Last night was a packed house at the Capital School Board meeting in Dover, DE. But appearances can be deceiving. Many schools in the district received awards from the Board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas. Teachers, staff, and administrators were all there to get the awards and have pictures taken. After this was done, most of them left. I asked a couple of them prior to that if they were there for the parent opt-out item on the agenda. They hadn’t heard of it. Shortly thereafter, I gave my public comment to the board. My son was there and heard every word of it.
Good evening members of the board. I’ve spoken to you a couple times before, and one of those was in regards to a matter on your agenda tonight, Resolution #15-041. I have been a major proponent of the ability for parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, specifically, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I speak for all the students of Capital School District, the 18,000 children with disabilities in our state, and all of the students in Delaware. We don’t want this test.
I first became aware of “Smarter” as the DOE now calls it, last April. It came up in an IEP meeting, and my wife and I were told how much harder it would be than DCAS. I researched it, and found that some of the accommodations my son had on his IEP would not be allowed on the Smarter test. I emailed several people: members of the Delaware DOE, Dr. Denman, even betters of the Smarter Balanced Consortium. I received no response, aside from Dr. Denman, who did not have a clear answer from the DOE on my question of how a state test could circumvent Federal IDEA law. I did a lot more research on standardized testing, and it’s driving force, the Common Core State Standards. I have no problem with consistent standards for the whole country. But the standards that our educators are teaching right now every day in classrooms, are standards that were forced upon Delaware schools by Governor Markell, who accepted them for the state without any stakeholder input. It was at a time when there were very deep cuts in education, and we were still in a recession.
Ever since then, our DOE has infringed upon the fundamental rights of every public school district in this state. Teachers will be unfairly judged based on the scores of a test the state judged as a failure. They have used the scores of DCAS tests to label schools as failures in, what I believe, to be a grand design to turn them into charter schools up in Wilmington. And if they can do it there, they can and will do it anywhere in our state, including here in Capital. Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has already publicly stated he expects 70% of students in our state will fail the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He expects the trend to continue for a couple years, as schools learn how to roll out the Common Core standards. Many school districts, including Capital, have been doing that for four years. If the test has such a dire failure rate, it’s because it’s a bad test. Period. And now they want to use this test, with a high expected failure rate, to be the sole measuring factor in the proficiency of our children’s educators? No, I’m not swallowing that. I’ve been told it will weed out the “bad” teachers. But it will also weed out very good teachers, and this is unacceptable. It’s a bad measure. For far too long, Delaware teachers have been the whipping post of the Delaware DOE. They have been told to “teach the standards”, “follow this schedule”, “teach to the test”. No. This is not right, and it is not fair. Teachers should be held accountable for student’s classwork, homework, and formative and summative assessments, developed by the teachers and schools. We want our kids to be college ready, but we can’t accept the formal education our teachers received in college?
It’s an agenda that serves to profit no one but corporations and those who swear allegiance to them. Our DOE and other publicly elected officials have these backroom deals, but smile in public while they stab every single student and teacher in the back. Terms like “rigor” and “centers of excellence” are used all too often by our DOE, and I will not subject my son to anything that does not profit his educational experience. I opted him out last week in a letter to the editor of the Delaware State News. No matter what this board votes tonight, my son will NOT take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
This board can make history tonight. You can vote for change, and inspire others within our state to do the same. A passing of this resolution will send a clear message to our DOE and Governor Markell that our teachers, our students, and our schools will NOT be bullied, and they will certainly not be humiliated and disgraced the way six “priority” schools are up in Wilmington. In Red Clay, right now, they are deciding on how to hold onto three of those schools with the DOE claiming it is because of standardized test scores. Tonight, you will make a decision that may have consequences for our district. But with a passing vote, you will be the first to light a flame that will carry to every school district in Delaware. My son will learn more about conviction, bravery and teamwork than anything the Smarter Balanced Assessment would. He will remember the night his school district cared more about freedom and individuality than data and rigor. Our children are more than test scores. Let’s show the DOE how much we believe those words tonight. Thank you.