With all the controversy surrounding Common Core and standardized testing, many parents in Delaware seem oblivious to the dangers here. Perhaps it is because the media in our state, like the News Journal and others do not reflect the true feelings of many of the citizens that reside in Delaware. Perhaps they are more worried about advertising dollars. But I have yet to see the major media in this state do a true and accurate story about what people are thinking with these issues. Bloggers like myself, Kilroys, Kavips, Parents Of Christina, Transparent Christina and Children & Educators First do our part, but we know we aren’t reaching the vast majority of our intended audience. The only people I have found in Delaware who support Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessments are those who either a) have a vested interest in it, b) work for the DOE, or c) are obviously afraid to speak out against it. I don’t hear the average parent saying “I love Common Core.”
And then you have an organization like the Delaware PTA, who should be representing the Parents and Teachers of the state. Instead, based on their statements and events, very mixed messages are being sent about who they represent. Last Spring, they funded an event at Dover Downs where teachers and students could glorify how great Common Core was. It was a huge event, with members of the DOE and Governor Markell there to celebrate. In my opinion, any PTA is supposed to be a roundtable of parents given equal voice to deal with issues, not to bow down to the governmental policies on education. But when a state PTA is not showing what parents feel, and are expressing opinions of a small group, there is something fundamentally wrong.
According to Education Week, in an article released today, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is having a rough time with the population based on his current approval ratings.
His overall Approval Rating is at 42%. For Higher Education, that’s a bit higher at 44%. But for K-12 policy, he is at a low 36%. The article went on to say, only 36% of the respondents believe in the way President Obama and his administration have handled education.
According to Education Week, those surveyed include “50 to 75 “key education influentials,” including policymakers, thought leaders, and association heads.” The same group gave a 14% approval rating for how Congress is handling education.
The topic of special education and standardized testing came up in a big way at the monthly Board meeting in the Capital School District. Here’s where I take my impartial glasses off and announce that I spoke at the meeting. I gave public comment to the Board concerning my article yesterday about Federal interference with IDEA and Special Education laws.
I read parts of the letter the US Republican Senators sent to the US DOE and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about how the US DOE is potentially breaking the law with results-driven accountability and NAEP testing as a performance indicator for special education students. I advised that since a national test like NAEP is skirting around IDEA laws, then the state is doing the same with Smarter Balanced Assessments by having it put into Indicator 17 on the new special education audit system the state of Delaware has to give to the Feds. Because of this, I advised the Board that no child with an IEP should be required to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I also said parent opt-out shouldn’t even be an option, it just shouldn’t happen at all.
Board Vice-President Matthew Lindell also brought up the subject of standards-based IEPs and their impact on Capital School District. It appeared Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas was going to look into this subject. I wrote about the standards-based IEPs last week and how the state of Delaware is incorporating Common Core and the controversial results-driven accountability as part of their “counseling” to schools for these new standards.
Dr. Thomas also briefly discussed the United States Supreme Court decision on Schaffer v. Weast, from 2005. This decision indicated the burden of proof for due process hearings on special education matters rests with the party initiating the case for the student, usually the parents. In using this framework, Dr. Thomas had a slide up which wrote: “This creates a number of practical problems and is a significant reason school districts are regularly expending vast amount of public funds to settle what are at time dubious claims.”
There was not much actual discussion about this matter, but the fact that it was introduced seemed odd. I am quite sure, speaking from experience, that to parents of special needs children, their claims are not dubious and are a result of months of effort to obtain proper special education for their children. For more information on the 2005 Supreme Court Ruling, please read here: http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/ussupct.schaffer.weast.htm
The topic of having parents opt-out their children from standardized testing is still alive in Dover. Last night, the Capital School District in Dover, DE had their monthly Board meeting. Among the many topics discussed was the option of giving district parents the choice to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
This was a heated topic at Board meetings in May, when the referendum was introduced. Proud supporters on the Board even wore t-shirts against high-stakes testing. The Board unanimously voted to introduce it. However, at the next Board meeting, it was voted against 4-1. An anonymous employee of the district claimed the Board was all for it, but due to overwhelming pressure from administrative employees within the district, the Board voted against it. This same employee believed it would have passed if parents had shown up to voice their displeasure with the testing.
At the Board meeting last night, the topic was reintroduced by Capital School Board vice-president Matthew Lindell. The Board agreed to table the conversation until the next meeting. Board Member Sean Christiansen said the matter was “dried up”, to which Lindell responded “Not yet.”
As a Capital School District parent, it is no secret that I am against standardized testing. I fully support the Board in their quest for giving parents a choice. This means every single Capital School District parent that is against Smarter Balanced Assessments and the rigorous standards that go along with it needs to show up at the next Capital School District Board Meeting. I have a few other ideas if they can’t make it. The next meeting is on Wednesday, September 14th at 7:30 pm. Please arrive at 7:15 so we can organize outside of the meeting room. The meetings are held at the District office on 198 Commerce Way, across from the Playtex factory.