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, January 6, 2013

A New Jersey Parent Nails It

Anthony Cody has been hosting a big, contentious discussion about education "reform" under a piece of his based on a controversial argument by Paul Thomas. I and many others weighed in, but my favorite respone is from NJ parent Tamar Wyschogrod, who runs NJ Parents Against Gov. Christie's School Budget Cuts.

Wyschogrod's response is so succinct, so insightful, and just so darned good that it deserves to be read far and wide in its entirety:
Much of what I described is not corruption, but hypocrisy of the sort often found among reformists and their allies. "No excuses" say the politicians who use the achievement gap as an excuse to deprive whole communities of the right to run their own schools, closing community schools against the will of the people and opening charters that increase segregation; "no excuses" say the billionaires and hedge fund managers who demonize unions and vilify teachers as they accumulate the lion's share of the nation's wealth, promoting education technologies and edu-businesses in which they are heavily invested; "no excuses" say the reformists who promote high-stakes standardized testing and everything that goes with it as real reform, but send their own kids to schools that eschew such measures in favor of more progressive education. Such is the nature of the education reform movement, in Indiana and elsewhere. I am one among many parents in New Jersey who says, "No thanks."


Anonymous said...

Wow. So true. I grew up in Basking Ridge, which has an amazing public school system. I went to public school from K through 8th grade, but begged my parents not to make me go to Ridge HS. I was a geeky kid who was somewhat tortured socially. My parents (who attended Delbarton and St. Elizabeth's in the 60s) allowed me to attend Villa Walsh, for high school. While there, from 1984 to 1988, it became clear to me the difference between private schools and public schools.

I got to VWA with a deep, rich math background. I also had read much more "intellectual" novels. The girls who had attended the "best" local Catholic schools (St. Joe's, in Mendham, St. Virgil's and St. Margaret's, in Morristown/Morris Plains) had much less in those areas. Though many of those girls were way smarter than I was, I had a distinct advantage going into high school. I tested into the high track. Once it was discovered that I could not diagram a sentence, many were aghast! The other girls could do it in their sleep! They also were used to heavier work loads, albeit in repetitive busy-work. I explained that I knew when I said or wrote something grammatically incorrect because it just sounded wrong to me. I may not have known it was a misplaced modifier or a dangling participle, but because I read so much, I just knew it was wrong.

I had to fight to stay in my class track, because moving down in English would force me down n ath. The schedules were tight, due to such limited enrollment. Villa was an amazingly rich, deep education. Behavior was never an issue. Nearly everyone wanted to learn, and was pretty competitive. I likely learned more there than I would have at Ridge, but only because I was lazy when allowed to be, and the tiny class size forced me to step up. Had I not gone to public elementary, though, I would never have gone as far as I did. The girls who did well from the Catholic elementary schools were the girls who were super smart anyway, and would have done well anywhere. I was just smart, not super-smart.

I remember the difference there, and it is a big part of why my own kids go to public school. Of course, I am an involved parent, and I keep a close eye on what my kids are learning. Happily, I have no need to interfere. My kids have had wonderful teachers. They are ahead of standardized grade levels in reading and math. I am happy with my choice.

As for the testing issue, I have seriously been thinking about having my kids opt out. Maybe they should only take NJASK (PARCC) every other year? As a teacher, I recognize that it would hurt their schools, but I must keep my own kids' well-being my first priority. It's tough. I would hate it if my best students did not test. My numbers would drop, and as a Newark teacher, that could hurt my chances of keeping my job. That said, I wish all kids were learning for the sake of growth and enrichment, not for test scores.

The whole thing is a mess. It is very sad.

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