematic and contributes greatly to the achievement gap. For example, an African-American male student who enrolls in the Northstar School in Newark (which engages in “No Excuses”) has only a 40% chance of graduating from it. This means the school fails to serve 60% of its African American male population. That’s a pretty large failure. I don’t have the numbers for how Montclair Public Schools serves its African American male population, but I’m assuming it’s better than this.

    You might take a look at this: http://www.bluejersey.com/diary/25582/where-will-all-the-boys-go

  55. POSTED BY pardonmyfrench  |  May 10, 2015 @ 4:25 pm

    Well, because Don uses his real name here, it was easy to Google his name with Montclair and find our where his financial interests are.
    I really wish the conversation would turn around to focus on what could help our kids in Montclair right NOW. My kids have had to live though the last three years of assessments,test and narrowing of curriculum. Basically they are screwed at this point. Those of you with younger kids I would say hurry up and get in on the conversation.

  56. POSTED BY paolo  |  May 10, 2015 @ 5:14 pm

    Prof, are you endorsing new charter school choices for all of Montclair, or just reminding me that public schools are “free”?

    Why shouldn’t all Montclair parents have the opportunity to select the best school for their kids. Not just rich families/kids?

  57. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 10, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

    Yes, pardonmyfrench. Many care a lot about the district when their kids get out of kindergarten, then, as you suggest, they stop and say it is the next cohort’s problem. That would be the public good in a nutshell.

  58. POSTED BY starburst  |  May 10, 2015 @ 6:38 pm

    A very interesting statement out from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights taking anti-testers to task. Their group includes heavy hitters like NAACP, LULAC, and La Raza.

    “For the civil rights community, data provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law…But the anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation, like in Colorado and New York, would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring. When parents ‘opt out’ of tests—even when out of protest for legitimate concerns—they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child.”

    http://www.civilrights.org/press/2015/anti-testing-efforts.html

  59. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  May 10, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

    Fishoutofvodka: “What is meant by “effectiveness” here? Usually this just refers to test scores…They don’t have a great deal of reliability or validity, meaning they haven’t been proven to predict which students will actually succeed (in employment, future education, etc.) and which ones won’t””

    Wow. First, if test scores are meaningless, why worry about AGAP? Isn’t it a gap in test scores?

    Second, charter school studies look mostly at test scores, I believe, but they also look at attendance (as mentioned in abstract above) and graduation. I believe charters have been found to improve all three outcomes,at least for “urban” students.

    Third, test scores predict nothing important? I refer you to famous (covered in front page of NYT) study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty and co-authors. From the abstract: “Students assigned to high-VA (value added, as measured by test scores) teachers are more likely to attend college, attend higher- ranked colleges, earn higher salaries, live in higher SES neighborhoods, and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to have children as teenagers.” http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.pdf
    That study was not about charters, but it convincingly shows that improvement in test scores predict better real outcomes.

    Frank: I never suggested there was an economic argument for charter school. If you want one, how about that a charter experiment might, just might be cheaper way to reduce AGAP than compared to say, immersive, individual tutoring. My impression is that Montclair taxpayers have spent a lot trying to narrow AGAP, but mostly to no avail. It’s curious to me that approach that seems to help with AGAP–charter school–has never been tried here, even as experiment. I figured progressives would be all for experiments.

    Pardon outed me; I don’t like high taxes. Here is letter he/she mentioned
    http://www.northjersey.com/opinion/opinion-letters-to-the-editor/the-montclair-times-letter-by-don-morgan-do-the-right-thing-1.1327198

  60. POSTED BY fishoutofvodka  |  May 10, 2015 @ 9:06 pm

    The “gap” actually does refer to success later in life–such as college attendance, job prospects, earnings, happiness, etc, donmorgan. At least when it’s spoken about in useful terms.

    As far as reliability and validity go, it is well-documented that many standardized tests do not do a good job predicting future success for students (high school grades are actually a better predictor). This has become a grave concern for the makers of the SAT, who admit that their test doesn’t accurately predict college success so much as it estimates parental wealth.

    Makers of many of these current “estimators” of current achievement (such as the PARCC and the Smarter Balance Test) can’t even say what they are measuring, because they haven’t studied their tests’ reliability and validity–nor do they allow anyone else to (by claiming their test questions are proprietary.) Using these tests as estimators of success is naive.

    And none of this addresses the fact that certain underserved subsets of students are expelled or withdrawn from charter schools completely–and the failure of these charter schools to educate these children is never held against them. Public schools don’t have that luxury, and may come off looking worse when they are actually doing a better job.

  61. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 10, 2015 @ 9:23 pm

    don morgan,

    Well, to use your terminology, I think we just did a circle-jerky. We’re back to a charter school solution looking for a problem.

    I understand you are an economist. So, given the issues with measuring economic public good and setting valuations, I do appreciate your careful phrasing above. Technically, the answer is yes…it might be cheaper. Technically, it might be also cost us $81,350 per student to reduce the AGAP. Technically, we could probably make the connection to rising private special ed costs due to the rain in Spain falling on us and not mainly on the Plains.

  62. POSTED BY kjaxs  |  May 11, 2015 @ 10:31 am

    That civil rights statement is especially relevant here in Montclair where we spend so much time and energy working on the achievement gap. Getting an honest accounting of where our schools and students stand is an important piece of the puzzle.

  63. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  May 11, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

    Back in January there was a very similar statement from some of these same groups asking to keep annual standardized testing in the ESEA / NCLB. At that time 28 groups signed on to the letter. Now there are only 12. More than half did not sign on again just four months later.

    This is who dropped out…

    American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

    Children’s Defense Fund
    NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
    United Negro College Fund
    Easter Seals
    The Education Trust
    Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
    Institute for Educational Leadership
    Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
    National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
    National Women’s Law Center
    Partners for Each and Every Child
    Teach Plus
    National Center for Learning Disabilities
    National Congress of American Indians
    National Indian Education Association

    https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/12-civil-rights-groups-oppose-opting-out-it-could-have-been-28/

    I would think that, unless they amend the wording regarding standardized testing, this will be the last such statement from this group, as the number of groups willing to sign on will continue to shrink.

  64. POSTED BY maureenedelson  |  May 11, 2015 @ 2:13 pm

    Helen M., congratulations to you & your family, and thank you for starting this discussion. Dan Morgan and others in the thread bring systems perspectives to many of the community’s education concerns. Taking the concept a bit further, perhaps we could benefit from a supply chain type of analysis: when the tax dollars go into our local public education system, and the Montclair populace in general expects a commensurate distribution of educated citizens (which should be defined) twelve years later, how can the supply chain be improved? For example, if good phonics instruction is missing in the early grades, many kids won’t have the tools to decipher written language with fluency. (I am hoping that Jonathan Simon’s AGAP report will take this approach, if, in fact, there is an achievement gap, instead of merely calling for more staff, money, charity, or band-aids such at private tutoring.) Then, the improvement factors would have to be put into play. In my personal experience, while we know ‘how’ to educate children (we did send a Montclair High graduate to the moon, as just one example), competing parties for money/power/influence have impacted the education equation. It’s hard for some to resist the monetization of children. Separately, on the subject of charters (and other schools) in Newark serving or failing children, in my experience, there is not one story line. For about five years, I had the privilege of working intensely with Newark families and children throughout that city. Many of my volunteers — even those deeply involved in Newark institutions — were shocked at was or was not happening in education. At the end of the day, no matter the city or town, it is a parent’s/family’s primary responsibility make sure its children are educated to be functional adults. A school system is simply one of the parents’ assignees. Good luck to our Montclair 18-year-olds this season, as they embark onto the adult stage!

  65. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 11, 2015 @ 4:19 pm

    paolo,

    I’ll be as clear as I can: there is NO need for Charter schools in Montclair because we already have choice.

    Regardless of income, you have 5 elementary, and 3 middle schools to choose from. If that isn’t enough, then nothing will satisfy you. The idea that we need MORE choice is well, dumb when you understand how our Magnet system works.

    As for the achievement gap, your best indicator is what we already know: family structure and income. So forgive me if I don’t buy the idea that we need MORE data (re: Civil Rights Orgs and testing) we’d be better.

    School grades, drop out rates, AP courses, etc. have given us enough data. We know what schools are “failing,” we know what these kids are missing. The idea that IF ONLY we had MORE standardized tests results the issues would be solved is false on its face.

    Last week it was police. Today its standardized tests. Meanwhile the out-of-wedlock birth rate has passed 70%……. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jul/29/don-lemon/cnns-don-lemon-says-more-72-percent-african-americ/

    I’d love to see these organizations turn their full attention to the fractured Black family. Everything else is noise. (I certainly don’t mean to say that police violence is noise- it is not).

    And it’s easier to scream at the noise than the quiet cancer that continues to grow.

  66. POSTED BY bubs  |  May 11, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

    Profwilliams – I was with you until you started dictating to POC and organizations what their priorities should be.

    It’s far (and by far, I mean, far from correct and far closer to supporting white supremacy – in the Melissa Harris Perry usage of the word, not randomly inflammatory) from your place to tell POC how to “fix” their communities. Let’s check the white privilege.

  67. POSTED BY jcunningham  |  May 11, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

    “I’d love to see these organizations turn their full attention to the fractured Black family. ”

    —um, about that…

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/01/16/3175831/myth-absent-black-father/

  68. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 11, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

    @ jcunningham, your article states, “Although black fathers are more likely to live separately from their children…” Then dismisses this as not relevant. Sorry. You might want to check some of the methodology of your links, one of the links states, “The survey suggests black fathers may be more involved than whites or Hispanics with some activities, including homework, but Jones downplayed racial differences and said some were not statistically significant.” Hmmm…….

    Also, did you read the link: Check out page 7 here: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr071.pdf

    Reading through this, the headline seems to differ from the stats provided. Here’s a gem that you think supports this myth: “Among fathers who lived with their school-aged children, 66% ate meals with them every day in the last 4 weeks (Table 6) and only 1.4% did not eat any meals at all with them. By comparison, among fathers who did not live with their school-aged children, 2.9% ate meals with them every day, and 53% did not eat meals with them at all in the last 4 weeks.”

    It’s easy to google and find something from “Thinkprogress.” It’s harder to read through it and understand what it says.

    @ bubs, You show yourself by quoting Melissa Harris Perry, the woman who so kindly made fun of Romney’s kid who adopted a Black child and had the kid in a family photo. I believe she sang, “One of these things does not belong…” She’s far from credible. Unless of course, you think little Black babies should not be adopted by White folks.

    Oh, and your [redacted] line: “check the white privilege” is tried, old, and reductive.

    And doesn’t apply to this Black man.

  69. POSTED BY jonathantaylorthomas  |  May 11, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

    Yes well, ok Professor, and in the mean time while we wait for generational change in socioeconomic cohorts, let’s figure out what the heck is going on with our students right now and how we can help them. That starts with making sure everyone is being counted and accounted for honestly. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights put out their statement because:

    “The educational outcomes for the children we represent are unacceptable by almost every measurement. And we rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.”

    When we have all these opt outs it messes up the picture for everyone and makes it even harder to help the kids who need it most.

  70. POSTED BY paolo  |  May 11, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

    Thanks, prof.

    I wasn’t sure where you were coming from when you said that Montclair parents have enough choices already. In response to my comment that school choice exists only for people who can send their kids to Seton Hall, MKA, Newark Academy, etc.

  71. POSTED BY galaxyman1  |  May 11, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

    @profwilliams: I have been off the site for some time. What happened to Cathar? No sign of him lately.

  72. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 12, 2015 @ 8:12 am

    @ jonathantaylorthomas, If you search, you’ll see I do not support efforts that require a generation to change. I’ve linked to this program often:

    But the statement you refer to by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights only echo what the Moynihan Report from 50 years ago!!

    We do not need more data!! We need more programs like Urban Boarding schools, which in this article puts the cost between 20-25k per pupil– about as much as we spend in Newark.

    So while some, after 50 years of failing families, schools, and lost generations need MORE data, I want action.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/27/buffalo-public-boarding-schools_n_7152716.html

  73. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 12, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    @ galaxyman1, I miss cathar too! The best days were when he turned his wit and pen my way, forcing me to up my game.

    Same with RoC.

    That said, we seem to have some new folks. I hope they stick around, adding to the conversation- not forgetting to add some fun too.

  74. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  May 12, 2015 @ 8:24 am

    This is an excellent discussion. However, the underlying problem remains. It’s reality.

    The schools, both here and throughout the U.S. are not working well overall. The Professor is right to focus on the black family.

    We still have a very large, low SES segment of our population that is not succeeding. Further, the ‘progressive’ education forces have still not figured out how to turn that around. The underlying facts remain: kids from low SES families hear millions of less words at home by the 3rd grade and are already behind developmentally. The parents and caregivers from low SES families do not have the same skills or resources to assist their children in navigating everything from homework tutoring to college prep.

    Therefore, rather than focus on the ills of charters, or more sociologically “white privilege” — the new racism buzzword to explain why those who have more are doing better, I’d like to know what are we going to do differently. What are we going to propose now to assist those who need more help to stay in the game? What should we do for those who have less resources so their kids can still get ahead?

    Rather than just hear more rhetoric who is at fault (institutional racism, cultural insensitivity, disproportionate special ed classifications etc. etc), I await specific proposals to solve our problems – locally for example, from the achievement gap committee. Where’s the beef progressives with expertise in this field?

  75. POSTED BY alic314  |  May 12, 2015 @ 9:11 am

    Per Martin’s point above, a group focused on the issues he mentions above can be found here: http://toosmall.org

  76. POSTED BY carlas  |  May 12, 2015 @ 11:24 am

    One thing I like about the civil rights statement is it doesn’t seeking to blame any one person or policy for the disparities we see in our schools. They only want to get resources to the right place and make sure the groups they represent have the same opportunities as their peers. They say there is value in the tests, value in putting down on paper accurate information about how kids are doing. I tend to agree. Opting out and mucking up the results for everyone isn’t a constructive solution.

  77. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 12, 2015 @ 11:51 am

    @ martinschwartz, Forgive me, but I do not agree that “schools, both here and throughout the U.S. are not working well overall.”

    Comparing us to say, a homogeneous Country like Finland, or one with a lack of freedom, like, China, fails to consider what makes America great. So while I read often about how bad America is, I look around and wonder: who’s doing so much better with a diverse population?

    As I’ve written here before, in the 70’s it was Russia that would overtake us, in the 80’s it was Japan, in the 90’s-00’s China. In education, now it’s the Finnish method we need to adopt.

    Meanwhile, at the sake of sounding jingoistic, we’re still number 1…. Oh, and tell me again how beholden we’ll always be to OPEC? We even figured out oil and gas production.

    Sure we have or problems, but let’s not act like we still don’t have a Country where a little Black boy, raised by his White mother in Indonesia cannot be elected TWICE to our Presidency right after a President who could trace his bloodline back to England, who came after a little White boy from an abusive home in Arkansa. (2 of our last 3 Presidents were the sons of single moms– go figure.)

    Our diversity will always lead us. And it will ensure we continue to be the envy of the world. (In another 50 years, we’ll continue this tradition by pointing to our Latino roots like we did our European roots in the past.)

    Yes. It is ALWAYS Morning in America!!

  78. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 12, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

    I agree with the Professor. There is in my opinion no credible evidence to show our schools are not working. Standardized tests demonstrate how much money a child comes from. Not sure why that requires a standardized test. This country has never done well in international tests. Were our schools then always failures?

    We know poverty is the real cause of the achievement gap. When then will that be addressed? I guess it’s not as profitable to aide families in need as it is to test.

  79. POSTED BY thanksalatte  |  May 12, 2015 @ 3:36 pm

    This meme that a test’s sole purpose is to demonstrate family wealth is ridiculous. If that claim is true then the same would go for all other tests as well, so we might as well toss them too. The NAACP and LULAC and all the others are saying in plain English that you are flat wrong and we need tools like the PARCC to level the playing field in how we measure and fix problems in our schools.

  80. POSTED BY amykrauss  |  May 12, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

    profwilliams writes:

    “Regardless of income, you have 5 elementary, and 3 middle schools to choose from. If that isn’t enough, then nothing will satisfy you. The idea that we need MORE choice is well, dumb when you understand how our Magnet system works.”

    No you don’t have five elementary schools to choose from – you rank the schools in order of preference and then the central office tries (or doesn’t try) to match your preference to the available slots. We have two kids in the elementary schools and with neither kid did we get our “choice”.

    nycmontclair writes:

    “We know poverty is the real cause of the achievement gap. When then will that be addressed? I guess it’s not as profitable to aide families in need as it is to test.”

    We do a lot in this state to address poverty, Abbot, Mt. Laurel, a highly progressive income tax, etc.

  81. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  May 12, 2015 @ 4:26 pm

    @ amykrauss,

    Forgive me, but you do understand the concept of choice, right? YOU rank you school. In other words: YOU CHOOSE.

    And when you don’t get what you like, or you are are unhappy once you get there– you request a change. Because, you have a choice.

    No choice would be a neighborhood school, where REGARDLESS of parent preference the district forces you to go to a certain school.

    So you listed 3 choices and didn’t get ONE of your choices? I find that hard to believe.

    And did you try to change afterwards, or like most, once your kid got to 2nd or 3rd choice school, he or she and you realized, this place is okay (because they are ALL good).

    Or did you sit back and do nothing, only to bring up your grievance on an anonymous blog?

  82. POSTED BY amykrauss  |  May 12, 2015 @ 5:41 pm

    Lol – why would I forgive someone who is so intentionally nasty to me?

    Here’s what you originally wrote:

    “Regardless of income, you have 5 elementary, and 3 middle schools to choose from. If that isn’t enough, then nothing will satisfy you. The idea that we need MORE choice is well, dumb when you understand how our Magnet system works.”

    And here’s from your latest “contribution”:

    “So you listed 3 choices and didn’t get ONE of your choices? I find that hard to believe.”

    You see the difference right? In your first statement you said a parent could pick from one of five elementary schools, in your second statement you said “we’ll try to get one of your top three”.

    (Btw professor, we have 6 elementary schools not including Hillside and you’re required to rank all 6 not just your top 3.)

    Also, forgive me, but you do understand the meaning of “anonymous”, right ?

    http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPageFiles/22/registration-k-15-16.pdf

  83. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  May 12, 2015 @ 6:14 pm

    Amykrauss, this State does a lot to pay lip service to addressing poverty. Certainly, Abbott is not being upheld http://www.edlawcenter.org/issues/school-funding.html

  84. POSTED BY Gretcheninthekitchen  |  May 12, 2015 @ 8:54 pm

    @Thanksalatte Agreed, it’s a way to dismiss testing and shift to a larger more amorphous issue that can be debated ad infinitum while nothing in the schools change. I’m glad the NAACP and the other organizations came out on this issue. They said what plenty of others are thinking.

  85. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  May 12, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

    Funny, I can’t seem to find the author’s name that posted that blurb on edlawcenter. I would like proven research with verifiable facts that has passed the rigor of peer review that wasn’t written by someone that does;t live in Montclair. Upper Montclair is fine. Just not Montclair.

  86. POSTED BY donmorgan  |  May 12, 2015 @ 10:23 pm

    nycmontclair: the AGPAP is probably PARTLY about poverty, but it’s not ALL about poverty:
    “Those scores showed that 93 percent of white students were proficient while only 32 percent of economically disadvantaged black students were proficient. The test found that 60 percent of non-economically disadvantaged African-American students were proficient.”
    http://www.northjersey.com/news/achievement-gap-widens-in-montclair-schools-1.594086?page=all
    I’m interested in profwilliams hypothesis: “I’d love to see these organizations turn their full attention to the fractured Black family.”

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