Friday, January 30, 2015

Solitary Pro PARCC Testimony Was NJPTA Plant

When over 60 parents and educators travel from across the state, and deliver 6 hours of passionate, informed testimony on their concerns about PARCC, people take notice.  The press coverage of NJ's pushback against PARCC is steadily growing. You can read some of the coverage here, here, and here

It was quite a sight to see Commissioner Hespe, usually shielded from such intimate contact with the parents and teachers he serves, take it all in. I have to give him credit for sitting through all 6 hours of testimony, unlike Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles, who cut out after a little more than 3 hours. Hespe remained affable throughout, as speaker after speaker annihilated the PARCC.

He did however seem particularly attentive to the lone voice that came to the mic to speak in favor of PARCC. When she finished, Hespe made the tactical error of thanking her for her testimony, which elicited fury from the audience, most of whom had not been thanked individually when they concluded their own remarks.

When you think about it, it's astounding that out of over 64 speakers, only one was in favor of PARCC.

That lone voice belonged to a woman who introduced herself only as Lisa Clarke from Irvington, NJ. She said she was the mom of two grown children, and provided no other affiliation. She said that both of her children attended college, but one was not prepared when he got there and had to take 5 remedial classes to catch up. She stated that this was a financial burden to her family, and discouraging to her son. She was absolutely sure that if he had taken PARCC tests throughout his public school years, she would have known he was not "college ready" and his teachers would have been able to better prepare him.

It was the kind of testimony a State Education Commissioner dreams of. She hit every PARCC talking point. As soon as she delivered her testimony, she left the Jackson Liberty High School auditorium with a group of women who had not testified themselves.

It seemed odd. It made me wonder if she was a plant.

So I did a little research on Lisa Clarke from Irvington.

I wasn't surprised in the least to learn that not only is she affiliated with NJPTA, she is listed on their 990 under "Officers, Directors, Trustees and Key Employees." She testified before the Assembly Budget Committee in 2010, where she identified herself as the Education Reform Chairman for the NJPTA. In this cached page from the NJPTA website she is listed as their Legislative Activities Chairman.

That, ladies and gentleman, is just another way to say she was a NJPTA lobbyist in Trenton.

Why didn't she disclose her affiliation? Why masquerade as any old parent off the street, in front of cameras and a room full of witnesses? As I mentioned, as soon as she testified she left the building with a group of women who did not testify themselves. Coincidentally, NJPTA President and President elect, Debbie Tyrrell and Rose Accerra were listed as attendees at last night's hearing, but were not registered to testify.

The NJPTA and its leadership is not only doing a disservice to the parents of this state, they are selling them out. 

But WHY?
National PTA is positioning itself as a key player at the front line of education reform.  The association today announced a new three-year effort to mobilize parents to advance key education priorities, beginning with common core state standards—a voluntary, state-led, internationally benchmarked set of high academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. A $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help support the effort.
Yup, that's right. Gates money. Gates money specifically earmarked to promote all things Common Core. As a side note, click the link above to this statement on the Gates Foundation website. There is a link for a supposed PTA press release on the matter, but lo and behold, it doesn't work anymore. You have to wonder, why did the PTA pull their press release about the money they took from Gates?

So forget you parents, and your measly $5, $10 and $20 contributions. PTA doesn't answer to you anymore, they answer to Bill Gates. And he's using YOUR PTA to protect HIS investment in the Common Core.

NJPTA's transparent attempt to feign support for the PARCC last night was a total fail. Parents in this state have been furious with the NJPTA for quite some time. A template has even been created to let the NJPTA know that their support of Common Core and PARCC is a deal breaker for many, and parents are rescinding their memberships. You can download the template and send it to the NJPTA if you agree that their support of Common Core and PARCC doesn't represent the interests of your child and your child's teachers.

In New York State, where parents have been dealing with new Common Core aligned tests for three years, individual PTA chapters are starting to revolt.
Excessive testing teaches our children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life. It takes the joy out of learning and minimizes the value and importance of taking a test when it really counts. And it is ruining public education.
As an immediate solution, members of the Bennett School PTA are encouraging our parent body in grades three to six to refuse the state tests in ELA, math and science this spring. These tests are inappropriate for our children, are unfair to our teachers, take away valuable classroom time and are not part of our child’s overall grade or individual assessment.
We intend to send a message to the state.
If the NJPTA refuses to listen to the voices of actual parents and teachers, and instead allows Bill Gates and his money to buy their allegiance, then I can only imagine they will be faced with a similar uprising of local chapters in the very near future. 

NJPTA must listen to parents and teachers, and develop their policy positions from the ground up, not from Bill Gates down. Until that happens, the NJPTA should rename and rebrand their organization. 

May I present to you, the NJBGA, the New Jersey Bill Gates Association.

NJBGA. Your child. Bill's voice.
UPDATE: The link I provided above was to only a small fraction of the money the National PTA has received from Gates. Here is the link to ALL grants to date. The total since 2009 is $2,665,422, with the most recent a grant in 2013 for $660,422 "to educate parents and communities on the Common Core State Standards and provide support for district leaders."

Educating "parents and communities" is not the same as planting testimony at a state hearing. I encourage the NJPTA to dig deep, and realize that the current backlash is rooted in genuine concern for an organization that seems to have lost its way.

I have been contacted privately by an NJPTA board member, asking for dialogue. I have responded, and will try to state the case for those of us concerned with their current position and tactics. I will provide further updates, so stay tuned! 


  1. Getting up, doing their Kool-Aid infused CCSS/PARCC speech, and then fleeing seems to be the m.o. Debbie did that in Trenton too. In Jersey City, PTA was there but did not speak.

    I hope parents are paying attention. PTA is so far off from the perception of bake sale moms.

    1. If she had identified herself as being with NJPTA I wouldn't have written a thing. But to purposefully hide it is just wrong.

  2. Great sleuthing, Mother Crusader. They should be publicly shamed by their own local chapter now that this is out.

  3. thank you for sharing mine and Lisa Grieco Rodgers letter to the PTA

  4. I love my local pta for what it does at our school, but I couldn't disagree more with the NJPTA and National PTA stand with reformers. The job of the ptas at a minimum should be to present clear information to parents--which in this case would inc lude telling parents that while the DOE is selling PARCC as beneficial to our children, teaching to the test is ruining our kids' education and the PARCC is setting us up for the ranking and sorting of our kids, teachers, and schools, and paving the way for privatization. I'm checking out that letter.

  5. Beware of reformy invitations to share dialogue. TFA used the same strategy to give them the leverage to argue that they are "listening" to the other side.
    We all know the end of that story. Nothing changed except their image in the media.

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