Do You Want the Truth?

Bill Michaelson's picture

May 4 was public comment day for the New Jersey State Board of Education (SBOE) in Trenton. This is a time when citizens are extended the privilege of speaking to members of the SBOE in person in a public forum. People travelled from all around the state to gather in a handful of rooms at the Department of Education (DOE) headquarters and deliver their five minute statements to one or a handful of SBOE members in the room, hoping to persuade leadership about what they believe.

I came to the event with my own statement ready, but after consultation with some like-minded activists, I decided to withhold my statement for another time, perhaps when the SBOE would be ready to understand or accept it. So I spoke off the cuff, as follows:

Statement to the New Jersey State Board of Education Delivered by Bill Michaelson, May 4, 2016

Board members attending: Marc Biedron

Mr. Biedron invited us to tell him what we valued, I discarded my prepared statement and spoke accordingly. I recorded my statement and transcribed it to reflect intended content as follows:

That's an interesting proposition that you gave us. I'm gonna flip it around and tell you what I value first, OK?

I value truth. In the time I spent on the school board in Lawrence for many years I found that truth often seems to be somewhat elusive, hazy, hard to see, hard to define. You hear a lot of voices. You hear the reports of your administration telling you how things are going, and you hear the voices of your constituency, the people who elected you, that you are responsible to, telling you how things are going, and sometimes there's quite a bit of dissonance even from parties within the same constituency. So...

You listen to everything, and you take everything with a grain of salt and you try and figure out what the truth is, and that's why I value it because in order to feel responsible that's what I would always try and seek. Now, I think you heard some testimony this morning in the first part of your meeting from your administration and now you're hearing from people [from] all around the state, a cross-section. I hope you're hearing the truth. I know sometimes it's hard to determine what is the truth. But I think it's coming through. I hope you listen to it.

There is a side issue that I wanted to talk about it. It is about the PARCC failure last week, and I know I've mentioned this before. I spent some time when I was on the school board about three years ago up at the Forrestal Center at something arranged by NJSBA, and we heard one of the vendors who wanted to support PARCC, and they were selling their wares, telling us all about how the PARCC worked, and in the back of the room were some representatives from the Department of Education. They seemed to be pretty gung-ho about the PARCC and I had a question.

I asked: Why is it (the PARCC system) designed in such a way to be completely dependent on a central point of operation? Why does it have this critical failure point that, if it goes down, it stops the entire operation? I can't imagine why the design would require that. And I didn't get a response, and I'm wondering why that was - if it hadn't been considered. And I'm wondered if there was someone in the upper echelons of the DOE who hadn't considered it and needed to hear that truth.

We see how that worked out, and I hope that's a useful reference point for you here in considering where the truth comes from and who we should be listening to.

I think that covers it. Thanks.

My Truth

Obviously, my message was a suggestion that the SBOE ought to listen carefully to the many people who have come to speak recently. They bring truths that are not being delivered by management at the DOE in Trenton. Some of these truths can be found through these links: