Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February. The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws. The school does have discretion. It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.
The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child. I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out. So this would be the first to my recollection. The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out. They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold. Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year. I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay. It isn’t.
What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law. That states schools must administer the state assessment to students. It says nothing about the student actually taking the test. A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test. That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it. And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.
The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law. Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate. But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment. Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either. It doesn’t even address opt out. In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out. But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it. And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.
Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee. It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th. I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.
Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent. Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it. I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it. That is my promise to you! And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!