Rep. Jaques Turns Simple Opt Out Parental Rights Bill Into A Three-Ring Circus

State Rep. Earl Jaques showed off his “Big Man on Campus” persona in an embarrassing display of supposed power today which he may be wrong about.

Advocates for any opt out bill in Delaware knew there would be opposition.  Those of us who have advocated for a bill which codifies and honors a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment knew this going in.  However, hanging your hat on a superficial and made-up procedure the way Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques did is shameful and embarrassing.  State Rep. John Kowalko, the primary sponsor of the bill, was composed and polished today.  There was no back and forth between himself and Jaques as there was two years ago.

House Bill 60 was not released from the House Education Committee.  With only eight out of seventeen members voting to release the bill, Jaques declared the bill dead.  However, there is a big caveat to his declaration.  Although there were 12 members on the floor, the committee is made up of 17 state representatives.  Five bills were heard in committee today.  For the other four, Jaques indicated he would walk the bill to the members.  For the opt out bill, he said he would not release the bill since there was a majority of members on the floor during the vote.  State Rep. Sean Lynn called for a parliamentary inquiry on the matter.  There is a chance Jaques could be overruled on his refusal to walk the bill for signatures and it could be released.  However, Jaques absolute disdain and contempt against this bill is clouding his better judgment.  He set the precedent for this by agreeing to walk the other four bills in my opinion.

After the committee adjourned the second time (since Jaques declared the meeting over a first time without asking for or getting a motion to adjourn), I spoke to him in the lobby of Legislative Hall. I said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset.  He began yelling at me and said “The bill is not released.”  I asked him why he was yelling at me and advised I wasn’t yelling at him.  He continued to yell and said “The bill is not released.  It’s done.  The bill is dead,” as he stormed off.

About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s reception area.  In the office were Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Meghan Wallace, and Jaques.  The receptionist said there was a wait and I advised I would just send him an email.  The email is below.

In terms of the discussion on the bill in committee, it was very much a repeat of 2015.  The usual suspects opposed the bill: Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, State Rep. Tim Dukes, a couple of women from Wilmington who were sitting next to DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne, etc.  Even the Delaware School Boards Association opposed the bill because they believed it is a local decision and detracts from the issues surrounding testing.  There was a lot of discussion around losing federal funds even though it has never happened.  The excuse this time was “We don’t know what will happen with Secretary Betsy DeVos.”  I love when a State Rep. has something important to say about a bill they oppose after they get a piece of paper from someone in the audience, but I digress.  There was talk about how bad Smarter Balanced is, the amount of time wasted on testing, and so forth, but there was far too little about the heart of the bill: the parental right to opt out.

No state has ever lost federal funding over dipping below the 95% participation rate.  And I don’t think little old Delaware would be the first.  If the feds really put their money where their mouth is, it would have happened in New York or New Jersey years ago.  So I don’t care what they say (and no one is actually saying it these days), it is not a good idea to cut federal Title I money from schools with poor kids.  Secretary Bunting did say Delaware got feedback on its state ESSA plan last evening and believes the US Dept. of Education will be tougher than she thought, but as a state with a 97% participation rate, I don’t think we are on the Title I money chopping block.  Let’s get real here.

To be fair, I don’t ever expect the Delaware DOE and the usual cast of opposers to ever support an opt out bill.  It just isn’t going to happen.  Expecting it is as likely as convincing the wind to change direction.  It isn’t something I’m even upset about anymore, it just is.

My public comment was as simple as the bill: it is a parental right bill.  And since there was a question about what districts or charters have given parents a rough time about opting their child out, I named them: Red Clay, Christina, Freire Charter School, and so forth.  I even advised Rep. Dukes a constituent in his own district tried to opt their child out two years ago, the only one in that school district.  When the school refused, they told the mother he could not opt out.  It got so bad the mother was ostracized by members of her community.  After, Dukes came up to me and told me he didn’t appreciate me calling him out.  He asked me which district, and I told him which one I believed it was.  He said “you don’t know?”  I said it was two years ago and I talk to a lot of parents.  He said next time I better know before I call him out like that.  I advised him the parent tried reaching him at the time and he claimed he never heard from the parent.

One public commenter said he wasn’t even there for that bill but felt he had to comment.  He said, as someone who makes six figures and works for Fortune 500 companies, he has never looked at a single standardized test score.  He said if a college student in an interview told him they opted out of the state assessment, he would give them an internship based solely on that.

Here is the email I sent to Schwartzkopf:

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf,

Good evening.  I attempted to see you in person, but you had a long line in your office about half an hour ago.  I advised your receptionist I would email you, which I prefer to do at this point since it is in writing.

As  you are no doubt aware, I am very passionate about education.  But I have calmed down with my public comments regarding certain legislation.  I wish the same could be said of the Chair of the House Education Committee.  The behavior I saw from him today regarding House Bill 60 was offensive, both as a citizen of Delaware and as a parent.

I am sure you know about the situation with “walking the bill” after Rep. Jaques set the standard for that with four other bills in the committee today.  It was very obvious to all he wanted this bill to die a messy death and he wanted to be the one to do it.  That is conjecture on my part, but based on his attitudes and attempts to kill the bill in 2015, I would say that is a fair assessment.  But his behavior in the lobby of Legislative Hall was unacceptable.  I simply said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  He began yelling at me, loud enough for many folks nearby to overhear.  When I asked him why he was yelling at me and that I wasn’t yelling at him, he continued to yell at me claiming “the bill is dead” and stormed off like a petulant child.  While I certainly can’t say I have never shown anger about legislation, I believe a certain decorum is expected out of our elected officials.  I don’t agree with Earl’s decision about deciding not to walk the bill, but I have to believe two grown adults can treat each other with respect and discuss the matter like two gentlemen.  I wanted to advise you of this issue because of his position as Chair of the House Education Committee.  Please consider this a formal complaint against Rep. Jaques.  I do believe this is something the House leadership should investigate.  I would have accepted a decision on the bill if it was given a fair shake, but I found Rep. Jaques behavior and conduct unbefitting for a Chair of a committee.

As I’m sure you know, I am a firm believer in transparency, so this email will be a part of my article about the opt out bill heard in committee today. 

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

So It Appears Rodel Is STILL Getting A Lot Of Say With ESSA Conversations Before More Important Stakeholders

listen_to_your_stakeholdersThe Delaware Dept. of Education must think the sun rises and sets with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Today, at the State Board of Education meeting, an update was given on the Every Student Succeeds Act Stakeholder Consultation (ESSA).  Many things in the below presentation and what were said sent major red flags up.

The biggest concerned Rodel.  A question was asked about getting the Chamber of Commerce involved with ESSA.  Susan Field-Rogers with the DOE stated that was brought up during consultation with Rodel.  A couple of minutes later, Secretary Godowsky chimed in that was brought up during a Vision Advisory Committee meeting.  Both of those meetings were closed to the public.  And why is Rodel chiming in on other stakeholders to bring into the process?  They have no authority over anything involved with ESSA.  They are a non-profit foundation.  But you would think they run the Delaware DOE.

State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray noticed that local boards were shown as groups the DOE had conversations with.  She expressed how she heard from local board members with questions about ESSA and was happy to see that.  But then the DOE clarified that local boards were included because they participated in the State Board Workshop on ESSA last month at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover.  So they did NOT have one-on-one meetings with local boards but rather list them as participants from a workshop.  But the charter leaders they DID meet with.  And Rodel.  If they are going to meet with charter leaders, who typically have 1-2 buildings to take care of, why aren’t they meeting one-on-one with every single school principal?  This is beginning to smell really bad.  As well, they said their meeting with the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA) ties into meeting with local school boards.  Huh?  No it doesn’t.  Not every single local school board belongs to DSBA.  Many have opted out of paying the fees to be a part of them.

After it was pointed out at their board meeting last month that legislators need to be a group to consult with, they STILL weren’t listed on their “stakeholder slide”.  At what point do they clue the legislators in on any of this?  When the ink is dry on the plan?

The DOE made a big deal that no part of the plan has been written and that it will be shaped by all of these meetings.  But they did inform the State Board that the US DOE did submit a “draft plan” to all the states.  Not that they are required to follow it… Okay…

In terms of the ESSA discussion groups coming out, Field-Rogers said there will be two discussion groups with approximately 30 members in each group.  90 people were nominated.  They are in the process of picking members and DSEA and the Charter Schools Network are helping to pick who will be in the groups.  I’m seeing a lot of charter love in this process.  But for schools that only represent up to 12% of Delaware students I’m not sure those scales are even.  And nothing against both of those organizations, but they represent schools and teachers.  They are, when it comes right down to it, lobbying organizations.  I’m just not digging this process.

Want to know what else is missing on that slide?  Parents.  But I guess we have to go to the “Community Conversations” to make our voices heard.  Aside from the Delaware PTA, there are no other parent groups.  No PTOs, no advocacy groups like GACEC or Autism Delaware.  There are also NO students.  You would think the biggest federal education law to come since 1965 would have some student input.  Nope.  Not with our education overlords.

These community conversations start next week in Georgetown.  I am sending out a plea to Delaware parents to get to these meetings and make your voice heard.  Do not let the DOE hijack this process.  Let them know what you want, not what they want.  The DOE wants people to register for the meetings so they can get a headcount and how many facilitators they will need.  I say fill the joint up with parents and those who care about saving public education from the poverty pimps and corporate pirates who want to permanently hijack our schools.  Click on the date to register for the meeting(s) you want to go to.

6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, September 20 at the CHEER Center, 20520 Sandhill Road, Georgetown  Registration : Discussion Topics

10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, September 24 at Christina Cultural Arts Center, 705 North Market Street, Wilmington  Registration : Discussion Topics

6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, September 27 at Bunker Hill Elementary School – 1070 Bunker Hill Road, Middletown Registration : Discussion Topics

5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 29 at the Collette Education Resource Center, 35 Commerce Way, Dover Registration : Discussion Topics

 

Townsend & Baumbach Declare War On Lobbyists & Legislator Conflicts Of Interest

Two new bills introduced today tackle the very problematic issue with lobbyists in Delaware.  State Senator Bryan Townsend and State Rep. Paul Baumbach are the main sponsors of each bill showcasing the need for transparency from lobbyists.  As well, their peers in the General Assembly will have a lot more to answer for in terms of their relationships with lobbyists.  Conflicts of interest will be under the spotlight, as they should be.

Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Townsend, is a much-needed bill that removes exemptions for General Assembly members not being investigated in conflict of interest and code of conduct investigations.  The legislation also requires lobbyists to disclose any payments they receive, including the source of the payment and the amount.

SB225

House Bill 385, sponsored by Baumbach, would make it so lobbyists have to pay a registration fee to offset the costs imposed on the Public Integrity Commission.  Many lobbyists pose a conflict of interest and this bill would actually generate funds in a situation that deals with this ongoing issue.

HB385

Both of these bills are very welcome in my opinion.  We can’t cut the rot out of Delaware politics until we get to the root of it.  And unfortunately for the good lobbyists, there are many bad ones.  In most investigations, it becomes a standard game of follow the money.  If both of these bills pass, that will be much easier.

This will get real interesting with the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  In Delaware education, they are both at Legislative Hall for anything education related.  I would love to know how much the lobbyists for the Delaware Business Roundtable make as well.

Updated, 5:20pm: I’m now seeing a third bill introduced today, once again by Townsend.  Senate Bill 224 deals with Campaign Finance Reform and disclosure of a contributor’s occupation and employment information.  This is already done in federal elections.  It looks like the transparency train is finally making a stop in Dover…

SB224

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

News Journal Gives False Impression Of Every Student Succeeds Act

The Delaware News Journal’s Jon Offredo wrote an article about the United States House of Representatives passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how in a rare moment of consensus, most stakeholders in education agree on the legislation.  Citing the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), the Delaware PTA, New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt, and Governor Markell in the article is not a completely accurate picture of consensus.  Many in Delaware feel the bill, while giving states more authority in education, opens the door to all sorts of new problems.  But the News Journal didn’t reach out to anyone else who could have offered a negative opinion of this bill.

States, districts and parents decried a one-size fits all education policy and many of the goals, including one that mandated every student to reach a proficiency on tests by 2015, were not met.

Since then, Congress has been unable to come up with a better education law so the Obama Administration has issued waivers to states exempting them from the requirement. The waivers mean states won’t lose federal money.

It is those very waivers that have allowed the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell to steer Delaware education towards a disastrous path since Markell took reign in January of 2009.  It is my contention Congress refused to act on reauthorizing this bill due to immense pressure from corporate education reform lobbyists who got exactly what they wanted with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers and with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Perhaps the biggest cheerleader for ESSA is Governor Markell, because he got to keep his precious standardized testing…

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

What I worry about this is states like Delaware who lead the corporate education reform movement.  Every move Markell made in the past ten plus years has been towards the goals of companies who thrive on “fixing” education.  In giving states more authority in education, states who already abuse that power are ripe to continue  DSEA, along with their national counterpart, the NEA, has trumpeted the ESSA as a great bill because it does not have as big an impact on teachers in terms of evaluations.

Many people are very concerned about the huge pot of money available for new charter schools which will result in a sort of “Race To The Top” for new charter schools.  Others are concerned about the consequences “community schools” and services can have on parental decisions and rights.  Technology and personalized learning are touched on in this bill but in a way that gives the controversial practice a wide berth in the future.  Standardized testing is still here, and Common Core is so embedded in education now that it would be very difficult to just do away with it as the bill allows.

The only parent voice in this article belonged to Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA who wisely stated she is “cautiously optimistic” about the ESSA.  The News Journal rarely goes out to ask everyday parents who don’t belong to some organization about their thoughts on education matters.  Not one Delaware legislator commented on this article.  But if it is something Rodel or Vision Coalition related, the News Journal goes out of their way to write huge articles and allow multiple letters to the editor on what those groups promote.  Many understand this is because those groups and those of the Delaware Business Roundtable provide a lot of advertising dollars for the News Journal.  As a result, many folks in Delaware have lost respect for the newspaper based on this and other biases.

 

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.

REWARD & RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂

Moyer:

7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!

NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT OPT-OUT FOR THESE FOCUS AND FOCUS PLUS SCHOOLS
 

Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).

THE EARL JAQUES AND DAVE SOKOLA PRIORITY SCHOOLS OF DELAWARE

Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Attachment3%20SchoolandCharterPerformanceParticipationUpdated0917.pdf

Parent Strike: What Is It? How Can I Help? What If I Can’t Come?

These are the questions Delaware parents have been asking me for the past five days, and it is time for some answers.  Parent Strike is a national effort on September 17th, coordinated with Constitution Day, whereby parents across America attempt to stop the insanity that has become public education.

What Is So Bad About Public Education?

  • The high-stakes testing environment which has culminated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • The lost school-time based on test prep and interim assessments
  • The penalties to schools and teachers over low-scores in our high-needs schools
  • The hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to outside companies instead of into our schools
  • The extreme amount of interference from companies without educators who think they know how to “fix” education
  • The lack of transparency from the State of Delaware with the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • Regulations inserted into code without any legislative input by the State Board of Education
  • The very structure of the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • American Institutes for Research as the testing vendor for Smarter Balanced
  • Classroom sizes that are way too big and even the most advantaged children are not able to learn
  • Schools with low demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Recognition” or “Reward” schools
  • Schools with high demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Focus” or “Priority” schools
  • The lack of true stakeholder input in the creation of standardized assessments
  • The complete and utter disregard by Governor Markell in failing to listen to parents and the legislators of Delaware with his veto of House Bill 50
  • The continued bullying and intimidation of parents by districts or charter schools when they give an opt-out letter
  • The charter schools even giving a hint that students may not get a spot or won’t be able to keep their spot over opt-out
  • The Common Core implementation and many disturbing aspects in it that have nothing to do with education
  • The lack of oversight over special education in our schools and listening to parents
  • Regulation 103 and it’s punitive measures against students, teachers, schools, and communities

How Can I Help?

  • Write a Refuse The Test letter to your child’s school advising them your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment during this school year and you expect your child to have an education while other students are testing and hand it to the administrator of the school first thing in the morning
  • Attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30 pm and go to the State Board of Education meeting at 1pm and give public comment about your opposition to Regulation 103
  • Talk with other parents at your child’s school about opt-out if they are not aware of it
  • Wear a red shirt as a symbol of protest for Parent Strike
  • Drop off flyers everywhere you go with a print-out of these bullet points
  • Paint REFUSE THE TEST on your car (with temporary paint)
  • Use stealth guerilla tactics: Put sticky notes everywhere (bathroom stalls, school supplies, in cereal and toy aisles at stores, anywhere you can think of) with REFUSE THE TEST written on it
  • Thank your child’s teacher for all they do and that you are willing to fight for them
  • Help a parent write a REFUSE THE TEST letter
  • On the night before, use sidewalk chalk on pathways parents use to walk their children to school
  • Whatever you can think of to legally spread the message

What If I Can’t Come To Dover?

  • You aren’t required to come, but all are welcome and a larger crowd always sends a larger message
  • You can write letters to the editor of your local paper
  • You can go to your local board meeting and give public comment about opt-out and your thoughts about what is going on with education
  • Plan an event for a future date to gather parents in your district to discuss what is going on with pubic education
  • Email your State Representative, State Senator, Congressmen, Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education
  • You can read all about it with hashtag #parentstrike on Twitter and the Parent Strike Facebook page and see what others in Delaware and the USA are doing

I’m going to tell a story.  The first time I went to a public meeting knowing I would give public comment, I was scared out of my mind.  I didn’t believe my voice could make a difference.  It was the State Board of Education meeting in April 2014.  Since then, I have spoken at several events.  I’ve reached out to fellow citizens across the state, from Wilmington to Rehoboth, and answered questions to the best of my ability.  I’ve educated, informed, and spent a great deal of time helping other parents.  But I won’t ever forget that first time, the hardest time.

The power of voice is one of the most amazing things in creation.  I encourage anyone speaking publicly on something they believe in for their children to reach back to the moment your child was born.  When you first looked into their eyes and vowed you would do whatever you can to protect them.  Over the years, we lose some of that.  It gets lost in all the noise.  We may know something could be bad for our child, but other factors get in the way.  We worry about the implications and overthink things to the point where we are unable to act.  Many have asked me how I can do all I do.  I don’t have an easy answer for that.  But I always remember that initial promise to my son.  The one moment that matters most of all, born out of unconditional love.

It’s not an easy thing, being brave.  It takes courage you may not think you have.  It means taking yourself out of your usual comfort zone.  Any advocate or activist started out this way.  It’s not a matter of being practical, it’s about being radical.  Too many of us see “radicals” as sign-carrying flower children from the 1960s yelling and screaming all the time or protests getting arrested.  Being radical means going against the viewpoint of those you think are wrong.  That’s it.  There is no formula to it.  I can promise you, once you start, it gets easier.  I won’t say the words get easier, but it gets easier to speak them.  The very best public comments I’ve ever heard are those initial ones, because they come from the heart and usually carry a great deal of emotion.

You need to ask yourself: who is going to speak for my child?  Teachers can’t.  Not when it comes to standardized testing and opt-out.  Your friend can’t, your neighbor can’t and your child can’t.  Only YOU can.

These are the groups or people that talk a lot about education and what’s best for your child but they also brought us to this point and you should take what they say with a grain of salt: Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  As well, for parents of minority children, I implore you to do research.  There are many civil rights groups who speak the same kind of language as the above entities.  Always find the connections.  For example, the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League spoke out against opt-out claiming it would put at-risk children even further behind.  As we have seen from the initial results of Smarter Balanced, the gaps widened even further than they did last year.  I like to think these groups go with the governmental flow and take things at face value without doing their own research.

People will tell you that you are wrong.  They will argue your points until you are blue in the face.  That’s alright.  Ask them how they know they are right and you are wrong.  Ask them for research to support their points of view.  But never, ever, just give up and throw your hands up in the air.  Don’t let Governor Markell tell you what you speak out about is a recipe for the status quo.  Don’t let Rodel tell you what your child needs to succeed.  Listen to your heart and your own convictions.

Some will tell you I am just a rebel rouser, or a fire-starter, just looking to cause chaos due to injustices inflicted on my son in the past.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  I have no vested interest whether your child is opted out or not.  I don’t get paid one single solitary cent for what I do.  Blog stats are just numbers that mean nothing to anyone.  I believe.  I believe education can and should be more than what it has become.  There are far too many in power dictating every single move, and the result is a generation that will suffer immensely.  Unless we stop it, and we stop it now.

Please share this post on your Facebook page, or your Twitter account, or Instagram.  Email it to friends.  If you believe, don’t be afraid to let others know.  Any movement starts with a few voices but it can rise to a legion more powerful than anything.

Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman & His Vehement Opposition To Parent Opt-Out Speech

Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware gave a very long oppositional speech to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 the other day at the Senate Education Committee.  I’m going to post his full comment, and then I will react to it.  I will be posting various public comments over the next two to three days, and I will include the time stamps from my recording of the meeting to show how much time each speaker was allotted.

Paul Herdman, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, 32:49-38:28

So, my name is Paul Herdman, I’m with the Rodel Foundation. I’ve got three kids in Delaware schools.  I was a teacher myself for seven years.  I’ve worked for two governors in Massachusetts on education policy and I’ve been here for the past eleven years trying to actually bring public and private players together on accommodation around education.  And frankly, this is the first time I’ve actually come and spoken in front of this in eleven years.  And I oppose HB50.  I support the resolution.  What I want to try and to do is two things.  One, clarify the issue.  And then speak to some unintended consequences.  So to touch the issue, I think there is a lot of frustration around testing.  And I think this has become the focal point for a lot of different issues.  You have some folks who just don’t like Common Core, and they are supportive of this because it seems like it’s against Common Core.  You have some who see this as truly a parent’s rights issue.  That’s true, but I think one of the challenges is that some people are concerned about the Smarter Balanced test itself, but there are some who looking at this as a way to invalidate the test overall.  Senator Matthews, who was a sponsor, I mean Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of the bill in the House, said to the News Journal a couple of different times, one, a teacher, legislator and a member of the House Education committee encouraged all parents to consider exercising their right to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, and he says further, in a subsequent article, “Kowalko and I are hoping that enough parents are getting out of the Smarter Balanced test, that the data becomes invalid.” (at this point Rep Kowalko interrupts at 34:30)

State Rep. John Kowalko: Excuse me Mr. Chairman, I never made that quote and I never made that statement and I find it unfair that you’re going to quote out of a paper what I said I never said.

Herdman: No, I, Senator…

Kowalko: You said it…

Herdman: Yes, and I’m saying that’s inaccurate.

(little bit of back and forth between Herdman and Kowalko, Senator Sokola steps in, ends at 35:02)

Herdman: Representative Matthews said, I’m just quoting what was in the paper, but, so Representative Matthews, who was a sponsor of this, let’s leave Representative Kowalko out of this issue, Matthews says, that he hopes enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.  Now, the concern with that is that what do you do next?  Right?  So maybe we don’t like this particular test, who’s going to pay for and design the new test?  It takes, right, so how would that play out, because it costs millions of dollars to actually design a test, it takes year to actually do the pilot testing, etcetera etcetera, what’s next?  And the other piece is maybe you don’t want a test at all in terms of math and reading, but that doesn’t seem to work either.  The three unintended consequences that I would just like to point out are 1) virtually every civil rights group in the country and in Delaware have come out to say they oppose opt-out.  So you’ve got everybody in the United Negro College Fund (someone in the audience is heard saying “That’s not true.”), You’ve got the NAACP, you’ve got the Urban League, Latin Community Center, have said they do not support opt-out, and the reasons for that are if you make the test invalid for some students, it makes it invalid for all students.  And the concern is that, for civil rights groups on particular, they’ve been working a long time to make sure those students are counted, and there have been dark days when kids were encouraged to opt out to raise overall test scores.  So they don’t want to return to those days.  The second thing that is an unintended consequence is that if the test becomes invalid, that you undermine the trust in the public school system.  Now we spend a fill third of our budget on education, that’s over a billion dollars.  So the concern is that, that particularly in the business community, that if we do not have a valid test, you’re going to lose trusts amongst them.  In particular, there are folks who are concerned that they just may walk away, that they may not have enough confidence in the system, that in terms of passing referendums and things like that, it’s going to become more and more difficult.  We don’t have a valid test.  Trust in the system is the second piece.  The third pieces that I’ll just leave you with is that we get $90 million a year, in federal funds, for Title I students.  We get those dollars, with the commitment, that we will show how those kids are doing.  These are for low-income kids.  Now, the U.S. Department of Education has written letters to say that those dollars could be at risk.  And when we are facing a $100 million dollar deficit this year, it’s going to be worse next year, we can’t afford to risk losing any of those dollars going into the next year and there’s no, I guess my concern is that the current bill is more than a parents rights issue.  They could have broad implications for our most vulnerable students and could undermine the thing they trust in the public education system if we don’t have a consistent and comparable assessment over time.  So that’s my concern, and I do believe that the resolution could be a more thoughtful way to look at all of our tests and how they are used, cause I believe there needs to be some course corrections but I don’t believe House Bill 50 is the right way to go.  Thank you.

The first thing I want to say is Dr. Herdman is a very good public speaker in the respect that he can be very persuasive with an audience.  I have seem him speak on YouTube, and he masters the use of his hands in luring an audience to effectively listen to him.  During this speech, he used the word “Right?” after several of his points, as if to reaffirm his statements to which most people would say “Yes” in their head.  I didn’t because I have super powers to render myself immune to that sort of thing, but many people could fall under that spell.

I disagree with most of Dr. Herdman’s comments.  I don’t believe trying to link public and private players has provided a good outcome for education in general.  It has brought more inequity than not.  Dr. Herdman is paid very handsomely to promote the Rodel Foundation’s agendas for education, more than any state, district, or charter employee in Delaware, and by a very wide margin.

The very same civil rights groups Herdman talks about are the same ones that represent vulnerable students the Rodel Foundation of Delaware has helped to put in a position of segregation in Delaware with their constant advocating for more charter schools.

I’ve already gone through the financial funding threats so many times, but for the record, one more time, that’s if the schools opt kids out, not parents.  But let’s bring that old chestnut out one more time.  In regards to returning to those “dark days”, Rodel’s actions have brought much more of the actions of those days than anything parent opt-out (not school opt-out) could ever do.

I have no qualms with Rep. Matthews quote in the News Journal, which he did say.  If a parent is going to go to all the trouble of opting their child out of a three day test, it would stand to reason it is because they don’t like the test.  If someone doesn’t like a test, of course they would want it to go away.  It is also very logical to assume if enough students are opted out the data the Rodel Foundation and the DOE want so badly would be rendered inert.  This isn’t a leap in science, and I fail to understand why Herdman would paint Rep. Matthews as the bad guy here.  I guess every side needs a villain, right Paul?

“Virtually every civil rights group in the country…”  This is completely false Dr. Herdman, and you know it.  28 national groups wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress in regards to the ESEA reauthorization in January and touched very briefly on the importance of these tests for the minorities, special needs, and low-income children they represent.  But in the beginning of April, only 12 remained to voice opposition of parent opt-out.  And as Kilroy pointed out so brilliantly, how many of those very same organizations are at the exact same physical address where your office is?

“If the test becomes invalid, you will undermine the trust in the public school system.”  If the test becomes invalid, this would validate the complete lack of trust we have in the test-makers, the DOE, and Governor Markell in terms of education.  And yes, it would invalidate your 11 years of work in Delaware as well, and that is your biggest fear in my opinion.  If Rodel and the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about potential deficits in Delaware, perhaps they could cash in their numerous hedge funds and actually fully support education, not just the ones they support for their own financial benefit.

Live From The Senate Education Committee Meeting Discussing House Bill 50: Parent Opt-Out

The Senate Education Committee in Delaware is about to hear House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  The bill already cleared the House in Delaware by an overwhelming majority, 36-3.  This is the next stop on the bill’s journey.  There are lots of proponents and opponents of this legislation here today.  If it passes here, it goes to the full Delaware Senate.  If it is voted down today in committee, the bill is dead.

Who is here?  Representatives from the Delaware Department of Education. Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara.  Dr. Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews.  Delaware PTA Vice-President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson.  Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education Donna Johnson.  Wilmington Education Advisory Commission Chair Tony Allen.  John Radell with the Faith & Freedom Coalition.  Bill Doolittle with the Delaware PTA and also a member of the Governors Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  And More!

House Bill 50 is up first.

Senator Townsend is speaking about how frightening this issue is for parents to be this worried.  He is upset there wasn’t years of research done on this issue and the Smarter Balanced Assessment has not been proven.  Parents want to see a test that works.  He wants us all to work together to decide the issues.  He has to go to another committee meeting but he will vote yes for releasing the bill.

Senator Lawson, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, is speaking about the bill.  “Parents should in fact have the right to opt-out.  This lays it out so they can under Delaware law.  Senator Sokola is upset this test is aligned to international standards.  He would put in an amendment to allow parents to get the reasons for the test.   He is talking about an email from a 3rd grade teachers about all the testing going on.  He thinks if parents can opt out of this test, they should be able to opt out of all of them.  This is why he introduced Senate Joint Resolution #2.  “We all want what’s best for our kids.”  He doesn’t like the amount of time between the actual Smarter Balanced Assessment testing and when the results show up.  He refers to No Child Left Behind as No Challenge Left Behind.  He said the DSTP (the first major standardized test in Delaware) did give him a little bit of heartburn.

Senator Dave Lawson is talking about how the test has changed 3 times and how $70 million from Race To The Top went towards this test and the desired results.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is speaking about children’s “educational journey to excellence”.   He is talking about how we use this measurement to understand what’s working, how we allocate budgets, which schools need which resources.  “We are testing too much.”  He is now talking about the assessment inventory, and whether the tests have quality or if they are redundant.  “These assessments help to unlock doors.”  “We all need this information to move forward.”

State Rep. Kowalko came in.  He is going over the essential facts concerning House Bill 50.  He is talking about the lack of law on opt-out which is for or against.  “This is not an indictment against Smarter Balanced Assessment or Common Core.”  He and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, President of the State Board of Education, had an interview with WHYY earlier today.  He told her and he is telling the committee how this test is not needed and parents see this.  “If a parent feels…this can harm (their child) psychologically, they have that right.”  “It’s about parental rights, pure and simple the rights of the parents.”

Sokola has a problem with the local districts and the amount of money they spend on tests.  He served on an international committee going over the assessments, and all the kids are taking these tests in the high-performing countries of the world.  In no country, other than this country, are they taking these tests every year.  “If kids aren’t learning, we have to figure out a way to teach them.”  Kowalko said “It would be disingenuous for parents to opt their child out of any test.”  There is no track record in place, he explained, but the bill does not say we are getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  “All we are doing is giving an opportunity for those who know their child best.”

Sokola asked why it was changed to just the SBAC.  “What happens in two years if we change to the PARCC?”  (Dear lord, no!!!).  Kowalko explained that he didn’t want to shut the door prematurely if a test is designed that will give the results that matter.  Sokola said this was why he introduced SJR #2.  “We have real important issues we have to change.”  This test is needed, according to Sokola, to help students that are having issues.  He said “We can get real good data from this.”  Kowalko spoke about the many emails he received from parents regarding the psychological damage done to parents and students over this test.

Bob Byrd with the Delaware Business Roundtable is speaking about their group’s opposition to this bill.  “We think this is the wrong thing to do at this particular time.”  He presented a letter from their chair, Ernie Dianastisis.  Lorraine Gloede is speaking about how her neighbor opted her child out and there was definite repurcussions for his child in opting out.  John Radell said every professional in the country are saying this test is not proven.  “It is a disaster around the country.”  “This is an experiment.”  He said children should not be guinea pigs.  “We don’t need more gimmicks!”  We are testing kids based on empty skillsets.  These kids don’t have time to be told six years down the road to find out this test doesn’t work.

Dr. Paul Herdman from Rodel Foundation is speaking.  He has three kids in Delaware public schools.  He has tried for eleven years to bring public and private education together.  He opposes HB50.  He said there is a lot of frustration around testing.  He is referring to House Rep. Matthews News Journal opinion piece and how he said “He hopes that enough parents are getting out of the test that the data becomes invalid.”  His concern is what’s next, and all the expense gone into this.  “Every civil rights group in the country has come out against opt-out.”  If you make this test invalid for one student, you make it invalid for all students, according to the civil rights groups.  “We undermine the trust in public education.”  He said we get $90 million dollars a year from federal funding for Title I students, low-income students.  His concern is can we afford to risk losing these funds when we are already facing a $100 million dollar deficit in this state.  “I don’t believe House bill 50 is the right way to go.”

The Delaware Chamber of Commerce spokesperson is speaking in opposition to the bill.  They oppose HB 50 and support SJR #2.  Mike Matthews is talking about how it is business group’s rights to talk about education, but they aren’t advocating for higher wages for the parents of low-income students.  Yvonne Johnson is speaking about how she has never received so many emails and complaints in her many years with the PTA as they have with the SBAC.  She is opposed to SJR #2.  She doesn’t think SBAC is the answer to our children.  HB 50 is a symptom to a larger problem.  “No one is losing federal funding.” I spoke next and railed against the whole Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it is dangerous. Senator Sokola cut me off stating I was repeating things as I brought up the never-talked about in this meeting letters from the DOE indicating how it was illegal to opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He said they have other bills to hear. Dr. Teri Quinn Gray spoke about the need for this data and how she is there to speak for the students. She was not cut off as she was allowed to speak much longer than myself. Tara Greathouse spoke and was cut off by Sokola when she asked questions about what is best for her children.

Due to other committees in session, the bill is being circulated so we do not know the results yet.

**UPDATED** 5:02pm, still no word on House Bill 50 and whether it has been released from the Senate Education Committee.