The Delaware DOE Wanted Parent Engagement, Be Careful What You Wish For….

The Delaware DOE has been saying they want community input and parent engagement to determine accountability.  Recently they have received exactly what they were looking for.  And the majority of parents who are engaged are telling them the same thing: the path you are on is bad for our children.  As the Smarter Balanced Assessment started rolling out last month, parent opt-out started rolling its engines and left its mark on the First State.  Now the DOE and Governor Markell are scrambling to stop legislation which would codify this God-given, fundamental right.

I’m hearing crazy stories from Legislative Hall.  I’ve seen some crazy things at Legislative Hall.  Watching a Governor’s Education Policy Advisor trying to get to a legislator who everyone knew was a swing vote right before a vote would have been comical if it wasn’t so offensive.  How desperate has the Governor of Delaware become?  And yet he won’t show his face during these debates.  If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Every single thing Markell has done as a result of parent opt-out has met with firm resistance from the opt-out crowd, teachers, and even legislators.  And the sad, sad DOE…  Where do I even begin?  What happens when a State Representative with a third grader opts out?  Will they give remedial recess time?  Either they just don’t get it or they think their little “treats” will sway us.

The usual lobbyists have been in full swing down at Legislative Hall.  Rounding up Earl Jaques and giving him pointers and advice.  More like tying him up and giving him the Kool-Aid IV drip.

In the meantime, I am meeting some great and awesome people.  Folks who have never spoken out against anything before in their life are taking to the podium and talking from the heart.  It is truly an awesome thing to see.  Delaware parents are finding their voice, and they are speaking loud and saying this isn’t the best thing for my child.  They are exercising the very rights this country was built on.  Freedom from tyranny and oppression.

A year ago, the DOE were so sure of themselves and very cocky and arrogant about it.  I have to wonder what the atmosphere is like in those two buildings these days.  Is all that zeal and zest replaced by fear and more clicks to their resumes?  If I were working there, I would be updating my resume fast!  I can picture them going to meetings and saying “let’s try this, maybe this will stop it.”  They just don’t understand, and at this point I’m beginning to doubt they will.  Even as the bricks and mortar of their corporate education reform movement fall around them, they will still be talking about rigor, assess and data.

And the legislators, God bless them.  They are starting to realize “these parents are making a lot of noise, we better listen.”  Some of them were already, and they have been fighting the good fight for all of us.  And we have the Delaware PTA and the DSEA on our side as well.  When all is said and done, the Race will be over, and hopefully our children will emerge out of this era wanting to learn.  I can’t wait for that day, and it can’t come soon enough.  Because they are holding the DOE accountable.

Can Parents Legally Opt Their Child Out Of Standardized Testing? Yes, They Can!

Delaware Parents, if it is legal precedent you are looking for to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, look no further than the Supreme Court. Thanks to Natalie Alvini Ganc, a special education teacher here in Delaware, for giving me the heads up on the court decisions that would allow parents to do this. Nothing beats the Supreme Court in America. States have tried and failed. As per Fairtest.org:

Dear (school administrator),

Please accept this letter as record of my decision to refuse for my child (name) to participate in The Smarter Balanced Assessment at (school) during the 2014-2015 school year. My refusal to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment is because I believe standardized high stakes testing take away time from the instructional experiences my child might otherwise receive. I want more teaching and learning, and less testing! The state seems to believe that my child is obligated to participate in testing because the state or the policy makers demand it, when in fact the social contract of public schooling is grounded on the premise that the state and policy makers are obligated to the needs of children. I am aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of Delaware. But the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that my child may not exercise his or her right to refuse the tests.

According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158).

I understand that it is state and local policy to require all students to be evaluated for proficiency in various subject areas at each grade level. However, I believe that testing is not synonymous with standardized testing and request that the school and my child’s teacher(s) evaluate his or her progress using alternative (and more meaningful) measures including: project-based assignments, teacher-made tests, portfolios, and performance-based assessments, to be determined at the discretion of the teachers and myself together.

My child is prepared to come to school every day during the testing window with alternative meaningful self-directed learning activities that support the essential curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or his or her teachers during testing times.

I have a tremendous respect for my child’s teachers and his school. They do a tremendous job and I wish to continue to send my son to a school where he looks forward to participating every day. My school’s teachers and administrators understand that this action is no way a reflection of my feelings towards them nor is it intended as an attack toward them or the great work that they do every day. My issue is with high stakes standardized testing and the harm it does to children and our public schools. I believe we can work constructively together to ensure that my child will not be negatively affected in any way, and that successful alternatives that are neither punitive nor require further legal complications are indeed possible. Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

(Your name)

This is all you have to do. Now one thing to remember, the entire curriculum this year will be to prepare for this test. Your child will still receive grades based on formative and/or summative tests throughout the year. Until Common Core is repealed in Delaware, there isn’t much choice for what your child is taught. Trust me, most of the teachers hate it too, and if they had their way Common Core would disappear. You may receive calls from the principal, or the district. Document everything. If they tell you something about your decision, ask for it in writing. If they state policy to you, tell them you want that policy in writing. Some may call this civil disobedience, and they may be right. But it’s also about doing what’s right for your child. No one can ever take that away from you. Your child has the legal and fundamental right for his/her parents to advocate for them. This is your chance to do what is right for your child, not what the “educational” aka corporate reformists are telling you what to do.

UPDATED: I’m hearing from parents already that they are doing this today.  Excellent! Bravo!  Please email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com for any responses you get from the schools.  Let me know if they accepted it.  The more of us that do this the better off our children will be.