Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge

For years, I’ve been telling Delaware parents they should choose to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I was wrong.  Here is why…

We are entering a new era in education.  The promised era of digital personalized learning is here.  It is on the cusp of coming into every single public school in the country.  New national broadband laws are coming out of the woodwork to allow this.  We won’t need to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It will be gone soon.  They listened to us.  They heard us.  They will get rid of this test.  We gave them exactly what they wanted.  It was a trap.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Rodel, the State Board of Education, and the Delaware Department of Education used me.  They used teachers.  Legislators.  Parents.  Union.  All of us.  They aren’t alone either.  This goes all the way to the upper echelons of power.  Bill Gates.  Hillary Clinton.  Congressmen.  Senators.  CEOs.  From the largest corporations in the world.  Markell  couldn’t sign the opt out bill.  But he couldn’t stop opt out either.  While the conversation was all about opting out, Markell and all those like him in every single state were setting up something else.  They distracted us.  They knew opt out would become the conversation.  And they struck.

But let’s not be mistaken, they wanted parents to opt out.  Enough of them to upset the applecart.  The corporate education reformers know this test is absolute garbage.  If you listen to all their reasons for Common Core and standardized tests, they sound like con men.  But so many people bought the lies and the manipulation.  All of this was an illusion.  They wanted to set things up so we did rebel.  And we did, in massive numbers.  Just enough to change the conversation.  They were eating me up.  Every single article I wrote about opt out came with pleas to do more.  To talk to them, to write to them, to get laws passed.  Meanwhile, they put the final pieces in play for a future “earn to learn” system of education.


This new era in education will be one of competency-based education.  You won’t move on from one thing until you have mastered the old.  It sounds good in theory.  But the curriculum is not what you think it is.  It isn’t Common Core.  It isn’t anything.  It is megabytes and pixels.  It isn’t real.  It is fools gold in digital form.  We have lots of names for it: personalized learning, blended learning, flipped classrooms.  They are all the same.  All this wonderful technology that we have embraced for schools is nothing more than tracking devices.  Measuring and cataloging every single student in America.  As long as any state has a set of “common” standards that aligns with the education technology, it doesn’t matter what those standards are called.

Their goal is to create the workforce of tomorrow.  Where children, from the time they are born, are tracked and pushed towards certain careers.  Those careers will come in the form of digital badges.  Everything will be online eventually.  Traditional school buildings will be gone.  And phrases like “Community Centers” and the “whole child” are just more of the same crafted catch terms.  Teachers across the country love it.  Here is what will happen:

  • Personalized learning environments are set up in every public school.
  • Students log into devices with a unique id.  This is happening now.  Red Clay just began their 1:1 device initiative, ensuring every student has their own device.
  • As the once a year test morphs into stealth tests, delivered daily, weekly, or monthly, it will become apparent students can be tested at any time.  Plans are already under way for this with the upcoming Science and Social Studies state assessments.  Parents will lose the ability to know when their children are tested and thus the ability to opt their children out.  Which is why Governor Markell couldn’t sign House Bill 50 into law.  Because once that door was opened…
  • District tests will disappear.  Pen and paper tests will be gone.  All learning will be online.
  • Teachers will be replaced by glorified Teach For America, Relay Graduates, and AmeriCorps fellows.
  • At some point, in some state, they won’t be able to pass their budget.  Schools won’t be able to open in the fall.  Where do we send the children then?  To the already existing community centers built up through the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Older kids will be able to do their work on their devices and younger kids will go to the local YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, or whatever organization has been set up in your state.
  • Eventually, schools will become “learning centers”, run by non-profits and online charter schools.  The physical school building will be gone.  Human interaction in education will be a thing of the past.  Think about all the properties owned by charter schools and those who support them.  The sale of those assets will be a cash-cow for charters and their operators.

This began a long time ago.  Most of the people that began these projects are either dead, retired, or no longer in power.  But their predecessors are making sure all of it is fully realized in the present.  But around twenty years ago, they realized they had a big problem.  That problem involved the human brain.  To reach this complete reinvention of education, they realized student’s brains were not equipped to handle this technology.  So they began to invent and manipulate.

To do this was going to take a ton of money.  More than any one person would see in their lifetime.  Where would this money come from?  The place where the most money in the world flows through its coffers: the Department of Defense.  Which is why President Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order in 1999 to allow the Department of Defense to begin studying an implementation plan for Advanced Distributed Learning.  The report talked about how to implement this new learning system for the military, but when you read between the lines it becomes clear why they used the government agency with the biggest budget:

The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed its ADL Strategic Plan that describes how it expects to use information, computing, and communications technologies to modernize military education, training, and performance support. Importantly, the ADL Initiative’s underpinnings and applications are germane not only to the Department of Defense, but to other government organizations, academia, and the private sector, as well. The ADL Initiative, therefore, is a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors to develop and share common standards, reusable learning tools, and content.

The two parts of this that really stood out for me were “private sectors” and “common standards”.  Keep in mind, this implementation plan came out in 2001.  It laid the seeds for a future learning environment that depends on technology.  Meanwhile, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act.  All schools must have every student proficient by 2014.  The groundwork began for what eventually became the Common Core while nobody was looking for it.

In 2003, the National Research Council of the National Academies released a paper called “Learning To Think Spatially”.  This research, along with other similar initiatives going on around the country, actually looked at how to change the human brain to adapt to common standards in a technology-based environment.  But they called it something different.  This was “Geographic Information Science”.  By disguising this research, done by college professors around the country, they had to make it apply to not just technology, but also science and math.  The way children could adapt to this constant and in-your-face technology was to change the way the human brain approaches education.  Out of this came Common Core and other state “standards”.  All geared towards rewiring kids brains to become cogs in the wheel of this technology boom.

Along the way, parents got sick of the standardized tests.  They questioned, they reacted, and then some opted their kids out.  This is exactly what they wanted.  They wanted parents and teachers talking about this.  It was the only way to manipulate the people into wanting something better for education.  These people who run education… are they evil?  The ones who know exactly what is going on?  Yes, I believe they are.  They are selling out the future of our country for corporate profit.  They are betting on absolute power in society by forcing children into an eco-system of never questioning anything, doing what they are told, and following orders.  Some may call it Communism.  Others a neo-Liberal world.  I call it control, pure and simple.

We are divided on this, those of us who fight these battles.  There are those who seem to want certain things exposed, those who think sitting at the table and negotiating is the right way to go, and those who just want to opt their kid out and be done with it.  I have been very resistant to start an official “opt out Delaware” group aside from Facebook groups where parents can compare notes and ask questions.  I see other states doing that but there is a considerable amount of division over certain things.  To me, opt out is a personal right and choice.  Would I love it if every single parent opted out so we could get rid of this nonsense?  Sure.  But once you start an “official” group, there will be those who agree and disagree.  Someone will want to start a platform, or branch off into committees and tackle all of education.  I don’t have time for that.  I enjoy this blog (not always) too much to lose focus on what’s best for kids.  Have I been guilty of that in the past?  Of course.  We all have.  But the time has come to speak up for our kids like never before.

Can we stop this?  Yes, we can.  Parents have to speak up now, more than ever.  Don’t rely on teachers doing this for you.  They are stuck between what their unions want, what they are being told, and whether or not to embrace the technology coming into their schools and districts (if they aren’t already there).  Most of them don’t know what is happening before their very eyes.  I don’t blame them.  They have been manipulated just as much as parents.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, they were given what they thought were the solutions they wanted.  But those same very solutions are wrapped in very methodical conditions and stipulations.  All of those will result in the end of their profession.

Parents need to know what is going on in the classroom.  They need to know what technology is being used, how data is tracked from it, and where it is going.  They need to see the contracts with these technology providers.  They need to know what information about their child is allowable by law and what isn’t.  Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is the key to all this.  In 2011, President Obama allowed massive changes to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  These changes are what allows this future environment to exist.  It allows for the cataloguing and tracking of PII to education “research” companies.  It allows for shared data between schools and companies, governments and corporations.  There is a very easy solution to all of this: restore  FERPA to its pre-2011 levels.  That will stop this dead in its tracks.  We need to push Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to make this a huge part of their campaign for President.  We need to make so much noise they will be forced to listen and act.  If Diane Ravitch is truly the educator we thought she was, she will make this a central point of her own blog.

Until that happens, parents need to do more than opt out of the state assessment.  A fellow blogger called Wrench In The Gears, along with other bloggers this morning, are all releasing their own “opt out of everything” articles.  This blogger asks parents to do the following:

1. Opt your child out of Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

2. If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

3. Does your child’s assigned email address include a unique identifier, like their student ID number? If yes, request a guest log in so that their data cannot be aggregated.

4. Refuse biometric monitoring devices (e.g. fit bits).

5. Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral, or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

6. Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

7. Set a screen time maximum per day/per week for your child.

8. Opt young children out of in school screen time altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not ebooks).

9. Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized” learning modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

10. Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a back door way to increase class size or push online classes.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students must begin to look critically at the technology investments we are making in schools. We have to start advocating for responsible tools that empower our children to be creators (and I don’t mean of data), NOT consumers of pre-packaged, corporate content or online games. We must prioritize HUMAN instruction and learning in relationship to one another. We need more face time and less screen time.

Every time a parent acts to protect their child from these harmful policies, it throws a wrench into the gears of this machine. The steamroller of education reform doesn’t stand a chance against an empowered, educated army of parents, teachers and students. Use your power to refuse. Stand together, stand firm, be loud, and grab a friend. Cumulatively our actions will bring down this beast!

Delaware parents: Do you even know what BRINC is?  Do you know what you are signing when these education technology permission slips are coming home?  It is time to seriously open your eyes and look beyond what you are being told is best for your child.  There is manipulation going on all around us.  It’s hard to know what to believe anymore.  Do the research.  If you don’t know where to find something, ask me.  I will point the way.

This blog is changing gears.  The sole purpose of this blog moving forward is to put an end to this future.  By any and all means possible.  I am not alone.  People have done extensive research into all of this.  Future articles, aside from the usual Delaware shenanigans I write about all the time, will be designed to expose all of this.  The education reformers, who want all this, put everyone who fights them in a position of Whack-a-mole.  We think we knock one down and another pops up.  And another. And another.  They allow certain information to get out to distract us.  We are putting out so many fires to prevent us from getting to the heart of their plans.  No more.  If you are not with us, you are against us.  I don’t mean to draw such a fine line in the sand, but the stakes and the future of our country are far too important.  I will lose friends over this.  I will lose support.  Those who I thought were my allies will walk away.  I am okay with that.  This is the time when we need to wrest control from those who think careers and money are more important than education.  I believe a good education leads to that, but not like this.

If you are with me and agree, join me.  Join those of us, across the country, who believe children should not be guinea pigs for futurists and their money-making agendas.  Talk to your legislators.  Find out what upcoming legislation would allow this future, whether it is Blockchain technology or something else.  Look for “Pay for Success” legislation which has corporations hedge bets based on student outcomes, otherwise known as Social Impact Bonds.  Tell them to fight this and advocate for the restoration of FERPA to pre-2011 levels.  Speak out and share information with other parents and friends.  Opt Out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is dead.  It is now time to opt out of anything which will bring this future to pass and will cause more harm to your children than anything before.

To see what other bloggers across the country are putting out today, please go to the following, which will be updated throughout the day.


Opt Out Is Dead

Opt Out Of Opt Out

ABCs Of Classrooms At Risk.  Don’t Just Opt Out.


How Opt Out Could Remain Legitimate, But Won’t




Published by

Kevin Ohlandt

I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!

9 thoughts on “Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge”

  1. Don’t demonize the underlying blockchain technology. That’s just the storage mechanism. The juggernaut system you fear could just as easily come to pass with standard SQL databases instead of blockchain.


  2. Be positive. I believe all things happen for a reason. We just need to keep moving forward as a human race together. Influencing positive change and highlighting love and beauty in all forms along the way.


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