Email To Delaware Superintendents and Heads of School re: Parent Opt Out, DE DOE, Governor Markell and Corporate Education Reform

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

Dear Superintendents and Heads of School of Delaware,

As you have no doubt heard, there is a movement afoot in Delaware whereby parents of students are opting their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some of you have already taken a stand for or against parent opt out, or your respective school boards have done so for you. I write to you today on the eve of the bulk of the standardized assessment season.

Some of you I’ve had contact with in the past. Some of you don’t like me. I get that completely. But I think we all have one thing in common, and that is wanting the best for the children of Delaware. Our methods and ways of going about that vary in great degrees, but at the end of the day, we want students to be successful.

I will be very frank with all of you: The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not an accurate gage of student success. It is a horrible assessment, and I know many of you feel that way. One of you, in a very public forum, recently said “I’m not hear to debate if the test is good or not.” Why not? Why would we subject the students of Delaware to this? Why are so many of you bowing down to the Department of Education in Delaware and taking all the abuse they have inflicted upon your schools, your teachers, your staff, and your students? If you don’t agree with the test, why would you publicly accept praise and acclaim based on a flawed test?

This is a test that Secretary of Education Mark Murphy publicly stated he expects 70% of students to not meet proficiency on in the first year. State Assessment Director Brian Touchette said he expects that trend to continue for the next few years. So what is all of this meant for? How much true and valuable instruction time is being spent in your schools on test preparation and “teaching to the test”? Each of you know the answers to these questions. Many of you may mumble under your breath, “It will all go away, and then they will come up with something new.” How does that help the students of Delaware? Because we have gone from DSTP to DCAS and now to Smarter Balanced. The testing has not gone away. And let’s face it, some schools have had exemplary gains with test scores. But is that truly because the students are learning a varied curriculum or because some of your teachers are better at teaching to the test?

Now the DOE wants to judge not only our teachers, but also our schools on how well our students do on these tests. They want to give them letter grades, from A-F. They want to pass waivers that continue this madness. They want to replace our teachers, our educators, with “new” teachers who come into our schools with 5 weeks of training. They want to develop “leaders” out of these individuals, to slowly take over our public education system. I have seen the DOE emails between each other where they slam regular teachers and pump up these “new” teachers.

It all comes down to this one “little test” as the Chair of the House Education Committee, Earl Jaques, recently wrote in an article. Now Governor Markell wants to form a committee to take a look at all the other tests, but not the test that has such huge ramifications for our schools, teachers, communities, and educational outcomes of all the students of Delaware. Our Governor and our DOE are very frightened by parent opt out. They knew it would happen to a small degree by a few outspoken parents. But they had no idea it would become as big as it has.

You may be thinking, who is this man, daring to email us as if he knows more than we do about what is best for these children. I dare, because I know who all the players are, from the top down to the bottom. Some of you are on that list. Some of you would use children to manipulate data to further your own agendas as part of this game. I know how you do it and how the DOE and the Governor present this to the media. I say to any of you on this list, you need to leave education immediately because you should not be around children. Children are not a “market”. Children are not a “test score”. Teachers are not “Human Capital”.

Parents have the right to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Even the Delaware DOE has publicly stated this at the Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall. Yes, there may be consequences for those actions. But guess what, our children are paying the price every single day this supposed “education reform” continues. It is not in the best interest of the children you have been hired to do the best for. Perhaps some of you have seen the joy of education disappearing from these children’s eyes. They have become less than what they are capable of being because of this. Education in Delaware has become test prep. This is not education. It is a business, a corporate strategy developed by “leaders” who have never taught in a classroom. Every single time you allow these “foundations” and well-meaning “coaches” into your schools, you are taking more time away from the students. These entities are making a lot of money, and they are thanking you every time you let them in. These are funds that need to be going back to the students. We need smaller classrooms. We need more resources for our most vulnerable of students.

This is where all of you can make a crucial difference. You all have the ability to change the conversation. If you want the status quo and things to remain the same, then by all means, do nothing. But for those of you who want to take back your districts, take back your schools, and give these students the education they truly deserve, then speak up. Speak for those who are unable to: Your students and your teachers. Stop the madness and insanity driven by data and rigor. Tell your schools you stand for them, not a Department of Education that has lost the confidence of nearly every educator in our state.

I would respectfully ask that you do NOT do the following: Do not tell parents they need your permission to opt their child out. They don’t. Do not tell parents you need to meet with them to discuss this. They have already given this matter a great deal of thought, and it is insulting. Do not attempt to bully, intimidate, or harass any parent about this test. They are going public with this all over social media, and they are naming each and every one of you or your principals that do this. Do not tell parents they are breaking the law by opting their child out. There is no law when it comes to this, except those granted by the U.S. Constitution. We can argue the semantics of the law and different court cases, but do you want it to be YOUR school that causes the right parent to take this all the way up to the United States Supreme Court? Because it will happen in our country.

In conclusion, Governor Markell will most likely give some sort of speech in the very near future addressing this issue. It has become too big for him to ignore. He has a lot invested in this, so whatever he says will be some sort of attempt to downplay the issues. He will bring up all these “other” tests, he will ask parents to just give it a chance, or he may try to show some backbone and play the tough guy. Whatever he does, remember who you are there for. You aren’t there for him, or the DOE, or the companies that are going cha-ching every time a new waiver is passed or the DOE gets their panties in a bunch over teacher effectiveness. You are there for OUR children, the future of this state and our country.

It doesn’t matter what background our students come from. They may be special needs, minorities, low-income, English Language Learners, talented and gifted, or just a plain old regular student. They will ALL suffer from this test. Over 70% of them will be told “your best wasn’t good enough” or “you need to buckle down and do better”. But if you value these children at all, recognize the failure here. It is not the students. It is not their teachers. It is the test, plain and simple.

I would like to publicly salute Dr. Michael Thomas and the Capital School Board, Dr. Freeman Williams and the Christina School Board, and Dr. Dolan Blakey and the Colonial School Board for supporting the rights of parents.

Last night, at the Christina Board of Education meeting, board member John Young said “If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” To echo Mr. Young’s sentiment, if you can’t stand for your students, what the hell can you stand for?


Kevin Ohlandt

This email was sent at 9:08pm this evening to every single superintendent and charter head of school in Delaware.


Today at 9:08 PM


Holodick Mark

Fitzgerald Kevin (K12)

Ring David (K12)

Gehrt Vicki (K12)

Zych Deborah (K12)

Lathbury Aj (K12)

Williams Freeman (K12)

Thomas Michael

Catherine Balsley

Catherine Dolan

Red Clay Principals, It’s Not Up To You To “Let” Parents Opt Out, Just Stop…

Red Clay Consolidated School District

We know.  We know all about the funding threats, and the “Oh, you’re the first person who has told me this” when I have seen multiple parents give YOUR name, at numerous Red Clay schools.  It’s gotten to the point of embarrassment, not only for your schools, but your self-respect.  Just stop.  Parents aren’t dumb.  They are not stupid.  They know what is best for their children.  The very fact that you want to talk them out of it in one-on-one meetings shows the DOE is hammering your district hard.  Why do you think that is?  It’s cause they are scared out of their pants that opt out will get bigger than it ALREADY has.  I’ve now heard from a few people that Mark Murphy, the Secretary of Education himself here in the First State, has been telling districts that after parents opt out, see the DOE template, and still want to opt out, to “let” them.  But he wants the parents to not spread the word and keep quiet.  Principals in Delaware: do you serve students or a bureaucracy that is over-paid and filled with people who don’t know the first thing about education?  Stop serving the Department, and start looking out for your students.  Cause the DOE sure as hell isn’t.  You are all tired of this testing crap.  Let the parents do what they need to do for their children.

The Opt Out Heat Is On Red Clay To Pass A Resolution Supporting Parent Opt Out

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Attention!  All Red Clay parents!  If you support the opt out movement, you have to go to the Red Clay board meeting on Wednesday, 3/18/14.  Your children go to one of the largest districts in the state, and you need to go and give public comment in support of parent opt out.  The board needs to hear YOUR VOICE!!!  Many of you have reached out to me with concerns and questions, and I have replied to all of you.  Now is the time for you to turn your curiosity into action.

This test and punish atmosphere in our public schools will continue unless we speak NOW!!  This is not the kind of environment that is healthy for our kids.  We all know it, and we all know this has absolutely nothing to do with getting our kids “college and career ready”.  This is all about the corporate education reform movement which Governor Jack Markell has sold out Delaware to, and continues to do every time the word education comes out of his mouth.  Jack and his buddies are making tons of money off the backs of children.  It is disgusting and abhorrent.

Many districts in our state have taken strong positions on parent opt out.  Christina and Capital passed resolutions giving support for opt out, Colonial’s Superintendent has indicated he will approve any request that comes in for opt out, and Delmar has this on their agenda to take action.  If Red Clay truly wants to do what is best for the children of Wilmington and their district, they will end the high-stakes testing of our children by supporting parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is not a “little test” as Earl Jaques would have you believe.  If you have any concerns, please follow these links and look for more opt out news as it comes out!

Governor Markell Is As Transparent As Saran Wrap With Reaction To Parent Opt Out

Governor Markell

“I think this issue of taking a look at the amount of testing across the state makes a lot of sense and you’ll be hearing more from us about that soon” -Delaware Governor Jack Markell

As I called it last week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s response to the parent opt out movement in Delaware is to consider issuing an executive order to establish a review committee to look at the amount of state tests kids, but nothing was said in the article with WDDE’s James Dawson about eliminating the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Delaware House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques said he wants a committee going as soon as possible, with potential representative choices of State Representatives Sean Matthews and Stephanie Bolden leading the group.  What Markell and Jaques fail to recognize is they can get rid of all the tests they want, but parents aren’t clamoring for an opt out of anything but the high-stakes Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Jaques took a great deal of heat last week for referring to the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a “little test”.  It has become obvious Jaques is Markell’s latest go-to-legislator on education issues and will fully support his silly corporate education reform schemes in Delaware.

One by one, like dominoes, school districts and school boards are taking support positions for parent opt out.  Capital and Christina have already passed resolutions, Colonial had a brief discussion at their board meeting where the superintendent said he will approve any requests, and Delmar and Red Clay have discussion items on their agendas.  The superintendent of Brandywine, Dr. Mark Holodick, publicly stated he will only approve opt out requests if they fall in line with state regulation.  The charters have been very quiet on the issue, but many charter school parents have sent private messages to me in regards to very strong concerns over opt out and high-stakes testing.

The full WDDE article can be read here:


Colonial School District Board of Education Okays Parent Opt Out

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

Last night, at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting, the board members discussed the issue of parent opt out of standardized testing and determined it was okay for parents to give a letter to the principal and the principal should approve the request.

The Colonial Board is very concerned about the nature of high-stakes testing, and even put a page up on their website to show parents how confusing the questions are on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is brilliant!  All school districts need to get this on their websites and all Delaware parents should see this!



Read the Agreement between Christina School District & Delaware DOE over Priority Schools

Delaware Priority Schools Agreement

So after all the Delaware Department of Education’s huffing and puffing, their bullying tactics, and media manipulation, it comes down to this.  The schools get to keep their principals, no teachers have to reapply, and the schools will most likely be a part of a redistricting effort in Wilmington, Delaware.  Like I’ve said before, if anyone told me this would happen three months ago, I would have called you a liar.

The other night at the Imagine Delaware forum, chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Tony Allen, when asked about the committee’s stance on the priority schools, Allen said the initiative really brought forth the whole conversation about the future of Wilmington’s schools.  He stated it has been a culmination of events, but this really got people to stand up and take notice.

The Christina Board, for all their in-fighting and debating during very long and many board meetings, stood their ground and told the DOE they will not bow down to their dictatorial authority.  And it worked, because now we have this:

Jill Lepore: The Hoax of “Disruptive Innovation”


I have seen first-hand, through emails drawn out through FOIA requests, the bizarre and almost cult-like “hero” status many members of Delaware’s own Department of Education feel about education reform and their obsession with Teach For America. It is a very scary future for our children if this continues.

Diane Ravitch's blog

One of the shibboleths of the corporate reformers is their belief in “creative destruction,” “innovation, and “disruption” as an end in itself. These ideas justify their efforts to tear apart traditional public school systems, replace experienced teachers with inexperienced youngsters, close schools, and experiment with charters, vouchers, and anything else that will destroy the status quo. To be sure, some are in the school reform business to make money, but others see themselves as heroes of a movement that sees itself as blowing up “failing schools” and forcing fresh innovations into a stagnant sector of the economy.

This remarkable article by Jill Lepore, published by the Néw Yorker, explodes the dogmas of “disruption” as progress. I posted the article last year, but am posting it again because I see it as a classic. It sheds light on our narrative about how change happens.

Lepore attributes the fascination with disruption to…

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Exceptional Delaware Is Looking For Parent Opt Out Reporters

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

As the Smarter Balanced Assessment kicked off yesterday for many Delaware schools, the drums of parent opt out are beating louder and louder.  This blog is looking for eyes in the schools and ears on the ground!  This non-paying, volunteer position is looking for folks who hear about parents opting out.  Whether it is their child’s school board taking a stand for or against parent opt out, or a principal denying an opt out letter (which they can do but you  are under no obligation to honor their denial), kids walking out of schools, a child being forced to take the test even after they have been opted out, or even just general testing anxiety.  I especially want to hear from parents where their child has started the test, but the parents want to opt them out after.  Because you can do that as well!

I can be reached at, or on Facebook, under Kevin Ohlandt.  Please send a message on Facebook.  Or there are opt out groups for every single school district in the state, and a page for all charter schools.  If anyone wants to become an admin on any of the Facebook opt out pages, please let me know that as well.

The opt out movement has come a LONG way in Delaware.  A year ago, if you mentioned those words, you would be told “Opting out is not an option.”  Now we have school honoring the requests, school boards passing resolutions to not penalize the students, and even the Delaware Department of Education has come to understand it is not going away and has said the state can not do anything legal to parents who opt their child out.  But don’t believe for one second they aren’t having closed conversations with the schools in our state about it.  It’s not something they want, but they are powerless to stop it.