On Monday, November 14 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Bridgewater, the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association, assisted by a PRIDE Grant from the NJEA, sponsored its 2nd annual BREA Community Dinner. In addition to having a delicious meal and dessert, 66 school community stakeholders, including PTO Officers, CSA Officers, BRHS Band Parent Officers, Full Day Kindergarten parents, BREA Officers, and Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick, came together to discuss the education of the children we serve. The evening was highlighted by presentations from Marybeth Beichert, NJEA Associate Director of Government Relations, and Susan Cauldwell from the community activist group Save Our Schools NJ.
The issue most focused upon throughout the dinner was the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law on December 10, 2015, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. Some changes from NCLB to ESSA are the following: (1) ESSA allows states to choose other measures considered useful for evaluating public schools in addition to typical measures such as test scores, student growth, and graduation rates, (2) ESSA provides funding for states to audit and streamline assessment systems to reduce high-stakes testing by eliminating or improving redundant and inefficient assessments, and (3) ESSA prohibits the federal government form mandating teacher evaluations or defining what makes an effective teacher. Rather, it calls for local school decisions to be determined by collaboration between educators, parents, and other community members.
Beichert stressed that as the NJDOE seeks to develop and implement its new school accountability plan, it is imperative that educators be part of the process. Our current school year has been deemed a transition year that allows the NJDOE to seek input on various elements of the new law. Educators are encouraged to visit njea.org/ESSA , www.getESSAright.org or https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsNJ/.
Cauldwell stressed the importance of parents and other community members making their voices heard in the ESSA implementation process as well. She also mentioned how Save Our Schools NJ was instrumental in helping parents who did not want their children to take the PARCC assessment refuse the test be taken by their children. The core principles of Save Our Schools NJ are: (1) Every child should have access to a high-quality, publicly-funded education, (2) Publicly-funded schools should be democratically controlled by and accountable to their local communities, and (3) Publicly-funded education must focus exclusively on our children’s growth and development, not on making profits or punishing communities. For more information go to http://www.saveourschoolsnj.org .