In 11 days, students in Delaware will begin the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This was voted into law through House Bill 334 last June by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate, and then signed by Governor Markell. I believe some of you thought you were doing the right thing. Others didn’t want to tick off the Governor who has made education his top priority. Some of you are actually a part of the corporate education reform movement in Delaware. A few of you felt manipulated and trapped because Secretary of Education Mark Murphy already bought the assessment for Delaware. And some of you wisely voted no, in both rounds of voting.
We now face another bill in the 148th General Assembly, closely tied to this assessment. A Parent Opt Out bill would legally allow parents to opt their child out of the state assessment. Many parents, including myself, feel this law would not change our Constitutional rights at all. But we are in agreement this would allow parents who are either too afraid to opt their child out or aren’t even aware of the possibility the ability to do so.
One of you publicly stated two nights ago to a room full of teachers this bill will not pass and you will not allow Delaware to give up Federal money. What this legislator fails to realize is Federal funds did not put him in his current position. Governor Markell didn’t put him there either. It was the people of Delaware, within his own district, who believed this man would rightfully serve their will and their needs.
In the coming months, children will take this test. Most of them will fail. This is not to say they won’t try their best, but the actual test is designed for this. It is intentionally supposed to be hard. This will continue for the next three years. Some parents in our state don’t even know what this test is. These are the parents who will be shouting at the top of their lungs in about four to five months when the scores come in. When their child’s scores come in and they are no longer proficient when they have been for the past few years. This is when all of you will be faced with a very large challenge.
Some will say “I never voted for this in the first place.” Others will say “I voted for it, and I’m sorry, but I realized the danger signs and voted for the parent opt out bill.” Then there are the rest of you. You are the ones who will be held accountable. It will be well-known at this point in time who allowed this to happen. Even the beloved charter school parents whom you have catered to with your legislative votes will no longer be patient with you.
2016 is not that far away. Some of you will be content, not facing re-election. For those of you who are hoping to stay in the General Assembly, or have aspirations for higher office, you need to make some choices now. The vast majority of your votes will comes from parents. They will remember the annual suffering their children had inflicted upon them. They will want to make a change. Nothing will cause parents to rise up more than watching their children suffer. They will not sit back and do nothing.
You should really watch what is happening in other states. Parents are outright refusing this test. Opt out are two words no longer said, it is REFUSE. They are angry, and going on TV, and putting up billboards. They are saying “No more!” While Delaware’s opt out movement may be seen as small and a temporary annoyance, I can assure you it is not. It is gaining traction every single day, every hour. It is spreading from Wilmington to the beaches. This is not civil disobedience. This is not parents flaunting the law and becoming activists. We are parents who care about our children and refuse to let them be guinea pigs.
You all need to remember this when you make blanket statements about parent opt out. You need to choose your words very carefully. You need to also realize saying nothing is the same as speaking out against it. This is not a subject you can sit on the fence about. If you truly believe this test is good for students, this is fair warning: those who put you in power can assuredly take you out. If you enjoy serving your constituents and helping to make laws for the citizens of the First State, remember this simple fact.