Merry Christmas To The Heroes Of Education & My Christmas Wish For The Delaware General Assembly

148th General Assembly, Christmas, Heroes Of Education

Last year, I started a tradition of honoring the heroes of public education on Christmas.  This year the list is much longer.  I finally met many of you this year, and I made new friends along the way.  The battles were tougher than ever, but we all came out of it relatively unscathed.  Some of our battles were won, but the war for public education continues.  2016 is going to be a very tough year as we are in the middle of major transitions between ESEA and ESSA.  The US DOE is trying to get some hits in before it kicks in, but we aren’t taking it lying down.  We will fight these changes!

Without further ado, thank you to all the below for listening to my rants, hearing my pleas, and taking action on your own.  I am nothing without any of you, and I want you all to know I appreciate you very much.  Some of us had our moments but we were able to reach out and work out our differences.  Some of you might be wondering why you are even on this list.  It could have been something as simple as a kind gesture, support, or you took the time to listen even if you didn’t agree with everything I had to say.  On these lists are parents, teachers, reporters, bloggers, legislators and more.  There are very left liberals on here and die-hard conservatives.  But all of you, in one way or another, contributed to this blog in some way.  And I thank you! There are many who I am unable to list on here due to requests for anonymity.  They know who they are, and I think it is very brave for anyone to stick their neck out to help students.  And then the silent voices.  The ones who reached out to me in a request for help.  For many of you I don’t know if I helped or not.  I hope I did, in some way.  Some of you I never heard back from and I pray that everything worked out.  The below Delawareans are my 2015 Delaware Heroes of Education.

Matthew Albright  Tony Allen  Tyler Anaya  Faith Andrews  Austin Auen  Dee August  Meg Eldred Barcus  Adriana Bohm  Giffin Bowen  Sue Breakie  Suzanne Burton  Eve Buckley  Catherine Ciferni  Jennifer Cinnelli  Larae Coley  William Cortes  Sammi Dahms  Matt Denn  Nelia Dolan  Bill Doolittle  Lyn Doto  Diane Eastburn  Marie Evans  Steve Fackenthall  Tim Furlong  Natalie Ganc  Jodi LeVan Gennusa  Lori Gloede  Tara Greathouse  Elizabeth Greenwell  Karen Gritton  Eric Gustafson  Alan Harris  Christine Hermes  Annemarie Hobson  Terri Hodges  CEO Hope  Laurie Howard  Devon Hynson  Rick Jensen  Wendy Johnson  Yvonne Johnson  Scott Jones  Kavips  Maureen Keeney  Mike Kempski  Amanda Kilby Kilroy  Jackie Kook  John Kowalko III  Pam Levin  Matt Lindell  Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman  Mary Jane Long  Christy Mannering  Mike Matthews  Deborah McCann  Floyd McDowell  Connie Merlet  Harrie Ellen Minnehan  Laura Nash  Sabine Neal  Mike Oboryshko  Jen O’Brien  Liz Paige  Pandora  David Paulk  Lisa Radke  Kenny Rivera  Danny Rufo  Ashley Sabo  Kay Dietz-Sass  Elizabeth Scheinberg  Jill Schilling  Nate Schwartz  Anne Willing Solan  Mel Spotts  Melissa Stansell  Brian Stephan  Ralph Taylor  Liz Toney  Jenny Twardowski  Meghan Wallace  Nancy Willing  Jeanette Wilt  Avi Wolfman-Arent  Dave Woodside  John Young

And there are some “out-of-staters” I want to honor as well:

Debby Herbage Stacey Kahn Melissa Katz Cheri Kiesecker Marla Kilfoyle Donna Yates Mace Roxana Mariachi Ken Previti Diane Ravitch Priscilla Sanstead Teri Sasseville Mercedes Schneider Valerie Strauss Emily Talmadge Nicholas Tapio Publius Withering

I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t publicly thank all those who voted yes on House Bill 50 during its final votes in the Delaware General Assembly.  I know some of you struggled with your vote, and I want you to know how much I appreciate your honoring parents and their rights.  I am counting on your support again for the veto override when you come back!

From the House of Representatives: Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, Gerald Brady, Ruth Briggs King, William Carson, Richard Collins, Kevin Hensley, Deb Hudson, James Johnson, Helene Keeley, Harvey Kenton, John Kowalko, Valerie Longhurst, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, Joe Miro, John Mitchell, Michael Mulrooney, Ed Osienski, Bobby Outten, Trey Paradee, Charles Potter, Mike Ramone, Pete Schwartzkopf, Bryon Short, Daniel Short, Melanie Smith, Stephen Smyk, Jeff Spiegelman, Kim Williams, David Wilson, and Lyndon Yearick

From the Senate: Patti Blevins, Colin Bonini, Catherine Cloutier, Bruce Ennis, Bethany Hall-Long, Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson, Ernie Lopez, Robert Marshall, David McBride, Karen Peterson, Brian Pettyjohn, Nicole Poore, Bryant Richardson, and Bryan Townsend

For those who voted no, I invite you to search your hearts and ask yourself why you voted no.  If it was for any reason other than honoring a parents right to determine what is right for their child, I urge you to think about it.  I know, for some of you, it has become a matter of honoring the Governor’s office or honoring parents.  The parents will be here long after Jack leaves office and they have a long memory.  I implore you to remember why you ran for office to begin with.  I expect most of you, if not all, wanted to make a difference for the people of Delaware.  I understand power.  I understand favor.  I understand compromise.  But what I cannot understand is not honoring your constituents.  Some of you have been duped by the Governor, the DOE, or lobbyists into believing all the wrong reasons.  While the state is looking at reducing the amount of assessments our children get, this bill has always been about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or any high-stakes test that comes along.  You saw the scores.  I hope many of you have seen the very unrealistic “growth” targets the DOE set for the next six years.  I ask you to think about the damage this does to students and schools.

Yes, there are very real consequences now for opt-out.  Funding cuts, as dictated by the US DOE, could very well happen.  But I belong to groups in just about every state in this country on Facebook.  I wrote articles about these threats made by the US DOE and posted them on all of those Facebook groups.  Not one parent said they will not opt their child out this Spring because of these threats.  They are more determined than ever to opt their child out of the state assessment this year.  Across the country, including Delaware.  In fact, many are already planning a defense against this unethical and immoral “guidance” by the US DOE.  An argument has already been presented that federal funding cuts that hit schools with high opt-out numbers could result in students with disabilities not receiving what is known as FAPE, a Free and Appropriate Public Education.  If the feds cut money, schools will suffer, resulting in a loss of services for those students.  FAPE is covered under the Federal IDEA law.  These are potential lawsuits, even class action, that would be taken against the US DOE.  As well, parents of minority or low-income students have already begun talking about civil rights violations should federal funding cuts occur.   Those in favor of these high-stakes tests will tell you opt-out will result in civil rights being violated against these children with needs we can’t imagine.  They are wrong.  It doesn’t matter if a parent is insanely rich or poor, it is still their right.  Parents know what is best for their child, and these tests are not what is best.

There was one State Representative I did want to name who didn’t vote for House Bill 50 either time it hit the House floor.  I saw your emotional struggle with this bill Stephanie Bolden, and I greatly appreciate what you said and respect you for it.  Your passion for the students of Wilmington is very honorable.

I got to know many legislators this year.  Some of you I count as friends.  There are a couple of you I have written much about, and I wasn’t very nice about it at times.  For the two of you, I would strongly ask yourself “Who do I serve”?  I will leave it at that.  Please don’t take this personally, but I still believe in both of you, despite our many differences earlier this year.  But you are on the wrong side of the issue here and everyone knows it.

There are some of you at Legislative Hall, I really don’t know what I would do without you.  I don’t see you as “Democrat” or “Republican”.  I see you as people, wanting to do what is right for the students of Delaware.  You see way beyond what others see and you vote with your heart.  Some of you create legislation that hits just the right note that will result in positive change for education.  I know you know who you are, and I thank you immensely for what you do.  It makes me very concerned when these bills either sit there or don’t pass.  Every legislation in that building deserves the right to be heard.

For all you, I want to wish a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (belatedly), Happy Kwanza or whatever you choose to call this time of year.  As well, Happy New Year to all of you.  2016 will be anything but dull!



Remember Kids, Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out Too! Merry Christmas!

Christmas, Parent Opt-Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Santa Claus

When I published Santa’s proclamation supporting opt-out of standardized testing, it took off like a rocket!  Santa Claus was very happy so many people read his press release, he asked me to publish it again tonight while he is out making all is deliveries to the children of Earth.  Santa was not happy the US DOE put out all those bad letters in the past couple months.  He is very disappointed in our education leaders.  He may have Dasher and Prancer do some of their covert operations during the off season…  But without further ado, here is the original story of how Santa Claus came to support opt-out.

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:

Dear Principal,

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!