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

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?

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

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

me

Today at 9:08 PM

To

mervin.daugherty@redclay.k12.de.us

matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us

Holodick Mark

Fitzgerald Kevin (K12)

robert.fulton@cape.k12.de.us

Ring David (K12)

susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us

jaconway@lf.k12.de.us

monet.smith@laurel.k12.de.us

pkohel@msd.k12.de.us

Gehrt Vicki (K12)

Zych Deborah (K12)

dperrington@seaford.k12.de.us

deborah.wicks@smyrna.k12.de.us

Lathbury Aj (K12)

heath.chasanov@wsd.k12.de.us

Williams Freeman (K12)

Thomas Michael

dolan.blakey@colonial.k12.de.us

jesus.urdiales@academia.k12.de.us

cmarshall@aod.k12.de.us

margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us

Catherine Balsley

spaoli@charterschool.org

charles.hughes@dapss.k12.de.us

Angela.Dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us

lbrowne@escs.k12.de.us

jcoffield@desu.edu

Catherine Dolan

smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us

courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us

linda.jennings@mot.k12.de.us

alana.walls@mjm.k12.de.us

gmeece@ncs.k12.de.us

nick.manolakos@odyssey.k12.de.us

steve.norman@pocs.k12.de.us

jack.perry@pa.k12.de.us

aerschen@pca.k12.de.us

tara.allen@reach.k12.de.us

patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us

Salome.Thomas-EL@tecs.k12.de.us

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

  1. Once again- THANK YOU! You are doing important work and all our kids will benefit from the opt out movement. We all need to take a stand against this testing madness and get back to truly educating our children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not a single one. I didn’t write it for a response, but for them to truly think about what is best for the children of Delaware: the drill ’em and test ’em mentality, or true valuable educational learning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin….keep going! You are doing a great thing. I also live in WV and we are fighting this there. The legislature passed a bill to repeal (we got an historic Republican majority this year) and now it is being help up for a “study.” I hope you are hooked up with Choosetorefusecommoncore.org Many parents doing great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for giving Delaware parents a voice, a choice, and the courage to stand up for their children and their rights. Our children should not have to bear the burden of all these bad decisions made in the name of education reform.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been opting my child out since 8th grade. She is in 11th now and they hate it everytime I say no. They challenge me on my decision like I am making a wrong decision. I tell them, they are. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Exceptional Delaware 2018 and commented:

    Three years later, and parents in Delaware still opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The words I wrote to all the superintendents and charter school leaders still ring true with every fiber of my being. I still believe the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a flawed test and should not be used in any capacity in our schools. I still believe, given careful thought and deliberation, parents should exercise their fundamental right if they want to opt their child out of this state assessment. Some of the names might be different now, but I would tell any of our school leaders the same thing today.

    Like

    1. Peg Luksik warned that these tests were originally for grading schools, not students. They were and still are designed to make the student do poorly. That way they can sell more tests and push their agenda.

      Like

  6. There is still a fundamental problem with the educational department and our school system. We cannot consistently identify the benchmarks by which our students and our schools perform. If the children are incapable of passing minimum competency tests then they should not proceed to the next grade. If the students fail to pass minimum competencies, is that a barometer of student or is it a barometer of teacher (or school)? If specific schools consistently miss minimum competency benchmarks, is that a barometer of school, teacher, or students?

    All these things should be easily identifiable but whenever they are brought up as questions, the response is that the ‘tests’ are not fair. The public isn’t creating the tests. The public however has every right to know whether their student, their child’s school, or their child’s district is adequately providing the appropriate education. Our schools should be graded. How would the public know if a given school is providing the appropriate education? Are they teaching mathematics or basket weaving? [Johnny got straight ‘A’s but his class list reads:(basket weaving, tooth brushing, desk organization, & paper cutting)]. Our teachers should be evaluated for performance. Identifying areas where certain teachers need help or support would seem to substantiate the need for testing their students. There is NOT one definable correlation between student performance and teacher performance but certainly trends and evaluation can identify areas of concern and areas which need additional support. If two equivalent teachers with equivalent classes display obvious test disparities, the test disparities indicate an in-congruence that a school should be addressing.

    The line of thought that the test is bad and students should ‘opt-out’ of taking it, ignores what the tests could and should be used for. Just like other professional and licensing tests, they provide an indication of competency. If the results of the tests indicate failures, then our educational system has a responsibility to address the failures.

    Wilmington’s low income areas fairly often have higher incidences of academic failures. Can we say beyond any doubt that that is the teachers’ or school ‘s fault? No. No doubt the socioeconomic factors are affecting the children but should that mean the schools don’t make attempts to revise how they teach these students? How would they know what areas are weak without some form of bench marking?

    How can some equivalent schools have disparate test results? How can some C.R. district schools get a 60% pass rate and some Colonial district schools get a 30% pass rate (If we look at similar profiles of schools)? Clearly there are things causing the disparities but without any academic standardized tests, you’d have no way of knowing there are disparities.

    Let’s not forget, if your beef is this particular test, we had other tests and they got canned because they deemed the ‘bidding process’ to have been inappropriate, or it wasn’t a growth model, or it was (fill in the blank of excuses). The educational system came up with the tests and they still can’t find one that satisfies all these objections. Is everyone certain that their kids’ teachers are teaching what they are supposed to by grade? Is everyone fully satisfied their school is adequately fulfilling its objectives?

    The final point is simply this, the public and students need to know whether or not the educational system is providing adequate services. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO KNOW IF STUDENTS ARE OR AREN’T CAPABLE OF AGE AND GRADE LEVEL WORK WITHOUT SOME FORM OF TESTING. Unless someone has a telekinetic device that can look into each and every student’s brain. So rather than opt out, why not demand standardized tests that are part of the promotion criteria for students. If students ace all their school work and get a 20% on a final standardized exam, I’d say their school is not providing adequate education. If a student just scrapes by their school work and gets a 80% on the standardized test, I’d say the student is lazy and school is addressing the major educational benchmarks. Never the less, unless an alternative CONSISTENT, standardized, VERIFIABLE method of determining student capabilities is offered, standardized tests are the only viable option. If you opt your children out, then your child should probably not be promoted to the next grade. What would identify that your child is ready for the next grade; a teacher’s recommendation that your child is a pleasure to have is Class?? Let’s be a little more insightful than that.

    Kill the test if it proves it doesn’t identify minimum competencies BUT what I hear is that it makes students uncomfortable and it grades schools as deficient when students can’t pass. Neither of which seems to indicate the test is failing.

    Like

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