Montclair’s last BOE meeting was filled with teachers and parents passionate in their opposition of the district’s handling of PARCC testing. The meeting, held on Monday, November 17, and posted yesterday for viewing on TV34, started with a moment of silence for educator Clement Price as well as recognition for a young mathematician from Glenfield School as well as students from Montclair High School who have also excelled academically as part of the National Merit Scholarship program. There was also presentation of the audit report and the enrollment report.
Then, one by one, speakers came to the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting, raising different issues regarding PARCC. Most statements were followed by cheers from the attendees, many of whom are Montclair teachers.
Dan Gerdes, a Hillside teacher, spoke as both a parent and an educator, expressing concerns about student’s readiness to take PARCC not only in terms of their mastery of content but the technical skills to needed to succeed. Gerdes said the necessary technical skills needed take PARCC were not expected to be taught by technical teachers but all teachers regardless of other demands on their time or their access to technology.
“As we receive new information weekly on PARCC, the expectations are unrealistic and unsustainable,” Gerdes added.
A resident said PARCC testing would likely widen the achievement gap in Montclair and questioned how the district was going to ensure the playing field is level and asked what was going to be done about the increasing loss of learning in classrooms.
Colleen Martinez delivered her concerns about PARCC, describing the fears she had about an eight-year-old child feeling dumb and confused, as she did after trying to take the third grade math test. Martinez prefaced her statement, explaining she had attended school for 20 years and was both a licensed clinical social worker and Ph.D. who has worked in schools. Not only was the test “un-intuitive and difficult to navigate” but neither she, nor a sixth grader who took the test with her, could be certain of their answers or what they were doing on the test.
Sandy Silverman expressed shock at the divide in the community over this issue and criticized the board members for their lack of response, saying that, as a trained psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, “the only way you can act this way is if there is some level of a dissociative disorder.” Then Silverman called out two members of the board who she saw continually whisper to each other throughout the public comment period.
Another resident, Mr. Lovett, a Mt. Hebron parent, praised the extraordinary job of teachers at Mt. Hebron, and applauded the passion at the meeting as well as the presence of many teachers.
“I attended a PARCC parents meeting and there were more parents at that meeting than any other meeting I’ve ever seen,” said Lovett. “There were excellent presentations by the ELT and math coordinators, but the district needs to consider that when parents raised questions about these tests, the response consistently 100 times that night was ‘we are not going to get into politics.'”… We all know what politics means and for a representative of the district to use that language to insult parents who enthusiastically arrived at meeting, shows why there is so much concern.”
Another resident echoed her frustration at the PARCC meetings, saying that the “process of promoting PARCC which is untried and untested is deeply problematic. Our district must implement PARCC, but to do so enthusiastically, is propaganda. There should never be blind support about an untried, ambiguous program when there is so much we do not know.”
Rory Ores criticized the district both for emailing her comment at a previous meeting to parents as part of a Q&A document without her permission or knowledge and for not using a verbatim quote.
Rachel Egan said her 10th grade student wanted to know if graduation from high school would be affected if a student refuses to take the PARCC. Egan also criticized the questions posed by parents that were publicly posted on Montclair Schools website. “They were not posed in our own words, and the tone in the response to these questions felt like we are being silenced and intimidated.”
Maia Davis asked why there are now 51 people in the Central Office as compared to 33 a few years ago and questioned where did the money go, in regards to the surplus.
Chris McGuire expressed how “completely disturbed” she was by the presentation, particularly the budget.
“We withheld money, way too much, from schools for way too long,” says McGuire. “Then last year, we spent enormous money on PARCC/Common Core prep and now we are going to have to put back…something like a million and a half dollar? We need to join the other communities asking for a paper PARCC. Let’s put our money into our children instead of testing. You are driving us over a cliff. Those tests are going to measure not just students, but teachers and schools. What are you going to do to protect our district?”
Micehlle Fine first handed out papers to all board members before speaking. Fine then called into question the data that was given in the strategic progress report, stating “the key comparisons from last year are not available to the public and the data presented to the public systematically and inaccurately skew in the direction of claiming substantial achievement gains among African American students.”
Monica Lavosky, a teacher at Montclair High School since 1991, questioned what happened to surplus funds and questioned why the superintendent received a bonus and how the hiring of a public relations professional could have funded the salary of a paraprofessional.
Sarah Blaine asked the district to formally state — in writing to all parents — its policy regarding how children who are refusing the PARCC exams will be accommodated. Blaine went on to share how much instructional time was being lost due to PARCC prep.
Did you attend the meeting? Let us know what you think in comments.
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