Note: This was originally posted at my site after Wednesday's NJ State BOE meeting.
What could top an unprecedented number of people testifying at today's NJ State Board of Ed meeting? What could top the number of parents who, on a brutally cold January day, pulled their kids out of school so they could accompany them? What could top the overwhelming call for the state to ditch—or at least greatly scale back—PARCC testing?
"We know we can't force any kid to put their hands on a keyboard."
That quote came from NJ State BOE President Mark Biedron after testimony wrapped in his hearing room and an impromptu Q&A about standardized testing ensued. Susan Cauldwell of Save Our Schools New Jersey was in the room and captured it word-for-word.
Biedron is from my neighborhood: Hunterdon County. He is a Christie appointee, but he doesn't come with that stereotypical pedigree. He owns a private school, The Willow School, in neighboring Somerset County, and is very much an environmentalist.
Soon after he was appointed to the board, he came to my school and met with my local president and me for about 90 minutes to talk about education policy, including the latest 'reforms'. While we didn't agree on everything, I found him to be deeply passionate about education, but not in that 'reformy' kind of way. There did seem to be a middle ground.
Last year when the New Jersey Education Association delivered thousands of member letters to the board about the flaws in the new evaluation system, he told me that he intended to read every one of them. I believed him. When state legislators didn't show up for our county legislative dinners, he did. I was thankful for that.
So, when he was appointed President of the NJ State Board of Ed in 2014, I was hopeful. Today, I am more so.
There has been so much confusion and misinformation coming from the state department of education regarding PARCC testing requirements. Seemingly every week there's a new announcement, a new policy or a new graduation requirement. To those of us who hang around the BOE, this isn't surprising. It's almost like they do it on purpose to keep everyone guessing—or they just don't know what they're doing (my money's on the latter). But for the tens of thousands of parents out there who are suddenly very much concerned about what's coming down the pike in March and May, this is real cause for anxiety.
For Biedron to say this in public is huge. Print it out and attach it to your opt-out letter. This is a game-changer.