Live From The DE PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall

Parental Opt-Out of Standardized Testing

The meeting just started.  Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the DE PTA will be moderating.  Due to bad weather up North, some of the members of the panel couldn’t make it.  Aside from Hodges, we have Yvonne Johnson, Donna Johnson (no relation), Brian Touchette, and Shelley Rouser.  State Rep. John Kowalko is in the house!

Yvonne Johnson is going over the basics on what assessments are and what high-stakes testing is.  For students this COULD mean promotion or retention.  Y. Johnson said one parent at the Newcastle County meeting said a parent said a school stopped a student from getting into an Advanced Placement class based on the student’s DCAS scores.  Yvonne said she feels this is a misuse of the purpose of high-stakes testing.  For educators this can affect their performance ratings.

Smarter Balanced is being used to align with Common Core.  You have to have a test to measure what it was designed for.  Student accountability will be determined by the local school district.  There are no consequences from the state DOE for student accountability.

Proponents of state assessments feel it motivates students to work harder, allows for teacher accountability, identifies areas of needed instruction.  Opponents feel it is not a reliable method of evaluating student growth or judging teachers.  The test is too long and takes up valuable class time.

Now were getting the whole “college and career readiness” statement which will assuredly help a child in 3rd grade.

Getting the DE DOE statement on conditions for opt out: medical or psychological issues.  The Delaware PTA will be voting at their next meeting on March 24th to officially state DE PTA supports parent opt out.

We are getting ready for questions after a statement from Brian Touchette, DE DOE Director of Assessment.  First question: What is the DOE’s stance on children being educated who have been opted out.  “A student shouldn’t be sitting and staring at a computer screen,” said Touchette.  But it is up to the districts to determine that.

2nd question: How can the fidelity of accommodations be assured for students in small-group testing?  Touchette said teachers are given guidance for how this should be implemented.  The teachers should know by now how to administer the test. A father asked point blank “Will the test follow my son’s IEP”, Touchette went to give an answer, but the father said “Yes or no?”.  Touchette went on about adaptations to the test.

A question was asked about the definition of individuals in Title 14, in regards to the assessment.  Touchette said the laws were written for schools, not parents.  Donna Johnson, director of the State Board of Education said there is nothing written in the assessment language in Federal or Delaware code about parent rights with opting out.  “Those are curricular decisions made by parents”.  There are state and federal requirements with testing for the schools who are obligated to give the test for children.  “It’s not directed at parents.”  Shelley Rouser said that is designed to make sure teachers don’t give lower performing students an out to keep the scores up.  Johnson (Donna) said the only way to measure schools is by having common assessments.  It is to help improve the education and reward the schools who are doing good and give the resources to those who need help.

DE State Rep. John Kowalko clarified parents have a Constitutional right to opt their parents out.  “If you think you can assess a student from Long Island with a student from Mississippi it is a Nirvana to try to do that.”

Someone asked about the Missouri local court ruling that the Smarter Balanced Asssessment Consortium is an illegal entity.  Okay, I asked that.  Donna Johnson said she has checked with legal counsel and is being told the state consortium was not directed at a Federal level.

Touchette responded to a question that the amount of testing has been reduced.  The AP teacher said students were pulled out of the class last year to do field tests.  Touchette said they were going to be making plans for that.  The teacher is stating it is very expensive and difficult for students in 11th grade with AP classes.  She is asking about make-up zones for when a student is opted out.  Kowalko is clarifying said House Bill 50 would allow for this matter to be looked at.

Yvonne Johnson said some of the letter responses parents got back from the school districts when they opted their child out were very threatening.  She is reading a statement from a superintendent who came out with a statement today (wonder who that is).  Yvonne said this is very threatening to parents.  She brought up the Appo letter and she sent it to the DOE to review. “Parents are confused and it is difficult .”

A parent explained how this test gives no immediate results and the student will go to a new teacher with no ability to learn from the test.  Shelley Rouser explained regular classroom tests allow students to learn from tests and this assessment shouldn’t be confused with the purpose of what teachers are supposed to be doing.

Kowalko said when they passed House Bill 334, the Smarter Balanced bill, they got rid of MAP testing which gave teachers direction for students through the year.  Teachers will still have those kinds of assessments.  The purpose of assessments is not to measure an artificial goal, but the needs of the teacher to meet the needs of the children.  The only thing accomplished by SBA is that No Child Left Behind is continued.  He said it’s about the individuals and public education is not about forcing kids to reach a level to aspire to.  It is about a bogus ideal and it is not right and it is not fair.

Parent Nelia Dolan said her children are tested numerous times a year through interim SBA assessments and she is very troubled by this.  Donna Johnson said there is a decrease in testing time through state mandated assessments.  A teacher and parent said there are ads on Craigslist for test scorers for $11 an hour and only 48 college credits.  Touchette said the DOE is using a company called AIR for test scorers and the training will be very extensive.

The same teacher said as a teacher she doesn’t need to review standardized assessments to gage how her students are doing, she already knows based on summative and formative assessments within her own classroom.  She also explained how cultural bias can play a role in the test.  Touchette said items go through multiple periods of review to determine if these types of biases show up on the tests.  There is a bias committee to address these types of issues.  Then field tests occur to judge the test from there.  If there are items that show up like this they are tossed from the test.

A reporter from the Dover Post asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be used instead of the SAT for college entrance.  Donna said this is a topic of discussion but not right away.  I’m sure someone will comment on this latest revelation.

A parent from Sussex Academy said if teachers didn’t pass DCAS they didn’t go on to the next grade.  Another parent said Providence Creek Academy was the same way.  An art teacher said this has completely changed the way she is able to teach.  “My physical class has been completely taken over and I spend 70% of my time having students write about art and the creation time is slim to none.”

Donna Johnson wanted to hear from the audience what their exact problems were with the actual test.  One parent commented about a math sample he saw for scoring purposes where a student got the right answer but didn’t explain it right and didn’t get the full score.  But another got the wrong answer and explained it “right” and got a higher score.  Okay, I was that parent!  I asked Donna Johnson how this makes kids college ready.  I advised her if she went to her boss with wrong numbers he wouldn’t say “Oh, but you explained it right.”  He would say “Go back and do it again.”

Parents complained about the psychological effects of the test, such as kids vomiting before school, anxiety attacks, and the need to perform.  Parents said the language and wording can have many interpretations and meanings behind them which makes it VERY confusing.  I advised it will be especially hard for special needs students.

I did clarify with Donna Johnson that the state of Delaware can not hold a teacher or state employee accountable for opting their child out of the test.  That would be a district decision since they hire the teachers.  So I clarified, if I was a teacher at Capital, at Dover High School, and I opted my kid out, the state would do nothing.  She said yes.  The local district would make that decision.  But she seriously doubted any district would enforce that decision.

I think this meeting was less heated than the Newcastle County one.  Touchette did leave early due to weather conditions and he had to drive back to Wilmington.  Donna Johnson handled the crowd pretty well.  I did tell her afterwards that the next big issue is the free lunch program.  I told her the food sucks and she needs to fix that.  I’m sure I missed some stuff here, so feel free to comment if you were there.



A Must Read! FULL Transcript of DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

An individual transcribed the complete Delaware Parent Teachers Association Parent Opt Out Town Hall from February 19th.  Transcription is a very difficult endeavor.  I’ve done it before, and it is time-consuming at best.  The longest I’ve ever done it for was a forty-five minute meeting.  This person did it for a two-hour meeting with multiple participants.  I posted the part with “Mr. Brandywine” yesterday, but this also has this individual’s conversation with him afterwards.

If you are on the fence about opting your child out, this is an essential document for you to read.  If you will never do so, you may want to read this anyways to find the “true value” of these tests.

Mr. Brandywine Transcript From DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

Details are still coming in on the controversial Delaware PTA Parent Opt-Out Town Hall from Thursday night.  One member of the audience saw how heated this meeting was going to be so they recorded it.  This same individual also went to the trouble of transcribing the incident with the member of the audience who is being referred to on social media as Mr. Brandywine.

First of all I’d just like to say thank you to the parents that came out tonight. I work for the Brandywine School District and it means a lot to see you here, expressing your concerns around the amount of testing. But, I sit here and I look across the room and I see a teacher that I used to work with, Sabrina Fitzhugh, who I think is an outstanding teacher. I think if every parent sat here, you can run through the outstanding teachers that your children have in the public school systems.  And please be cognizant of the unintended consequence that opting out will have.  Cause I sit here and I think, ‘when Sabrina gets her evaluation and some of the top performing students in her class opt out, Sabrina has to live with maybe a rating that doesn’t reflect….. (at this point several people became irate and were flabbergasted by what he was saying.)  And, and I share the concern on the amount of testing and I just want to be clear (Someone from the audience, I believe her name was Meg Eldred, a teacher in the Christina School District, stated that opting out was nothing personal against the teacher) and I know that… (there was more grumbling from the audience.  Terri Hodges called for the audience to be respectful of him and to allow him to speak.  To which, the audience questioned WHY he was being given the floor at all.  He was not a member of the panel and no other member of the audience had been given the right to speak, outside of the questions that were asked on the index cards, except to clarify a question that was asked)  I will be the first one to share your concern on the amount of testing, right?  But there are ripple effects and I want that to be heard not just to the parents, but I think that we all need to be cognizant of that because we do have outstanding teachers. So, please bare that in mind.

Mr. Brandywine was later identified as Brandywine Assistant Superintendent of Academics, Lincoln Hohler.  A message was left for Mr. Holher yesterday for comment on this issue, but no call has been returned at this point.