Watchung School Teachers Share Input at Montclair Board of Education Meeting

Watchung School

It was the Watchung School staff’s turn to present a teacher’s report of “What’s working and What’s not working” for their school at the February 24 Budget Meeting of the Montclair Board of Education.

Watchung School teachers cited the excellent caliber of the staff, such as their advanced degrees and superior academic performance as evidence of what is working.

The teachers also reported that Watchung continues to win many honors.

“We have been awarded the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon three times,” they said. “We have also been recognized by the state as a star school, and most recently, we were honored with the distinction as a rewards school for outstanding student achievement.”

They also credited Watchung parents for helping with tutoring and volunteering to coordinate extracurricular activities.

For “what’s not working,”  the Watchung staff stated that the implementation of the Duplicated Reading Assessment, Second Edition (DRA-2) was stifling teachers’ efforts to structure lessons for kindergartners, offering  them less time for instruction and hindering efforts to work with underaged and socially immature kindergarten students who do not reach the age of six before completing kindergarten.

The teachers found the Common Core standards to be “developmentally inappropriate,” complaining that kindergartners are expected to know 60 words on sight instead of the previous 24. They also said that there should be a moratorium on the quarterly tests, leaving little time to teach properly and having to cover more lessons at a faster pace in a shorter period. They asked for help with a program providing a stipend for a teacher to help volunteers willing to work with children after school, and more professional development with special education and help with meeting the vigor of the new standards.

Board member Anne Mernin asked how the DRA-2, used previously at Watchung, was different this year. Teachers replied that it was different because of the frequency of its use and the higher benchmark standards.

“So what are you seeing as you’re doing this more frequently?” Mernin asked.

“We’re doing it three times a year, in 1 and 2, not in kindergarten, and each time it takes about a week to administer,” one teacher replied, adding that it was helpful to assess reading fluency and engagement and was more helpful when given a second time than testing all over a third time.  They said they saw student growth in reading comprehension but that the increased testing and data did not make any greater difference.

Board member David Deutsch asked about sight words, asking what an appropriate word recognition for students would be if having students recognize 60 words was too excessive. Teachers replied that a 36-word jump for kindergarteners, many of whom hadn’t mastered the alphabet, was inappropriate when they first needed to learn their ABCs and their phonics, and that different children learned at different levels.  A 24-word standard, they said, was a more appropriate median.

Teachers acknowledged that there was a great deal of research on what the proper median would be, but they told Deutsch that they were not prepared cite specific articles and information when much of the findings have not yet been sufficiently tested.

The board asked about another concern, a teacher who had tutored first through third grade students with reading during the 2012-13 school year and was paid through a grant that apparently was not renewed, as the teacher was not back for the current year. Watchung teachers said they were now relying on curriculum coaches to help with students with difficulties in reading between one and three times a week.

Board member David Cummings, saying that he had heard six groups of teachers express the same problems, asked Schools Superintendent Penny MacCormack what the principals had to say. Dr. MacCormack said that principals whom she spoke with, while acknowledging the difficulties of implementing the new standards,  were confident that they could meet them.

“We’re making adjustments where necessary, so I think the flexibility on the part of our teaching staff, our principals, and our academic team has been stupendous, and we’re working together,” she said, noting the positive feedback for the professional development sessions the district has been having.

“These questions exist — what’s working, what’s not working, and what your ideas are — because you need to answer those throughout the whole change process,” Dr.  MacCormack added, “but to me it doesn’t mean you stop.”

The Watchung teachers had also cited the lack of updated computers and software, an issue Chief Operations Officer Brian Fleischer later said he hoped to address while discussing the budget for the next school year.

Public Comments

A few members of the public weighed in on the continued strife with implementing the Common Care and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standards, particularly where Common Core standards related to grade-schoolers.

Resident Laurie Orosz believed that they were unnecessary and made the teachers rush to much in instructing their students, while resident Elena Halberstadt read comments from what she said were from two anonymous parents of kindergarten students.

“My child is really struggling,” Halberstadt read on one parent’s behalf, “and the teacher has pointed out to me that with this new curriculum, my child has to master everything sooner that a child would have had to in years past.”

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49 COMMENTS

  1. No, it doesn’t mean you stop, MacCormack, even though group after group of teachers bravely stand up and tell you it is not working, it is not developmentally appropriate, it is stressing out students and teachers alike, that there is little time left to actually teach, etc. etc. etc. And the principals are confident? Hmm, wonder why? Could they possibly be telling you that to remain in your good graces?

  2. Here’s my take away-and I’m not wading into testing or CCSS is good or bad here, or the work ethic, expertise & professionalism of our district’s teachers (please no piling on by the other commentators who don’t like Dr. CcCormack, The Board or the CCSS, etc. I am making an observation on this in a macro sense. I cry UNCLE on that big argument always going on here)-I think this is a very telling statement in the article, capital letter emphasis is mine:

    “Teachers replied that a 36-word jump for kindergarteners, MANY OF WHOM HADN’T MASTERED THE ALPHABET, was inappropriate when they first needed to learn their ABCs and their phonics, and that different children learned at different levels. A 24-word standard, they said, was a more appropriate median.”

    Not gloating – I am lucky/blessed enough to be able to afford a great preschool/preK for my kid. He is already learning letters and phonics at his daycare. He is recognizing phonics-word sounds, for the beginning of words & also recognizing other word sounds in the middle of words. Just last night, he heard a word and knew that a S sound and a D sound were both part of it. It’s amazing to watch his mind piece together the alphabet and phonic sounds and watch his mind try to “read” a word he hears.

    It saddens me that other children don’t have that experience according to the teacher feedback. My son will be in the community preK next year-he’s 2 years away from gracing a desk in one of the kindergarten classes in the district.

    This to me, shows the need for much better preschool and preK for our kids. I would be interested to hear, see if this is a common issue in other town’s kindergarten classrooms. How are they over coming this hurdle if indeed there are too many kids not meeting this new standard of 60 sight words. It was not mentioned in the article, but I would also want to know about the math standards.

  3. And when I say we need a better preschool and preK for our kids-I do not mean to say the Montclair Community PreK isn’t good. Again-I’m thinking/musing about the big picture, universal PreK… And how this could impact the issue at hand.

  4. alic314,

    You’re making the mistake in thinking that all kids learn like, and as quickly, as yours.

    There are many kids who come into first/second grade having “learned to read” at age 2. So what?

    Others don’t learn to read till later. Big deal.

    Some have a learning disability that slows them down, but before anyone realizes. Then once it becomes known, the kid excels.

    Yours is a terrible mistake that far too many parents make, and helps add to the mounting pressure kids feel (younger and younger). And that is the myth that learning only occurs ONE way, BY a certain date and IN one place. If your kid doesn’t– off to Essex Community College!

    But to take your kid’s example as proof for ALL is dumb.

  5. To pile on to what LB said…even though state after state has suspended, delayed, or dropped the Core Curriculum State Standards completely, both in red and blue states. Even states like Massachusetts, which has high educational standards, and was a very strong supporter of the CCSS and founding member of the PARCC consortium, have taken a step back. Since our last mention of this topic, several more states have bills pending to delay implementation or drop out of CCSS completely.

    Just google Core Curriculum State Standards and you will find endless stories about people in state after state making the same complaints as the Watchung teachers and Montclair parents, realizing that CCSS may not be all that was promised, it is more expensive to implement than they ever imagined, and we need to take a step back.

  6. Proffwilliams, Understood. Different children learn differently.
    And not to meet 60 sight words alone or count to 100…

    My nephew who is doing great as a junior at Mtclr HS & is a voracious reader wasn’t reading independently until well into the 1st grade.

    And my little genius is only recognizing sounds now, no where near actually reading.

    Totally get that point. I just wonder how better equipped children could be if universal preK existed.
    Thanks for the link, I will read through!
    -AC

  7. “Since our last mention of this topic, several more states have bills pending to delay implementation or drop out of CCSS completely.”

    Especially because our previous administration did very close to nothing to prepare for the CC (violating the state’s schedule), it would certainly be useful for us if the state were to slow things. That’s not something we can do on our own [in Montclair], however.

    As for the increased rigor of the CC: I admit to a great deal of discomfort with the drive to keep standards as they are (24 sight words vs. 60, for one cited example) just because some kids aren’t ready for more. Aren’t we cheating our children if we hold them back just as if we demand too much?

    My son’s 3rd grade math/science teacher sees his class moving at a quicker pace than ever before as a result of the curriculum changes. He sees this as a Good Thing. Why would we want to discourage those kids from moving at a pace at which they obviously can move?

    I fear that we’re hobbling kids with our own insecurities. Just because a parent has trouble factoring polynomials, for example, or knowing whether to use “its” or “it’s”, doesn’t mean that it’s hard. Maybe our kids have better teachers than we had.

    …Andrew

  8. Interesting column. Their approach sounds good for Google.
    I want to quibble about the applicability outside of Goggle, but won’t because it is Google. One thing I have learned is when you the hot, #1, capitalist company, anything you say has overweighted credibility to transcend your industry and generally becomes a standard Best Practice in every consultant’ playbook. Loads of examples, but General Electric is one of my favorites. GAP is another. They are very god at what they do, but very slow to change…and when they do, it is a shock to everyone trying to emulate them.

    My real issue is with the last paragraph where Mr Friedman goes off the tracks a couple of sentences in. It would be a mistake not to learn from the insights preceding this summary paragraph, but Mr Friedman’s conclusions almost made me do just that.

  9. Professor Williams is exactly right. Children learn in different ways and at different rates. A student who know 60 sight words going into kindergarten in not necessarily going to have a stronger academic career than one who is still struggling with the alphabet on the way out. By third grade (when most students are reading with fluency), an outside observer would be unlikely to identify which kids learned early and which kids learned later based on their current abilities.

    What Penny MacCormack is not hearing is that these assessment are interfering with learning that isn’t tested–and which frankly is probably more important to the students in the long run.

    The kindergarten teachers made it very clear that they were losing time teaching the students how to be students–how to sit, how to listen, how to treat each other, and hopefully, how to love being at school. And these are the things that kindergartners really need to master in order to have future academic success.

  10. I am in favor of good, thoughtful, developmentally appropriate standards based on evidence. Any time you take a one size fits all approach to educating children a red flag goes up for me. Mix that with standards that hundreds of experts, including those in early childhood development denounce as being developmentally inappropriate, another huge red flag. Mix that with high stakes tests and seems like a perfect storm to me. I think differentiated learning, providing challenging curriculum meeting each child where they are developmentally sounds like a better idea to me.

  11. Understood folks, all kids are different and learn differently.

    Just wondering if part of our conversation should include improving preschool, and really consider universal preK.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have given my kid’s current experience as an example in my remarks. I would assume that others may have a similar experience too, and others not…but I just used my experience as a starting point.

    And I’m not saying that improving preschool programs or having universal preK would help these same kids reach an exact data point like 60 sight word threshold, etc.

    But-I do think we could argue that it would help in some areas for children overall. My only point here. 🙂

    -AC

  12. “Just wondering if part of our conversation should include improving preschool, and really consider universal preK.”

    Whether one is for this or not, the budget presentation from Dr. MacCormack and Mr. Fleischer puts this discussion right there on the table. “Option 3” includes funding Pre-K for title 1 students.

    It is now part of our conversation.

    …Andrew

  13. AC, maybe you didn’t live in Montclair back when there was a public pre-K…which fell victim to budget cuts long ago. Hard to imagine it would be reintroduced in the current environment, even though it would be wonderful to have.

    Andrew, do you know if the proposed Title 1 pre-K would be a continuation of Head Start? Taught on their premises?

  14. Oliver- I actually first lived in Montclair just as the current Community preK was established. Then moved away for a time, & then moved back 7 years ago. So yes, I lived here after the public preK that you bring up was cut. Was it in every elementary school? Or just one building in the district?

  15. “Andrew, do you know if the proposed Title 1 pre-K would be a continuation of Head Start? Taught on their premises?”

    I’ve no idea. I am imaging that it would take the form of funding directed to the community pre-k and perhaps others in town, but I could be completely wrong. Would they even be able to handle the growth this would cause?

    I didn’t have children yet, so I didn’t follow the story about the demise of the public pre-k in town. I did read about it more recently at sources such as https://www.nytimes.com/1996/11/20/nyregion/new-jersey-town-tries-to-find-a-way-to-save-its-free-preschool-program.html and https://tanzania.northjersey.com/publications/montclairtimes/page.php?page=10215 .

    Apparently, the town and/or district tried to partially fund the pre-k with tuition. We were sued, though, so rather than charging tuition we had to drop the entire program.

    …Andrew

  16. (Tom Friedman, off the tracks?? Happens a lot.)

    The issue with differentiated learning is that you need a damn good teacher to pull it off.

    And while I like assessments to show where deficiencies lie- in both students, classes, schools, and cohorts. It seems like without everyone on board with this change, no one will be happy.

    Sadly, this is a management issues- on both sides. Not unlike our current Gov. Without good leaders who know how to listen to, and incorporate others (Reagan/O’Neil; Clinton/Gingrich) you get what we see here in town between the Union and BOE, or in DC.

    Because of this, parents of means will do what they always do– work hard to supplement their kids education via out-of-school tutoring and experiences.

    BUT all I want is a fair discussion, respect, and a decision where everyone feels good enough to move forward.

    [profwilliams has approved this message]

  17. “you get what we see here in town between the Union and BOE, or in DC”

    This isn’t really fair or two-sided, though. In DC, members of Congress were agreeing to a strategy of obstruction on the night of the first inauguration. The President never had a chance to either listen or be heard.

    In town, we’d a similar response when Dr. MacCormack’s name was first mentioned on “the blogs”. She never had a chance to either listen or be heard, at least to/by those that had already made up their minds.

    Perhaps worse, she walked into the middle of a very contentious negotiation. That couldn’t have helped. Add to that the mandated curriculum changes for which the district hadn’t been properly preparing, and it becomes easy to see why so many are so eager to play the same obstruction game we see in Congress.

    …Andrew

  18. It is very easy to generalize, but actually I gave MacCormack the benefit of the doubt for months and months. I was very careful to research both sides of every issue before forming opinions. It is her actions as well as the boar’s that have me in disagreement with her, not other people’s views or tactics. So, please let’s give credit to people’s ability to think for themeselves.

  19. To me, the issue is that the MPS needed to change in all the major areas and not all stakeholders and residents were on board with this. The root problem with Superintendent was in the selection criteria & process. But, understanding the local environment and better understanding the culture of education, I understand why.

    Even if Montclair puts CC on hold, the conflict over the other components will fill the space. At least I hope so because all the participation, all the dialogue, all the proposals – while often contentious – have been very good & successful in educating us that MPS need to change. So, for all the good and bad decisions the BOE has made, I am appreciative that they tackled the issue of change when the opportunity presented itself.

    And, for the record, I don’t make a distinction between residents and employees as far as deserving respect and appreciation for the service they provide.

  20. Andrew, you frustrate me when you talk in such generalizations, especially when you use those generalizations to dismiss contrary views. Certainly some here did not like the Super from the get go, but like many here, I have grown to dislike her over time.

    I had initially heard good things about MacCormack from friends in town and expected she would do fine. I gave her the benefit of the doubt at first even after a few bumps, but then I became more and more concerned about her as recent events have unfolded. I find that her ways of working with people, her views on education and her focus on data and assessment, her hostility toward parental input, her lack of transparency, her bunker mentality when things got tough, her attempts to silence her critics, all don’t fit with what parents in Montclair come to expect from their Super.

    MacCormack is simply the wrong person for the job.

  21. “…her hostility toward parental input, her lack of transparency…”

    The problem I have with statements like this is that they don’t seem to reflect the reality that I see. I saw someone come into town initially listening to everyone. I see someone hearing from teachers in a meeting in December and then having teachers speaking in January about how those issues were addressed. This is someone listening to input from parents and teachers.

    As for transparency: We’ve more information, at greater detail, than at any time I’ve been involved in the district. There are public meetings dedicated to “deep dives” into important topics. There are reports – the most recent achievement gap report being an example I studied in some detail – which tell us far more about what’s going on than the cherry-picked reports from years past.

    This raises in my mind the question of what you’re seeing that is so different. You don’t see the additional texts purchased at teacher request? You don’t see the additional professional development provided at teacher request? You don’t see these new workshops or more detailed reports?

    …Andrew

  22. the problem with Mr. Gideon is that he speaks with such assurance that one is inclined to accept what he says as fact: the truth is that months after the teachers were begging for texts, the Super was still talking about how everyone would have an ipad in 5 years. while the Super kept bragging about how the assessments were at least partially prepared by the teachers (another of the fictions Mr. Gideon has propagated), the teachers were saying they were told to pretty much copy from the state website. and while Mr. Gideon cites the professional development training, most teachers I know in town say there has been little of that, just a lot of data processing. therein lies the problem of accountability and trust…the Super and her favorite board members are very good at talking points….supportive action, not so much.

  23. “Super kept bragging about how the assessments were at least partially prepared by the teachers (another of the fictions Mr. Gideon has propagated), the teachers were saying they were told to pretty much copy from the state website”

    The teachers were told that the could use that material (and other sources as well). As it happens, I don’t see that as being a problem. Why should they be forced to reinvent a wheel that is already available? They were free to choose whether or not to reuse or create anew, and I assume they ended up with some combination of the two.

    The real job was to produce the curricula. The assessments were but one small piece of this.

    “most teachers I know in town say there has been little of that”

    That’s not what teachers are saying at BOE meetings. But I expect you’ll consider them part of this conspiracy as well.

    “he speaks with such assurance”

    Not always. But it is easy to be assured when I can simply say “go to the meeting” or “watch the meeting on the TV34 web site”. I don’t have to rely upon obscure hyperbole such as “most teachers I know in town”, nor do I have to read anonymous letters. I don’t have to hide sources or even my own identity.

    I imagine it’s tougher to be assured while cowering

    “the Super was still talking about how everyone would have an ipad in 5 years.”

    Well, not precisely, but she has spoken repeatedly about “digital” (or “ebook”) texts. Even Mr. Cummings has come to recognize that this is where we are going (and happily so for a wide range of reasons), as he announced this past Monday.

    …Andrew

  24. I don’t know what meetings you’ve attended, Andrew, but the four that I have watched show a majority of teachers who are deeply, deeply unhappy with the way things are going. And as far as MacCormack complying by offering additional texts to help ease the process, it’s like providing more vaseline to ease in an unwelcome object. They are saying they are stressed beyond belief, that they are not getting the chance to really teach,that the unnecessary and unmandated assessments are not allowing for children’s true developmental processes, that creativity is going out the window. Is anybody LISTENING?

    Maybe this philosophy works for you, but it does not fit with the Montclair school vision that many of us moved here for.

  25. ” the four that I have watched show a majority of teachers who are deeply, deeply unhappy with the way things are going”

    The latest presentation had people unhappy about common core, assessments, and pacing. Notice that the complaints about the lack of texts and professional development have pretty much disappeared.

    More, even the complaints about assessments are becoming more nuanced. For example, one teacher suggested not eliminating test points but using more abridged versions. Instead of the DRA2 being done each time, it can be done a couple of times and an abridged version used the other times.

    “it’s like providing more vaseline to ease in an unwelcome object”

    Yet that “vaseline” is being requested.

    “assessments are not allowing for children’s true developmental processes”

    Yes, we’re hearing this. Yet this isn’t the first year we’ve had tests in our schools. As one of my son’s teachers put it: “I gave more than four tests last year; I’ll give more than four tests this year.”

    He’s also mentioned several times that this year’s class is further along than any before as a result of the curriculum changes. I’m not sure why this is supposed to be a bad thing.

    …Andrew

  26. One of your sons’ teachers may be fine with the testing, which is way beyond what the Common Core mandates, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the large groups of teachers who are presenting at the BOE meetings.

    The main problem is that teachers are unhappy with the singleminded focus on testing, which many districts across the nation are now opting out of. To provide more materials to supplement this process is not addressing the core problem.

  27. Two students spoke from MT. Hebron stating they believe the teachers are now teaching to the test and they would much prefer to have their old mid terms and finals back. How can we ignore the complaints of teachers, month after month and for their students. They are all saying the same things. The pacing doesn’t allow for reteaching and they are teaching to the tests. The Watching teachers complained the week they are supposed to have to reteach is being used to go through the assessments. And they don’t feel they are getting enough worthwhile information from them. If the information isn’t worthwhile for the teachers and the students feel they are being taught to the test then I am unclear as to the point of these tests. I don’t hear complaints about tests in general, they are specifically about theses assessments. It seems to me that if a teacher is giving a mid term she designs or a final, she can do that based off of the material covered and cover at a pace she feels is reasonable and adjust accordingly. But if you are required to use assessments that have already been written in advance, given at a specific time then a teacher has to cover all of that material regardless of whether her students are actually learning anything. And because she has to go at a predetermined pace she can’t adjust and reteach if needed and can’t divert in anyway and so can only teach to what is on the test. I must really be missing how that is better than regular exams.

  28. Two students spoke from MT. Hebron stating they believe the teachers are now teaching to the test and they would much prefer to have their old mid terms and finals back. How can we ignore the complaints of teachers, month after month and for their students. They are all saying the same things. The pacing doesn’t allow for reteaching and they are teaching to the tests. The Watchung teachers complained the week they are supposed to have to reteach is being used to go through the assessments. And they don’t feel they are getting enough worthwhile information from them. If the information isn’t worthwhile for the teachers and the students feel they are being taught to the test then I am unclear as to the point of these tests. I don’t hear complaints about tests in general, they are specifically about theses assessments. It seems to me that if a teacher is giving a mid term she designs or a final, she can do that based off of the material covered and cover at a pace she feels is reasonable and adjust accordingly. But if you are required to use assessments that have already been written in advance, given at a specific time then a teacher has to cover all of that material regardless of whether her students are actually learning anything. And because she has to go at a predetermined pace she can’t adjust and reteach if needed and can’t divert in anyway and so can only teach to what is on the test. I must really be missing how that is better than regular exams.

  29. Once again, Mr. Gideon twists the truth into a pretty bow and ties it around the Super’s propaganda. He says he doesn’t have a problem with “reinventing the wheel.” Presumably, he also doesn’t have a problem with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in essentially copying tests from the state website and claiming the teachers created them so the Super can co-opt them (mostly against their will) into her agenda. what he won’t tell you is that when many of the teachers submitted the assessments/curricula, and tried to be innovative in a way that would be a one-size-fits-all formula, the work was thrown back at them with the mandate of “not reinventing the wheel.” if you choose to see that as not manipulative, that’s your problem.
    yes, i attend meetings, Mr. Gideon. I listen to what the teachers are saying, no doubt more closely than the board or the Super. and if the district was shamed into addressing the text situation, it was only after the Super claimed the teachers were belatedly whining and that the district had no idea there was ever a problem (again, documentation exists that puts the lie to that).
    Listen, I had no preconceived notions about the Super and the BOE members who were advocates. I have made my judgments based on their actions over the past couple of years (starting with the board’s outright cruelty with the teacher aides). if Mr. Gideon just once would fall out of lockstep with these folks — try making the exceedingly logical case against their insane and costly investigation into the assessment leak that was clearly a security misstep the Super should own — I would take him more seriously.

  30. let me correct myself regarding the teachers and the assessments: “that would NOT be a one-size-fits-all-formula….”

  31. “Presumably, he also doesn’t have a problem with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in essentially copying tests”

    Are you once again asserting that the almost $500,000 was spent only on assessments?

    …Andrew

  32. “a teacher has to cover all of that material regardless of whether her students are actually learning anything”

    I agree that this is an issue. However, it is an issue with two sides. The side you are missing is that many parents have been complaining for years about “uneven preparation for next year”. Most of the complaints have been centered around building transitions (eg. 8th grade math to 9th grade math), but it was not exclusive to this.

    How fair is it that some kids walk into a classroom on the first day with less preparation than others? Yet this is the status quo to which people want to return?

    …Andrew

  33. Andrew, I certainly don’t want children unprepared but I don’t see this as an either/or situation. Either we do quarterly assessments or maintain the status quo? I really hope we can be more creative than that in working on solutions. Testing does not resolve the issues you are speaking to. If children aren’t learning because the pace is too fast and not flexible yuhtj than more children will be unpreprepared, not less. This strikes me as much more a curriculum issue. It seems we could work on developing really good curriculum to help prepare our kids and the teachers could also work on pacing, etc. If they and the students found value to regular midterms and finals then it would seem, reinstating those and putting time and money into first class curriculum and creative teaching methods, etc. would be much more valuable that maintainaing quarterly assessments that most teachers and students seem to find little value in. I advocate for a collaborative effort on resolving these issues that involves really strong input from the teachers. They are after all the ones who spent years studying education and learning to be teachers and have been working with the children. I put my faith in them every day to take good care of my child, so I certainly have faith they can work on the issues you speak to as well.

  34. “I advocate for a collaborative effort on resolving these issues that involves really strong input from the teachers. They are after all the ones who spent years studying education and learning to be teachers and have been working with the children. I put my faith in them every day to take good care of my child, so I certainly have faith they can work on the issues you speak to as well.”

    well-said….the Super and board mouth similar words but their actions fall far short of implementation.

  35. Once again, Mr. Gideon twists the truth into a pretty bow and ties it around the Super’s propaganda.

    This “debate” sounds like what I imagine takes place around the dinner table at gatherings of the Johnny Meatball family after everyone has had too much wine, without the word “friggin’.”

  36. Andrew, come on. In your 2/26 @ 5:05PM post above, comparing obstruction in Congress to obstruction with the Superintendent is just not accurate.

    In Congress, there are checks and balances: legislation can’t pass unless there’s a majority consensus from both houses. With the Superintendent, there are no checks or balances: she has a rubber stamp from the BOE to do anything she wants. The BOE can do whatever it wants to as well (i.e. misuse/abuse subpoena power, spend irresponsibly) because the mayor looks the other way. No checks and balances exist anywhere at Central Office.

    Spend $490K for assessments that aren’t required by Common Core, which were rushed and in many cases inauthentic (cut and pasted from the NJDOE’s model curriculum), and weren’t properly protected on the district server? “Done!” said the BOE.

    Insist that these assessments continue, even when dozens of teachers from across the district have clearly stated at Board meetings that they’re disruptive, unproductive, and actually preventing true and meaningful learning – no matter how they’re tweaked or altered? “We’re in!” said the BOE.

    Spend $100K on a Tripod Survey that was poorly defined and hasn’t delivered any useful data/information? “No problem!” said the BOE.

    The reason why this Superintendent has met resistance in the community is because she’s deceptive, non-transparent, and her initiatives have delivered zero benefits or successes. She’s had over a year to launch all of her ideas with no obstruction or accountability from the BOE, and nothing that she’s implemented is coming close to delivering the promises of her Strategic Plan. (FYI, the Strategic Plan is just a long list of goals, not results. She has achieved none of them.)

    If your investment advisor had a plan that promised huge returns on your portfolio and after a year on the job actually lost you money, he/she would be replaced, or at the very least questioned. You’d demand specific answers about how the strategy would be improved and implemented. Why are you so patient with, and supportive of, our Superintendent’s lack of results, and why are you so eager to blame her ineptitude and destructive decisions/policies on resistance from the community?

  37. “Spend $490K for assessments that aren’t required by Common Core”

    When this keeps coming back, regardless of how many times it is debunked, I’m just at a loss. You don’t like comparisons with the GOP, but they are going to continue as long as the same techniques are applied.

    …Andrew

  38. “Testing does not resolve the issues you are speaking to.”

    Not on its own, I agree. It’s a diagnostic tool, however, that lets us know enough that the issues can be addressed.

    Keep in mind: kids have always taken tests. The only difference here is that these particular tests will be consistent over a given grade and subject in the district. It’s lets everyone – parents, teachers, administrators – see exactly what is going on.

    If a parent sees a child doing well in a class, for example, he or she need not worry that that is still leaving the child unprepared for the next grade. At a PTA meeting in Glenfield a while back, a parent discussed having an 8th grader essentially retake a math class the following year because of this parent’s concern that – despite a high grade – her child would not have been properly prepared for the next class.

    Alternatively, if there is a problem then everyone knows it. More, everyone knows it well before the end of the year, when there’s still time to do something about it.

    “If children aren’t learning because the pace is too fast and not flexible yuhtj than more children will be unpreprepared, not less.”

    If there is something wrong with the pace, then the problem is much larger than Montclair. The state defines what our kids must be learning in each grade. If we cannot cover that material, then that’s a much larger problem.

    If we are in that situation, I’d much prefer that we’ve the data to substantiate it.

    …Andrew

  39. “The Superintendent says…”

    You mean where the article contains:

    “The project was much bigger than just writing the tests, MacCormack said. It also involved developing the curriculum for about 70 courses in all 11 of the district’s schools. More than 100 teachers were paid to work on the project, which took several months and cost about $490,000, MacCormack said.”

    …Andrew

  40. agideon – You’re right that $490K was spent to come up with the curriculums and the assessments in a one and a half month sprint over the summer of 2013. My bad.

    However, please recognize that it was impossible for meaningful assessments and curricula to have been created in such a short and very rushed time frame. If you believe otherwise, then you must have very low standards for the quality of education for our district’s students.

    Also, you didn’t address the overall big picture message of my post – that the Superintendent and BOE have had carte blanche, with no accountability or oversight, to pursue their damaging and expensive agendas (contrary to your post that inaccurately compares the “obstruction” in Montclair to the obstruction in Congress). If you dispute this idea, please explain who has obstructed their decisions, and how.

    (FYI, I can only think of one: the ACLU obstructed the BOE’s goal of exposing the anonymity of bloggers who criticized them. Is this what you’re referring to?)

  41. “You’re right…My bad.”

    Will you be sharing your new discovery with all those people that remain misinformed about the cost of the assessments? Or are we going to read in the next school-related thread about these mythical “$490,000 assessments”?

    “impossible for meaningful assessments and curricula to have been created in such a short and very rushed time frame”

    True, and work continued even after the summer. More, tweaking continues.

    The other aspect to this, though, is that this work should have been done (or at least begun) years ago.

    Would you prefer, instead of having our own educators build curricula, we’d bought something off the shelf from some publishing company?

    You claim “damaging and expensive agendas”, but I see a district playing catch-up to state mandates. You claim “no accountability or oversight” but I see a superintendent (and others) with defined goals. This is a requirement for real accountability, and it is only with this administration that we’ve had this.

    “contrary to your post that inaccurately compares the “obstruction” in Montclair to the obstruction in Congress”

    No comparison is perfect. I’m grateful that, in the local case, the obstructionism has been less successful. The important work of implementing the new curricula is moving forward.

    Unfortunately, as far as I know, the district is still unable to secure its technical infrastructure. Every piece of information in there remains at risk.

    …Andrew

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