I just got back from August’s State Board of Education meeting here in New Jersey. There was a lot of information given today on a lot of different topics, and I’m going to need a little time to take it all in. The main presentations on Student Growth Objectives (SGO’s) were extremely dense and the presenters - Tim Matheny (my former principal!) and Peter Shulman - went through the details pretty quickly.
I am not going to take the time to break down the power points because, as I said, they are very dense, and I personally think it would be best for those interested to go through these themselves very carefully. But, I will highlight some quotes from the presentation, and include my reaction and response to today’s meeting.
The “Educator Evaluation TEACHNJ Power Point” from today can be found here: http://www.state.nj.us/education/sboe/meetings/2014/August/public/Educator%20Evaluation%20TEACHNJ%20power%20point_P.ppt
And the “State Board SGO Final” (meaning the changes made to the percentages and details of TEACHNJ/SGO’s) can be found here:
*Disclaimer: when going through these presentations, move all valuables away from yourself because I promise you will want to throw them at a wall. And maybe keep a pillow nearby so you can slam your head into it. Yes, it’s that bad.
Before I go into reactions, let’s highlight some of my favorite quotes from today:
- David Hespe, Commissioner of Education, on Student Growth Objectives and their implementation - “The process is going very, very well.”
- My reaction: Lol. Okay. Keep chillin in that bubble you're living in. When you’re ready to come back into the real world, let us know.
- Tim Matheny - "Teachers are moving towards more sophisticated SGO's because they really feel like it reflects the realities of their classrooms."
- My reaction: LOL. Oh my gosh where is my popcorn for this entertainment? Please introduce me to the teacher’s that you’re referencing.
- Peter Shulman - “Common sense usually prevails.”
- My reaction: Let’s just say that ‘usually’ would be the key word here…
When Matheny and Shulman’s were done presenting, State Board of Education Member Edithe Fulton did something I was totally not expecting - she brought me up! [I am not putting this here to toot my own horn, but it is important to today’s developments] I am paraphrasing here, but this is roughly what the exchange looked like:
Fulton: At the last public testimony, there was an 18 year old here who is a future teacher who testified about the impact of these evaluations, and she got it, she understands, and like I told her last time I wish we could clone her!
Matheny: Yes, she is a former student of where I was principal.
Fulton: Well, I’m wondering about the things she brought up. Where is the evidence for what we are doing here?
Bam. Right there. Where is the evidence for what we are doing here? Where is the evidence for all of the reforms and changes being implemented?
To quote my good friend and mentor Lisa Rodgers, “CCSS pushes students to present facts behind their statements.. where is the NJDOE on this when they present theirs?”
This brings me to my one and only question for the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education after this presentation:
- WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?
- Subquestion: Where is the evidence for the changes you made today? The percentages for SGO’s, SGP’s, and teacher practice were all shifted. How did you come to the conclusion to change these percentages? Is there any evidence that these changes were based off of, or was this just a response to the outcry of educators, parents, and experts as a way to *attempt to* ‘quiet us down’ (because we will not be quiet)?
Not once during this presentation was the matter of LEARNING addressed. Yeah, remember that little thing called learning? No, it was all about “measuring” teachers (whatever that means) and boiling them down to one number. As I wrote in my testimony that Edithe Fulton referenced:
“Teachers know that you can't measure the joy and pride a student feels when they finally figure out that math problem they always struggled with. Teachers know that you can't measure the feeling of self-confidence and self-worth a student experiences when they nail that presentation they worked so hard on by overcoming their fears of being in front of a class. Teachers know that you can't measure the bond between students and teachers, both individually and as a class, because for many students in urban districts school is the one safe place where they know they will be loved and supported. As Nicholas Ferroni, educator and author, best states: ‘Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren't, come to school to be loved.’”
At the end of the meeting, I went up to Edithe Fulton to thank her for her comments. She then told me that she gave copies of my testimony to all of the members of the State Board and the Commissioner himself. She then proceeded to introduce me to the newly appointed State Board of Education President Mark Biedron and David Hespe himself.
Shockingly, to me, Commissioner Hespe then asked for my contact information so we can “further discuss the concerns that you’ve [meaning me] raised and what you [again me] wrote about.”
Well, Mr. Hespe, this is your shot. This is your chance to turn the bus around and prove that you care about the voices of students, future teachers, current teachers, and parents - not hand-selected teachers to come and tell the board how amazing these reforms are and how they had NO idea how to teach before the Common Core and SGO’s!
You have my name. You have where I attend school. You have my email. And you have my direct, personal cell phone number.
Based on past records, I’m not holding my breath on this one.
But miracles have happened before.
*Here is the testimony I gave at the last State Board of Education meeting: http://theeducationactivist.blogspot.com/2014/07/state-board-of-education-testimony-79.html