Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What If Our Schools Looked Like This?

In New Jersey, we are currently in the midst of our "testing season." Opting Out (refusals) is the story of the day. Parents are pushing back on a system that has become largely impersonal and very standardized. 

While opting out is one way of expressing extreme displeasure of what our schools have become, the reason is because we have to have a new conversation -- one that includes teachers and parents and students -- about what schools should be like. 

I have no doubt if you asked a hundred people what they think it should be, you'd get a hundred different answers. However, I think you'd also find some very basic common threads in those answers. Fully funding all public schools. High quality pre-school for all children. Student-centered learning. Teachers who are well trained and can continue to hone their craft as their careers progress. Clean and safe physical environments. Field trips. Hands-on learning experiences. Unique learning experiences. Opportunities for students to demonstrate what they've learned. Authentic, teacher-driven assessments. Parent and community participation. Transparency. And, all of these attributes are for everyone. 

The Willow School would be a great example for many of these qualities. 
✔ High quality pre-school
✔ Student-centered learning
✔ Well-trained teachers
✔ Clean and safe environment
✔ Field trips
✔ Hands-on learning experiences
✔ Students demonstrate what they’ve learned
✔ Authentic, teacher driven (not standardized) assessments
✔ Parent and community involvement

What is The Willow school? Well, it's a private independent school here in New Jersey, located on a 34 acre campus. Its founder is the New Jersey State Board of Education President, Mark Biedron. 
"At The Willow School, children discover who they are, the joy of learning, and the wonder of the environment around them." 
Sounds pretty great, right? 

The Head of School has this to say about student experience:  
"At Willow, our shared dedication to academic excellence thrives on the constant development of the intellectual capacities of our students. Academic preparation, without the intellectual muscle to think independently, deprives students from fully engaging in the challenging future awaiting them. Academic excellence at Willow means that our learning objectives not only include the mastery of content needed for the next level of academic challenge, but also includes conceptual understanding in the broader world, and the rich connections to our school culture." (emphasis mine)

This is from the overview of the school's curriculum:
"The integrated curriculum allows students to learn material in great depth as well as to see the connections that naturally exist among subject areas. The primary device for integration of the curriculum is the development of communication skills using the English language. Parallel to that usage is the study of French or Spanish from kindergarten through eighth grade, with Latin introduced in sixth through eighth grades. While the disciplines of mathematics and science, and of language and social studies, are often connected at The Willow School, it is also important for children to learn, for instance, how scientific and technological advances have shaped the ways humans relate to each other or how the use of mathematics determines the design of music and architecture. All learning is spiral; the child returns to skills and subject matter that becomes increasingly complex and challenging." (emphasis mine)

Ok, sign me up. I want to go this school. 

The teachers. What about the teachers? Who are the people guiding these students as they develop "intellectual muscle?" Take a browse through the teacher profiles. Mark, I have to give you mad props for your team. Masters degrees. Many years of both teaching and heading up similar schools. Not a TFA member in sight. 

One of the teachers answered a short, get-to-know-you Q&A on his profile page. I highlight these two questions and answers because every parent wants this, and I am sure every teacher does as well. 
What do you love about being a teacher at Willow?
I feel as though Willow affords me the opportunity to be flexible with my curriculum to create something new with my students every year.  Learning doesn’t happen in the same way for all children and Willow allows for changes to be made that benefit all types of learners in each class.  Willow inspires me to make learning come to life because I’m allowed to teach and learn with students among various themes/topics with a curriculum that I am truly passionate about.
What satisfies you the most about your work at Willow?
Being able to see examples of student actions and work that reflect deep and connected learning is the pinnacle of my teaching experience at Willow.

What about the physical environment? The Willow School has a long list of accolades. You can read all about them here. They have been recognized for their green buildings, earning the highest awards for USGBC LEEDS-certified buildings. I'm going to make a wild guess here and say you won't find lead in their drinking water, mold or peeling paint, rodents, or broken heating/cooling systems in those buildings. 

As you would expect, the price tag is pretty steep, like college tuition steep. The middle school grades are just shy of $30k a year. It is interesting though, that their pre-k program demonstrates what "choice" ought to be. You can send your 4-year-old to school for five half days, or five full days, or a combo of half and full days. 

Why am I telling you about this school? Mark Biedron and his cohorts are fully supporting PARCC as the testing requirement for graduation in New Jersey, beginning with the class of 2021. (I say "the," but really it's SIX PARCC tests to graduate.) He fully supports, at least publicly, Common Core State Standards and the aligned testing. Given the tenets of his school, CCSS and the aligned testing are for everyone else's children. Not for his. And not for the students at his school. 

I don't doubt that The Willow School's price tag is commensurate with what those parents are getting for their children. Heck, the 34 acres alone would be expensive to maintain. 
What I want to know is, why isn't Mark fighting like mad to have every school in New Jersey look more like his? He clearly believes very strongly in that kind of an education. It's a spectacular example of opting out of a standardized education. The disconnect is astonishing, and remarkably disappointing. 

On May 4th, the State Board of Education is having their monthly meeting. It's also one of the rare times when open public comment is allowed. I encourage beg you to attend and tell Mark what you want your children's education to look like. Sign up to attend here

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#aPARCCalypse aka PARCC Bombed in NJ

In New Jersey today, it's a bright, cool Spring day. The sun is shining. Our kids are in count down mode to the end of the year. And, it's "testing season." Yes, the testing window is so bloody long, we've named it. 

Early this morning, many students in the state were getting ready to take the PARCC. Lo and behold, no one could log on. Parents in districts all over the state started getting texts and emails from school announcing that no testing would happen today. 

Bob Braun has put it best today: 
BREAKING--The PARCC collapse. After bullying parents and children into accepting the PEARSON testing regime, state Education Commissioner David Hespe has the chutzpah to call the testing company's screw-up "unacceptable"? The NJEA calls it "a disruption atop a disruption." If children were denied their regular schedules because of a teachers' strike, judges would be tripping over each other to issue injunctions because of the disruption caused by job actions. How about an injunction against the denial of a thorough and efficient education caused by the devotion of time and resources to the business of profit-making test companies?

I've documented some of the bullying here. Commissioner Hespe all but blew off the level of screwed-up-ness of today. Are we getting back from Pearson the money spent on substitute teachers today? Do parents even realize that districts have to do this in order for both classes and proctors to cover all students? 

But, what I really want to know is, what is it going to take to end it? What will it take for our state legislators to finally understand that this is a colossal mistake? That, unfortunately, due to ridiculous pressure from NJDOE, our children need to be protected from the people we have trusted to educate them? What will it take for our governor-appointed State Board of Education to start acting like they are there for our children, not to be a rubber stamp to the NJDOE? 

What will it take for parents and teachers to finally speak up and say, "enough"?

Fortunately, there's an opportunity to do that very soon. On May 4th, the NJ State Board of Education is holding their monthly meeting and it's one of those rare times when public comment it allowed. If there was ever time they needed to hear public comment, it's now. Here's the link to register. I look forward to seeing you there.  https://education.state.nj.us/events/details.php?t=1;recid=24515

Edited to add my friend, Dan Masi's epic pic: 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Jersey Admins Have Lost It - Updated!

I've been watching in horror as the PARCC testing "season" began in New Jersey last week. I am unabashedly in the Opt Out corner. Oh, sorry, forgot, this is New Jersey, where we play word games. "Refuse" was the word of choice last year, as opting out is not "allowed." This year "refusing" is getting kicked back to parents too. NJDOE has been in full spin mode for several months and we know the districts with the highest refusals rates from last year have caught an earful. 

First, though, let's be crystal clear about something. When a parent opts out /refuses /insert your choice of it's-never-going-to-happen here, they are NOT asking for anyone's permission. They are very simply informing you of what they are choosing for their child. You are expected to respect that decision. End of story.

Parents aren't opting out because the test is hard. Amazingly, that insipid thought is still floating around and a "news" source published it (I refuse to link to the NYPost. Go Google that hot mess of "journalism" if you must.). They. We. I. Am doing it because public education has become a marketplace for the next best shiny, never-been-tested, device, curriculum, test, insert latest crap your local board of ed got suckered into buying...Chromebooks anyone? None of which has anything to do with educating our children. 

Leading up to the testing window, there were stories of stupid stuff...reward parties, bids for prom, getting out of taking the English final exam, the cheer on PARCC videos...demonstrating the level of desperate these people have sunk. 

Once the testing started, truly awful stories started pouring in, and continue to this week, about how districts were handling students whose parents refused PARCC. You really have to wonder what is going on inside the heads of these teachers, principals, superintendents, and county superintendents. 

I wonder if they have thought about the real damage done to the trust that any really good school must have with its students and parents. Listen carefully, hurting children is not going to get you that trust. You're going to lose it immediately, and there will be nothing you can do to get it back. 

The first completely crazy story came from a mom whose elementary school-aged children were made to sit in the main office during testing, along with a few other students. She kept her kids home during the scheduled morning testing window. Unfortunately, there were "unforeseen" technical issues (gee, shocking) and so the school administered the test later in the day.
For 130 minutes..."they were NOT allowed to read a book under any circumstances because they would "disturb other people if they read a book". They were also NOT allowed to lean back in their chairs- they could only sit straight up and not move at all for two hours! My son's back was sore after this cruel and unnecessary punishment! Additionally, they were only allowed to look ahead, they could not turn their heads to the left or to the right, because this is what elementary school children are supposed to do: sit straight up and not move a muscle or make a sound for two hours, just like little soldiers! My daughter "got in trouble" for attempting to tie her hair back in a pony tail! Another kid was yelled at for looking at a monitor screen (the ones showing the visitors by the front entrance). My kids were so traumatized by this experience, I feel like crying right now! I just got finished writing and sending an email to our superintendent describing today's events and asking why our children were treated in such an unnecessarily cruel way, as if they were criminal offenders, just because my husband and I chose to exercise our parental rights to refuse a test for them we believe is fundamentally wrong!"
She and another mom met with the superintendent the next morning. He was clearly prepared and had contacted his county superintendent seeking support for his poor judgment. He did not think the way the children were treated was wrong. He told the moms the children "were not his problem" since they weren't testing. And, declared that next year he would not accept any refusals at all (good luck with that). 

By the end of the discussion, he did apologize and promised that his staff would have clearer instructions on how to handle the children. Not much of an apology. Leaves me wondering what kind of place this is if staff at an elementary school don't know how to act in a humane way towards children.

I also wonder if this superintendent knows those children can't sleep at night. Are now afraid to go to school. I wonder if he realized one of those other students made to sit there for two hours is a special ed student with an IEP. And that particular student missed their speech lesson while sitting in the office, not being allowed to move or speak. 

In another district, a special ed student with anxiety was made to take the test even after the parent had refused. The school pulled the student aside and told her if she refused to take the test, she would have lunch detention, and if she stayed home during testing, she wouldn't move up to the next grade. Under duress, of course, she took the damned test. 

When the mom asked why her refusal was ignored, she was told that because "testing skills" is in her child's IEP, so she had to take PARCC. (I call bullshit.)

Let's just process that for a sec. A parent refuses. The admin decides that some obscure reference to "testing skills" (whatever that is) in an IEP is reason to go against the specific wishes of a parent. And, they did that while bullying a student with a disability and anxiety. Seriously? Have you no shame? 

Did it ever occur to you to fight back? Parents, I promise, would have backed you up! 

Why is this happening? Well, NJDOE and our State Board of Ed are incapable of admitting a mistake and have twisted themselves into knots in order to sell Common Core State Standards and the aligned test, PARCC. They in turn have clearly put the screws to the districts.

Our legislature (really, the NJ Senate Education Committee) utterly failed us last year by not putting the bill in front of the governor that would have protected our children from this nonsense.

This whole mess is an abject failure in leadership. Time to clean house. 

Edited to add: A little while ago, a mom got in touch with me about her 9th grade son's experience. Mom had turned in her refusal to the district superintendent two weeks before PARCC began. It was acknowledged and her son was told to bring a book, he would be sitting in the testing room, but would be allowed to read. 
Day one came along, "he came prepared to do so Monday morning, only to find the admin plop a chrome book down in front of him. He said "I'm not supposed to take the test, My mom sent in a refusal letter" and the teacher completely ignored him. He raised his hand and said it again, this time to have a proctor say "that's not how it works." At that point he was feeling totally defeated and intimidated, so he went ahead and took the test. He was so upset when he got home. He said he was actually afraid to say or do anything further for fear of getting in trouble. Frankly, 2 days later I'm still speechless."

19 April 2016 Edited to add: The crazy continues. This time a student getting detention for attending her regularly scheduled classes. From the mom:
We had refused PARCC and received a letter from her principal, XXX, confirming her refusal. On March 23, 2016 a letter posted to the school website stating "Our test schedule has been designed to minimize disruption to the normal school day. Students in these classes have been assigned to a testing cohort and room and will be required to remain with their cohort through the conclusion of each test session. Students not enrolled in these classes will attend full school days throughout the testing window."
PARCC testing began yesterday. She attended all her regularly scheduled classes without a problem. TODAY, during Math class, they were doing a review of the benchmark assessment test when one of the teachers, XXX, pulled my daughter out of class and told her she needed to go sit in the library instead.
My daughter said didn't understand why she has to go to the library. Ms. XXX called the principal, XXX, down to the library and he told my daughter that she was supposed to be in the library because she refused the PARCC. He said she shouldn't have gone to her regular class and it was considered 'cutting class'. Therefore, he is sending a note home to me explaining that she has a 3 day after school detention she needs to complete as disciplinary action(emphasis mine)
I find it ironic that all of this happened on the tails of me receiving a letter of accolades (along with a voucher for a free ice cream at Applebees) for my daughter on making the Honor Roll.
Way to go WMC for building her up before you tear her down.(insert sarcastic tone here...)....ummmm....sooooo...tell me again about your Harassment/ Intimidation/ Bullying policy XXX High School?I've left a voicemail for XXX informing him that I will be in first thing tomorrow morning to discuss this. #ToBeContinued...

In a district where a personal friend's daughter attends, a teacher decided to call out every student in her (honors) math class who is refusing PARCC. She told them if the still refused come the first day of testing, they would be made to sit and stare at a wall. She further belittled their parents' choice by snidely remarking "good luck" in attending college if they didn't take the test. And, a final remark about how students in another class aren't as smart as they are and she expected them not to take the test. 

Needless to say, my friend is really angry about that exchange with her daughter and her classmates. The trust I mentioned above is now gone. Initially, her daughter didn't want my friend intervening and asked to take the test. My friend, bless her, spoke with her daughter about doing the right thing, about not acquiescing to bullies. Upon reflection, and armed with accurate information about the test, her daughter is very angry too. Good luck to that teacher getting her trust back. 

I'll close out this post with an example of how districts should be handling opt outs/refusals. When a parent sends in a note informing the school administrator their child will not be taking PARCC, the response should be, thank you for letting us know your decision. We will provide an alternate setting and allow your child to work on homework or read a book. If you should decide to bring your child in late/after testing is done for the day, they will not be marked absent or late. That's it. It's really simple.

Here's an example of how that worked in one district:

Wanted to share my experience from today. We have moved to a new school in a whole new district just recently and learned that the Refusal movement didn't take off in our new school. I found out after asking around that not a single student in this school refuses testing. I mentioned twice to the teachers and very little response just "okay". My daughter has mentioned to the teacher that she doesn't participate in PARCC testing during practice tests and it was met with "okay". After all of that I was a bit nervous of how they would handle it considering that she would be the only student refusing but after going to the school in the morning and a brief talk with the principal he said no problem just email me your letter and [my child] will be able to spend testing time in the Library. I asked if I should send the email elsewhere too and he said no just him and he would take care of it. As nervous as I was about how this would unfold I must say her principal handled it so well and did not make her feel any bit uncomfortable or like the "bad kid" that we had dealt with in our previous school.
I am very pleased this year how this has turned out so far.

Last year, NJ Senator Ruiz decided to only pass a resolution (SR137) against bad behavior by districts, but it was very clear: 
The Commissioner of Education is urged to develop guidelines by September 1, 2015 that identify a range of appropriate policies  that may be adopted by a school district when considering how students not participating in the Statewide assessment will be supervised and what, if any, alternate arrangements will be provided to them during the test administration. The guidelines should prohibit a school district from taking punitive action against a student including, but not limited to, the adoption of a sit and stare policy in response to the student’s refusal to participate in the Statewide assessment. (emphasis mine)  The guidelines should also address how and when the district’s policy will be communicated to parents, students, and school district staff.
Clearly, the resolution wasn't enough. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Jersey State Board of Education Gets It Very Wrong

The February 10, 2016 NJ State Board of Ed meeting was its usual surreal experience and it was one of the rare times when open public testimony is permitted. As the school experiences of our kids get more and more narrowed, parents are finally showing up in number to speak out against what is happening in their districts and to weigh in on the crazy influence testing has on our schools. 

I regularly provide testimony to the NJ State BOE, to NJ Senate and Assembly Education Committees, and I've even schlepped down to the US Department of Education in Washington DC. I expect that my testimony (anyone's testimony) is listened to fairly and when appropriate, commented on fairly. Here is the link to a summary of testimony provided in February to the NJ State BOE, along with a response from them. I expected it to reflect what I actually said.

I'm more than a little horrified that it does not. I provided two testimonies -- one for myself and one from Save Our Schools NJ (SOSNJ). Mine was completely ignored, and it appears the NJ State BOE summary and response to SOSNJ was too: 
COMMENT: The commenter asked for details on the current graduation requirements and how they differ from the proposed changes. (A)
RESPONSE: Under the former graduation requirements, a student had three opportunities to demonstrate graduation competencies under the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). If a student was unable to pass all portions of the HSPA, he or she then would take targeted portions of the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA). Finally, a student who was unable to demonstrate graduation proficiencies through both the HSPA and the AHSA could use the portfolio appeals process. Although the Department is proposing to transition form the HSPA to end-of-course PARCC assessments, and the AHSA to substitute competency tests, the statutory requirement to demonstrate graduation competency through a standardized assessment is maintained, along with the provision of an alternative way to demonstrate proficiency.  
However, nowhere in the SOSNJ testimony is that question asked. Here is the full text: 
February 10, 2016
 Save Our Schools NJ, a 30,000 member grassroots, non-partisan, pro-public education organization strongly opposes the New Jersey Department of Education’s proposed graduation requirements. In short, the proposed regulations make passing two PARCC tests a graduation requirement, and eliminate the alternative high school assessment.  Save Our Schools NJ does not support using the unvalidated PARCC tests for graduation or any other important decisions affecting students, teachers, and schools.  Furthermore, eliminating the alternative assessment will undoubtedly increase the drop-out rate, disproportionately affect certain communities, and must be reconsidered.

The proposed regulations appear to eliminate the right of parents to refuse PARCC by requiring all students to sit for all PARCC exams in order to receive a diploma. Parents in New Jersey have always refused standardized tests, and federal law supports parents’ right to refuse. The State Board should reject this proposal. 

Currently, New Jersey is one of just 13 states that requires exit exams for public school students. In rejecting exit exams, a large majority of states recognize that high school performance is a better indicator of college and career readiness than a standardized test. Rather than revealing new information about the performance of New Jersey’s students, the results of last year’s PARCC exams confirm what we already knew—performance on standardized tests is highly correlated to a family’s and community’s wealth. The new federal ESSA law does not require a high school exit test.  And it requires just one test in ELA and math in high school.  Given all of this, why does New Jersey need three times as many tests in high school?

The Department claims that a test taken on a computer better measures a student’s abilities as compared to a pencil and paper “bubble” test and commenced an initiative to force school districts to administer the test online, ignoring warnings about how students with little or no experience with computers would fare. The DOE touted its ‘best in the nation’ number of students who took PARCC on a computer. Yet, last week, PARCC officials acknowledged discrepancies in scores across different formats. PARCCs Chief of Assessment Jeffrey Nellhaus said “There is some evidence that, in part, the score differences we’re seeing may be explained by students’ familiarity with the computer-delivery system.” According to EdWeek, "The advantage for paper-and-pencil test-takers appears to be substantial, based on independent analyses conducted by one prominent PARCC state and a high-profile school district that administered the exams."  This serious matter further calls into question the validity of PARCC results and their use as a requirement for graduation.

Save Our Schools NJ supports assessing skills and knowledge as a component of high-quality education using tools that are reliable, valid, and appropriate to the educator's need. We do not support the use of high stakes standardized testing for graduation, student placement, or teacher evaluation.
Save Our Schools NJ urges the State Board of Education and the Department of Education to explore alternatives to high stakes standardized testing. Rather than enrich the coffers of the edu-tech industry, please consider assessments that support the type of instruction NJ students and educators need and deserve.

Submitted by Julie Borst, Organizer, Save Our Schools NJ
I will leave you with the full text of my testimony -- which I was not allowed to finish. I was made to provide both within a strict 5-minute slot, even though there were many people who did not show up and there would have been plenty of time for the few people in the room to speak. Later on I learned that people were allowed extra time in the other rooms. (It's not unusual to for them to split people up and have 1 or 2 Board members listen to testimony in each room.) It is not even addressed. Pretty scary since this is really the crux of the issue. We have been sold the idea that we need high standards above all else. What we were given are not "higher" than the old standards. The testing, and the narrowing of curriculum for the purpose of doing well on a test that is based on the new and inferior standards is big problem. 

10 February 2016 NJ State Board of Education
Drs. Chris Tienken and Eunyoung Kim from Seton Hall University and Dr. Dario Sforza, a high school principal in East Rutherford, NJ, recently published, “A Comparison of Higher-Order Thinking Between the Common Core State Standards and the 2009 New Jersey Content Standards in High School”. You can read their article in AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice. There has been "no qualitative analytical research…done to test the assumption that the CCSS are superior to previous state standards in the development of higher order thinking and creativity at the high school level.” 

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4


In March 2014, Kevin Welner from the National Education Policy Center, had this to say about the adoption of CCSS in an articleThe Lost Opportunity of the Common Core State Standards: 
"But the unfortunate reality is that whatever its potential benefits, the actual Common Core package will almost certainly exacerbate the policy failures of the past decade. Further, the linking of the Common Core to accountability regimes is a feature, not a bug. It is what was intended from the outset.
Our children deserve so much better than this.
Let's be really clear about this. The development of the standards was NOT driven by educational need. It was driven by political need. 
NJDOE has invested a lot of time and money into pushing CCSS. They have made incredible claims about their value and how much it would propel the children of New Jersey to “college and career readiness,” a term that is still without definition. PARCC, the CCSS-aligned test, was allegedly so good, that when Dr. Tienken asked Bari Erlichson from NJDOE, "Is the test worth teaching to?" Ms. Erlichson replied, "Yes...How many days does it take to get ready for the PARCC exam? 180. That is the length of the school year." This exchange happened at an event in Ridgewood, NJ, in October 2014, hosted by The League of Women Voters. See the entire panel discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9QdDuBm5sk, their exchange begins at 1:18:34.  
That was incredibly high praise for the assumption of good curricula based on standards that still hadn't been vetted and for a test that NO ONE had seen. 
Last year, Governor Christie announced the creation of a task force to study the Common Core State Standards. They were given a very short period of time to take public input, review each standard, and return recommendations for change. The end result was, as expected, a sham. It’s not a reflection of the time parents and teachers on the task force spent reviewing and revising the standards. It certainly was not a reflection of the testimony provided to the task force, but rather the insufficient time frame for producing standards, a report, and the Commissioner's insistence that it would likely be a just a "tweak." The task force came back with a 15% change in the standards, which, magically, coincides with the requirements of PARCC…anything more than a 15% change in standards would require dropping PARCC assessments. 
I still have not gotten answer to my question regarding PTO participation, in spite of help from State Board of Education President, Mark Biedron. So much for transparency from NJDOE.
So, how did Tienken, Kim, and Sforza evaluate and compare the standards? They used Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and you can find an in-depth description of their methodology beginning on page 14, and a description of the four levels of DOK on page 10.
DOK levels are described in the article as:
Level 1 Recall: requires “recall a simple definition, term, or fact, or replicate procedure, or algorithm. 
Level 2 Skill/Concepts: students develop some mental connections and make decisions about how to set up to approach a problem or activity to produce a response, apply a recalled skill, or engage in literal comprehension.
Level 3 Strategic Thinking: engage in planning, reasoning, constructing arguments, making conjectures, and/or providing evidence when producing a response and require students to do some original concepts or draw conclusions. 
Level 4 Extended Thinking: engage in complex planning, reasoning, and conjecturing, and to develop lines of argumentation. Items at this level require students to make multiple connections between several different key and complex concepts, inferencing, or connecting the dots to create a big picture generalization. 
What did the study show? From page 18:
"Overall, the high school Common Core State Standards in ELA and M contained fewer standards rated at DOK Levels 3 and 4 than the 2009 New Jersey high school standards in ELA and math. That is, the standards that NJ had in place prior to adopting the Common Core provided more of the Level 3 and 4 higher order skills cited in mainstream business and education publication as necessary capabilities for competing in a global economy."
To summarize their findings, pages 18-23:
Those numbers hardly suggest the far superior product we've been sold. Perhaps most damning in the article is this paragraph on page 26. 
"The results suggest that the previous versions of the NJ high school ELA and math standards included more complex, higher-order thinking and provided more opportunities to practice the types of thinking valued in the mainstream education reform literature as necessary to compete in the global economy. Although some have noted the CCSS as being more difficult than some previous states’ standards, difficulty is not a proxy for creativity and strategic thinking (e.g. Porter, McMaken, & Hwang, 2011). Convoluted prompts and questions and unclear portions of some standards do nothing to foster creative or strategic thinking (Wiggins, 2014)." 
Hard to say where I feel most disappointed. At the local level, I'm really tired of the Kool-Aid laden pep talks from supposed "experts" and "coaches". At the state level, NJDOE and State Board of Education, I'm tired of the gerbil wheel of spin that constantly comes out of their building. I'm tired of them having no accountability. I'm tired of parents and students having no voice. At the federal level, I'm tired of pretty much the same thing as the local and state levels. At state and federal levels I'm appalled at the amount of "philanthropic" money being tossed around and its influence on public policy, none of which addresses the most basic needs of many students. 
Importantly, the status quo approach involves a choice of one set of policies to the exclusion of another. When politicians opt for accountability and market-based privatization policies, they supersede policies that are grounded in best practices — evidence-based reforms that have succeeded in enhancing opportunities to learn. 
In doing so, politicians seem willfully ignorant of the direct connection between opportunity and achievement. Our national opportunity gaps lead inexorably to our achievement gaps. Yet the test-based accountability policies still advocated by politicians disregard the opportunity side of the equation. Capacity building and supports are relegated to a small footnote within a long diatribe about mandated performance. The Marie Antoinettes of today proclaim, “Let them take tests,” callously brushing aside the needs of our children for intellectual nourishment." 
The machine that churns out the This Is The Best Thing Ever! has to be stopped. Some really basic questions have to be answered. Maybe most important for parents is, at what point did you cede your voice and reason to the snake oil salesmen of college and career readiness? And to the State Board of Education, who do you work for? It sure doesn’t look like it’s for the children of New Jersey.
Julie Borst
Attached: Full article: “A Comparison of Higher-Order Thinking Between the Common Core State Standards and the 2009 New Jersey Content Standards in High School” Dr. Chris Tienken Dr. Eunyoung Kim, and Dr. Dario Sforza