I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, October 27, 2013

UPDATED: The Wheels Come Off In Montclair While a Broadie Superintendent Is Driving

UPDATE 1: Stu in the comments actually makes a fair point:
You hurt your cause by using nicknames for the players in your character assassinations. It also doesn't help when you take great liberties, such as when you attribute the assessment leak directly to Penny MacCormack inadvertently slapping tests up on the Internet. That you are an educator in New Jersey who chooses to write to the level of sensationalism of which is similarly exhibited by right wing rags and media, comes of little surprise. There is no proof that the Broad Academy techniques work. As well, there is no proof that Penny is responsible for the security breach of her first quarterly assessments. Yet, you pick and choose whichever fallacy best suits you. My advice to you is to stick to composing music over tabloid propaganda. It does not become you.
OK, it's fair to say that the "slapping tests up" comment assumes that Montclair's servers weren't hacked. MacCormack says they were, and I am fine with taking her at her word. So I am deleting that phrase and substituting another.

But I'll also say this: to my mind, it is in many ways worse that a hack occurred than if someone had made a mistake and put the tests up accidentally for a few hours. You don't administer district-wide tests and store them on servers without ensuring that you have a security protocol in place adequate to keep people out of the files. Clearly, that didn't happen - and I think we can all assume that whoever got the files isn't exactly at the top of the NSA's most wanted computer criminals list.

Stu, you say: "there is no proof that Penny is responsible for the security breach." Sorry, but the buck stops with her. Again, don't put up district-wide assessments on your servers if you can't keep them from getting hacked.
As to the "P-Mac" comment: it's commonly known that MacCormack is called that by at least some staff, parents, and students in the district. And it's hardly a derogatory title. You had a fair point about the "slap" stuff, Stu, but this is a bit of a stretch; especially since you yourself are referring to her by her first name.

I'm a citizen journalist, not a trained pro. I make mistakes: I've made them before, and I'll make them again. You can decide for yourself just how outrageous they are and how indignant you want to get, but I think I've been consistent in correcting myself. Caveat lector.

UPDATE 2: Oh, my. Someone's been reading Alan Moore...

*****

This is really not good:
MONTCLAIR - Montclair Cares About Schools today called on the Board of Education and Superintendent Penny MacCormack to cancel the quarterly assessments which are scheduled to begin this week and were found last week to have been posted on the Internet.

"The fact that these assessments were somehow posted online where any students or parents could download and distribute them irrevocably compromises the integrity of the tests,” said Ira Shor of Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS). "How could it possibly be fair to assess students on an exam that some of their classmates may have seen in advance? How could it be fair to evaluate teachers on students’ performance on exams so compromised?"

Parents and community members with Montclair Cares About Schools said the unexplained Internet posting is just the latest sign of disarray in the unwise rush by the board and superintendent to hurriedly impose these new tests on the district despite appeals by a thousand parents and students for a delay.

"Every week, the public learns of more problems with this confused new regime of districtwide testing," said Latifah Jannah of MCAS. "Dozens of teachers have now gone before the board to report a lack of textbooks and other materials that align with curriculum standards. It seems that our district leaders have been so focused on the new tests thay have neglected the basics of ensuring our schools have the books and materials they need.” [emphasis mine]
You'll remember that MacCormack was brought to New Jersey by Education Commissioner Cerf, who overpaid her at the beginning of her term at the NJDOE because, and I quote:
“This level of talent and expertise comes with a price tag.”
Yeah, it takes a special kind of "talent and expertise" to inadvertently slap tests up on the Internet have security breaches for tests take place on your watch (see above about this edit). MacCormack, of course, is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy Book Club; maybe she missed the class on digital security. Of course, she didn't do any evaluations of her principals last year, either...

Maybe Broad "training" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe Montclair's outstanding staff, committed parents, and deserving children need a superintendent who is fully credentialed and experienced in running a New Jersey school district. 

So what does P-Mac have to say about this?
Dear Montclair Schools Community:

I am saddened to share some distressing but important news with you.

In 2010 New Jersey was one of 44 states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. To ensure they are effectively incorporated into each local district, New Jersey will begin testing to the Common Core in 2015.
Yeah, we're all sad about that... oh, sorry, she wasn't finished: 
Our Montclair administrative and instructional staff prepared assessments to be used during the current academic year to help both students and teachers prepare for the 2015 rollout and to highlight strengths and weaknesses in our current curriculum and pedagogical strategies. The first of these assessments are to be given next week.

Late Friday I learned that the security of our information system had been breached and 14 of the over 60 initial assessments were posted on a public website. These assessments were available only for a short time. Once I became aware of this breach, action was taken to preclude anyone without authorization from accessing any additional assessments.
 
However, the breach may have allowed some to gain advance knowledge of the specifics of the assessments and thus skew the results. The sole purpose of these assessments is to inform our teaching so we may adjust our instruction and curriculum to ensure student learning. Assessments have value only if they provide a true and accurate picture of student learning and knowledge. Artificially high scores could lead to false conclusions about student knowledge and thus thwart our efforts to ensure that every student is learning and performing to their maximum potential. [emphasis mine]
You know, I guess I'm one of these burned-out, old-fashioned, status-quo types. Maybe my ridiculously huge salary and "free" health care and outrageous pension and iron-clad tenure keeps me from seeing the new, reformy paradigm. But the last time I checked, the point of student assessments was to assess students.

But it's really the next bolded statement that gives away the game. Just like over in reformy John King's New York, MacCormack is setting up an expectation that scores in Montclair are going to drop like a stone. Why? To justify a radical change in schooling that has no evidence to back it up, nor any support from the community.

What I wouldn't give to be able to see one of these "assessments." Something tells me that if the public in Montclair ever gets a look at the testing regime their kids are being put through, the parents will take up pitchforks and torches.


Montclair: New Jersey's New Home for Reforminess!

3 comments:

Stu said...

You hurt your cause by using nicknames for the players in your character assassinations. It also doesn't help when you take great liberties, such as when you attribute the assessment leak directly to Penny MacCormack inadvertently slapping tests up on the Internet. That you are an educator in New Jersey who chooses to write to the level of sensationalism of which is similarly exhibited by right wing rags and media, comes of little surprise. There is no proof that the Broad Academy techniques work. As well, there is no proof that Penny is responsible for the security breach of her first quarterly assessments. Yet, you pick and choose whichever fallacy best suits you. My advice to you is to stick to composing music over tabloid propaganda. It does not become you.

Giuseppe said...

JJ does not engage in character assassinations or sensationalism. He goes through much effort to back up whatever he says with facts and figures and he works very hard to be as accurate as possible.

Sanola Jerry said...

Teachers should look for more innovative methods to teach students the art of learning things.

Thanks
Sanola Jerry

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