Testimony of Marie Blistan, NJEA Vice President
NJ State Board of Education meeting
Common Core Standards, PARCC & Evaluation

March 5, 2014

Good Afternoon,

My name is Marie Blistan, and I am the vice president of the New Jersey Education Association.  I stand here before you representing the more than 200,000 teachers and educational support professionals in public schools across the state.

I am also a proud special education teacher in the Washington Township public school district with over 30 years of experience in the classroom. 

As an educator, I know firsthand the demands placed upon teachers each and every day - - I also know that despite these demands, New Jersey public school teachers meet every challenge with grace, innovation, and unwavering dedication.

But I can tell you that this new evaluation system is stifling the creativity and love for learning that our students deserve. 

Instead of being allowed to explore the wonders and joys of education that New Jersey so dearly values, our children are being taught at a rate and delivery manner that is consistently being described by our members as “ineffective” and “test obsessive.”

As educators, we understand the need for assessment and accountability.  However, it is because of our time in the classroom that we also understand the value of maintaining a sense of balance in order to ensure that a child is able to reach his or her full potential.

That’s why NJEA is urging you to slow down and delay the implementation of this new evaluation system.  

But don’t just take our word for it…

Stop and listen to the people on the front lines - - our educators - - who are struggling to meet the demands of these high-stakes tests while also meeting the demands of what each child needs in order to be successful.

Listen to the educators like Rosemary from Sparta who wrote to us to say “…instead of teaching students what they need and differentiating to their needs based on their current level of performance, we are being forced to “teach to the top” to avoid being classified as ineffective.”

Rosemary also states, “…It is not possible to achieve a high level of performance because the standards were initiated across all levels simultaneously.  It is an impossible situation which is going to cause nothing but failure on the part of both the students and teachers, leading to a public perception of education that is worse - - and even more inaccurate - - than it is now.”

Listen to Bruce - - a 44-year teaching veteran from Audubon - - who says, “…the current focus on SGO’s, PARCC, and teacher evaluations is funneling financial resources and time away from instruction that could help our students.  Unfunded mandates and required training that helps a teacher or administrator’s “score”, rather than activities that directly benefits or improve classroom instruction, are not helping our students.”

I also urge you to listen to Mark, a parent from Hamilton Township in Mercer County.  Mark told us, “…as a parent of school-aged children, I see the new evaluation system as a boiling pressure cooker.  Teachers are experiencing unnecessary stress, which negatively impacts the classroom environment, largely due to too many new things being implemented at once.”

Rosemary, Bruce and Mark are not the only ones to speak out.  NJEA has heard - - and collected - - hundreds of stories just like these.  

As an educator and parent myself, I find it heartbreaking that in a state like ours - - where our public schools lead the nation in category after category - - we are making rushed decisions that, no matter where you may live, are causing more harm than good.

So, I urge this board to carefully weigh its options and work with the amazing educators throughout this state to GET THIS RIGHT.

Listen to the folks like Margaret, a teacher from Montclair, who sums it up best.  She says, “…while there is no limit to our passion for our students, there is a limit to our energy.  This evaluation system has been an unmitigated disaster for educational professionals, and our students are enjoying education less and less.  I certainly hope that this was not the intention of those who sought to pass these so-called reforms.”

I know, ladies and gentlemen of the State Board, that this is not YOUR intention.  Please join us and take a stand for doing evaluation the RIGHT way - - not the RUSHED way.

Thank you.