Santa Claus was getting pictures at the Dover Mall with young children. He always asks the kids what they want for Christmas. He acknowledged hearing very strange requests over the years. But he reported to me recently about a very unusual request he got on Black Friday. A little boy who was 8 years old told Santa he only wanted one thing for Christmas. He wanted his mother to opt him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Santa had never heard of such an odd thing before, so he asked the boy what it was. “I’m in 3rd grade Santa, and all they talk about is some test we have to take next Spring. All my teachers talk about it. And we have to take something called an intrum test after we come back from Christmas break. Every day teachers say ‘this could be on the test. Make sure you know it.’ I’m getting tired of it Santa. Nobody cares about my actual grades, and I’m a smart kid Santa.”
Santa asked the boy what “opting out” means? The boy said some parents actually told the school they didn’t want their kid taking the Smarter Balanced test. The school gave them a rough time, but the parents fought back. “If they can do it, can you make sure my mom does it too?” Santa pondered this for a moment. “I think,” Santa said, “That would be up to your Mom.” “Good, she is right over there,” the boy said and pointed to his mother. “Mom, can you come over here? Santa wants to ask you something!” the boy shouted.
The boy’s mother walked over and Santa said “Your son wants you to opt him out of the Smarter something test. It’s all he wants for Christmas.” The boy’s mother explained she had never heard of the test. “That’s cause this is the first year we take it Mom. I heard some teachers say it doesn’t actually mean anything and it only lets the state know how we are doing. And I heard something about some evil Psycho Metric guy.” The boy’s mother explained, “I will have to look into this.” The boy shouted “But I want you to opt me out!” The crowd heard the words “opt-out” and all of a sudden, parents were yelling “Opt him out! Opt him out!” Santa explained how he had to get to the next kid as the line to visit him was getting longer. “Let me make some calls on this! Can I call your mom about this when I get more information?” The boy’s mother gave Santa their phone number.
After a very long three days, Santa Claus dove into the subject of opt-out. He ran across this blog, so he gave me a call. I explained to Santa Claus how opt-out works and that it is a parental right. He asked me why schools fight it and want the kids to take a test that is bad for them. I told Santa that the schools get threats and they are intimidated by the Delaware Department of Education. I told him about House Bill 50, how some of the legislators like Jaques and Sokola tried to block it, how it passed the Delaware House and Senate, but then Governor Markell vetoed it. But I also explained how the House and Senate might override his veto when they come back to make laws. Santa laughed. “It sounds like someone should be called Senator So-coal-a!” I explained to Santa how kids did worse on this test than the one that came before it and all the nasty tricks the DOE was trying to come out with because of the test. Santa got very upset about the DOE and Secretary Godowsky blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendations about no harsh opt-out penalties for schools. “Sounds to me like this Secretary and these DOE people want schools to be punished for a parent’s decision. That isn’t honorable. I might have to order some more coal this year…”
Santa’s cheeks got very red as he became more flustered about the Smarter Balanced Assessment. “This just isn’t right! Now I am understanding why so many kids have looked different and sad the past few years. I thought this Common Core stuff would go away when they talked about all that nonsense with kids needing to compete with the kids in China. I go there every year, and most of those kids don’t even take those tests!” I told Santa how they got rid of that reason, and now it is so kids can be college and career ready! Santa laughed so hard I could hear his belly jiggling over the phone. “How in the world can a kid in 3rd grade, or even 8th grade be ‘college and career ready’? Kids need to play and have fun. School is important, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much other stuff that makes them grow up.”
Santa called the boy’s mother last night and had a long talk with her. She agreed that opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best choice for her son. That night, she wrote a letter to her son’s school opting her son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This morning, she gave it to the principal and kept a copy for herself. She asked the principal to sign a piece of paper recognizing he received the letter. She said I could share it but for the sake of her son’s privacy to take out her name. It said:
I am letting you know that I am opting my son out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in 2016. I am requesting my son not be punished for my decision and that he is given instruction while the other children are taking the test. I understand schools have to give the test, but I also know this is a parent’s right and there is no law stating I can’t. I do not wish to have any meetings or calls about this. Please respect my decision.
The boy’s mom
Santa was very proud of the boy for having the courage to ask for something so simple. It gave him hope that other parents would see the wisdom in the boy and his mother’s decision. Santa doesn’t usually interfere with the workings of the people, but he thought in this case he should issue some type of proclamation about this whole opt-out thing. So he asked me to give the exclusive on his proclamation to which I happily agreed. So without further ado, here is Santa’s official stance on opt-out!