Tag Archives: common core

Day 12: A Letter to the BOE

Dear Readers,

I wrote this letter to two board members. I’m calling them BOE 1 and BOE 2. The reply from BOE 2 is at the end.

Dear BOE Member 1 and BOE Member 2,

I’m a parent of a kindergarten student in Montclair.
You might recall that I spoke up against the Strategic Plan
at the BOE meeting on Monday, June 10, 2013.

I understand that Common Core is being implemented by the State
and that is a separate struggle for those of us who believe it should be taken down.

Montclair has an opportunity, as do many other districts, including our neighbor Bloomfield and in New Milford, NJ, to determine how we will use our creativity and imagination to keep the values of our school system intact—even with CCSS and as long as it is mandated and in place. We should not be adding one test or assessment above and beyond the minimum required to  comply with CCSS. And our district should eventually be in vocal opposition to CCSS, but that’s aside.

I feel our students, parents, citizens, educators, and community are losing precious time having to debate High Stakes testing, when there is overwhelming evidence that High Stakes testing doesn’t work and is a failed policy. Instead of being able to truly dig into and address the many issues our schools face, we’re stuck having to deal with additional High Stakes testing, added evaluations, added assessments that are not part of CCSS requirement and a plan that doesn’t reflect the real values of our community and are a set up for failure for our students, teachers, and principals. We must reject what isn’t acceptable to Montclair residents. We must remain vigilant so that all our voices are heard and represented. We should not be embracing this failed business model approach to education. We should be turning far away from it. It is shocking to me and many others that this plan has even gotten as far as it has.

We must use our collective imaginations and creativity to really think about how we can move forward and maintain our core values (and all that is good about our schools) and focus on the individual student, build on our strengths, and not lose what this town has offered in the past. Montclair has had an excellent reputation, has been a leader in desegregation, and has been recognized as a top magnet school district that  thrives on its diversity and strengths of its citizens who believe in democracy in our town and in our public schools. Do I believe there is much to change and improve upon? Of course, and there always will be room for improvement. However dismantling everything is counter productive and destructive. We’re not a “failing school district” in need of a complete overhaul of this type (which no district would want or need even if it was “failing”) and in such short a time, and at such cost. The measures being implemented here are drastic and a radical departure from our town’s core values. They do not address the many real issues, but instead they distract us away from what really needs to be done. They divert us away from even from having that conversation in a meaningful real community -input -way.

I offer up some alternatives and suggestions of where we can begin to have that conversation. The Strategic Plan as it is currently written is a disaster for our school district and will be harmful to our students, teachers, and entire community. It represents a gutting of core values, it won’t close the achievement gap, won’t inspire our teachers or students to have meaningful, authentic learning experiences that really could prepare our students for the world we live in now and in the foreseeable future. The Plan must be  rejected.

The following are links I urge you to read, watch, and consider ahead of the next BOE meeting on 6/17/2013.

http://bloomfield.patch.com/blog_posts/the-problems-with-high-stakes-testing-in-our-public-schools

http://www.northjersey.com/news/204865771_Bloomfield_BOE_wants_assessments_re-examined.html

http://atthechalkface.com/2013/05/23/wow-a-tremendous-media-report-about-high-stakes-testing/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/11/a-new-education-declaration-for-genuine-school-reform/

http://www.salon.com/2013/06/03/instead_of_a_war_on_teachers_how_about_one_on_poverty/

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/the-coming-revolution-in-public-education/275163/

http://criticalclassrooms.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/a-nuanced-look-at-the-no-excuses-slogan/

http://www.democraticeducation.org/

http://www.ayearatmissionhill.com/index.php

http://www.upworthy.com/elementary-class-solves-one-of-the-worlds-biggest-mysteries-in-10-minutes

http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2013/05/authentic-learning-cant-be-standardized.html

Thank you for your consideration and time.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope to continue this conversation about our school district at the next BOE meeting.

Sincerely,

SIGNED NAME

The auto reply I received from BOE Member 2:

“Thank you for taking the time to contact me.  Your comments are important and I wanted to confirm that I have received your message.

I also will review your message and refer it to the appropriate staff members for a response.  Should I have additional input or need information from you, I will be back in touch.    Again, thank you for your communications.”

That’s all folks…..Have a goodnight or morning!

Elana

PS. I found this online and don’t know who to credit it to.  I loved it and it helped me today during a moment of —-ARGH I can’t take it anymore —-and so I’ll try to find out who made this and will credit them in an update when I do. Meanwhile, if you made this and you see this post, please tell me who you are and I’ll credit and link asap. Thank you!

rightandwrong

Day 6: Success and Rotten to the Core

Dear Readers,

commoncoreapple1

Barely making it in under the wire. Day  6 has been a wild and wacky day! Woohoo!

Our parent activist group has been busy posting on our page, emailing, talking to people, listening, gathering stories and articles, researching and writing letters, helping each other with ideas, discussing, thinking, and in my case, also eating brownies.

Activism requires snacks,  plenty of coffee, and water. One must stay hydrated and fueled for optimal performance and HIGH EXPECTATIONS and all this RIGOR! YES!  Don’t forget to step away from the laptop and stretch. Go outside and sniff the lilac. Also… need….more…. sleep. Pace yourself. This is going to be a long road, haul, battle, struggle, big mountain to climb.

Today, a local Patch site posted an article about what’s going in our schools and featured our Facebook page. We’re being heard!

More  people are finding their way to us. I’m having very interesting bus stop chats.

I think I’ve mentioned  how hard it’s been  to understand our new Strategic Plan for the school district. It’s chock full of corporate ed reformy language. Basically every 5 words is the word “rigor” and every 10 words “achievement” and the word “measure” and “data” and it all jumbles up into a whole lot of gobbledegook.

My brain hurt searching for anything remotely creative or interesting in the plan. I was searching for something that made sense  but that was frustrating and an exercise in futility. It isn’t there. I want it to be there. I wish it was. But, I must tell you, I couldn’t find it. Maybe that’s my last vestige of denial? This can’t be happening here. It just can’t. But it is. It really is. I hear it, I see it, I still, well, no I believe it. It’s the weight of it,  the complexity.  And  it all sinks in a little bit  more each day. This is really happening here. I’m  really trying to do something about it.  I have to believe we’ll have some impact.

I will eat as many brownies as necessary in order to fulfill my missions. Thanks to my rockstar husband for baking and doing dishes while I read about Opting Out.

Back to language: So,  I was thinking, crikey, this document (the plan) needs to be translated. This is  NOT English. Lo and behold, answers to my wishes and questions:  I came across this brilliant, fantastic piece. I’ve got permission from the author, Karen Fraid to share it here (and I thank her kindly) for her great work and generous spirit. For anyone struggling or in need of translations…please read it!

  • you’re not alone / not crazy / not lacking in comprehension skills
  •  this will help you /feel less alone /feel sane /remind you to believe in your language abilities and instincts

That’s all for tonight.

Sweet dreams,

and carrying on tomorrow!

Elana