Sunday Leftovers

New Jersey education news this week is all PARCC all the time.  State Legislative committees debated Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan’s two education bills. One would  forbid districts from giving students in grades K-2 standardized tests unless required by law and the second  would place a three-year moratorium on using PARCC results for teacher evaluations and student placement. Both bills passed the Assembly Education Committee this week. Coverage from the Star-Ledger, NJ Spotlight, Philadelphia Inquirer, Asbury Park Press (and here’s a link to a video of a reporter interviewing “folks at the Freehold Raceway Mall about the PARCC tests”; can’t make this stuff up).

The Record says that the  "movement to get parents to keep their children from taking new state exams next month — fueled by protests on social media and encouragement from the teachers union — is gaining steam.” (The media is happy to help: this article from the Courier-Post describes "the PARCC's poorly worded, complicated and even misleading questions" and here's a video from the Asbury Park Press entitled "The Common Core's Greatest Pitfall although the the piece never mentions the Common Core and the link says the title is "PARCC Leaves Poor Students Behind.")

ICYMI, here's my (somewhat jaundiced) view of Ass. Diegnan's second bill.

NJ Spotlight looks at certain fiscal penalties that N.J. might incur by backpedalling on our Race to the Top application that swore we'd  use student outcomes for teacher evaluations. Also see Spotlight for this: “A month before New Jersey is to start controversial new state testing aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Gov. Chris Christie muddied the waters this week when he said he now has 'grave concerns' about the standards he previously endorsed and which his administration is busy promoting.” [Question: if Christie is now against the Common Core State Standards and  PARCC, will his change of heart provoke NJEA and Save Our Schools to respond by lobbying in favor of high quality standards and assessments?]

Local school districts continue to offer parents opportunities to take the PARCC and see what all the fuss is about. The Star-Ledger reported yesterday from Bloomfield on a simulated 6th grade language arts PARCC test:
Patrick Collins said he found the questions to be straight forward. But he ran into a few problems with the technology.
In answering one question, he thought he had correctly identified the conflict in the reading passage as well as three corresponding events that led to a resolution.
The question required him to click on the correct answers and drag them into sequential order at the bottom of the screen. But some of the answers he clicked on wouldn't seem to move.
"I'm sure my daughter is better at this that I am," Patrick Collins said.
The Press of Atlantic City reports that “The Atlantic City School District is undergoing a major upheaval that starts at the top and could trickle down to every employee. Superintendent Donna Haye has notified the district she will retire May 31. Her three-year contract expires June 30. Her retirement letter was submitted Friday, the the same day as a remedial plan was due to the state explaining how the district might handle a potential funding shortfall this year if the city is unable to make its required property tax payments. The plan was not publicly available Monday, but the district has already instituted a spending and hiring freeze.”

Trenton City Schools has a $19 million budget gap and U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman says it’s all the state’s fault. The Trentonian looks back to the original appointment of a state fiscal monitor last year:
“It almost appears that every time that it looks at though we are free of this that we’re no longer ‘12 Years a Slave,’” board attorney Kathleen Smallwood Johnson said at the time to applause from the crowd, referencing last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture. “I see nothing, sir, in all due respect within the law that mandates that this district has to stay under the bondage of a state monitor.” 
The state Department of Education never fully provided an explanation for the monitor, but hinted a reason was student achievement. Trenton’s graduation rate only recently hovered above 50 percent after years of falling below that number.
NJ Spotlight ranks the top ten public open admissions high schools (i.e., not magnet schools) based on SAT scores. 

The Washington Post looks “behind the curtain” of the Montgomery County Public Schools:
We live in a county where many deride free-breakfast programs but brag about million-dollar sports fields. We complain that our children are losing sleep but ignore children without a bed in which to sleep. We offer $100 yearbooks while some are struggling to read. We are a county with a wide divide — and a color line — between children who “have” and those who “have not.”