Mark Murphy Tries To Come Off Like Markell, But Sounds More Like Little Bo Peep

In the Dover Post today, four people gave their opinion on opt-out.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Alissa Schubert, a parent and Media Relations for the Delaware Charter School Network were the anti-opt-out folks, while Delaware Senator Dave Lawson and Vice-President for Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, Yvonne Johnson were on the pro-side.

Murphy shied away from saying “Parents aren’t allowed to opt-out, but he did have some of his usual Murphyisms.

“Measuring the progress our children make in school is essential for providing teachers, parents, taxpayers, and leaders throughout the state with honest, objective information about whether they are learning the skills and gaining the knowledge they need to be successful now and in the future…”

“The “smarter” assessments have been designed, tested, and validated according to the highest standards…”

Nice try Mark.  We’ve heard it all before.  And once again, don’t try telling this parent what is best for my special needs son.  That’s my job, not yours!

And how about this…the reporter, David Paulk, contacted me over a week ago.  He wanted to know if I knew any parents who were opposed to opt-out.  I told him about some educators who spoke at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50, but I really couldn’t think of any normal parents.  So he found someone from the Delaware Charter School Network.  Of course they are opposed to it!

But the best line in the whole story is from Lawson:

“Smarter Balance is a test created by a for-profit company that makes money every test that is given.”

Lawson hit the nail right on the head.  Yvonne Johnson rocked it as well, with her never-ending support for House Bill 50.  Schubert just came off sounding like all the education reform folks who are opposed to HB50…. I’m getting bored with that.

The full link can be read here:

Opt-Out Refuse The Test Revolution Is About Action Not Discussion

I’ve heard a few folks say opt-out legislation is useless if there is not legislation to get rid of high-stakes standardized assessments like the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the PARCC.  I question this line of thinking for several reasons.  Standardized assessments of this sort have been around for a long time, closing in on twenty years in some states.  It hasn’t been until the introduction of Common Core about seven years ago that this matter really got national attention.

Parent opt-out is not about waiting around for politicians to discuss whether or not standardized assessments are necessary.  It’s about parents already realizing these assessments are not right for our children, and we are exercising a right we already had to control our children’s educational outcome.  I fully support opt-out legislation because of how it has been created.  Opt-out is a force, an action.  It is something people see, on the tv, on social media, and in our very schools.  Talking about it really hasn’t changed anything.  Knowing others have done it is inspiring other parents to take a look at what is going on and make their own choices for their children.  Politicians see this, and the smart ones know which way the wind is blowing.  These are voters, and if an overwhelming amount are saying “We want change, and if you don’t do it, we will do it in our own way.”

Opt-out is making people notice what’s going on in education and it is opening the conversation for policy-makers to take a hard look at the impact education reform is having on our children.  ESEA reauthorization has been talked about for 8 years now.  There are no actual signs of anything happening this year.  So parents are doing what is necessary.  They are changing the conversation.  And we will keep doing it.  So for those who want these tests gone, take a hard look at what is happening: parents are opting out all over the country.  Our children aren’t taking these tests you want to disappear.  It isn’t perfect, but we are closer to getting rid of these bad, disruptive education policies than we have ever been.  That didn’t happen because we talked about it.   It happened because we took action.

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

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

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!

The Honesty Gap Between Governor Markell And Students, Parents, & Teachers Is Wider Than The Pacific Ocean

“And we’re not being honest with kids about what they need to be proficient.”

In an article in the News Journal, Governor Markell said there is an “honesty gap” between state standardized tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  First off, with all the news going on with education in Delaware, how is it that reporter Matthew Albright’s biggest education news of the day yesterday was a conference call with Markell, Achieve, and the Collaboration for Student Success?  I can think of at least three dozen other matters that are more newsworthy.

Governor Markell is scrambling.  So are the big education reform companies.  They will say and do anything to attempt to gain the trust back in their corporate education reform agenda.  Now they are tackling the biggest problem they will have in the next three months: when the scores come back on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  What Markell and Achieve don’t mention in this article is how Achieve is in a contract with the Delaware Department of  Education right now with the Assessment Inventory initiative.  This was Markell’s rocket science idea to get rid of other assessments to justify the Smarter Balanced.

When the issue of parent opt-out came up during this conference call, Achieve President Michael Cohen said:

“While we’re here talking about making sure parents get honest, accurate measures of performance, parents are actually opting to get no information about their performance,”

You are absolutely right Mr. Cohen.  The parents who are opting their children out do not trust the test or Governor Markell.  Teachers don’t trust it either.  Sure, maybe the chosen few who become Teachers of the Year or become part of the Rodel Round Table over at Camelot, aka 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington.  These are the dying embers of a failed policy, but Markell is too stubborn or too invested to just throw water over them and just let it cool down.  This is his Achilles Heel.  Whenever his baby is threatened, he pulls these stunts.  And this widens the gap between himself and the rest of us.

Where is the honesty with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Governor Markell?  Teachers can’t see the test beforehand, and they don’t see the answers the students give or the actual graded tests.  Parents don’t see it either, but they are supposed to trust a score?  But this is okay to measure schools and teachers?  I don’t see a lot of honesty  in that Governor.  So keep peddling your proficiency measure like some guy selling Rolex watches in New York City, and us parents will continue to opt our kids out.  The debate is over, but you are too foolish to realize it.

Matt Albright, you are better than this.  Stop taking phone calls from the Governor and start covering real education stories.

Save The Date: June 3rd, 3pm, House Bill 50, Senate Education Commitee

It is official. House Bill 50 will be heard by the Delaware Senate Education Committee on June 3rd at 3pm at Legislative Hall in Dover. From all indications, it looks like it should get through the committee, but just to be on the safe side I would email the Senators on this committee with an extra push. Governor Markell has been strangely quiet on the issue lately. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. As Smarter Balanced winds down with the testing windows in our schools, the number of opt-outs are dwindling down, but make no mistake, once the scores come in towards the end of the summer, this conversation will heat up again if no law is passed. And if you thought parents were hot about this issue now, you haven’t seen anything yet!

House Bill 50 Opted Out Of Senate Education Committee Today

Delaware House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation, is not on the agenda for the Delaware Senate Education Committee today.  I can think of several reasons for this.  First, it may be too soon.  While this is an important bill for parents, there are well over 200 proposed bills floating around at Legislative Hall.  Second, while six days may seem like a long time to wait for opt-out advocates, it is a relatively short time for the General Assembly.  While we all want HB50 to speed through, a moment of calm may be needed for the Delaware Senate.  A third possibility is it WILL be heard today, but Senate Education Committee Chair Senator David Sokola doesn’t want all the hype coming with the meeting.

There is only one bill on the agenda, Senate Bill 79.  Could Sokola be keeping HB50 off the agenda that is “subject to change”?  We shall find out at 3:00pm today when the Senate Education Committee convenes in the Senate Hearing Room, Room 248 on the East Side of Legislative Hall.

Jill Shilling’s Letter To The Senate Education Committee Should Open Many Eyes!!! Incredible!

Jill Shilling hit a grand slam home run with her letter to the Senate Education Committee!  Keep ’em coming Delaware!


Campus Community & Providence Creek Begging Parents Not To Opt Out Cause Of “Charter Renewal”

Both Campus Community School and Providence Creek Academy have been telling parents they really shouldn’t opt their kids out because their charters are up for renewal next fall.  Even though the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores will not count against their school’s accountability for this school year.  I’ve even heard Campus is telling parents who do opt their child out not to bring the child to school during testing.

Parents, please don’t be fooled by this latest excuse schools are giving.  While it is true both schools are up for charter renewal, the Delaware Department of Education will most likely go by the MAP scores or some equivalent assessment to determine school accountability.  I can picture parents succumbing to these threats.  “Where will I send my child to if this great school closes?  Oh my!”  House Bill 50 can’t pass fast enough!  All these schools that are still acting like this are merely arranging deck chairs on the Titanic AS the ship is sinking…

DE Senate Education Committee Could Have House Bill 50 This Week, Email Them NOW! They go on recess for two weeks after next week!

The Delaware Senate Education Committee meets on Wednesdays, around the same time as the House Education Committee.  There is only one bill on the agenda, and it is NOT House Bill 50.  It’s Senate Bill 79, which is about student data.  Sponsored by Chair of the Senate Education Committee David Sokola, it’s important.  But email them all that you want House Bill 50 on the agenda as well!!!!!

Here is a collective email for all of them:

Some things to keep in mind.  This is a much smaller group than the House Education Committee.  Aside from Pettyjohn on Facebook,  who said he will vote yes, not many of these Senators have made their views on this publicly known recently.  And as we learned from the House vote, we cannot assume that just because they voted yes for House Bill 334, the Smarter Balanced Assessment legislation, that they will vote no for House Bill 50. My best recommendation is to go easy.  If they come out and say NO, then I would use your best persuasive arguments to sway them.  This is unchartered territory my friends.  But remember, there are only eight of them.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know how some of them will vote, but I don’t want to assume and tick anyone off either way.  Some of these Senators have been around a long time.

Chair: Senator David Sokola

Bethany Hall-Long

Margaret Rose-Henry

Ernie Lopez

Robert Marshall

Brian Pettyjohn

Nicole Poore

Bryan Townsend

The Inner City Teacher Vs. DE State Rep. Earl Jaques

A couple days before the Delaware House vote on House Bill 50, State Rep. Earl Jaques sent email responses to many parents, teachers and citizens of Delaware.  One of them wished to go public with it to show an example of the crystal clear propaganda some of our legislators have been fed by either the Delaware DOE, lobbyists, or both.  She responded to each one of Jaques comments very effectively.  I firmly believe at this point the Delaware DOE and their corporate interests, all protected under the umbrella of Governor Markell, will say and do anything to keep their agendas from falling apart.

Jaques Claim 1:

“If not enough students take the Smarter Balance test then we would not be able to use the data to effectively place resources where they are needed the most. Such as the “inner city” and poverty areas across our state.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 1:

You don’t need the Smarter Balanced Assessment in order to “use the data to effectively place resources where they are needed the most.” You already have that data in the School Profiles page of the Delaware Dept. of Education website. Choose a district, choose a school then, look at the “Other Student Characteristics” section. Here, you can see the percentage of low-income students and the percentage of Special Education students. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the trend in this country: the lowest performing schools are the ones with the higher percentages of low-income and special needs students.


Jaques Claim 2:

“House Bill 50 doesn’t give parents the right to Opt Out. That is given to all parents under the US Constitution. That is why parents have been Opting Out for weeks and HB 50 isn’t even a law!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 2:

You are correct in saying that the U.S. Constitution gives parents that right. However, right now, parents are receiving letters from districts across the state stating that this is not the case.

An example from the Christina School District can be found here on this webpage:

**Editor’s note, Christina School District’s Board of Education passed a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt out in their March 2015 board meeting**

Jaques Claim 3:

“HB 50 also takes away from local control and if HB 50 passes it could result in our state losing 40 million in Education funding. I don’t know whether that will happen or not, but can we really take that chance? What would will do then – take more resources away from the “inner city”?”

Inner City Teacher Response to Claim 3:

You should probably read the budget reports for RTTT spending. Most of the money was spent on unnecessary DEDOE positions with inflated salaries and contractual services with huge corporations like Wireless Generation/Amplify to provide useless data coaches to districts.

Here is the budget report:

Jaques banter 1:

“Would you be willing to have your taxes raised to make up the difference?”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques banter 1:

Yes. Actually, my husband and I are planning a move to Texas for the sole reason of sending our 5-year-old daughter to a school with sufficient resources. Our Delaware taxes for our area are in the 3k range. In Texas, they will be in the 8k range. However, having both been educated in the Catholic school system with little to no resources, we both understand that education begins with parents at home. Families who value education and participate in it have children who behave well in school and do well academically. Did you not read the research article I sent to you.

Here is the link, again:

Jaques banter 2:

“Finally, Representative Bolden is an outstanding member of the House Education Committee! Her insight as a former teacher is counted on by each and every member and especially me!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques banter 2:

I don’t disagree with you there. As I stated in my email, I worked in schools in Louisiana with 96% poverty rates for 7 years… the very first 7 years of my teaching career! I am unsure of when Ms. Bolden retired, but if she has been far-removed from teaching in a classroom (within the last 10 years), then she is just as far-removed from the realities occurring in today’s schools. Or, perhaps, and I hope this IS NOT the case… Someone is receiving kickbacks from corrupt corporations or politicians to push their agendas?

Jaques Claim 4:

“So why are teachers against Smarter Balance, because they are afraid that the test scores would be used as part of their evaluation. I agree they shouldn’t be used for that purpose.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 4:

Thank you for agreeing that it is heinous to use such tests as part of a teacher’s evaluation system. However, have you polled teachers about why they are against the Smarter Balanced Assessment? I know that you did not poll me or any of my colleagues. Because if you had, we would tell you that we are against THIS PARTICULAR TEST for a variety of reasons.

Reasons Teachers are Opposed to SBAC:

1.) We have spent months wasting time by practicing how to take the test. For instance, instead of students doing more research for reports in the Computer Lab, we spent time on various sites trying to teach them how to type. Instead of learning useful skills from the curriculum, we practiced answering the different types of “trick” questions that this particular test poses.

2.) My colleagues and I just finished administering the ELA portion to our 5th graders. It took an ENTIRE week of us doing nothing but sitting at a computer and actively monitoring our students taking this test. On average, it took a student 6 hours to complete both the ELA CAT test and the ELA Performance Task combined. If a student finished early, we were only to allow them to read a book, stare into space, or sleep, per the agreement we signed. We haven’t even gotten to the Math portion, yet! (The amount of time it took for 5thgraders to complete these sections is MORE than the amount of time it takes for the SAT, LSAT, and MCAT tests!)

3.) Students have NO stake in the testing. They know this. Some decide that they will take it seriously. Others do not. How can you get any useful data from something that attributes NO accountability or responsibility to the person directly involved in taking it? One of my students finished answering 40+ questions on the ELA CAT test in FIVE MINUTES! During the ELA performance task, one of my students copied and pasted a sentence from the passage 1,000 times into a space where he/she was supposed to write a 3 paragraph essay! (This is why we don’t like scores tied to our evaluations.)

4.) Teachers DO NOT get to ever see these tests and how each student answered each of the particular questions. Therefore, we get NO USEFUL DATA from them. In fact, Pearson, American Institutes for Research, and Data Recognition Corporation hire temporary workers as scorers to grade these tests. Some of their ads ask for applicants to have at least 48 college credits. There is something seriously wrong when teachers aren’t allowed to see these tests, yet temporary workers with much less college experience making $10-$14 an hour are allowed to grade them! This is absurd! Essentially, these temporary scorers are responsible for grading not only the student’s work, but TEACHER, SCHOOL, and DISTRICT PERFORMANCE. This sounds like a minefield waiting to be populated by lawsuits, especially when redistricting or closing schools is involved.

Jaques Claim 5:

“Do you know that most of the “Teachers of the Year” support the Smarter Balance assessment.”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 5:

Wow! Really? May I please have their names so that I can speak with them personally? I know that the teachers-of-the-year, with whom I am blessed to be working, do not share this view. Also, Pearson (you know, the company who owns the Smarter Balanced Assessment) owns the Teacher-of-the-Year program. Isn’t that convenient.

Not surprisingly, after Courtney Fox, former Delaware Teacher-of-the-Year was exposed on the Exceptional Delaware blog (, the link to Pearson’s teacher-of-the-year site could no longer be accessed. Here is a link to the cached page:

Jaques Claim 6:

“I believe that the teachers who oppose the Smarter Balance assessment are doing it for a self serving purpose and not for helping children who live in poverty or inner city. Thanks!”

Inner City Teacher Response to Jaques Claim 6:

Hmmm… Some would think that legislators who oppose the voices of parents, teachers, students, and other constituents are doing *it* for a self-serving purpose (kickbacks, collusion, extortion, etc.)

Thank you for sharing your personal opinion on this. I will be certain to share it with the 12,000 teachers across Delaware. J

My Thank You Note To The DE House of Representatives

To the Delaware House of Representatives,

I just wanted to take the time to thank all of you, even those who voted no or were not able to make it, for the sincere discussion about House Bill 50.  I’m sure it goes without saying I am very much in support of the bill, but even the opposition has the right to voice objections, which in turn fueled further discussion on the matter.  And I’m sure were not done yet.  The important thing is Delaware parents feel like you are listening, and we want to take that momentum to engage in further discussion on how to best serve our children.  I’m sure a lot of you probably don’t want to hear the words “opt” and “out” for a while, so I will end on that note.


Kevin Ohlandt

Please take the time to thank your reps!  And get going on the Senate!

Delaware’s House Bill 50 Landslide Vote Hits The Washington Post & The Associated Press

Randall Chase with the Associated Press wrote an article that appeared in The Washington Post about Delaware’s Parent Opt-Out legislation, House Bill 50.  Chase reached out to Governor Markell who said:

“I don’t think it’s a good bill,” Markell said, who touted recent improvements in state schools, including higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and more students taking and passing advanced placement tests.”

“Markell also noted that members of the civil rights community in Delaware and other states have supported annual assessments as an effective way to identify and address the needs of minority students.”

I commented on the article, which can be found here.

“Sadly, Governor Markell is mistaken with his opposition of this bill. His own Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy, publicly told the House of Representatives there was no current growth model established for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He also publicly stated parents aren’t allowed to opt students out of the state assessment. As Mercedes Schneider recently pointed out, 28 national civil rights groups stated their opposition to opt-out. Today, only 12 of those groups are speaking in opposition.

Of course Governor Markell would think this is bad bill. I believe he mistakenly attributes the progress made in Delaware schools to standardized testing, when the reality is Delaware has many effective and great public school teachers who are doing more with far less due to cuts Markell instituted years ago and never reinstated. This bill passed the House with a 36-3 vote with 2 absent. This sends a clear message to Delaware parents that state legislators understand parents fundamental rights and they do not believe in this assessment.

The very discussion of this bill has people all over Delaware talking about education like they never have before, from the most effective way to educate our inner-city students to what the best way to determine student outcomes is. Many in the state are fast realizing the Race To The Top and high-stakes testing have been nothing but a severe disruption and a money pit for our schools and students. Governor Markell could veto the bill, but the Delaware House and Senate could override that veto with a 60% vote in both.”

Markell has been utilizing the positions of civil rights groups in Delaware for months to bolster his opposition of the opt-out movement.  Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana educator with the very popular Deutsch29 education blog, wrote on Wednesday about 28 national civil rights groups that petitioned the U.S. Congress during discussion about the ESEA reauthorization back in January.  When asked to declare a formal position on opt-out, only 12 of those groups participated in this statement, according to Schneider.

While Delaware State Rep. Stephanie Bolden was not present for the vote, she did have some very strong concerns in regards to inner-city students and opt-out.  I have decided to get this conversation started here:

Delaware Parents Weekly Address To Governor Markell

Delaware Senate Contact Information

As promised, here is how to get in contact with Delaware Senators to ask for their support with House Bill 50.  I would get started on this as soon as possible, and keep doing it until you can convince them why a yes vote is the only sane option!  Please let me know what their responses are.  If they say they will vote yes, ask them if you can make that public!


Here is the master email list if you want to send it all in one fell swoop, just copy and paste:

District 1: Harris B. McDowell III, email: Facebook: 

District 2: Margaret Rose Henry, email:

District 3: Robert I. Marshall, email:

District 4: Gregory F. Lavelle, email:

District 5: Catherine Cloutier, email:

District 6: Ernesto B. Lopez, email:

District 7: Patricia M. Blevins, email:

District 8: David P. Sokola, email:

District 9: Karen E. Peterson, email:

District 10: Bethany A. Hall-Long, email:

District 11: Bryan Townsend, email:

District 12: Nicole Poore, email:

District 13: David B. McBride, email:

District 14: Bruce C. Ennis, email:

District 15: David G. Lawson, email:

District 16: Colin R.J. Bonini, email:

District 17: Brian J. Bushweller, email:

District 18: F. Gary Simpson, email:

District 19: Brian Pettyjohn, email:

District 20: Gerald W. Hocker, email:

District 21: Bryant L. Richardson,

Today Is Thank Your Delaware State Representative Day! #supportHB50

As John Young noted on Facebook, please take the time today to thank your Delaware State Rep. for their votes on House Bill 50.  Or you can thank them all.  But do not, and I will repeat, do NOT confuse the Shorts.  Don’t be like the DOE, do your research! 🙂

And I’m going to be the big guy here, and include Jaques, Barbieri and Dukes, because nothing gets a movement going like vocal opposition.  These guys aren’t evil, they are just misguided.  Everyone has a chance for redemption.  We don’t know what roles these three may have yet to play in this saga, so it’s never a wise idea to completely isolate them.

Here is the emails for ALL of them:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

And please remember this very important thing:


The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Hello Delaware Senate, Meet Delaware Parents! You’ll Be Hearing From Us A LOT!!!!

Delaware Senate Education Commitee.  Next stop on the opt-out House Bill 50 train.  Opt-out parents and supporters, this is your mission if you choose to accept it:

Chair: Senator David Sokola

Bethany Hall-Long

Margaret Rose-Henry

Ernie Lopez

Robert Marshall

Brian Pettyjohn

Nicole Poore

Bryan Townsend


I’ll have their emails up shortly.

Parent Opt Out Legislation House Bill 50 Passes Delaware House of Representatives

36 Yes, 3 No, 2 Absent!  Next stop, Delaware Senate!  The vast majority of the Delaware House of Representatives voted yes for the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  They nay votes were State Reps. Earl Jaques, Michael Barbieri, and Timothy Dukes.  Absent were Stephanie Bolden and Jack Peterman.


Pictured, Top: Jackie Kook, Mike Matthews, Bottom: Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, Delaware PTA Vice President for Advocacy, Delaware State Rep. Sean Williams, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko, Kevin Ohlandt

Here is the amendment to the bill:

Primary Sponsor(s): Matthews Additional Sponsor(s):    Rep. B. Short & Rep. K. Williams

Co-Sponsors: { NONE…}

Introduced On: 05/07/15

Long Title:

Synopsis of Bill: This amendment clarifies that the bill only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The amendment also clarifies that the parent or guardian must give written notice at least two school days prior to the start of the assessment. Finally, the amendment includes an effective date of August 1, 2015.

Current Status: Passed

Here is the official roll call:

HB 50 w/HA 1 Kowalko Passed


Date: 05/07/2015 04:58 PM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 36 No: 3 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 2

Barbieri N J. Johnson Y Peterman A
Baumbach Y Q. Johnson Y Potter Y
Bennett Y Keeley Y Ramone Y
Bolden A Kenton Y B. Short Y
Brady Y Kowalko Y D. Short Y
Briggs King Y Longhurst Y M. Smith Y
Carson Y Lynn Y Smyk Y
Collins Y Matthews Y Spiegelman Y
Dukes N Miro Y Viola Y
Gray Y Mitchell Y K. Williams Y
Heffernan Y Mulrooney Y Wilson Y
Hensley Y Osienski Y Yearick Y
Hudson Y Outten Y Schwartzkopf Y
Jaques N Paradee Y

Live From Legislative Hall In Dover, It’s House Bill 50 In The House!

The legislators are trickling in.  I see a lot of the big supporters of the bill coming in.  I’m not seeing a lot of the Republicans in here yet.  We don’t even know the order of the agenda yet.  But I’m hearing HB 50 is first.  We are in session.  Here we go!

State Rep. Sean Matthews is adding an amendment that HB 50 only applies to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This bill will not apply to any future assessments, only the Smarter Balanced state assessment.  Kowalko supports the amendment.  House unanimously passes the amendment.

Kowalko stating the bill merely codifies the existing right for a parent.  Jaques is up for personal comment.  He said parents have been opting out for weeks, said risk of losing Federal funds, said this bill has been very disruptive to House forums, said he wants to introduce legislation to have only have Smarter Balanced three times during a student’s career.

Barbieri thinks this is a matter between legislators, the DOE, and the local school districts.  They are doing the roll call for the bill, only nays are Barbieri and Jaques.