Friday, May 27, 2016

QOD (and a few notes): PARCC Points Out the "Gross Inequality of Our State's Public Education System"

Irwin Stoolmacher, a guest columnist today at the Star-Ledger and a resident of West Windsor-Plainsboro, one of N.J.’s wealthy suburban districts, reports that he received an anonymous postcard explaining why he should opt his children out of PARCC assessments. I don’t live in West Windsor and don’t have the postcard but here’s the excerpt cited by Stoolmacher, which claims that the Common Core-aligned test:
"Lowers academic achievement by TWO grade levels!"
"Prepares kids for community college, not 4-year schools."
"Precludes students form attending elite colleges."
"Written by people who aren't required to have a bachelor's degree or education experience!"
"They used a made-up scale to hide the real scores." 
"Normally, 28% correct is an 'F'... but PARRC calls it 'above average.' But the test isn't rigorous."
None of this is true, of course. Stoolmacher explains,
Many of the above statements are over-the-top, cite selective authorities (the two individuals of the five who refused to sign off on the Core Competency State Standards), are factually misleading or misrepresent what the test is forcing districts to do (WWP school board President Tony Fleres indicated, "There is nothing that stops us from offering AP tests")... 
The most compelling problem New Jersey faces is the inability of our urban schools to educate their students. If PARCC does nothing more than annually point out the gross inequality of our state's public education system, it is valuable. If too many parents opt out, the data will be compromised and the dramatic difference between urban schools and other schools will be artificially minimized. This, like the charter school movement, could have the devastating effect of reducing pressure to improve our state's failing inner-city schools.
Two notes: I did try to find the postcard, but Google only turned up the Facebook page for a group called “Ridgewood Cares About Schools,” which bills itself as an anti-PARCC/Common Core group. It's worth noting that Ridgewood and West Windsor are two of N.J.’s most wealthy suburbs. In fact, CNN’s Money lists Ridgewood as the 12th wealthiest town in America with a median family income of $198,122 and a median home price of $611,000, And the African-American population at Ridgewood High School is 0.8%.

West Windsor-Plainsboro is an unusual district. Last December the New York Times reported on the "ethnic divide" that has polarized the district between Asian and white parents: "on one side are white parents like Catherine Foley, a former president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at her daughter’s middle school, who has come to see the district’s increasingly pressured atmosphere as antithetical to learning...On the other side are parents like Mike Jia, one of the thousands of Asian-American professionals who have moved to the district in the past decade" and worries about "a national anti-intellectual trend that will not prepare our children for the future." One can infer that the postcard came from those who see themselves as representing the white parents.

Second, I don’t understand Stoolmacher’s comment about charter schools reducing pressure to improve N.J.’s failing inner-city schools. In fact, the impact of charter schools has had the opposite effect.

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