Matt Stagliano has a unique perspective on student testing in New Jersey.
In addition to being an English teacher in the Camden County Vocational School District, Stagliano is one of two teachers serving on a study commission appointed by Gov. Chris Christie last summer to look at school testing in New Jersey.
Christie has recently cited the work of the study commission as an important part of what steps he might take next in addressing the Common Core State Standards and the related PARCC testing, which started last week and continues to roil debate.
That commission meets again next Tuesday, as it continues to develop recommendations for the state and individual districts as the testing moves forward.
While Stagilano would not comment on the commission’s specific work, he did express some strong opinions in an interview yesterday about the rollout of the new PARCC tests – at least at his own school. And he had some cautionary words for the state in general.
For one thing, Stagliano said he had few illusions that the tests would be easy for students in his district as they took the tests “for real” this week. (The scheduled launch of the testing last week was delayed in many districts, including Camden County Vocational, due to snow days, but students did take several of the practice exams in preparation.)
It’s not just the content of the test that clearly raises the bar, he said, but also the technological comfort for students for whom computers aren’t necessarily the norm. At a school like his, he noted, a vast majority of students come from homes considered low-income.
“Everyone talks in terms of taking tests in ideal terms, but even in a school where everything goes right, it is a very challenging test,” Stagliano said. “Even for our smartest kids.”
“They don’t have a lot of technology at home, and it’s not only reading required in this, but the content involved,” he added.
Stagliano stressed that he’s not anti-PARCC, and in fact has been working with the test’s consortium on an ongoing basis as a field reviewer of questions. He’s just cautious about the exams.
“It’s a great test and truly aligned to the Common Core,” he said. “But it’s a whole lot, very quickly.”
“My kids, they’re great kids,” he said of his students. “I’m just not sure how they will react.”
NJ Spotlight for the last week has been posting a sample question from the PARCC exams being given this month. Today, we post the last of the series, this time from the 9th grade language arts test.
These questions ask students to read a series of primary source documents about the development of the atomic bomb during the 1940s, and synthesize the reading into a final essay. At the bottom, we provide the answers.
Today you will research the development and one-time use of the atomic bomb. First you will read a passage from a speech by Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, under whom the bomb was developed in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Then you will read a letter from a group of eminent scientists to President Harry S. Truman, asking him not to use the bomb. Finally you will read about President Truman and his decision to drop the bomb. As you review these sources, you will answer questions and gather information so that you can write an essay synthesizing what you have learned.
Read “A Petition to the President of the United States,” a letter written to President Truman and signed by 70 eminent scientists. Then answer questions 4 and 5.
A Petition to the President of the United States
1 July 17, 1945
2 Discoveries of which the people of the United States are not aware may affect the welfare of this nation in the near future. The liberation of atomic power which has been achieved places atomic bombs in the hands of the Army. It places in your hands, as Commander-in-Chief, the fateful decision whether/or not to sanction1 the use of such bombs in the present phase of the war against Japan.
3 We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic power. Until recently we have had to fear that the United States might be attacked by atomic bombs during this war and that her only defense might lie in a counterattack by the same means. Today, with the defeat of Germany, this danger is averted and we feel impelled to say what follows:
4 The war has to be brought speedily to a successful conclusion and attacks by atomic bombs may very well be an effective method of warfare. We feel, however, that such attacks on Japan could not be justified, at least not unless the terms which will be imposed after the war on Japan were made public in detail and Japan were given an opportunity to surrender.
5 If such a public announcement gave assurance to the Japanese that they could look forward to a life devoted to peaceful pursuits in their homeland and if Japan still refused to surrender our nation might then, in certain circumstances, find itself forced to resort to the use of atomic bombs. Such a step, however, ought not to be made at any time without seriously considering the moral responsibilities which are involved.
6 The development of atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction, and there is almost no limit to the destructive power which will become available in the course of their future development. Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale.
7 If after this war a situation is allowed to develop in the world which permits rival powers to be in uncontrolled possession of these new means of destruction, the cities of the United States as well as the cities of other nations will be in continuous danger of sudden annihilation. All the resources of the United States, moral and material, may have to be mobilized to prevent the advent of such a world situation. Its prevention is at present the solemn responsibility of the United States — singled out by virtue of her lead in the field of atomic power.
8 The added material strength which this lead gives to the United States brings with it the obligation of restraint and if we were to violate this obligation our moral position would be weakened in the eyes of the world and in our own eyes. It would then be more difficult for us to live up to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction under control.
9 In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition: first, that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief, to rule that the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in this war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public in detail and Japan knowing these terms has refused to surrender; second, that in such an event the question whether or not to use atomic bombs be decided by you in the light of the considerations presented in this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.
(“A Petition to the President of the United States.” Reprinted by permission of the National Security Archive.)
4. Part A
What is the meaning of the phrase material strength as it is used in paragraph 8?
A superior weaponry
B ethical character
C overall wealth
D powerful influence
4. Part B
Which phrase from paragraph 7 clarifies the meaning of material strength?
A “. . . a situation is allowed to develop in the world. . . .”
B “. . . continuous danger of sudden annihilation.”
C “. . . solemn responsibility of the United States. . .”
D “. . . lead in the field of atomic power.”
5. Part A
Which sentence provides an accurate summary of the scientists’ request in this letter?
A This letter, written by a group of scientists, expresses their fear of an atomic weapons attack on the United States.
B This letter, written by a group of scientists, reveals the manufacturer’s design flaws in an atomic weapon used to subdue the Japanese.
C This letter, written by the group of scientists that developed the atomic bomb, urges President Truman to use the weapon only as a last recourse.
D This letter, written by the group of scientists that developed the atomic bomb, urges President Truman to use the weapon to gain power over the nation’s enemies.
5. Part B
Which paragraph best supports the answer to Part A?
A paragraph 3
B paragraph 6
C paragraph 7
D paragraph 9
10. Write an essay that compares and contrasts a primary argument in each text that you have read regarding the decision to drop the atomic bomb. Your essay should explain how effectively you think each author supported that claim with reasoning and/or evidence. Be sure to use evidence from the three texts to support your ideas.
4. Part A: A
Part B: D
5. Part A: C
Part B: D