My Letter To The Delaware General Assembly In Opposition to Senate Joint Resolution #2 AND All Their Email Addresses To Copy & Paste

148th General Assembly, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

Dear Delaware 148th General Assembly,

I am writing you this evening in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution #2, sponsored by Senator Sokola and State Rep. Jaques.  While looking at the number of assessments students in Delaware receive is a worthwhile cause, I fear the motivations behind this are not that simple.  This assessment inventory was mentioned by Governor Markell and Rep. Jaques back in March as the parent opt-out momentum was just beginning.  But what nobody knew was the Delaware DOE was working on this starting in December of 2014.  This is an obvious initiative begun by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE to make parents think students are being over-assessed in an effort to prevent parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have not heard of one parent in the entire state of Delaware requesting to opt-out their child out of any other assessment other than Smarter Balanced.  Furthermore, the Delaware DOE seems to be under the illusion the group created out of this resolution would simply be a discussion group and would have no oversight or authority over THEIR assessment inventory.  It is this arrogance that brought us to where we are now with assessments in Delaware, and for the first time in a long time, the DOE is being viewed as the money-wasting, school-punishing, public school teacher-hating, parent-ignoring Department they are.  I firmly believe any initiative coming out of their office these days is something that benefits their extremely high salaries more than the benefit of Delaware’s students.

I am requesting Senator Sokola place House Bill 50 on the Senate Education Committee agenda officially for the June 3rd meeting.  I would also like all of you to carefully consider what passage of Senate Joint Resolution #2 could mean in the grand picture.  It could easily be said House Bill 50 would not matter because we are looking at all assessments to ease the burden on students.  Smarter Balanced is NOT included in this assessment inventory, and it is this assessment that parents are opposed to.  To pass Senate Joint Resolution #2 and leave House Bill 50 in limbo would be an insult to every single parent who has exercised their right, fought for House Bill 50, and emailed many of you already.

In closing, I appreciate all you do, and I once again urge you to vote with your constituents in mind and not the whims of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education.  Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Governor Markell, If SJR#2 Passes, I Dare You To Pick Me As The Parent Representative

Governor Markell, Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

If the title didn’t say it well enough, I triple-dog dare you to pick me!  Show how objective and fair you can be with education in Delaware.  Pick the biggest opponent of your education agendas and show that you can be fair and balanced.  You know my email (from FOIA requests to your office).  Game on!

Please keep in mind though, I am already in the process of rounding up ALL the parent opt-out folks to massively email bomb the General Assembly to reject this resolution.  Not sure how you got the heads of both education committees to participate in this… wait, I do…

Thanks, and have a great day!

Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association Lawyers Up To Stop Freire Charter School From Opening!!!

Freire Charter School

According to Jenna Pizzi with the Delaware News Journal, the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association in Wilmington is ready to do battle with Freire Charter School.  Concerned with the amount of traffic coming into their neighborhood, many residents have formally hired an attorney and sent a letter to the Wilmington Department of Licenses and Inspection based on a lack of parking spaces for the school, scheduled to open in the upcoming school year.  The group has also stated if their official letter does not receive a response in their favor, they will vote whether to file for an injunction against the charter school, on formal review with the Delaware Department of Education before it even opened.

At the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting last week, the school announced it has met its enrollment targets as of May 2015.  State law requires any charter school to have 80% of its enrollment by April 1st before the new school year starts.  Freire missed that number, but has since gone over it.  The State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make a decision about the school’s formal review on June 18th.  Some members of the Neighborhood Association have already filed charges against the school stemming from an incident in March, and association member Lyn Doto publicly acknowledged this a few days ago.

Sokola & Jaques Behind Assessment Inventory “Discussion Group”

Assessment Inventory

That was quick!  I should have checked yesterday on the General Assembly website, but they are on recess, so it was out of sight out of mind.  But anyways, what is the point behind Senate Joint Resolution #2, “Directing the Department of Education to study student assessment testing”, when the DOE started this initiative last year?  Oh yeah, to get what is essentially a task force going with key positions picked by the education reform Kool-Aid drinking Governor Markell!  But this task force won’t have any authority or oversight for the initiative but we can create it anyway to give the illusion this has legislative input!  Delaware legislators, STOP, just STOP with the DOE influence within your own ranks.  State Senator Dave Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques are the chairs of their prospective education committees.  This initiative came from Governor Markell in an attempt to thwart parent opt-out.  The DOE ran with it, got it going over six months ago and now the two education leaders of the General Assembly want to put this out?  Who are we kidding?  Read the resolution below:

Reader Takes On Charter School of Wilmington Placement Tests & Specific Interest Enrollment Preference

Charter School of Wilmington

As a part of the 4th most-read article on this blog, a commenter who I don’t always agree with and doesn’t always agree with me found common ground on an issue that comes up time and time again: Just how great is Charter School of Wilmington (CSW) when they stack the odds in their favor?  For those who may not know the acronym, DMA is Delaware Military Academy.  This is what “Education Opinions” wrote:

I want to start by saying that I personally am an advocate for a lot of the charters in the Wilmington area, but the attitudes of Justpassingthru and RationalStudent exemplify why people have an issue with the Charter School of Wilmington. I disagree with Kevin on many things and have even participated in his “Correct the Blogger” challenge in the past, but his comment below that starts with “you asked, you shall receive” is spot on. Having a placement test before enrollment is a huge red flag because, as he said, this is not a private school. Charter schools SHOULD be created and sustained by serving the needs of THEIR COMMUNITY, ideally using learning models that traditional schools can’t or won’t use. I don’t doubt that CSW has an excellent math and science program, but many traditional schools do as well. CSW is really not doing anything that other schools aren’t doing, they are just doing it with ONLY the “top students.”

People who truly care about educational equity in their community believe that all children can succeed and be taught given the right environments and supports, but CSW’s enrollment practices basically say they are not willing or able to support those who are not already testing in the very high percentile of students. Having a charter school in Wilmington that has demographics SO different from the city of Wilmington is a MAJOR problem. I have met with staff from CSW before about the school opening its doors to a more diverse student population and I have had staff look me in the eye and say “We are diverse, we are over 15% Asian.” “Diversity” does not mean “one non-white race or ethnicity at your school.” It means MANY different groups, and it is NOT just limited to race and ethnicity. In some Wilmington charter schools it can be difficult to achieve ideal levels of diversity because often times the schools mirror the demographics of the city, but CSW does not even do that which is an even bigger problem than those schools who are mostly made up of minority students. I have attended open houses at CSW with potential students and I understand that CSW students work EXTREMELY hard for their success; the classes they are taking and the projects they are required to do are very impressive – my problem is not that CSW exists or that their expectations are high, it is that it is set up in such a way to only admit a specific type of student. Why shouldn’t all students have access to this type of program if it is really so great?

I will end by saying that it is ridiculous for people who are sticking up for CSW to try to throw Cab, DMA, Conrad, and other schools under the bus in the same breath. People like me who are against CSW’s enrollment processes are well aware of which other schools have equally, if not more, discriminatory practices. (Although in my opinion, DMA should not even be a part of this conversation because that is a VERY different situation as a military-focused program has a whole other set of rules and regulations that I would imagine are very similar to the actual military.) We know Cab and other schools are discriminatory as well, but it is interesting for pro-CSW people to point that out – FYI, it doesn’t help your case.

All I can say is thank you to Education Opinions for pointing out brilliantly what the reality of CSW’s enrollment really is.

Earl Jaques and the DOE: A Match Made In Hell or The Love Affair of the Year?

DE State Rep. Earl Jaques, Delaware DOE

Anonymous sources are telling me about the latest rumors coming out of Dover.  Apparently the DOE is hot to trot on some House Joint Resolution making the rounds.  This resolution would have the General Assembly recognize the assessment inventory initiative going on in Delaware.  This message was shown to me today in an email sent to all the Delaware district and charter chiefs.  Included in this were several anti-parent opt-out talking points.  All of which Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques gave as reasons in opposition of opt-out last month at the House Education Committee meeting.  These talking points included the usual federal funding threats, too many assessments, important data, yada yada yada…  But the interesting part of this communication was the part where the DOE representative talks about how some legislators will have a say in the assessment inventory but they won’t have any authority or oversight over the initiative.  That’s like giving a kid Pringles, but you can only eat one.  “We have legislators in on this but we retain the power!”

Jaques needs to separate from a Department that is using him because they are running out of life-lines.  Take today for example.  I stopped by the State Board of Education meeting to hear the tail end of the Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit give a big speech on  their Educator Equity Plan.  They talked about all these stakeholder groups they used for their plan and called this a “root cause analysis”.  I had to crack up when even the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, said this is not a true root cause analysis with scientific-driven data.  You can read the nonsense here by Chris Ruszkowski and the Gang, but really, it’s just more education reform drivel coming out of this department.  But when the State Board is questioning how effective your data really is, the train has already left the station.

I have no doubt Earl Jaques has the best of intentions with education, but he’s listening to the wrong people.  He came up to me before the House vote on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  He explained how he wanted to get my son included on Senate Bill 229.  This was a bill passed last June by the 147th General Assembly which exempts the “state’s most severely cognitively impaired students” from taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment or regular state standardized test.  I explained to Jaques my son doesn’t qualify and he has Tourette Syndrome, but he is very smart.  As he was walking away he said “I’m going to fix that.”  I blew it off, but I received an email from him a few days later asking me to send him a list of 6-7 disabilities to add to the legislation.  As if just adding these would change the Federal requirements SB 229 was based on.  It shows a huge disconnect between the actual reality we all live in and how powerful Jaques seems to think he is as Chair of the House Education Committee.

I saw him last week at Legislative Hall and I explained to him, again, that you can’t just add disabilities to a law like that.  He looked at me and said “We can’t?  Oh well, I tried.”  So not only did Jaques not understand the original legislation, but he didn’t understand the Federal law it is tied to.  But this is a man the DOE whispers to with all these anti-opt-out sweet nothings and he takes it as the Gospel truth.  This is classic political maneuvering on the DOE’s part, and they think they have their man with Earl Jaques.  But nobody is drinking the Kool-Aid anymore.  At least not in the General Assembly.  When you have a House of Representatives that had a large majority pass legislation for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and then not even a year later, pass opt-out legislation with a 36-3 vote, then obviously they aren’t drinking the assessment Kool-Aid anymore.

Even Governor Markell has backed away from Jaques a bit.  I haven’t seen Jaques appearing in any huge education announcements or cheerleader speeches with Jack in a couple months.

As House Bill 50 winds it’s way through the General Assembly, with it’s next stop at the Senate Education Committee on June 3rd, does Jaques still think he really has the ammunition to stop a bullet-train heading for the Governor’s desk?  If anything, Jaques helped the parent opt-out movement with his vocal and stubborn opposition of it.  In some respects, I hope Jaques keeps talking about it!

As I walked out of the State Board of Education meeting, Ruszkowski was asking Shana Young how it went with Jaques.  I missed the answer, but it is important to note the email sent to the Delaware superintendents was written by the DOE’s own Shana Young.  Were they talking about this superstar joint resolution or do they have something else cooking?  Will anyone care?