Why Are Red Clay & Capital School Districts Ignoring Board Approved Resolutions Supporting Opt-Out?

Dr. Mervin Daugherty was present at the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting just two weeks ago when their board unanimously approved a resolution supporting parent opt-out without penalty to students.  Dr. Michael Thomas was present at the Capital Board of Education meeting last October when their board passed the same resolution.

So can someone tell me why Red Clay teachers are telling their students not to opt out or they will get a zero on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and their school’s scores will go down?  And why this is coming to them in orders from a district levels to let students know?  And why did Capital School District tell WHYY/Newsworks education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent they were able to talk 1/3rd of the opt out requests they received from parents into taking the test?

“Burgoyne says the district has convinced about a third of the parents who considered opting out to ultimately let their children take the Smarter Balanced exam.”

This article also has figures that conflict with other reported figures.  Capital Board member Matt Lindell publicly stated his district had 11% opt-out according to the district offices.  But the Newsworks article says only 34 students have opted out.  The article talks about students who have been “formally opted out” with their numbers.  What does “formally” even mean?  Is this where they have been taken out of the computer system or the school “approved” a request, like Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly stated?

This is just another reason why House Bill 50 needs to pass so these districts are consistent with not only their reporting of opt-outs, but also veiled threats or “convincing” parents and students receive.  I don’t see all these state agencies, groups, and corporate interest-lobbyists talking about that aspect of any of this.

Delaware parental enemies 1 & 2: GACEC and SCPD. HB 50 opposition wields a misinformed sword!

Delaware IEP Task Force Bill Unanimously Released From House Education Committee

The mood in the Delaware House Education Committee meeting this week was a great deal lighter than last week.  Delaware Senator Nicole Poore’s Senate Bill 33, otherwise known as the IEP Task Force bill, cleared through the House Education Committee with no “nay” votes.

The biggest topic of conversation surrounded teachers or contractors in IEP meetings.  Several individuals commented at the IEP Task Force meetings held last fall that they felt intimidated or in some cases, threatened, about advocating for a student during an IEP meeting.  Part of the legislation of Senate Bill 33 would put into state law that this practice would not be legal.  Opponents of this one section were worried about teachers or contractors speaking out without enough knowledge to help the student, which could lead to many complications according to these individuals.  Members of the task force gave public comment explaining why this was included, and that while some districts may not have these issues, others have.  Although a representative from the Delaware State Educators Association was present, they had no public comment on this matter.

Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn was concerned about the exact wording for parent or guardian as some people may legally be assigned those rules from the court.  He suggested a potential amendment, but Attorney General Matt Denn, who also chaired the IEP Task Force, explained this definition of “parent” is already written into State and Federal law.  No amendment was introduced by Lynn upon hearing this.

State Rep. Kim Williams asked when the Procedural Safeguards parents receive when they ask for an IEP or 504 plan was last updated.  Maryann Mieczkowski, Director of the Exceptional Childrens Resources group with the Delaware DOE  and an IEP Task Force member answered 2009 when the law was last changed, but it would be updated to reflect the new law if Senate Bill 33 becomes law.

A few individuals, including myself, expressed a desire to see the IEP Task Force continue, which Denn hinted may happen during the task force meetings last fall.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan wanted this, but she wanted the group to focus more on student outcome going forward.  She didn’t clarify what this meant, if it was about standards-based IEPs, or transition issues for students who become adults with disabilities.  Many Delaware agencies gave full support of the bill in public comment.

Delaware Council For Persons With Disabilities Calls Opt-Out “Ostrichism”

I am a proud ostrich!  Yet another state agency representing citizens with disabilities has come out with an opposition to the Parent Opt-Out legislation, House Bill 50.  In both these letters, one subject is not even mentioned: parental rights.  Today the Delaware Council for Persons with Disabilities released a near-identical letter to the one the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens released yesterday.  More quotes from the News Journal, it will corrupt the validity of a test that has never been determined to be valid, and the usual arguments in opposition to the bill.  Not one mention of parental rights whatsoever.

But this agency says “ostrichism is not a viable response to relatively poor overall performance by Delaware students”.  So this agency for persons with disabilities is taking a stance on ALL Delaware students.  Going a little bit out of your comfort zone there.  Because taking tests that make students cry is a viable response.  Because teachers will be evaluated on these tests eventually and according to Governor Markell “I’m giving you one more year before consequences kick in.”  Because parents have the right to opt their child out of the test but you ignore that fundamental fact.

I know some of these people have to be parents.  Have any of them actually taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Why in the world do they trust the Delaware Department of Education to make the best choices for our children?  These agencies need to get out of their bubble and actually see the world outside their Markell-tainted windows.  Opposing a bill for political capital should not be a basis for opposition, and I am sure this will not be the last state agency to do so.

Delaware parents: Do Not Be Fooled by these letters.  The part that ticks me off the most is these agencies do some excellent work for our students with disabilities, but when it comes time to oppose something the Governor does these groups get very busy supporting him.  We get the state gives you funding, but don’t think for one second the ordinary citizens won’t hold you accountable for your public comments.

The GACEC Is Continuing To Oppose House Bill 50 Through Inaccurate Internet Links

Once again, the leadership of the Delaware Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens is opposing House Bill 50 by communicating links to their membership and those on their email list.  The latest is an article by a Home School organization talking about Arne Duncan’s funding cut threat.  I would post a link, but honestly, I’ve seen tons of these same articles in the past week.  It’s a hollow threat, said by a man who is astonished that parents don’t agree with his education reform.

I responded to the GACEC with this email:

Hello again,

Thank you for forwarding this.  I received a link of this last night.  Here is how I interpret Arne Duncan’s threat of “stepping in”.  The federal law clearly dictates all schools (public) must give the test.  This is because some schools have, in the past, excluded certain students so their scores were better.  The law is written for the schools, not parents opting their kids out.  Being that NO school in America has received federal funding cuts due to going below the 95% threshold, and many have in the past few years, I see this as an empty threat.  As well, the Chancellor of Schools in NY publicly stated last week there is some latitude given to each state in how any cuts would be handled.  These are false threats, given by a desperate man who is in the process of watching everything he built start to crumble.  And the mold he is made from is the exact same one that fits Mark Murphy and Governor Markell.

So please, leadership of GACEC, please thoroughly review this stuff before you send it out and scare people.  I have seen about three dozen articles linking Duncan’s quote since he said it last week.  I have also seen just as many that prove he has no legal basis to implement ANY funding cuts due to opt out.

I am not sure why you are trying to railroad this bill so hard.  We all know Governor Markell is against it, but I thought the GACEC was able to make up their own minds on issues in the best interest of all citizens with disabilities.  I have talked to the parents who are watching their children stress out so hard they are vomiting.  I’ve talked to the mothers  who are in tears because their school and district are giving vast amounts of threats and pressure to talk them out of opting out.  I’ve seen the letters that go to parents in Delaware, signed by superintendents, when it is in reality a DOE contractor paid a great deal of money to “convince” parents of the Smarter Balanced Assessment’s validity. I’ve read about Governor Markell’s “remedial classes” plan with Smarter Balanced and the colleges and universities in Delaware and also know that when the DOE was asked to provide the professors that validated the Smarter Balanced as an effective test, they were told to ask the universities. 

So please GACEC, do not rely on links that are spread around the internet every single day that just boast of the threats but don’t do the research behind them.  If you want to take a true stand on this issue, it is far too important to not educate yourselves on every single facet of the issues.  At the end of the day, this is about a parent’s right to decide for their children.  If the GACEC can’t stand for that, what can you stand for?

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt