Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques Issues An Apology

From his public figure Facebook page:

Recently I made a comment regarding standardized testing in Delaware that was hurtful to some families of children with special needs. For that I am truly sorry.

As a longtime volunteer with Special Olympics Delaware, and the grandfather of a child on the Autism spectrum, I understand the challenges that parents face every day with children who have intellectual disabilities. I have witnessed the extraordinary accomplishments these children achieve and I would never underestimate their abilities. I completely understand that their parents will take the appropriate actions they see fit regarding their education. That is why I co-sponsored SB 229 last year, which allows parents of students with cognitive disabilities to make their own choices when it comes to standardized testing.

I offer my sincere apology to these families and their children.

While I appreciate the apology, I am very torn on what it means.  This wasn’t just a shot against special needs kids, this was against ALL kids who are opted out, and their parents.  His apology doesn’t even offer the words opt out, just standardized testing.

Furthermore, his reference to Senate Bill 229 troubles me.  This bill allows children with severe cognitive disabilities to be opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment to take something called DCAS-Alt.  It is a great bill, don’t get me wrong.  But he also voted yes for House Bill 334, which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the state code.  As well, he voted yes for Senate Bill 51 which allows for teachers to be evaluated based on standardized test results.  In addition, most special needs children would not even qualify for the alternate assessment.

I still don’t have faith in him as the Chair of the House Education Committee, so my petition will stand, unless he apologizes to ALL students and parents who have gone through the opt out process.  Being American is important to me, and I take it as a slight when I am told I am not being American.  Being American also gives people the ability to make certain choices, so I am exercising that right.  I also think he needs to reach out to more than the Delaware Teachers of the Year to get a gage on this test.  I have to wonder, has Earl Jaques taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

As a father of a special needs child, I accept that part of the apology.  But on behalf of ALL the children who are forced to take this test and the lucky ones who have been opted out, none of which are failures, I just can’t.

Hi, this is clarity calling. Is Jack Markell there?

I’m hearing superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students are all getting multiple different stories about opt out from districts, the newspapers, radio, social media, the Governor’s office, Legislative Hall, schools, blogs, email, and all the rest.

Here is what I am hearing the most.  Parent opts out, gets either the DOE recommended letter or an email from the principal, saying nope, can’t opt out here (I picture them saying this like the kid on the bus in Forrest Gump when he tells him “Can’t sit here”).  Parent either folds and kid is going to take the test, or notches it up a bit.  The authority figure (not the parent), folds and tells the parent “Go ahead, opt out.  That’s what the DOE wants us to say.”

Can’t we have a civilized and consistent opt out movement for crying out loud?  Is that too much to ask for?  Can’t the DOE or Governor Markell give some kind of guidance on this?  We know they don’t like it, but it’s happening, and they might as well be more successful at stopping the wind from blowing at this point.  Do your jobs!  Why am I the only one making it clear: Parents don’t need permission to opt out!!!!  Just stop!!!!!

Eastside and Family Foundations Overlords Getting Rather Snippy With DOE, Overreaching A Bit…

The Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee made it’s final recommendations in regards to Family Foundations Academy.  Their decision: the charter school stays open with a probationary status for one year.  I think that is more than fair given that the EastSide takeover is an untried experiment in Delaware.

This is a school that had it’s fair share of issues prior to the takeover.  Ex Heads of School Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington collectively embezzled over $100,000 from the school and lest we forget, there were many cultural and academic events going on.  The Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education received many complaints about FFA, including special education issues, discipline problems, and staff complaints.

For it’s part, there are several board members at FFA who also serve on EastSide’s board, and many staff members serving dual roles, including the financial director and head of school.  Running essentially three schools could be stretching anyone to the max, but EastSide does appear to walk on water.

Given the circumstances with an untested arrangement, what went down at FFA, and the fact that this school was very close to getting shut down, you would think Dr. Lamont Browne and Charles McDowell would be grateful for the reprieve.  But no, they have to be arrogant about the whole thing.  The fact they would have an issue with the CSAC requesting a different auditor at the end of this year is testament to this fact.  The school hasn’t (as of this letter) even had a first meeting with their Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee, and there is little proof FFA even had one prior to last fall.  And given what I’m hearing is going on in charterville with money matters, they should count themselves lucky.

The letter also reported Moore and Brewington reached a settlement agreement.  Who was this settlement with?  Cause the last I heard the duo were heading to the Attorney General’s office!  That would be a criminal matter.  Browne and McDowell need to check their egos at the door when they go to the State Board of Education meeting this coming Thursday, March 19th.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education will render their final decision on the long, bizarre FFA saga.