Delaware Rep. Jaques calls Smarter Balanced a “little test”! Answer the phone, reality is calling!

DE State Rep. Earl Jaques

“That one little test would not be a big deal added to what we would barely have.  I think (the opt out bill) is just a quick reaction to an issue that really, we’re not sure there is an issue.” -Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques

In an article today on WDDE’s website, writer James Dawson spoke with State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques about some talks he had with Governor Markell’s administration concerning parent opt out.  His impression of this movement obviously needs a reality check.  Parents are not opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment because of all the other tests.  We are opting out because the test is evil, and has no educational purpose except for the DOE, the US DOE, and Governor Markell to label and punish schools and inflate data to make the schools they like look better.  I don’t see any galvanized movements where parents are screaming “Opt out of SRI and SMI!”  It’s THIS test.

If you want to prune any test Jaques, make it the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Have you read nothing in the past week?  Are you that out of touch with your constituents that you can’t see past this?  Some of those other tests you want to “prune” do actually give the schools actual data they can use in the current school year, unlike the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When was the last time you were in a school watching kids get drilled for this one test that will hold teachers and their schools accountable?

It sounds to me like you have become a State Rep. that serves the Markell and Rodel administration more than the people who voted for you.  Can’t we “prune” you from the House Education Committee?  I may not live in your district, but you are a STATE representative.  You are playing dirty politics on behalf of children, and I can guarantee you will get a lot of heat on this.  In fact, if those who are against the Smarter Balanced Assessment are reading this, please email Rep. Jaques at to tell him about your problems with this “little test”.

I now understand why Donna Johnson, the executive director of  the State Board of Education, was hinting at taking a look at those “other” tests tonight at the Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall.

To read the full article, and State Rep. John Kowalko’s excellent response, please go here:

Live From The DE PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The meeting just started.  Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the DE PTA will be moderating.  Due to bad weather up North, some of the members of the panel couldn’t make it.  Aside from Hodges, we have Yvonne Johnson, Donna Johnson (no relation), Brian Touchette, and Shelley Rouser.  State Rep. John Kowalko is in the house!

Yvonne Johnson is going over the basics on what assessments are and what high-stakes testing is.  For students this COULD mean promotion or retention.  Y. Johnson said one parent at the Newcastle County meeting said a parent said a school stopped a student from getting into an Advanced Placement class based on the student’s DCAS scores.  Yvonne said she feels this is a misuse of the purpose of high-stakes testing.  For educators this can affect their performance ratings.

Smarter Balanced is being used to align with Common Core.  You have to have a test to measure what it was designed for.  Student accountability will be determined by the local school district.  There are no consequences from the state DOE for student accountability.

Proponents of state assessments feel it motivates students to work harder, allows for teacher accountability, identifies areas of needed instruction.  Opponents feel it is not a reliable method of evaluating student growth or judging teachers.  The test is too long and takes up valuable class time.

Now were getting the whole “college and career readiness” statement which will assuredly help a child in 3rd grade.

Getting the DE DOE statement on conditions for opt out: medical or psychological issues.  The Delaware PTA will be voting at their next meeting on March 24th to officially state DE PTA supports parent opt out.

We are getting ready for questions after a statement from Brian Touchette, DE DOE Director of Assessment.  First question: What is the DOE’s stance on children being educated who have been opted out.  “A student shouldn’t be sitting and staring at a computer screen,” said Touchette.  But it is up to the districts to determine that.

2nd question: How can the fidelity of accommodations be assured for students in small-group testing?  Touchette said teachers are given guidance for how this should be implemented.  The teachers should know by now how to administer the test. A father asked point blank “Will the test follow my son’s IEP”, Touchette went to give an answer, but the father said “Yes or no?”.  Touchette went on about adaptations to the test.

A question was asked about the definition of individuals in Title 14, in regards to the assessment.  Touchette said the laws were written for schools, not parents.  Donna Johnson, director of the State Board of Education said there is nothing written in the assessment language in Federal or Delaware code about parent rights with opting out.  “Those are curricular decisions made by parents”.  There are state and federal requirements with testing for the schools who are obligated to give the test for children.  “It’s not directed at parents.”  Shelley Rouser said that is designed to make sure teachers don’t give lower performing students an out to keep the scores up.  Johnson (Donna) said the only way to measure schools is by having common assessments.  It is to help improve the education and reward the schools who are doing good and give the resources to those who need help.

DE State Rep. John Kowalko clarified parents have a Constitutional right to opt their parents out.  “If you think you can assess a student from Long Island with a student from Mississippi it is a Nirvana to try to do that.”

Someone asked about the Missouri local court ruling that the Smarter Balanced Asssessment Consortium is an illegal entity.  Okay, I asked that.  Donna Johnson said she has checked with legal counsel and is being told the state consortium was not directed at a Federal level.

Touchette responded to a question that the amount of testing has been reduced.  The AP teacher said students were pulled out of the class last year to do field tests.  Touchette said they were going to be making plans for that.  The teacher is stating it is very expensive and difficult for students in 11th grade with AP classes.  She is asking about make-up zones for when a student is opted out.  Kowalko is clarifying said House Bill 50 would allow for this matter to be looked at.

Yvonne Johnson said some of the letter responses parents got back from the school districts when they opted their child out were very threatening.  She is reading a statement from a superintendent who came out with a statement today (wonder who that is).  Yvonne said this is very threatening to parents.  She brought up the Appo letter and she sent it to the DOE to review. “Parents are confused and it is difficult .”

A parent explained how this test gives no immediate results and the student will go to a new teacher with no ability to learn from the test.  Shelley Rouser explained regular classroom tests allow students to learn from tests and this assessment shouldn’t be confused with the purpose of what teachers are supposed to be doing.

Kowalko said when they passed House Bill 334, the Smarter Balanced bill, they got rid of MAP testing which gave teachers direction for students through the year.  Teachers will still have those kinds of assessments.  The purpose of assessments is not to measure an artificial goal, but the needs of the teacher to meet the needs of the children.  The only thing accomplished by SBA is that No Child Left Behind is continued.  He said it’s about the individuals and public education is not about forcing kids to reach a level to aspire to.  It is about a bogus ideal and it is not right and it is not fair.

Parent Nelia Dolan said her children are tested numerous times a year through interim SBA assessments and she is very troubled by this.  Donna Johnson said there is a decrease in testing time through state mandated assessments.  A teacher and parent said there are ads on Craigslist for test scorers for $11 an hour and only 48 college credits.  Touchette said the DOE is using a company called AIR for test scorers and the training will be very extensive.

The same teacher said as a teacher she doesn’t need to review standardized assessments to gage how her students are doing, she already knows based on summative and formative assessments within her own classroom.  She also explained how cultural bias can play a role in the test.  Touchette said items go through multiple periods of review to determine if these types of biases show up on the tests.  There is a bias committee to address these types of issues.  Then field tests occur to judge the test from there.  If there are items that show up like this they are tossed from the test.

A reporter from the Dover Post asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be used instead of the SAT for college entrance.  Donna said this is a topic of discussion but not right away.  I’m sure someone will comment on this latest revelation.

A parent from Sussex Academy said if teachers didn’t pass DCAS they didn’t go on to the next grade.  Another parent said Providence Creek Academy was the same way.  An art teacher said this has completely changed the way she is able to teach.  “My physical class has been completely taken over and I spend 70% of my time having students write about art and the creation time is slim to none.”

Donna Johnson wanted to hear from the audience what their exact problems were with the actual test.  One parent commented about a math sample he saw for scoring purposes where a student got the right answer but didn’t explain it right and didn’t get the full score.  But another got the wrong answer and explained it “right” and got a higher score.  Okay, I was that parent!  I asked Donna Johnson how this makes kids college ready.  I advised her if she went to her boss with wrong numbers he wouldn’t say “Oh, but you explained it right.”  He would say “Go back and do it again.”

Parents complained about the psychological effects of the test, such as kids vomiting before school, anxiety attacks, and the need to perform.  Parents said the language and wording can have many interpretations and meanings behind them which makes it VERY confusing.  I advised it will be especially hard for special needs students.

I did clarify with Donna Johnson that the state of Delaware can not hold a teacher or state employee accountable for opting their child out of the test.  That would be a district decision since they hire the teachers.  So I clarified, if I was a teacher at Capital, at Dover High School, and I opted my kid out, the state would do nothing.  She said yes.  The local district would make that decision.  But she seriously doubted any district would enforce that decision.

I think this meeting was less heated than the Newcastle County one.  Touchette did leave early due to weather conditions and he had to drive back to Wilmington.  Donna Johnson handled the crowd pretty well.  I did tell her afterwards that the next big issue is the free lunch program.  I told her the food sucks and she needs to fix that.  I’m sure I missed some stuff here, so feel free to comment if you were there.



Brandywine Superintendent Holodick Says Parents Can’t Opt Out, Not Your Choice Buddy

Brandywine School District

 “I am uninterested in a game of political chess that uses our kids as pawns.”

Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick came out with a message on the district website stating parents can only opt out under certain medical circumstances and with approval from the district.  But what he fails to realize is this is not his choice.  It is a parents choice.  Nice intimidation there Mr. Holodick, but parents are savvier then these bullying tactics.  If you were truly against increased assessments in Delaware, you would be much more public with this internal policy in your mind.  This is not some political thing.  It is parents speaking up for their children and saying “STOP”.  The very fact that you would see this as a political thing speaks volumes about what is on your mind.  Your arrogance in presuming to know what parents’ motivations are for opting their child out is a disgrace, and you need to offer a public apology.  No wonder the Delaware DOE loves you!

Read Holodick’s entire statement below:

Message from Superintendent Holodick
March 2015

Dear BSD Community,
Over the past several weeks, there has been some discussion about the new state assessment, Smarter, and many people have been asking for BSD’s position on testing.  As a former principal and now as Superintendent, I have always supported state assessments.  They provide information on what students know and can do, and test reports enable teachers and administrators to deepen their understanding of student progress and identify gaps to help students succeed from grade to grade.  I understand that not all parents agree on the value of state assessments and that this issue is becoming increasingly political.  That being said, I also understand that some students have legitimate issues that may necessitate an exemption from high stakes testing.  We have always reviewed those exemption requests, and this year will be no different. 
The process for requesting an exemption from the Smarter assessment will be the same as it always has been in BSD.  Parents who wish to request an exemption for a medical issue should submit a letter to the school their child attends.  The letter should include any relevant documentation, where applicable.  Once the letter has been received by the school, the principal will review it and forward it to District Office for final approval by me or my designee as appropriate.  As in years past, the exemption request must cover the entire testing window.  For students in grades 3-8, the window is March 10 through June 4.  For students in grade 11, the window is April 13 to June 4.  
This process, which has been our standard for at least the five+ years I have been Superintendent, is fair and impartial.  Legitimate concerns will be addressed as they always have been; however, I am uninterested in a game of political chess that uses kids as pawns.  While I support state assessments in principle, I do believe we have entered an era of over-assessment.  I too am a parent of children who will be taking assessments this spring.  In my role as Superintendent, I have been proud to serve as a representative of our district and lobby for our parents and students – with DOE, state legislators, and even the federal government.  I will continue to advocate for our parents, teachers, and of course students to try to strike a healthier balance between teaching/learning and testing.   I hope that we can all put politics aside and work together so that we can best support the people who matter most – our children.  
Mark A. Holodick, Ed.D.
I have just emailed Dr. Holodick with the following message:


Delaware DOE’s Draft Of ESEA Waivers Assures Continuation of Smarter Balanced For 5 Years, Protest This Waiver!!!

ESEA Flexibility Waivers

All Delaware citizens need to very carefully read this document that will have a vote at the next State Board of Education meeting on March 19th.  This is a trap, carefully designed by the Delaware Department of Education, to continue the education reform agendas brought on by the US Department of Education in 2009.  Parents need to contact their legislators, schools, superintendents, teachers, Governor Markell, and the Delaware DOE in protest of this vote.

By standing by and doing nothing, we will allow our children to continue to be subjected to high-stakes testing and awkward and confusing curriculums in our schools.  With the parent opt out movement increasing every day in Delaware, this is the next thing to protest.  The response from students, particularly in higher grade levels, should be to emulate what their peers in other states are doing and refuse the tests.

Our children are more than data.  And don’t let the Delaware DOE lie to you with this waiver request: Parents don’t want the Common Ground for Common Core.  This wasn’t even a part of their online survey.  If it was, parents and teachers would have overwhelmingly voted against it.  The DOE’s accountability system in this waiver was carefully designed to allow for the best possible answers to a limited scope of possibilities.  This is for their benefit, not your children.  The time has come to change education in our system and bring it back to what it rightfully should be.  Please come to the State Board of Education meeting on March 19th to say no to these waivers.

US Representative John Carney from Delaware writes letter about Priority Schools

US Rep. John Carney (DE)

A little less than two months ago, members of the Delaware Parents and Teachers for Public Education started a petition concerning the Priority Schools in the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  The petition had well over 700 signatures of Delaware citizens against the priority schools initiative.  The petition was given to Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and emailed to all of the Delaware State Representatives and Senators, Governor Markell, and members of the U.S. Congress from Delaware.  The original post can be found here:

This response was sent to me last week by U.S. Representative John Carney from Delaware.


                                                                           February 27th, 2015

Dear Mr. Ohlandt, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Governor Markell’s priority schoolplan. I appreciate your input and concerns on this matter.

As the son of two educators, I  understand the importance of  good schools . During my time as Lieutenant Governor, I helped implement and fund a program called “Models of Excellence in Education,” which paired failing public schools with successful ones, in an effort to facilitate the sharing of best practices in teaching and learning. I championed this program because I believe the success of Delaware’s public schools is the key to fostering a strong economy in Delaware. “Models of Excellence in Education” worked because it put the focus on strong principals and made sure good teachers had the resources they needed to succeed. 

I understand your frustration with the lack of coordination among the education reform initiatives happening across the country over the past several years. In my view, we need to find an approach that works, and stick to it. As a m ember of  the U.S. House of Representatives, I do not have jurisdiction over Delaware’s  specific  education policies. However, the main beneficiaries of federal K-12 education funding are the disadvantaged schools you describe, and I will continue to fight to protect this important funding source. I completely agree that providing better opportunities and more resources to students in these low-income schools should be a high priority. I am  working at the federal level  to improve our education system, and I will continue to follow the situation in Delaware  closely. Additionally, if any legislation comes up on the federal level regarding this issue, I will make sure to keep your views in mind. 

Thank you again for contacting me and sharing you r concerns about education and the proposed priority schools plan . Please feel free to contact my office again if we can assist you in any way.


John Carney
Member of Congress

Poll: Have You Refused The Test Through Opt Out For Your Child?

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

This is for Delaware parents.  I’m hoping for some high numbers here!