Thursday, March 24, 2016

NJDOE + NJ Chamber of Commerce = Act of Incredible Desperation

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation in Clifton. The presenter, Dana Egreczky, was there on behalf of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce (NJCC). Ostensibly, the purpose was to help parents understand the importance of standardized tests and their children's future in the business world. 

Anyone who pays attention to what's happening in Trenton, and, frankly, in DC, knows that the Chamber is a regular attendee at legislative education committee meetings. They often provide testimony and it's always on the side of the so-called education reform movement. I would even go so far as to say they, and the NJ Business and Industry Association, have more influence on what happens in our schools than parents and teachers. 

So, when the NJCC steps out into the daylight to weigh in on standardized testing, you bet I wanted to hear what they had to say. Two organizations that I am a part of are members of our local Chamber of Commerce. If NJCC is going around spreading misinformation on my behalf, I want to know about it.

The Clifton presentation was appalling. I haven't been able to get a copy of the presentation given to parents, but here is a link to the presentation she gave to Clifton students. A dad who was at the parent presentation audio taped it. He also blogged about it. You can read and listen to it here. The presentation was delivered in an angry tone, she made incredible claim after claim in an attempt to scare parents into letting their children take the PARCC tests. When asked for citations to back up her claims, parents were chided for having "opinions" and that in the 50 times she had delivered this particular presentation (no citation for that claim either), no one had ever asked for citation. Basically, her answer to any question was to bugger off. 

The next day, a parent sent an email to the president of NJCC asking for an explanation. The president wrote back and claimed no responsibility for Dana, saying she did not work for NJCC, even though she had identified herself as a Sr VP at the Chamber and President and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Here is part of his response:
“thank you for the feedback....Ms. Egreczky is a consultant on a grant regarding CORE curriculum issues, not an employee of the Chamber....she is just beginning her presentations so your feedback is greatly appreciated as the intent is to be educational, not confrontational...we will make sure to modify her presentations to achieve our goal in a more user friendly style....please understand that she is not speaking for the Chamber and the issues you expressed concern about are not advocated by the Chamber....if you would like to discuss further, please contact me...thank you again"
Fast forward a couple of weeks and she was in another town delivering her message of despair. Parents reported that her presentation was toned down from what they heard happened in Clifton. NJCC likely had a conversation with her and I hoped the rhetoric had been brought down to the usual Kool-Aid level you hear at PARCC-in-the-Box presentations. I decided to wait until she came into my area to see it again. 

Last night, a friend sent me the presentation given in Deptford. Well, it is different than the one she gave in Clifton. Still no citations, still claims from crazyland, only now the presentation is on behalf of We Raise NJ, a coalition of Gates-funded reform groups. NJCC is still listed in the presentation, but now in a much less conspicuous way. 

The reason for the backstory and purpose of this post is to let everyone know what We Raise NJ is spewing. Their "coalition" is the NJ Chamber of Commerce, NJ Charter Schools Association, National Council of La Raza, NJ School Boards Association, Garden State Coalition of Schools, NJ Black Alliance for Educational Options, NJ Council of County Colleges, NJCAN, NJASCD, NJ Business & Industry Association, and New Jersey PTA. And, yes, lots of Gates Foundation money in exchange for pushing Common Core State Standards and the aligned testing in this group. 

The Clifton presentation ignored students with disabilities. The new one does not. This gem is on slide 63 and looks like it was thrown in as an afterthought. I hope you are all as appalled as I am with this 50+ year old line of thinking. Keep in mind We Raise NJ is telling parents that taking a test is the answer to everything, but for students with disabilities - meh, they are just a blight on society and should be forced to take the test too, just because.

Following this line of logic, We Raise NJ thinks that a single, not yet validated, test based on low level standards is going to the address how we take care of (nothing here about actually lifting up students and individuals with disabilities) our most vulnerable population. This is disgusting. And then to suggest that the parents and teachers of these students don't know how they are doing and that this test, which is NOT DIAGNOSTIC in any way shape or form, is going to enlighten them? Seriously? 

Just so parents of gen ed students are not left out. These are directed at you. God forbid you want a manicure, you've just put your child's future at risk.

The purpose of all this is: 

Got that? By taking PARCC, your child will not be living with you 30 years from now. 

If you're wondering WHY Dana is making the rounds to schools all over the state to deliver this garbage to you. Well, probably a good idea to ask to see your district's Corrective Action Plan (technically, the ESEA Accountability Action Plan). This show counts as an approved "action" by NJDOE. 

Have you had enough yet? I sure as hell have. Our kids deserve better than this! 


  1. Wouldn't it be neat if the government said "if your kid fails the test we will give his school the money they need to provide the extra services necessary so he can do better next year."
    Instead we have a state funded, state backed moron saying PARCC will raise tax revenue in the future, so we won't bother to educate your kid, we will just give him benefits when he is older. Do I have that right?

    1. Your comment reminded me of a public-radio piece I heard where in some very poor Native American district the success rate had been notable -- and guess what? They had been given permission to do exactly what you're suggesting: using additional testing money to provide "extra necessary services."

  2. Phenomenal blog! Dana needs to be stopped in her tracks and sent back to CRAZYLAND! Testing will not determine my child's future! Corporations will not make profits via testing on my child!

  3. I appreciate what you've written, and how obviously emphatic you are about the abuses brought to schools by testing (and our ever more secretive testing corporations). As low-income school teachers we were taught that "best practices" meant that a teacher had to be fully in charge of testing -- knowing what would be tested before she even began teaching. With the advent of NCLB, however, teachers are now often the very last people to be involved with the testing process, and then they are quickly labeled as "failures" to be blamed for their lack of input. INSANITY.