Montclair PARCC Final Numbers: Watchung Has Lowest Refusals, MHS Is Highest

Montclair PARCC Final Numbers: Watchung Lowest Refusals, MHS HighestMontclair released the final PARCC refusal numbers for the March 2015 PARCC administration, replacing the previously released preliminary numbers.

parcc refusals

View the final numbers

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  1. The “people” may not be paying attention to the real take aways from this data. Watchung is a Reward School (among the best performing elementary schools in NJ), the opt-out rate was 7.5 percent. At Bullock, a Focus School (among the worst performing elementary schools in NJ), the opt-out rate was 43.5 percent. How does this qualify as “good” news?

  2. @jonbonesteel–to say that Bullock is among the worst performing elementary schools in NJ is a gross exaggeration. You know better than this.

  3. Well then, the people that think tests scores are the be all, end all of education can pick Watchung for their school. Others will see through that, like we did, and choose with an OPEN mind.
    And here’s a little reminder on tests and what many kids think (I agree). Again, happy poetry month!

  4. What appears to be a victory now, may be short lived once the test results come back. If the press chooses to include PARCC scores in their rankings of towns and their school systems, the opt-out movement, with a presumably large ratio of helicopter parents to parents who decided to opt out of paying attention, will undoubtedly result in extremely low test scores. It matters little what your personal belief in standardized test scores are or your understanding of how socioeconomics affects them when Montclair is grouped with the bottom dwellers in the school rankings.

    It’s fine to revel in the fact that Montclair took one for the team (all of the public schools in NJ), but the short-term unintended consequences might be a tough pill to swallow.

  5. @jonbonesteel–remeasuring the problem in 57 different ways (some of them quite unproven by actual science) and then screaming “hey look–a problem!” will not fix anything either–so what’s your solution?

    And you know as well as I do that a school can be put on the “focus” list for a number of reasons–some more serious than others. Bullock is on the list for having the “highest within school gap,” meaning there is a notable proficiency gap between the highest scoring subgroup and the two lowest scoring subgroups. Given that more struggling students are put in Bullock by design so they can be in classrooms with higher student to teacher ratios, this is not even slightly surprising to anyone who understands anything about what a “focus” school is.

    Glenfield is on the “focus” list for exactly the same reason as Bullock, and yet its participation in PARCC was higher than Mount Hebron’s and Renaissance’s. This is completely irrelevant to anything, but nonetheless I thought it made a good counterpoint to your earlier comment.

  6. So stu, you think opting out of PARCC will lead then to what? Montclair losing its luster as a destination for New Yorkers?

    I doubt this will matter at all. “Low” test scores on PARCC when factored into a ranking would 1) not be a sound methodology because of so many folks opting out, but most importantly, 2) not matter– because folks know that despite this our town is special and kids leave her for the most elite schools in the Country.

    Despite “low” PARCC scores, and however they might be “factored” into a town ranking.

    Moreover, most folks moving in would likely quickly find out about this PARCC stuff, taste the food at a great restaurant, meet someone interesting at a park or pre-K and realize: Montclair is a great town.

  7. Regarding the Watchung Bullock debate, you both realize these are elementary schools right? That those kids will spend another 3 years in another school, and yet 4 more in another school.

    Getting hyped over an elementary school’s “ranking” is about the funniest thing I hear folks talk about.

    As if your kid’s fate is sealed.

    Regardless, my son’s time spent in utero at our nationally ranked Lamaze childbirth education classes already has me putting an Ivy sticker on the back of my car.

  8. The solution is to separate the politics from the real issues. It’s fun to mock Pearson because they are large and for profit, but most of our children will eventually work for a large for profit business entity. Should we not measure performance nor evaluate educators? Could PARCC tests been written better so less teaching to the test would be necessary? The amount of hyperbole on both sides of the argument is simply astounding. Common ground has become noticeably uncommon. The anonymity of posters to message boards, blogs and various other public forums has made it easier for us to speak our minds without worrying about repercussions, but has also made it so much easier to be uncivil. We are teaching our children that bullying is unacceptable, yet behaving like playground thugs ourselves. Too top it all off, the same posters who are bending over backwards to support creativity and critical thought in the classroom are simultaneously striving to shutdown any positions that do not exactly sync with their own.

    I have no horse in this race. But if I was betting on the outcome, I would wheel the field.

  9. @Prof, your kid’s Lamaze education isn’t gonna mean a thing unless his Apgar scores were solid.

  10. as a proud parent of a third grade in Bullock, I take great offense at Jon Bonesteel’s comments, while at the same time realizing the ignorance behind the statement. Let’s compare the SES demographics for Bullock and Watchung and I think the differences between the schools will be quite apparent. You can not compare apples to oranges as much as you would like to make your point.

    I do not hold much stock in these designations, as the statistics on reward vs focus schools clearly show reward schools are comprised primarily of affluent families while focus schools are comprised primarily of students from lower economic families. Here is an analysis front he Education Law Center

    The primary goal of such designations seems to be to allow the state to close schools.

    And of course basing such designations off of test scores is beyond ridiculous when the primary thing they show is how much money a student comes from.

    I am proud of Bullock and of our refusal rate. Our parents know our children are more than test scores.

  11. @fish & vodka – So I am to read that the reason for the “focus” assignment, the achievement gap is not “that” important at Bullock? I disagree, and I would bet most people would. The differences between middle school participation levels were not nearly as significant or alarming. The achievement gap issue is the “canary in the coal mine.” Those in the community with the financial resources send their kids to private school and/or supplement with a wide-spread private education system in tutoring as ubiquitous as soccer practice. Those who don’t have the personal capital, time, or awareness to draw on these 3rd party educational services languish in the schools. This drives the divisions even further and is appalling. We should be coming together to fix this, not ignoring it. We (MKF) are working on a number of specific proposals which will be released soon enough (we’ve only been together for a couple of months). I would also answer your question of me on specific proposals with the same back to MCAS. They’ve been around for about three years, and what have they presented in terms of programs to fix the issues in the schools? All I can see in that time is the push to “opt out”. Some might wonder, “What else ya got?” Crickets…..

  12. Prof,

    “So stu, you think opting out of PARCC will lead then to what? Montclair losing its luster as a destination for New Yorkers?”

    Potentially, yes, though there is a certain subset of Brooklynites who actually would consider moving here due to it, not despite it. The larger concern could be for someone at the state level looking at Montclair’s PARCC results and punishing Montclair for opting out of a state mandate by withholding a larger slice of the state funding. And Montclair would be powerless to change this. Especially if New Jersey turns more red in the assembly, which is a possibility. After all, NJ did reelect the Republican bully.

  13. Thank you, Professor. It’s nice to start the day with a giggle.

    Stu, tests or no tests, teachers are and have always been evaluated. Could the parcc tests be rewritten? Only by Pearson. I get your complaint about hyperbole, but what may seem to be exaggerated arguments are frequently legitimate critiques of a rather extreme situation. Also, there is no risk of lising state funding due to opt-out numbers. Please don’t introduce yet another red herring.

  14. Bullock is a Focus school because of the distance between the highest and lowest test scores. A school with a significant number of students scoring “Advanced Proficient” *and* a significant number of students scoring “Partially Proficient” will end up on the NJDOE list of Focus schools, even if the percentage of AP scores at that school is comparable to Watchung’s. Low scores on standardized tests correlate strongly with poverty. Lo and behold, Bullock School has the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the district (28%), and Watchung has the second-lowest (11%). If someone were asking the really hard questions, he would be asking the district how it is that the distribution of poor students in the district has gotten so skewed that the school with the highest proportion of poor children has MORE THAN THREE TIMES the percentage of the school with the lowest proportion (8% of the students at Bradford are economically disadvantaged), and 2.5 times the proportion at the next lowest (Watchung). Even with a mechanism designed to desegregate our de facto segregated township, *this* is the best version of integration that we can do? Really?!?

  15. “Please don’t introduce yet another red herring.”

    Believe me, that is the last thing I would want to do Flynnie. So explain to me how you know that there can be no risk to Montclair’s state funding. It appears to me that the way the state divvies up the pie is so arbitrary.

  16. @nycmontclair – You may be offended, but that doesn’t change the data.

    Your pivot to then attack me personally is also not going to fix the issues.

    I never said the test scores were everything, and your twisting of my post to create that impression is a tried and true MCAS attack method. Nice.

    I’m happy to review the information that you have that shows that there is nothing to worry about at your school and that I am wrong to be concerned.

    Can you point me to this information?

    Maybe you could provide an actual name also, rather than attacking me anonymously?


  17. Jon, I would love t give you a name but I have felt intimidated by you and MKF a and don’t want to have to live in fear of retribution.

    Before I provide more information to show test scores are meaningless, you can first review the link I provided from the Education Law Center and we can begin our discussion with the meaningless designations.

    What I am concerned about is the Stqte could close our school simply because we have students who live in poverty and punish them because they aren’t able to overcome their life circumstances well enough to take a meaningless test.

  18. “If someone were asking the really hard questions, he would be asking the district how it is that the distribution of poor students in the district has gotten so skewed that the school with the highest proportion of poor children has MORE THAN THREE TIMES the percentage of the school with the lowest proportion”

    I asked this same question to my spouse two nights ago. We guessed that due to the way the school choice works in Montclair, the largest number of poor families live down in the 4th. Since the poorest area gets priority over their school choice than the other 3 wards, they probably choose their neighborhood schools for various reasons, but mainly due to ease of logistics. It’s a flaw in the system that has shown various other flaws in recent years. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t that long ago that it was deemed illegal to base the priority of choice on individuals family income. So they decided to change it to the income of the area. I know this since we benefited from it. The problem can be fixed by going to a complete lottery (not one where lower income families get a priority) where the magnet choices still have some weighting on the outcome.

  19. If the state closed Bullock nycmontclair, where would the students go? This is not a loaded question. What does the state get out of closing Bullock?

  20. Stu, the state has never cut district funding due to tests or opting-out, so I will flip your question back at you and ask why this is suddenly a concern. I’ve never seen state funding threatened to any district anywhere in NJ. Am I missing something? If so, please fill me in. If not, we have enough to worry about without adding a hypothetical situation none of us would want. Thanks.

  21. @jonbonesteel–so here we go. You misinterpret data, get called out on it by me, and then characterize it as me not caring about the achievement gap. So let me speak clearly and use small words.

    Bullock is not one of the worst schools in the state despite your earlier insistence that it is. Many students are doing quite well there. At the worst schools in the state, no one is doing well. Some of the students who are not doing well in Bullock would be struggling even if they went to Watchung (and I say this as a proud Watchung parent). They were assigned to Bullock because they are struggling. Indeed, one of our district’s methods of trying to even the playing field is to put some of these students in classrooms with a higher student to teacher ratio.

    My pointing out that Bullock is on the “focus” list because of achievement gap issues does not mean that I’m in favor of an achievement gap. I am not in favor of the achievement gap. I would love to see more programs in Montclair which address the achievement gap put into place. I am deeply unhappy with the fact that the former superintendent and school board overspent the budget without leaving money for the achievement gap panel’s recommendation.

    The difference between Glenfield’s participation rate and Renaissance’s participation rate is statistically significant. It just doesn’t tell the story you want to tell, so you’re discounting it.

    MKF is not coming together to fix anything. Your group hired a lawyer to harass a parent and to cherry-pick ethics violations. Neither of this things is productive or admirable. Given the secretive nature of your group, and the fact that even many of its “members” don’t seem to be invited to the meetings, and your lack of understanding about what constitutes “one of the worst schools in the state,” I’m not holding my breath that your group’s recommendations are going to amount to much. But maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  22. Jon!

    I am glad to see you back on Barista! Thank goodness you decided to return.

    At Montclair Education-First we have a saying “Every time Bonesteel speaks, ME-FIRST gets a new member.” I am not sure this is your intention, but ME-FIRST thanks you anyway.

    Don’t worry Jon!
    There are high opt out numbers in NY (over 60,000 and sure to increase this year). Don’t you just love data!!
    Those Park Slope families looking for a nice place to live will be attracted to Montclair because we are an Opt Out District. Our property values will actually benefit!!

    They are also going to love the Bullock School over others because those Park Slope families are looking for a little diversity too…

  23. And to refresh people’s memories, MCAS has held a series of education forums that have discussed alternatives to the test and punish status quo we have been living under, such as the one with the NY Performance Consortium These are a group of high schools in NY that have received waivers from high stakes standardized testing and use alternative means for assessment and have achieved great success. MCAS members have also spoken to restore such programs as the writers center to improve student performance and help narrow the achievement gap.

    I have recently posted links for progressive ideas to approach education and they continually go ignored.

  24. I’m busy Flynnie. At some point I have to WORK at work, but will try to do some digging later. I’m not saying that Montclair or any other town was punished for opting out of anything. Though during the height of the financial crisis/housing bubble burst, Montclair received a lot less funding than their neighbors did, shortly after CC was elected.

  25. I don’t think that they would close Bullock. We just built it at a very high cost. Maybe they would swap a different school to Bullock, combine them and then close that school.

    I have been thinking about this though….what state or town mandated things can I choose to opt-out of for my family? Choice matters to me too but a standardized test issue isn’t something I am passionate enough about to fight about. I took California tests so my kids can take PARCC tests.

    No, I’m thinking of other unfair and evil things the town does to enrich someone at my expense. The immediate one is that I will now disregard the overnight parking ban in front of my house. That only serves to enrich the town as I have not once seen a street sweeper come by overnight and I don’t live in a congested area at all. There’s plenty of parking room and no apartments nearby to make those folks park on my street overnight. There is not one valid reason that rule should apply to my family given my street situation in town. Opting out.

    Also, paying the security and fire alarm surcharge of $25. This one also makes no sense. I have never had a false alarm so until I have one, why am I paying a $25 surcharge year over year for my efforts to deter the rest of you from robbing me? Would you rather I got a gun and shot you when you tried to break in? Consider the alarm system and posted signs a favor. Opting out of the surcharge.

    Those are 2 things, will try to find some others. I will have to think of other things I don’t feel like participating in and choose to opt out!

  26. People can demean the “opt out, movement all they want, but does not change the fact that the 14 th amendment gives parents the rights to direct their children’s education. We are not opting out, we are refusing to subject our children to tests we consider to be meaningless and harmful. Did you know that Pearson hires random people to write and score these tests? they place advertisements on Craig’s list. Know subject area knowledge is required. And why exactly should I consider these to be good tests?

    I will make decisions in the best ntersts of my child. If the Stqte mandated I cut off his wrist should I just comply? silly comparison? no more so than comparing to not paying fines.

  27. Mr. Bonesteel repeatedly asks opt-out parents if they don’t like PARCC, what is the alternative? My answer, and a subject I’d like to see added to the discussion is portfolio based assessment. This method measures student growth though a portfolio of their work. The student’s growth or lack thereof can measure teacher performance as well without involving any for-profit mega corporations. It leaves room for students that test well, and also students whose talents may not sync up with high stakes testing. If you’d like to read more about portfolio based assessment, there is a lot of info out there.

    Anti-PARCC is not synonymous with anti-reform. I would love to see a much more progressive version of reform than what Don Katz and his ilk are offering.

  28. I’m no constitutional scholar but if the 14th amendment allows for parents to have freedom of choice for education then why would people be up in arms when things like school voucher programs or charter schools (which expand choice) are offered up as solutions.

    And that alarm surcharge, no matter what you say, is also meaningless and harmful.

  29. For the record, I am not demeaning the opt-out process. Though I do support a process of measurement, adjustment and measuring results. How this is done is where the problem lies. But advertising for scorers on Craigslist is hardly an issue to me and once again leans towards the hyperbole as does one successful teacher in Florida whose evaluation negatively impacted her career. Mistakes occur everywhere. This is why there are so many lawyers.

  30. @willjames–just noticed your comment. You are exactly right. The distribution of economically disadvantaged kids in the Montclair elementary schools is very poorly handled–and inexcusably so.

  31. Cspn55. Because vouchers and charters drain pubic schools of their funding and bring us one step closer to total privatization.

  32. And of course people have a right to let their kids test. Test all you want, but if my kid takes a test I do want qualified people, knowledgeable in the test subjects writing and scoring them.

  33. Stu,

    It’s undeniably true that most people gravitate to the “neighborhood school” option, if that option is open to them. So, your explanation is definitely one component of the overall phenomenon (i.e., huge disparity in distribution of economically-disadvantaged students).

    Another component of the explanation is that many people in the upper middle class, even ones who are otherwise quite intelligent, uncritically view high scores on standardized tests as a more or less direct indicator of educational quality, and thus pull strings behind the scenes to get their kids in whatever school has the “best” numbers.

    Yet another component is mentioned by @fishoutofvodka: Bullock has the capacity to serve the portion of Montclair’s grade school population that has the most challenging IEPs, and so it is carrying a larger portion of the district’s overall obligation to these students. (For which it should be *commended*, not punished.)

    So, as with so many other social phenomena, perfectly rational micro-behaviors on the part of different people (parents who live near Bullock, upper middle class parents elsewhere in the district, decision-makers in the MPS administration) add up to the discrepancies I noted above.

    And maybe this is the right distribution, all things considered. If *that’s* the case, though—if there’s a good argument for saying that the difference between Bullock on one end of this spectrum and Watchung & Bradford on the other end is justified and proper—-then we all should be much more explicit in our acknowledgment of what the story is, and why it is, and we should definitely stop the crowing on one hand about Watchung’s numbers and the dissing on the other of Bullock’s.

  34. willjames,

    I didn’t read you post as an all inclusive list of reasons, but you did leave out two major criteria:
    the differentiated curriculum of each school and, of course, the quality of staff. As subjective as these two might be, they are major components of any school selection.

  35. re Bullock and the number of economically disadvantaged students, there has also recently been a discussion of this on Share Montclair.

    The changes to the school lottery in 2010 were intended to insure that no school had more than it’s “fair share” of high income or low income students, relative to the general population of the town. The K students from that first lottery are now in 4th grade today.

    An inequitable distribution of economically disadvantaged students doesn’t just impact test scores, it also introduces the potential for disparity in PTA fundraising as well as availability of parents to volunteer in the schools.

    The district needs to say no to some of the neighboring families that want to send their kids to Bullock, just as they need to be firm in telling more upper income families that they cannot go to Bradford or Northeast or Watchung. Now how do they do that, when the economically disadvantaged family doesn’t have access to a car to get their kids to a school that’s not walking distance to the house. I know that Montclair provides courtesy busing at a mile, but what if the parents work and they need to use before care or after care? There’s no transportation provided for that.

  36. Frank,

    You’re right—I should have added a disclaimer that my list wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive one. Obviously, there are other criteria.

    School tours confirmed for me that Bullock’s staff was first-rate. So sure, that criterion is important. I’ll add that, for a parent simply doing the tours, the variance in “quality of staff” among all of the elementary schools seemed to be quite small.

    For me (and I know I’m not in the majority in this opinion), the magnet themes didn’t count for much. I don’t think my ranked choices corresponded at all with what I would have assumed my preferences would be at the outset, based on the ostensible “themes” of the schools. In the end, the themes seemed to me to be so much window-dressing.

    The condition and nature of the facilities may not sway many people, but I have to confess that that was an important criterion for me.

    But returning to the point about the distribution of economically-disadvantaged students throughout the district generally, and the concentration of such students at Bullock specifically, I believe the three reasons I mentioned in my post above are sufficient to explain the phenomenon, without even considering these other factors.

  37. That last paragraph of your post above, @njgator, is very important. Thank you for adding that detail.

    If this distribution is, all things considered, the way things should be in order to provide the best service to all children in the district (and their families), then so be it. But again, if that’s the case, then we need to be honest with ourselves about what’s what, and stop giving kudos in one direction and slaps on the wrist in the other.

    And yes, the impacts on PTA fundraising are palpable. If the various school’s PTA budgets (and the results of their annual fundraising) were ALL posted publicly, we’d see that the differences more or less track the demographics—-adding insult to injury.

  38. Stu, no sweat.

    Bannerchemical: I agree – portfolio assessments hold a lot of potential. Several years ago, the NJDOE piloted a program called personal learning plans. They were to be a method of tracking student progress that included mentoring, educational and vocational counseling, peer supports, and had the potential to expand into keeping portfolio assessment info for meeting state curricular requirements. A handful of districts piloted the program. There were issues that needed to be worked out, but there was real potential…. and then Christie was elected and the Common Core and its conjoined twin the PARCC were ushered in and the state completely dropped personal learning plans.

    Individualized methods of assessment, including portfolios, lend themselves to so many kinds of creative instruction and student engagement. I agree that reform is needed but that it need not rely upon standardized, data-driven, corporate-sponsored testing. Student-centered pedagogy is not antithetical to challenging curricula and measures to help close the achivement gap; in fact, I think student-centered methodologies are crucial to these things.

  39. I brought this up to the fake do nothing Achievement Gap Panel. I asked them about the discriminating requirements put on our focus schools buy RAC. They didn’t even know what RAC was but had the woman heading the agency for the state on their panel. Bullock is similar to schools in apartheid (state run) districts, they are at the mercy of people so disconnected dictating child damaging requrements. Love to see what would happen it RAC stepped up in Watchung.

  40. Stu- by calling us helicopter parents you are being demeaning. Also- most of our kids will end up in corporate America? Really? Not the goal for many of us just fyi. You say you have no horse in the race so maybe you’re of a different generation and you’re not following what careers and lives people are choosing these days so please don’t assume my kid will become part of the corporate world!

  41. Wow. OK Bethala. Looking at that response, you would never make it in the corporate world anyhow. You also wouldn’t have many friends with such a thin skin. But OK.

  42. I waver between smoothing out the disparities between the SES levels in the schools and focusing on appropriately supporting the schools that have the populations that need more support. However, after being recently reminded of budget joys and seeing the discussions about school capacity and achievement and so on, I don’t have confidence that there will be thoughtful appropriation of resources to where it’s actually needed.

    Wanting to apply ROI standards to education doesn’t work neatly, and (much like in business) numbers and results can be manipulated and massaged to suit various desired outcomes. That said, I value data and believe it can be used to target services effectively.

    One of the reasons I think data is important is because I believe the (very real) Achievement Gap should be heavily addressed in elementary schools (and I’ve shared my thoughts on how with the AGAP committee and the BOE) and even prior to traditional schooling years. However, we won’t see the results of any efforts for years. And it’s expensive. And it demands parents and staff and taxpayers quite literally buy in to the effort.

    My hope is that our next superintendent is someone who wants to commit to Montclair for the longterm, and that s/he has the confidence and leadership ability to create, present, and put into motion a vision that both faces the challenges and celebrates the achievements of our schools and the people inside them.

  43. @bethala…you may not want your child to work for a big corporation but if you follow the money you will find no matter what field of work your child choses his/her income will be derived from a large corporation. Unless they live off the grid and Montclair doesn’t prepare anyone for that.

  44. I really hate to say it Bethala, demeaning or not, your responses sound exactly like that of what I would expect from a helicopter parent. But feel free to point out my immaturity. It really doesn’t bother me the least bit nor does it make any difference to me whether you choose to value any of my opinions.

  45. @nycmontclair, no need to be afraid of Bonesteel.

    As we’ve seen in the last few weeks here, a few pokes and he cries– pulling down his website and hiding in the process. As I tell my son, the best way to handle a bully is to punch him in the face! Most go running scared– pulling down a website is the functional equivalent here.

    But Bless his heart, when Bonesteel said, “Your pivot to then attack me personally is also not going to fix the issues,” I laughed out loud.

    Poor him.

  46. @stu,

    I am a proud helicopter parent. Hate me. I know each grade my kid gets, his friends, what he eats, what he does online.

    Terrible, I know.

    Having grown up in the 70’s/80’s I remember the freedom of traveling to many states and cities with folks my parents didn’t even know. I remember staying out past dark. “Kissing'” it up to God, etc.

    We also didn’t use seatbelt, smoked EVERYWHERE, and were more than happy to drink and drive.

    So, ah, tell me again what’s wrong with being a helicopter parent? These days, it’s simply called being a parent.

  47. So, ah, tell me again what’s wrong with being a helicopter parent? These days, it’s simply called being a parent.

    It stifles independence. Of course, I can’t prove this. But I have received calls from parents of job candidates applying for open positions in my employ.

  48. And Prof…I am from the same generation. Youngest of seven so my parents were not around to helicopter. Heck, I don’t even know if I would want to be a kid today. Too much unnecessary pressure.

  49. So MKF has the solution to the “achievement gap” and will advise the committee on same. I imagine they will also provide funding to make this happen to select groups and individuals in town. The return of the Benevolent Patriarch. We here in the Gap are all aquiver and can’t wait to start the jubilee. BTW, “Kissing it up to God”, is what you did when your candy/treat fell on the ground/floor, and you could continue eating it. Kinda like the 5 second rule.

  50. Almost half of the parents in Montclair refusing the PARCC tests is a powerful show of support for public education and authentic learning.
    United we stand!
    If Helicopter parenting is the new insult, bring it on. We’ve been called far worse.
    Montclair continues to show that it is, and will always be, progressive, creative, diverse, and well educated.
    I hear realtors talking about bidding wars.
    I love Spring, and the fresh scent of hope!
    Love to all of you who have supported our schools, teachers, paraprofessionals, and children, so tirelessly over the years! Wow!

  51. Very early in this thread, Jon Bonesteel made a comment that pretty much epitomizes one of the largest issues I have with the reliance on tests like PARCC. In his post, he pointed out that Watchung School, considered one of Montclair’s “best performing” elementary schools, had a very low opt-out rate while Bullock School, which some consider an under-performer, had the highest opt-out rate.

    The inference seems to be that if a “good” school is doing something that a “bad” school isn’t doing, the “good” school must naturally be right – and whatever they are doing must be the model that we need to get all other schools to emulate.

    If we can just get those “bad” schools to act like “good” schools, that will certainly fix whatever it is that makes them “bad” schools in the first place.

    When you put raw data in the hands of people who aren’t really analytical or who just want the data to support their story rather than illuminate the real one, you get the worst possible scenario: illogical conclusions reached by people who are utterly convinced that they’re actually data-driven.

    Using the early post as an example, the inference Jon made was that there is some relationship between opt-out rates and school performance. However, Princeton, which has one of the best school systems in the state, actually had a far higher opt-out rate than Watchung School did.

    What does that tell us? Nothing. It tells us that opt-out rates are an observation.

    The problem is that people misuse data like the kind PARCC provides to support a point of view that they already held long before the test – whether the data really supports it or not. The data actually further entrenches existing opinions – even when they aren’t accurate.

  52. “What does that tell us? Nothing.”

    Your point about causation is a good one. Most likely, one could find a correlation between towns with a high rate of registered Democrat voters vs. Republican and high opt-out rates. Maybe it proves that the issue, like everything else today, is political.

  53. Exactly, Stu. That’s the problem with serving up lots of unanalyzed data to the general public. People make connections that aren’t necessarily true and are then even more resolute about their point of view – and that just makes it so much harder to align people on courses of action that are actually helpful.

    So, just using this thread as an example, the takeaway from the varying opt-out rates could have been: “PARCC is more objectionable to some parents than others. They’re going to need to find a way to address the objections so it’s more acceptable to the overall population.”

    Instead, Jon’s inference read a bit more like “If the parents of higher achieving kids didn’t have a problem with PARCC, it must be fine.”

  54. Let me also add that Bethala45 manages to “helicopter” away from her children most Monday nights to attend board of education meetings as a positive and courageous advocate for public education for all our children, not just her own. This handful who throw dirt at parents who make a real effort to show up to the front lines to support our schools, mostly do so from the comfort of their own homes.
    Thank you, Bethala45 for never giving up, and for withstanding the dirt throwing. I hope you find some peace in knowing how many people stand with you.

  55. willjames,

    Yes, I agree with your #1 is #1 reason and #3 is also very valid. Your #2 is anecdotal and I suspect statistically insignificant, but it is a good conversational point. Basically, because #1 is #1, the K-5 school enrollments track to the towns demographics.

    What is an interesting comparison to all your points is Edgemont. The makeup is very close to Bullock, it has has the most distinctly different theme, its performance is in the middle and the opt-out rate one of the highest, and the PTA is well-funded (anecdotally, of course).


  56. Wondering who could help me out with this. Do we know what Principals sent out letters to families regarding Montclair’s refusal policy? I know Glenfield did not, which might have played a factor in their lower numbers. If parents didn’t know, that could be an obvious reason they didn’t refuse the test for their child.

  57. @jonbonesteel sorry I couldn’t address you question earlier….. I’m afraid that fixing the problem would require someone more qualified than myself. The problem happens to be poverty in America. If our schools equally divided our economically disadvantaged students, I believe your precious Watchung might not have the scores you seem so happy with. I think others clued you in pretty well while I was at work, so thanks to those who did. I think it was also mentioned above, but you can’t compare these schools the way you do. You must take into consideration the population of special needs as well as ecomonically disadvantaged when comparing. Understand?
    Wait, if MKF decided to use their wealth on other things besides expensive lawyers, maybe we could get started on that poverty problem.

  58. I can’t understand the folks that think testing is the answer to the Achievement Gap. Tests can not close gaps. We need solutions like Universal Pre K and smaller class sizes. We need Professional Developement for our educators that focuses on educating children, not how to administer new tests each year. All children need to be introduced to the arts and music, participation in health and PE. Not punished and put into remedial classes so they can improve their test scores. For what? To make a school look good? So that MKF’s property values stay high? We should demand that our tax dollars go to educating the whole child. Let’s put the pitchforks down and come together and solve these issues. MSW and MKF could really take a lesson from MCAS. Caring about schools does not mean worrying about test scores. It means looking at our population of students and recognizing how they can be best served. Hoping our BOE chooses a new Superintendant with that vision in mind.

  59. The unsaid subtext of the pro-testing movement, qby33, is that somebody somewhere must be failing – and if we could just pick that person out of a line-up, we could swap them out for someone who wouldn’t fail. The principal, the teacher, whoever it is, if we could just find the culprit, the achievement gap would magically disappear. That’s what lies beneath the surface of the pro-testing camp. The problem must be a person or people. It can’t be something big and hard like the effects of poverty, home environment, readiness for school, etc..

    Beneath all of the surface-level rhetoric is still the simplistic idea that somehow we could leave alone all the big, serious problems and still change the outcome by merely focusing on the people who touch kids’ lives to the tune of about 6 hours a day.

    Of course, that’s never worked before but, hey, I’m sure a new double-triple test will do something magical that no other test ever has.

  60. The corollary is that entrenched interests oppose any evaluation that breaks new ground in format or content. Maintaining the status quo, even though it is obviously failing many students, is preferable to upsetting politically active constituencies.

  61. Duke, your premise is that there is only one possible lever to pull on the entire complex machine of childhood development and education: evaluations.

    I think the point that isn’t really being heard by folks in that camp is that there are actually many, many levers to pull which are far closer to the actual roots of the problem.

    The whole PARCC concept is kinda like having a patient walk in with the chicken pox and thinking an MRI is somehow going to help.

    For some reason, there seems to be this belief that we have a diagnosis problem. Actually, in a way, I suppose that’s true. We have a problem where one camp can’t focus on anything other than doing more diagnosis…

  62. I believe Duke is referring to the powers-that-be at state and national teacher/labor organizations. Montclair is the proxy battle and they don’t want to give an inch on polices that might lead to instructors receiving a grade on student performance. That’s why the MEA was at war with the district for the last two years.

  63. To date, teachers have never opposed an evaluation method that would actually measure their individual performance in a fair and accurate way. That’s largely because no such evaluation method has been proposed.

    Instead, only methods that are known to be wholly ineffective at gauging a teacher’s performance have been served up – and when teachers push back (just like educational researchers have…) the claim is that they oppose accountability.

    If the proposed tests could actually parse out the impact of the teacher from all other factors, it would be a different story. It can’t.

  64. It’s easy to make the teachers’ union the enemy here–but even if you loath everything they stand for, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong about these evaluations.

    Here’s an article by the American Statistical Association which explains why tests like PARCC don’t work for teacher evaluations.

    So if you really want teachers to be evaluated based on how they positively or negatively impact learning in their classrooms, you should absolutely oppose tests like the PARCC simply because they DO NOT MEASURE teacher performance. It’s counterintuitive, but completely correct (and also a good example of those critical thinking skills everyone says they value so much).

  65. I don’t loath the unions at all but I do think they care more about dues than innovation. There isn’t any part of the PARCC that will be recorded as a good thing or bad thing for teachers right now and the unions are still trying to get rid of it. The consensus from the kids and parents who didn’t opt out was this was a mountain out of a mole hill. My two children didn’t have a problem with the test and aren’t worried about the next round.

  66. @gretcheninthekitchen, I never worried that my kid would think the PARCC was hard. Not a bit. That kid can take standardized tests (even poorly designed ones) like a champ.

    I opted out my kid out of PARCC (with said kid’s blessing) because I object to the wasteful spending of tax-payers’ money on evaluations that don’t evaluate, and I object to activities that waste my kid’s time.

  67. Agreed, Fish.

    For whatever reason, there seems to be this phenomenon where some folks think “Teachers are biased so their rationale for opposing PARCC is automatically false – even if that rationale is shared by lots of other people who aren’t teachers, associated with the union, etc.”

    It’s kind of like “If the union says something, it’s automatically wrong.”

  68. “To date, teachers have never opposed an evaluation method that would actually measure their individual performance in a fair and accurate way. That’s largely because no such evaluation method has been proposed.”

    This statement assumes measuring teacher performance is a critical factor. I don’t think it is. This is one reason I agree with MCAS on the PARCC. I think this is also the reason why there are not alternative methods developed by the same educational researchers. BTW, our municipal operations don’t have performance reviews and it seems to work relatively well. It may also be a reason why professional development, beyond the PARCC technology part, was one of the first items to be cut from this year’s budget.

    Yes, we could spend more money on general training and development, but the strategy is an inefficient & indiscriminate one and you still have no measure of need and results. We have no way to measure whether the providers of this training are good or bad. Further, the student population is such a big variable, you have a high risk of deficiencies being incorrectly attributed to the instructors or the administrators.

    I still believe there is a minimal level of ongoing professional development, but it should be allocated as we introduce new curriculum & tools or to new employees that need help getting up to speed with the experienced instructors.

  69. My problem with the MCAS is how they demonized the district and hardworking employees for implementing the state’s reforms. They, along with the MEA, were clearly doing the union’s bidding in a scorched-earth campaign that hurt a lot of people. I expect the PARCC to be here for the long haul and hopefully the opt-outs will spur some useful tweaks.

  70. There’s been lots of “demonizing” going around, @starburst. Why do you only have sympathy for one particular group?

    Michelle Fine is hardworking and brings a lot to the table in our education discussions, and yet she’s not just demonized by those who disagree with her, but legally harassed with OPRA requests at her place of work.

    MCAS is “demonized” by individuals who can’t seem to recognize that they’ve actually contributed positively to the discussion at hand. They’ve organized talks and educational forums. They’ve raised concerns at the BOE meetings that are shared by many. (Portraying them as nothing but evil union shills is a bit demonizing, too–don’t you think?).

    The teachers are hardworking, yet are “demonized” as lazy, good-for-nothings responsible for every failure in every school everywhere.

    Penny MacCormack was hardworking, and was “demonized” for some of her educational philosophies, the budget issues, and some missteps (such as the handling of the leaked assessment and the firing of the Glenfield principal–both of which the BOE played a role in).

    The BOE is hardworking, but has been “demonized” for not listening to its constituents (their policy of refusing to answer questions during meetings isn’t helping them, and is probably contributing to the hostilities that have developed in this town).

    And as of yesterday’s bipartisan decision by the Senate committee on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act–which greatly reduces the federal government’s role in mandating tests like the PARCC–I have serious doubt we’ll be dealing with PARCC for the long haul.

  71. I don’t think I have demonized MCAS. I view them on par with MSW & MKF. Their activism is a tribute, but some of their tactics personally bother me. No doubt the length of time over which they have used these tactics is a big factor for me. I also acknowledge that their tactics have been very effective. Yet, they, like MSW & MKF, are using these tactics because they are really not concerned with being inclusive or compromise. Further, they share the same achilles heal that MSW & MKF – that they in one or more ways, are a proxy for varied interests. They create some differentiation because of the model they choose to follow. I appreciate the foresight of this tactic, but MCAS and the other two are proxies nonetheless. So, I take what each has to offer, stripping away the hyperbole, consider it and form my opinions. As I have said many times, I don’t think highly of CC and the PARCC is flawed – maybe fatally. So, I am not against most of their overall issues. Their justifications are the weakest part of their activism, but its an ‘ends justifies the means” type of environment we live in.

  72. MCAS on par with MSW? Wth….that is the most ridiculous statement I have read in this whole discussion. MKF and MSW only exist because they are pissed about all that MCAS has accomplished. The opt out numbers are high due to MCAS and their help in getting the word out to the public that we can refuse the test for our children. Would Penny still be here if it wasn’t for MCAS asking the hard questions? She couldn’t handle the heat and poof, she’s gone. MSW is just a plain old smear campaign with someone who has way too much time on their hands and an ax to grind. Really that kind of statement isn’t worth anyone debating. Laughable really. Let’s just move on though, unless we want to sit around and hash out how fast some of Penny’s helpers jumped ship after she resigned. Sure, we could all dig into what’s behind that. OR we can move on.

  73. And one more thing Mr. Rubacky….are you actually comparing a group that holds public forums and invites all that want to attend, to an anonymous blog that only aims to bash said, visible group? Also to another group who only holds secret meetings and hides behind their computer screens? You might want to rethink that.

  74. Did Penny MacCormack leave a forwarding address? I’m wondering why she was so hush hush about her next career move. Is there a reason this is such a secret, or am I the only one who doesn’t know? Between all these anonymous groups and Penny MacCormack’s secrecy about her new job–such intrigue!

  75. “I opted out my kid out of PARCC (with said kid’s blessing) because I object to the wasteful spending of tax-payers’ money on evaluations that don’t evaluate, and I object to activities that waste my kid’s time.”

    Not a waste of your money if your kid rocks the test. It doesn’t matter what he/she actually learned or whether he/she is bored. The only thing that matters is performance relative to peers. Thats it, period.

  76. Absolutely wrong, stayhypy. It is STILL a waste of my kid’s time and the tax-payers’ money if my kid rocks the PARCC.

    Performance relative to peers is irrelevant if what the test measures doesn’t correlate to what it’s suppose to measure (and the PARCC test has never been evaluated or field tested). It’s like seeing which kid can tie his/her shoe fastest, and then insisting that kid is the most college and career ready.

    Performance relative to peers is also not a great standard for a proficiency test.

  77. Not sure I followed that one, stayhyphy.

    Are you saying that you think the PARCC is some kind of contest? Kids “win” if they score highly?

    That’s how I read that comment but that’s so completely the opposite of the actual stated purpose of the PARCC that I wanted to make sure I understood that right.

  78. Actually, I guess also I’m a little stuck on the part where you say “It doesn’t matter what he/she learned,” @stayhypy.

    So if my kid didn’t learn any college and career readiness skills, but still does well on the test–that’s a…victory?

  79. OK qby33, let’s play….

    Your bring up the MCAS public forums which is an interesting coincidence. Michele Fine called me out of the blue the other day and also cited these MCAS public forums during our conversation. She said she was at Yale when she first tried to reach me.

    Anyway, there is a big difference in my mind between MCAS pulling in a panel of “C” listers to moderate the choir when Ms MacCormack was holding dozens of meetings in fronts of hundreds more residents each meeting for months on end. The makeup of her meetings were liberally “sprinkled” with Doubting Thomas’s on a good night and downright hostile opponents on the less good nights. But she kept coming out. MCAS seems to have curtailed their pep rallies just a little bit. Oh, MSW & MKF are not eligible to be taken to task, but MCAS has also not separated themselves enough for me to make a distinction.

    MCAS takes credit and boastfully so for “driving” Ms MacCormack out of town. It is this single claim that I find most offensive. This is just the ugly side of Montclair. It has always been here, but it is refreshing that we can maintain it with each successive wave of residents. It’s like our own little cult.

  80. Perhaps I missed it, but can someone tell me how Montclair, as a district, compares with other districts, both nearby and state wide, in the refusal rate? Would love to know!

  81. Frank, had you been to ANY of the meetings you mention? Very curious.

    I ask because I have been to most you speak of. Just wonder if we may have met along the way.

  82. Frank, would you see it as “ugly” if a politician whose policies you thought were destructive was forced to leave office because of public pressure? It’s like that.

  83. That’s a lazy analogy latebloomer. First, I didn’t say she was forced to leave. I said MCAS characterized it that way and then took credit for it. Second, if it was so righteous, then I have a problem with the BoE members that were silent on the subject of her leaving and especially the one that was too tired to take a public stand. If this was one of Montclair’s finest hours, then go ahead and bask in it. I think it was the opposite. We’ll just have to disagree.

  84. Frank, saying things doesn’t make it so. Please show evidence that MCAS ever took credit for Penny leaving or characterized it as though she was forced to do so.

  85. whatever group hired MacCormack didn’t know or didn’t care that there would be a highly mobilized and vocal group that would object to her working in Montclair from the get-go? Whatever the miscalculation, there is some group with some power in Montclair in favor of her being hired and those people are still likely living here. so when you think about it, is not surprising groups or blogs like mkf and MSW have sprouted up whether they represent the losing faction or some concerned parents (same way that MCAS has some union proponents and also some concerned parent proponents).

    I will note that the hysterics and tone of general complaining is clearly different now that MacCormack is gone even though the same problems remain. My opinions change on this as I read more and see what happens at these BOE and Bose meetings but I still wouldn’t support either side. Glad MacCormack is gone though as town was clearly not ready for her and it was too much BS given that my kids only have so many years in this school system.

  86. nycmontclair,
    Ah, this is where you don’t appreciate or understand their form, otherwise you would not have asked such a question.

  87. Getting Penny to leave was a feather in MCAS’s cap and everybody knows it.

    The problem I have with anti-testing dogma is it becomes a catch-all for any problem, real or imagined, with the educational system.

    The author blames standardized testing for everything from the lack of Chinese Nobel laureates to eye strain to something undefined he calls “ability.”

    Give me a break.

  88. Do we know for a fact that Penny MacCormack was actually “pushed out.” According to her email, this is all I know:

    “The decision was not easy. The role of superintendent has been extremely satisfying, but addressing the needs of my family had become a high priority for me. After much reflection, I have accepted a post with a New York-based venture focused on instruction and professional development.”

    Is there another side to this story we don’t know about? My guess is she didn’t land a new job overnight. Combine that with those terrific new headshots she had taken, and I’m guessing this was a long time in the making.

  89. Frank, this is where you lack evidence, otherwise you would provide it. I have Not read anything published by MCAS to indicate gloating, credit or ohherwise.

    If everyone know this mattmiller, then evidence should be easy to provide.

    And if there is research and evidence to show Stqndardized testing closes achievement gaps, improves educational outcomes and cures cancer please provide that research and evidence. I promise to read all research.

  90. Explaining this outright to you will only serve to have me falling in with the ‘teaching to the test’ crowd and I have previously noted your disdain of this practice.

    So, presuming that MCAS is not another anonymous group, I’ll ask you what are manifested signs of MCAS’ public identity? Is it important that the public identity can be broken down into its individual components or is an amalgamation sufficient. If the latter, is it important whether it is ever fully consummated?

  91. Hi ME-FIRST fans! There is a casting call for the new production of LEN-HUR! No more horses please! Rocky will be playing THE Arabian Stallion. Sorry!

    Today’s decoder ring should be set on ‘deconstruct’.

    Let’s see if we can list some of the interesting language in this string of posts and bring some LUV and TRUTH back into the picture. Repeat after me – DECODER Ring – DO YOUR THING!!

    “The ‘people’ may not be paying attention…”
    Decode: The people that agree with me are paying attention; those that don’t agree aren’t the ‘people’.

    “…large ratio of helicopter parents to parents…”
    Decoded: Some parents are good – some parents bad. I can judge bad parents because I’m a good-er parent.

    “Moreover, most folks moving in would likely quickly find out about this PARCC stuff, taste the food at a great restaurant, meet someone interesting at a park or pre-K and realize: Montclair is a great town.”
    Decoded: There’s still a lot of LUV in this town. Less PARCC = more LUV.

    “The amount of hyperbole on both sides of the argument is simply astounding.”
    Decoded: Your side uses more hyperbole than my side.

    “…as a proud parent of a third grade in Bullock, I take great offense at Jon Bonesteel’s comments, while at the same time realizing the ignorance behind the statement.”
    Decoded: …as a proud parent of a third grade in Bullock, I take great offense at Jon Bonesteel’s comments, while at the same time realizing the ignorance behind the statement.

    “We should be coming together to fix this, not ignoring it. We (MKF) are working on a number of specific proposals which will be released soon enough (we’ve only been together for a couple of months).”
    Decoded: Oops, the decoder ring EXPLODED! Hold on…let me get one made of titanium steel.

    “Potentially, yes, though there is a certain subset of Brooklynites who actually would consider moving here due to it, not despite it.”
    Decoded: I admit it; Park Slope hates testing.

    “Jon, I would love to give you a name but I have felt intimidated by you and MKF and don’t want to have to live in fear of retribution.”
    Decoded: “Rosebud…”

    I really hate to say it Bethala, demeaning or not, your responses sound exactly like that of what I would expect from a helicopter parent.
    Decoded: I love calling Bethala a ‘helicopter parent!’

    “Love to all of you who have supported our schools, teachers, paraprofessionals, and children, so tirelessly over the years! Wow!”
    Decoded: It’s all about the LUV!!

    “I don’t loath the unions at all but I do think they care more about dues than innovation.”
    Decoded: I don’t really like unions.

    “Michelle Fine is hardworking and brings a lot to the table in our education discussions, and yet she’s not just demonized by those who disagree with her, but legally harassed with OPRA requests at her place of work.”
    Decoded: Michelle Fine has very big COJ_NES!

    “I don’t think I have demonized MCAS.”
    Decoded: I have demonized MCAS.

    Anyway, there is a big difference in my mind between MCAS pulling in a panel of “C” listeners to moderate the choir when Ms MacCormack was holding dozens of meetings in fronts of hundreds more residents each meeting for months on end.
    Decoded: I demonized MCAS or MCAS bad – Penny better.

    “This is just the ugly side of Montclair.”
    Decoded: Your side of Montclair is ugly.

    “nycmontclair, Ah, this is where you don’t appreciate or understand their form, otherwise you would not have asked such a question.”
    Decoded: I don’t have a clever retort for nycmontclair; let me resort to mysterious dialogue…

    “The problem I have with anti-testing dogma is it becomes a catch-all for any problem, real or imagined, with the educational system.”
    Decoded: Let me channel my inner Matt and spin!

    ME-FIRST Decoder Rings are now available in all ring sizes and colors. All rings are capable of decoding semiotic sleights of hand and most verbal meadow muffins. No Refunds! Attend a sooper-secret, anonymous, paid operative, bring your own snacks (and booze), MEETING
    at our really secret, behind the PARCC location.


  92. Thanks, @jonathantaylorthomas, for completely dismissing someone’s comments as “nothing” just because you don’t agree with them. Makes for such a good discussion of issues at hand!

    (For those without decoder rings, I’m being sarcastic here.)

  93. The MCAS and MEA spent almost two years attacking the district and Penny MacCormack, disrupting meetings, falsely accusing her problems with the budget, and filing dozens of FOIAs looking for dirt. You can’t rewrite that history.

  94. Jonathantaylorthomas and drcolson,

    Lenny thinks your comments are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face. I’m quoting Billy Shakespeare too.

  95. The superintendent left because she was misinformed, or just plain not informed, regarding this town. Somehow she was under the impression that she could just sweep in here and say anything, and her plans would just fall into place. Certain individuals did approach her about this attitude and try to explain to her that she needed to get to know the town and it’s quietly kept racial history, as well as the history of the magnets. But no. Somehow, she believed that anything she said, especially pertaining to the achievement gap would be accepted. How long has this committee been in place and what has it accomplished? When did she acknowledge that her policies were maintaining the gap by not listening to the teachers? She and the board seemed to be under the impression that by breaking the MEA, and demoralizing staff, she would be able to achieve her success for her next move.
    Not realizing that there have always been Families in this town on both sides of the divide who will push back, she was a poor choice for superintendent, but she was what the board wanted for it’s own agenda-the continued defunding of support programs and the breaking down of the MEA, as well as top down management.
    With an energized citizenry, and new BOE members, I am hopeful that this new search will be community wide in every sense of the word, not just a dog and pony show, and will result in a new superintendent who will value public involvement in public education, listen to staff and not treat them with detached disdain, demand qualified and certified staff at 22 Valley, respect the history of this town and learn from it, and see the achievement gap in the broader context of educational achievement for all students.

  96. mm writes:

    “…see the achievement gap in the broader context of educational achievement for all students.”

    What does that mean ?

  97. mm writes:

    “…see the achievement gap in the broader context of educational achievement for all students.”

    What does that mean ?

    It may mean that the district’s performance improvements have to be demonstrated across the entire student population. Having one demographic moving up in accomplishments while another demographic stagnates is not progress.

  98. The MEA’s goal was to keep the PARCC from being implemented at all costs and they would have gone after any superintendent that took on that mandate. It just so happened that MacCormack accepted the task here in Montclair, and it put a target on her back.

    The only way MacCormack tried to “break” the MEA was to do her job setting up the tests and getting the district up to speed on technology. She made the Achievement Gap a priority and spent a great deal of time meeting with community members and listening to their issues and possible solutions. It is not a problem that will be solved overnight.

  99. That is history though. I’m more interested in Mayor Jackson and how he just stepped down from the planning board after it surfaced that he probably got some sweetheart deals for local donors.

    [portion of comment removed]

  100. PARCC was state mandated. This district’s response was not to question it as a mandate we could not afford early on (as other disricts did), ask for the paper and pencil alternative early on, or offer alternatives to Families who wanted to refuse the test until the last minute. This superintendent, unlike others, did not look at the viability of alternative assessments. When the board removed MEA from agenda and when some board members publicly verbally assaulted the MEA President, and the superintendent asked for teachers to respond to what was not working, and they did, then ignored them, the atmosphere of mistrust had been laid. If anybody put a “target” on Dr. MacCormack, she might want to look at who hired her.
    As for the achievement gap, the superintendent/BOE did not fund specific programs that had been in place and supported these students, but replaced them with inflated and developmentally inappropriate benchmarks, which moved children from the classroom into remediation, and possibly classification, thus maintainig the situation. And really, if this was going to be her crowing glory in Montclair, addressing and doing away with the achievement gap, but she was somehow made to leave by a vocal opposition, she was clearly too weak for the task.

  101. Lol, now MIchelle Fine is on the payroll of Deutsche Bank and apparently the MEA. Wow, it’s like a game of telephone.

    Seems to me there are a bunch of grumpy people out there who aren’t happy the rest of us aren’t just quietly going into the night and accepting their corporate reforms without question and instead of presenting actual data and research to show why we should, would rather use mud slinging and distraction techniques to sway the average person, who hasn’t yet educated themselves on the reform agenda, over to their side. It would seem if standardized testing is so awesome, the common core is going to save the world and tryng teacher evaluations to test scores is going to cure all disease, that rather than going after individual people, the reformers can
    simply present the research and data to back up their claims. What’s that I’m hearing? Crickets?

  102. From google:
    The Montclair Education Association (MEA) is a union of approximately 1,100 public school educators EMPLOYED ( emphasis mine) by the Montclair, New Jersey School District.

    Allie- Last I heard Michelle Fine worked for the city of NY, not Montclair. She is a parent in the district. Best to have the basic facts first before jumping on the bandwagon of smearing a fellow parent.

    Lenny- excellent summary!!!
    Frank- where did MCAS take credit for the superintendent leaving??? I missed that memo. Also, I’m not sure I understand your reference to Michelle Fine contacting you.

    What do I know though, I’m too busy hovering over my kids.

  103. Tonyrod, the blog post you’re pumping doesn’t even allege actual wrongdoing. Second, the mayor made the decision to appoint Mr. Schwartz long before the post even appeared.

    The whole routine where a muckraking anonymous blog post is promoted by people posting the equivalent of fake Yelp reviews here to drive traffic to them is just silly and old at this point.

  104. @ allie,
    Careful now.
    This is a most slippery slope you have chosen to slide down. Do we really want to enter into this abyss?

    Look around; we have top employees from Goldman Sacks, JP Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers, now defunct. All of these corporations; known as masters of the universe, have faced fines for their financial mismanagement.

    And how many residents in Montclair have mortgages through these upstanding financial institutions?

    These are the same institutions which we fought hard against, in the 1970’s and 1980’s to get them to divest of their vast investments in Apartheid South Africa.

    So your point about Dr. Fine is what….?

  105. “and” not “when” – My apologies for using the wrong conjunction.

    She attacks the corporate agenda and mentality when it suits her politically but is glad to accept money from one of the worst players out there when it benefits her personally.

  106. There has been much talk about the achievement gap. The achievement gap panel was not the district’s first crack at addressing this persistent issue. As far back as the early 1980’s, then superintendent Dr. Fitzgerald, started many initiatives to address the achievement gap. After school tutoring programs, several of the magnet themes, enrichment classes, and many other academic programs were organized to improve the achievement gap. It has been a long and frustrating journey. Some of the very programs in place for years to address the achievement gap were eliminated once MacCormack arrived.

    MacCormack, on her arrival, did not have a “target” on her back, but she did arrive in a cloud of mistrust.

    Her hire; was done in a most clandestine fashion. Her credentials were never fully vetted, by anyone at CO or by the BOE.

    According to her former employers, MacCormack was never a superintendent, or an assistant superintendent, anywhere. She was, at best, a supervisor and at one point, an “acting” assistant superintendent, despite assurances from the BOE that she had obtained her certification in Connecticut. So she brought with her much mistrust. That mistrust would only grew, with each misstep.

    Prior to coming to Montclair, MacCormack landed in Trenton, where for 11 months, she was responsible for transitioning districts from NJ ASK, to the PARCC assessment.

    It’s difficult to trust your educational leaders when they arrive pulling with them, so much mistrust.
    Hope our BOE have learned from this.

  107. Dherron….MacCormack eliminated achievement gap narrowing programs I guess, but it begs the question…..why is the achievement gap discussed as being worse than ever when we had these programs in place for decades now? Were they not effective or effective but not enough? If ineffective should they have been eliminated for a new approach? Not trying to judge anything but have only been in Montclair for 8 yrs.

  108. @cspn55
    Your questions are excellent, and they begs for answers. To even begin to answer such complex questions requires honest data from the BOE. That data has not been forthcoming.

    The BOE released a statement that said the achievement gap was larger than they had been led to believe. Whatever data they were receiving was neither accurate nor complete.

    The programs to address the achievement gap, based on prior years, was effective, but there may have been reductions to the programs in order to support other programs.

    The district has an Affirmative Action/Human Relations Committee, where such data was reported to the BOE and discussed. Whether it continues to meet and provide such data is unknown.

    We may also be seeing the results of the district’s elimination of its public Pre-K program, and its devastating and long lasting affects.

    One thing is certain, we know that there is an achievement gap/opportunity gap; our failure to provide services and programs to address this problem will continue to harm children’s educational experiences.

  109. Nice summary. I agree totally with that part.

    While I believe you know our history far, far better than myself, I think your are taking editorial liberties with supposition that the MPS had achieved a closer gap then now. I don’t perceive that as true.

    The status and reports of the AA/HR Committee is known – not unknown. It would be valid to challenge whether this committee ever provided accurate or complete information. Did we even have the tools to properly measure the gap and interpret the results objectively?

    The result of eliminating the former Pre-K program (in 1998?) have not been measured and we don’t know what would have happened if we kept it. We do know cost was the reason we dropped it. We do know that money, and the money in all the succeeding years, was redirected into the other grades and special ed and not returned to the taxpayers. Our operating budget was about $52MM in 1998. The MPS was given healthy increases to funds year after year. So, devastating? How can you know? What would Montclair have lost in return.

    The gap’s importance, and how we discuss and decide what courses to take, are about now. To suggest Montclair had a better handle on it in the 1980’s or that it was actually closer, is your opinion. You do not support it so I am not sure the point you are trying to make here.

  110. “didn’t know or didn’t care that there would be a highly mobilized and vocal group that would object to her working in Montclair from the get-go?”

    Presumably not. There was probably the assumption that people in Montclair judge people as themselves, not “by the cover” (or “one line on a resume”, in this case).


  111. “Whatever data they were receiving was neither accurate nor complete.”

    It was incomplete. The first meeting where this data was presented under Dr. M’s administration included every chart. We’d been receiving just a select few under at least the final years of Dr. A’s administration.

    “The programs to address the achievement gap, based on prior years, was effective”

    Maybe. We cannot be sure unless we go back and look at the data from those years that was missing. That’s the problem with incomplete information: one cannot safely make decisions from what little is given.

    I’d have to go back and check, but I believe that that first report of Dr. M’s administration did show a couple of years worth of history. Just judging from those, the previous programs were not helping. But even that is an incomplete picture (too short a timeframe) so we cannot be certain.


  112. @agideon,

    There was probably the assumption that people in Montclair judge people as themselves not “by the cover” (or “one line on a resume,” in this case).

    I believe people in Montclair do judge people as themselves, but no one likes being deceived. It is more than a one liner on a resume. It was blatant deception, with the help of BOE members.

    One should not make false claims on their resume, particularly about prior certifications and job titles. Why is this important, because as Montclair, searches for its next superintendent, there must be transparency in the hiring process, and the candidates will need to be fully vetted?

  113. Andrew – What took five minutes was my actual Google search. After the announcement of her hiring was made (out of the blue), why wouldn’t I be curious as to who this person was? I was under the impression that the process of finding a new super was far from over. Not that I’m trying to criticize your reading apprehension, but let’s be fair.

  114. Andrew- Apparently, you may not be aware of past practices and the community component used in the district to hire key administrators. There has always been a community component.

    During the last super search, calls were placed to CO- asking about the status of the superintendent’s search. There was never an update; suddenly a candidate was hired. In the past, when the candidate field was narrowed down to 3 candidates, those candidates were introduced to the community, as finalist.

    In addition to the community component, there was also an Administrative Council, consisting of principals, assistant principals and central office administrators. The Administrative Council would then interview the finalists. None of this happened.

    Using such a closed hiring process, lends itself to claims of questionable hiring practices.

  115. dherron,

    That’s all fine and well…well not really. Are you saying subordinates and unions got together to screen a Superintendent. Well, that explains how we got into the mess we are in. That has to be – not that is – one of dumbest, moronic processes that I have ever heard of. Did we get that one from Blue Wave?

    I would embrace Sean Spiller on the BoSE before I would embrace that piece of stupidity. Do you actually endorse this process?

    How many Superintendent hires has followed this process. My God, this is really just indicative of the lack of education in education.

  116. And not being one to be critical without offering constructive suggestions, I would recommend we just ask TMZ Live to do a segment on each candidate and then pick the most interesting call-in viewer to make the selection.

    I have said before the eduction industry is broken. Wow, it is just spinning and spinning without a clue.

  117. Administrative Council? I still can’t wrap my brain around this. I’m almost thinking you are pulling my leg. Fess up!

    Ok, no response. It must be true. Based on this level of intellectual depravity, I would have to say the achievement gap is no big deal if you include the former BoEs. Clearly, the BoE that picked Penny, PMac, etc. etc had some real intellectual capacity if it disregarded this quaint Montclair affectation of adult-like behavior.

  118. I’m on a roll and can’t stop.

    Educational Excellence? The EXISTING managers and EXISTING Central Srvcs Admins pick their choice of boss. Oh yeah, one of the best Best Practices of al time. I can’t believe this process was never discuss in the media. Oh yeah, never mind.

    I wish {PC child name} only the best, but the best case scenario is you will get an average public education because of your parents.

  119. Oh. and before I forget, the COMMUNITY crap. I see the Mayor reached out to the community in making his choices for the BoE. Or is that a case of we like them, so no complaints about process. Or, is that a case of a select group of stakeholders were read in to the choices. The fact that the mayor picked them and there is no pushback is not indicative of their qualifications. I do think they are qualified. But, principles were subjugated. As I often say, it a means justifies the ends type of town now.

  120. “There was never an update”

    This is more revisionist history. I remember reports on the status on the search at BOE meetings; these were a standard part of committee reports for a while.

    A quick search also identified a couple of Patch articles about the search.

    I also recall participating in a meeting with the search firm where the input of the attendees was sought. I believe that they’d meetings with other groups of stakeholders as well.


    P.S. Sorry, Frank.

  121. Not following why you added the postscript. I’m tired with all the choice information. Let’s pick this up next week. OK?

  122. Andrew Gideon – I’m still awaiting your response. You seem to be so busy refuting everyone on this blog, you probably don’t have time to ever admit you could possibly be wrong once in a full moon. Here’s your quote I take issue with:

    “The complaints about Dr. M started the day her appointment was announced.
    In fact, it apparently took five minutes.”

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