Bob Braun gets it wrong. Really wrong.

I’m a Jersey boy.  Remember the end of the opening scene of The Sopranno’s? That was me; walking down the driveway, getting the newspaper.  That newspaper was The Star Ledger.

There are legends that write at the Ledger.  Reporters that you look forward to reading.  One of them was Bob Braun. Bob covered everything and anything.  A staple of New Jersey culture, politics, and championing the little guy.

Maybe I liked Bob more because his wife taught my younger brother and I at Connecticut Farms in Union. Maybe I liked Bob more because he always took the time to dig deep and be thorough.  Maybe I liked Bob more because he was no-thrills.

Bob, I have to take it back now.

I’m so disgusted with the story you published on your blog earlier this week talking about how one of the Assistant Commissioners of Education, Bari Erlichson, is the reason why NJDOE & Pearson (the cultivators of the PARCC test) are so tight. Bob, through shoddy reporting and attempted parlor tricks, tries to correlate Assistant Commissioner Erlichson’s husband (a software developer) to why / how the PARCC test is here today.

While the story is simply ridiculous, Bob thought it was necessary to place her address, taxes, and a plethora of other personal, irrelevant information in the story.  The attempt to make the Erlichson’s look like the 1% failed; the whole article failed.  Well, to be fair, it succeeded in solidifying that Bob needs to retire… for real this time.  Such a callous article really makes me want to reach out to Mrs. Braun and ask her to remove Bob’s keyboard and enjoy the sunset that you both worked so hard to do.

Look at some of these facts:

  • All of the Pearson contracts are public
  • Of those contracts, none of them list MongoDB (Bari’s husband’s company) as a subcontractor
  • Pearson sold this company approximately 15 months before NJDOE contracted with them
  • Bari had nothing to do with the selection process; that’s not her area.
  • The house was purchased way before Bari’s husband even worked for MongoDB – roughly four years

For the past three weeks, there has been article after article, demonizing everyone who has something remotely nice to say about the PARCC test.  Some folks have taken it so personal , they’ve made flat out threatening statements.  I heard one story where someone was told to ‘watch their back, you never know who’s driving behind you’ and heard of another story where a Superintendent was threatened with a pipe bomb.  A PIPE BOMB! Really?!  Over a test?

This is just a test!  It’s going to show how our teachers are teaching and how our learners are learning.  It’s not the test in India or China that determines the rest of your life.  There’s going to be kinks, and there’s going to be mistakes. Have kinks and mistakes not been made before in other assessments? The PARCC is promising more data with a speedier return.  When have we not wanted information that more efficient and customized to the learner? Students are no longer cattle getting a one-size-fits-all assessment.  It’s 2015, and there’s no reason not to get it today like this.

I’m assuming some folks will automatically assume that I’m writing this because employees at the NJDOE are my bosses.  Newsflash – they’re not.  I don’t report to the NJDOE county office,  any NJDOE official, or even the Commissioner of Education.  I report to the locally elected Board Of Education members.  The NJDOE can suggest I do things, just like the BOE, but they can’t tell me what to do.

So, going full circle, back to the Pearson / NJDOE coziness.  There isn’t any.  Get over it, Bob.  Get back to being the awesome reporter you are, or retire the keyboard and let people reflect on you for being that awesome reporter you were.


PARCC updates; the justification for lurking

Some folks flipped out that companies working for PARCC were combing (what we call ‘lurking’ on Twitter) over social media for leaks of testing material. Once again, I’m confused.  Why wouldn’t they?  It’s protected material, and sharing it without permission is illegal.  The more obvious…. it’s called CHEATING!  Read the statement from PARCC below.

Test Fairness and Security 

The PARCC states are committed to secure testing because fair tests are essential to better preparing the next generation for success. How do the states protect the fairness and validity of the PARCC test?

The states contract with a test vendor to search social media and websites for images or words from live tests, which are copyright infringements and jeopardize the fairness of the test for all students.

 Sharing images of test items via Twitter, Instagram, or other public social media sites – or posting basic information about test items – is today’s equivalent of photocopying a test and passing it out on the schoolhouse steps.  Cell phones are not allowed in the testing session and test administrators are instructed to tell all students before the test that sharing any test question online is prohibited.

The PARCC states’ policy follows the best practices outlined by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which recommends that there should be “procedures to monitor the internet and social websites before, during and after test administration for any evidence the items and/or answers have been shared” online.  In order to maintain test security, each PARCC state contracted with its test vendor, Pearson, to search for any live PARCC test questions that are shared through public social media sites. This is standard practice for large-scale tests including ACT and SAT.

Student Data Privacy and Security 

Student data privacy and security are critically important to the PARCC states and its member states, which have adopted a Data Privacy and Security Policy and implemented a rigorous set of policies and guidelines to protect student privacy and the security of data.

Barry gets it, and he’s built to last.

I’m re-blogging a post from Barry Saide, an educator in central NJ who often gets to post on ASCD.  I’m not re-posting because I am mentioned, I’m re-posting because Barry understands.  There’s really not much else to say but this:

1) The message is spot on.

2) Barry gets it.

Read on.

The original post can be found at:

Follow Barry on Twitter: @Barrykid1

You know the slogan and the company: “Ford: built to last.”

You also know the acronym: Found On Road Dead.

Which is right?

According to Forbes magazine, Ford has dramatically improved and redesigned their cars and trucks, making them built to last 250,000 miles or more. If this is true, then the days of foreign car dealerships talking about American made cars built for the balance of their lease, versus the lasting of an owner’s lifetime, is no longer valid. And if that’s true, then Ford has learned something we in education haven’t yet: accountability as an overall approach to education doesn’t work. Sustainability does.

Wait, a minute, you say. Don’t Boards of Education need to be accountable to their stakeholders? Don’t central office administrators need to be accountable to their Board of Education? Aren’t teachers accountable to their students?

Yes. Yes. And, yes.

But, accountability models, in their current state, do not allow for long-term growth. Let’s look at it on a grassroots level: the classroom.

When teachers create classroom rules with their students, and set group norms for the way students will interact with each other, they don’t expect instantaneous mastery. Learning doesn’t work that way. Learning takes time, allows for mistakes, and expects refinement over time. Many teachers know that students will learn at their developmental pace, and that the best thing a teacher can do is to create the best conditions for learning. If that is done, then there is a better chance for good learning to occur more often during the course of the year.

But, nothing’s perfect, and educators know that, too. So, teachers get the fact that many of the concepts and approaches to learning they try to cultivate in their learners may not take shape in them for many years after student educational experiences are over. The problem with that, is how do you account for that?

How do you use grades, standardized test scores, and other measurables of this ilk as evidence of learning outcomes when they are something that really shouldn’t be measured in the short-term? How about flipping the narrative, so the education system districts put into place are built to last, like the Ford motto states?

What I’m asking people to do is to think long-term, and that’s hard to do. I get it. Board of Education positions are one, two, or three year terms. There’s a reason people who run for positions don’t use slogans like “If I do my job right, we should see growth during my second three-year term.”

Superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts run three years, but they will know after two years whether they’re getting extended or not. The impetus is clear to them, too: results now. How can central office administrators, many with families of their own, be expected to put their job on the line and preach patience, when stakeholders clamor for immediate change and evidence of growth. There are no bootleg videos on YouTube of stakeholders and constituencies giving the slow clap to a superintendent who says, “We’ll get there. Give me ten years. Let me build something that’s foundationally solid, research-based, and good for kids. We’ll see a dip for a few years while we’re retraining our staff and reframing how we connect with our students, but in the end, everyone will be better. Trust me.”

Thing is, if we’re ever going to win in education everywhere, we need to change in order to grow. Our accountability models can’t look for quick wins. Institutional change, with adults within, and involved with the system, takes time. We need to account for all when flipping our narrative. And, when things get hard, because they will, we need to stick with our script. Backbones aren’t built overnight. But, they can be easily stripped away if we allow others to operate on us.

How do we change from a short-term accountability driven model to a long-term sustainable environment so our new and recent initiatives aren’t Found on Road Dead with our other recent and new initiatives:

1. The Eitner Rule: I can’t take credit for this, so I’m not going to. Jay Eitner, who puts the super in superintendent, once stated: “Growth and change takes time. It’s like cooking food in the crockpot. You need to go low and slow.” For change to work, we need to follow the analogy Super Jay aptly said. Take time, evaluate often, revise as needed, and get it right.
2. Focus on the Whole Child: in a recent webinar I did for Education Week on social-emotional-learning, I stated “We don’t test drive cars and only make right turns. If we buy a car with all the options, we use them, otherwise we’re not getting the most out of what we purchased.” With students it’s the same thing. If our primary focus is only on delivering the academic content to students, we’ve lost the entire battle. Students are entire people, with an entire set of needs. We need to understand each one on our class roster and let them know we care about them as people first, and learners second. When students believe that message, they will achieve for you.

3. Focus on the Whole Teacher: successful business models cited in The Chronicle of Higher Education focus their hiring practice on always looking to add value to their organization. What can a potential new employee bring to us that we don’t already have? How can they make us as an organization better? When we look to not only add people who can move our entire organization forward, but leverage the strengths of the people we already have to do the same, we are building for long-term success. There’s a reason (besides videotaping sidelines and deflating footballs) the New England Patriots win so much. They look to add value to all areas of their organization, and leverage those strengths week after week, year after year.

4. Remember Rule #1: in the movie Fight Club, the first two rules are the same: “You Do Not Talk About Fight Club.” The rules repeats to emphasize the importance of the first two rules. I don’t want you to hit anybody. I do want you to remember: change is a process, personally investing in people will be challenging but worthwhile, and remembering we’re in it for kids will prove helpful when something doesn’t go right and you feel you’ve been punched in the gut.

We aim as educators to create students who will be successful in a society that doesn’t exist yet. We do this through teaching students and communicating to families the importance of communication, collaboration, working as a member of a group, being a problem solver, being willing to fail and learn from it, and more. As educators, we need to model and live what we tell others. And, we need to do it when it’s uncomfortable to do. Many can talk this talk and walk this walk when it’s easy. There are fewer that will stick to this mindset when the work gets hard. That’s what makes you special. And, built to last.

Going to EdCamp South Jersey


I’m going to EdCampSouthJersey… are you? You’re not? What’s your excuse?!? ONWARD!!!

Originally posted on btcostello05:

Are you going to EdCamp South Jersey? If you live anywhere near here your answer should be yes!


Here are 5 great reasons to go to EdCamp South Jersey:

1. Learning- there will be many incredible educators sharing and collaborating. While you are there you can choose what you find interesting or create create your own session! Everyone will be there to learn and share with one another!

2. Collaboration- unlike most PD you attend, this isn’t a sit and listen atmosphere. EdCamp is a place to discuss, share, ask questions, and build connections with other great educators.

3. Free Stuff- Yes there are some great free prizes and giveaways. There is also free FOOD! Who doesn’t love free food! Breakfast and lunch will be provided!

4. Meet great people- EdCamp South Jersey is going to provide you with a chance to meet and collaborate with some of the…

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