Updated and with Backstory Below, 12/16/2014:
The public portion of our local school board meeting ran from 7:40 p.m. until 12:40 a.m. last night. Included on the agenda was a first reading of a policy (a copy is attached below) to require the district to provide educationally appropriate and non-punitive alternatives for kids whose parents refuse to allow them to take the PARCC tests. The policy will not be voted on until the next meeting, which is not until January 26, 2015. My 10 year old 4th grader attended the meeting with me, and was the first speaker when public comment began around 9:45 p.m. (She waited patiently and listened intently to a good chunk of the prior two hours of the meeting — and when she got bored, she read her book.)
Please watch the VIDEO of her describing her experience with PARCC preparation. She speaks for herself quite eloquently, if I do say so myself!
10 Year Old Takes Down PARCC (in case the embedded video doesn’t work, here’s a link to a YouTube version).
A few thoughts today.
1. I want to thank our local micronews blog, Baristanet, for promptly covering last night’s meeting, with its article comprehensively describing the Board meeting live on its site by this morning. I’m glad that there was real — and relatively real-time — press coverage of last night’s meeting. We can’t be an informed community without reliable journalists to report the news. The Montclair Times and The Alternative Press -Montclair have now filed stories as well. I am really hopeful that given this prompt response last month’s lack of full coverage was an aberration. Thank you to our local press — your job is critical.
2. This morning Elizabeth’s story appeared on Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post education blog, The Answer Sheet. I want to give Valerie the credit she deserves for this piece. In early November, we took a family trip to Washington, D.C. As some regular readers of this blog know, Valerie, who is a super-hero in the movement to push back against the current so-called “education reform” movement, published my second blog post ever — and a bunch of my blog posts since that time — on The Answer Sheet. Coincidentally, it turned out that The Washington Post was on the route from our DC hotel to our nearest Metro stop. I sent Valerie an email saying that it was a thrill to see the HQ of the newspaper that had published some of my work, and she graciously offered to give us a tour of the newsroom. She came in on a Sunday and met us to give us our tour (my youngest adores her because she suckered Valerie into letting her abscond with a pink flamingo ornament from Valerie’s desk) and, as you can imagine, we talked education, teaching, policy, and politics.
Elizabeth was an active participant in that conversation. I think Valerie was blown away when, after she’d told a story about using her role as a journalist to expose an inequitable situation faced by a boy with a physical disability in the DC schools, Elizabeth asked, “Do you think that the DC or the Philadelphia schools are worse these days?” So Valerie encouraged Elizabeth to write about PARCC and PARCC test prep from a student’s perspective. On our way home, Elizabeth was composing the first paragraph of what eventually became last night’s public comment to the Board. She’s been working on it on and off ever since. But when we learned this weekend that the Board had placed the PARCC parental refusal on its agenda, Elizabeth buckled down and finished the last bits of her piece. My involvement was to add the explanatory note that appears in the WaPo piece, to fix about 3 typos, and to give Elizabeth a brief mini-lesson on embedded quotation marks.
After she finished, she read it aloud a few times, and we timed her and discussed some tips for public speaking. I honestly wasn’t sure whether she would actually speak or not until she went up there. And I couldn’t be prouder of my kid! I think that last night demonstrated, far more comprehensively and concretely than any standardized test possible could, that Elizabeth is on track for college, career, and, most importantly, active and thoughtful participation in civic life. I cannot begin to thank her teachers enough for their role in helping her to grow into the amazing little girl she is and continues to become. I don’t need a standardized test to tell me that they’re doing wonderful work — but I can and will continue to do what’s within my power to ensure that they can do their work as unfettered as possible by mandates from those, such as Arne Duncan, David Hespe, and Penny MacCormack, with little or no classroom teaching experience.