It Is Time For The Regulation 225 Opposition To Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is!

This has been my biggest beef with the opposition of Regulation 225.  So many of those who are full-throttle opposed to it do not want the State of Delaware dictating something that could deny them their parental rights.  They don’t want schools making decisions on behalf of their children without their consent.  But they have been doing this for years!  And you have had the most powerful weapon at your disposal and have not utilized it!

Every year, the public school children of Delaware are forced to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is a worthless test that really tells you nothing about your child.  You don’t get the results until AFTER the school year is over.  It doesn’t tell you what your child’s key strengths are.  It doesn’t tell you anything.  But you allow your child to sit in front of a computer over a three-week period and take a test.  Based on Common Core which many of you can’t stand already.

If you stand for parental rights and deciding how your child should be educated, you can’t do it in small chunks.  You need to do it full throttle, in ALL aspects.  If you want to tell the state that YOU are the parent and YOU make the best decisions for your kids, do it all the way.

If you truly believe in parental rights, you will prove that by opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment which starts in a few weeks in many of our schools.  I have seen thousands of you oppose a regulation you believe is harmful.  But I can guarantee you the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been pumping out data about your own child to education companies around the country.  I can guarantee you it is a complete waste of time, money, and resources when our kids could be getting a more well-rounded education.  But you let the State do this every single year.  Some kids do bad on those kind of tests.  It doesn’t mean they need extra intervention.  Some kids ace those tests and may not get good grades.  It doesn’t mean they don’t need intervention.  Students with disabilities usually do terrible on those tests because the accommodations for them are horrible.  Three years of this test and we are expected to believe it is a good test?  The needle hasn’t moved at all.  And it is based on Common Core.

Governor Carney wants more Math coaches in our schools based on his proposed budget.  He wants those coaches in middle schools.  Do you know why?  Because the foundations of Common Core begin in the earlier grades.  And it’s been around long enough that kids who were once in elementary school are now in middle school and don’t get the math!  Our kids can’t stand Common Core math.  Parents can’t stand it.  If we need more math coaches in middle schools it is because COMMON CORE MATH DOESN’T WORK!  But every year we let the state give our kids a test on it and then the state says “our schools need help” because of the test results.  This is just one reason why I am befuddled with those who oppose Regulation 225!

You say you don’t want our schools doing this but you have ignored what they have already been doing for years.  And here is the kicker: the schools hate these tests as well.  They won’t tell you that, but they know it.  It is state and federal driven, but behind that curtain is a whole bunch of companies that are profiting off YOUR kid based on the results of these tests.  And don’t let anyone tell you we will lose all federal funding over opt out.  It hasn’t happened in any other state.  In New York and New Jersey they had more kids opt out than the entire population of Delaware.  If you want to bring sanity back to education, it starts here.  I don’t bemoan you opposing this regulation.  It is your right to oppose something you don’t want for your child.  What I do bemoan is parents not getting involved enough.  When they are ignoring what is so clearly right before their very eyes.

If you REALLY want to send a message to the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary Bunting, you should opt our child out tomorrow or today based on when you read this.  All you need to do is write a simple letter to the school:

Date: ______

Dear Principal ______, of (insert school name here),

I am opting my child, ________ __________, out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I expect my child to attend school on the days the test is administered and receive educational instruction while the other students take the test.  I do not want a call from the Principal or any teachers telling me why I should not opt my child out.  As well, I do not want to receive any letters from the school or district based on the Delaware Department of Education template letter indicating I can not opt my child out.  Furthermore, I will not tolerate any type of retaliation or punitive action against my child over my fundamental right to opt my child out.  This type of retaliation includes, but is not exclusive to, any threat of summer school, holding them back a year, or any type of isolation activity.

Thank you for your time,

Respectfully,

_______ ____________

After you give this to the Principal of the school, as in hand-deliver it to them, have them sign an acknowledgment form that they received your opt out letter for your child.  This way they can’t say later they never got it.  It can be as simple as this:

I acknowledge that I have received an opt out letter from ______ ______, parent or guardian of ______ ________.

Date: _________

Signature: ________

When you have done this, start taking a serious look at the enormous amount of data collection already going on with your child.  Start looking at EVERYTHING and ask yourself “Is this what I want for my child?”  If the answer is no, don’t stop with opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Educate yourself.  Read.  Learn.  Don’t listen to what places like the Rodel Foundation and the Delaware DOE are telling you.  Listen to what other parents and teachers at the ground level have been saying for years.  Those who of us who have been in the trenches and calling our legislators and Governors out for their totalitarian approaches to education.  Don’t believe the Delaware DOE is miraculously turning into a “support organization”.  Because that support is designed to drive up test scores on an already flawed test.  And just wait until they turn that once a year test into stealth assessments, throughout the year.  Make your move now or your child and grandchildren will deal with the long-term consequences for the rest of their lives.  This isn’t something you should hem and haw on.  You shouldn’t mull it over.  You should just do it.

 

Las Americas Aspiras Lies To Parents About Opt-Out & Federal Funding Cuts

Unbelievable.  Just when I thought I had seen it all.  Las Americas Aspiras has never been on my radar for anything.  Tonight I learned their Head of School, Margie Lopez Waite, is telling parents through their PTO organization the school would lose ALL federal funding if they don’t hit the 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is a complete lie, and she knows it.  Need proof?  Here it is:

lasamericasaspiras

For parents of children who go to this school.  If you want to opt your child out, go ahead and opt them out.  200,000 students opted out in New York last Spring.  Do you know  how much Federal funding got cut from those schools? Zero.  Not one penny.  Schools are obligated to make sure THEY do not opt kids out.  There is absolutely nothing in the law that states parents cannot opt their child out.  It is your Constitutional right.  This is a bullying tactic by charter schools and certain school districts in Delaware.  The DOE tried this last Spring, and I called them out on it.  Governor Markell has tried this as well.  Didn’t work then either.  Now what a charter may lose if too many students opt-out is bragging rights.  That’s right, your child has become not only a victim of standardized testing madness, but also bragging rights. Newark Charter School sent out an email within a day after the Smarter Balanced results came out about how great they are.

Delaware parents, especially those who have students in charters, a school cannot kick your child out if you opt them out.  They cannot make your child take the test.  Anything they do as a result is retaliation.  Which you have many legal rights to protect you and your child.  Let them say no.  Let them tell you why you can’t opt your child out.  But if you want your child to be opted out, do it.  Stand your ground and educate other parents about their rights.  As well, contact your legislators to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 so our schools don’t spread lies like this and bully parents into having their kids take a test they don’t want their child taking.

This test has NO bearing whatsoever on your child.  It is not counted for retention.  A school cannot legally make your child go to summer school if you opt them out or your child does bad on it.  They cannot make your child spend Spring Break on test prep.  If they are telling you this, they are way out of line.  Let your child be a child.  Not a guinea pig.  Let them enjoy their summer and Spring Break.  They were designed for that purpose!  But whatever you do, do not let ignorant school leaders tell you what you can and cannot do for your own child.  Shame on them!  They can and should know better.  What message is that sending about your school leadership capabilities if you are blatantly lying to parents?  REFUSE THE TEST!

Updated, 8:51pm: I just sent the following email to Margie Lopez-Waite at Las Americas Aspiras-

Opt-Out and Truth

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
“margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us” <margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Tuesday, November 3, 2015 8:40 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out and Truth

Good evening Miss Lopez-Waite,
I wanted to contact you in regards to the horrible lies parents of children who attend your school are being told in regards to opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  As you know, Federal funding threats have NEVER been used against schools for not meeting the 95% participation rate for state assessments.  The law is written so that schools do not opt-out kids, not parents. 
Please contact all your parents and let them know the truth about this so they can make informed decisions without complete falsehoods.  I have already written about this tonight on Exceptional Delaware, but to ensure all parents know the truth, please send out a reply to the school’s PTO generated email that went out to all parents.  Thank you.
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt
Exceptional Delaware

Arne Duncan’s Threats Of Federal Funding Cuts For Opt-Out Go Up In Smoke!

Kate Taylor wrote in the New York Times today an article stating New York State Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, would not give any district with high opt-out rates any Federal funding cuts for going below the 95% participation threshold in standardized tests.

But on Thursday, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, said that the federal Education Department informed the state’s Education Department “a couple of weeks ago” that it was leaving any decision about financial penalties to the state. And Ms. Tisch, whose board oversees the state agency and appoints the commissioner, said the state did not plan to withhold money from districts.

All that melodrama from United States Secretary of Education and state education leaders and Governors about Federal funding cuts, including Title I funds, was nothing but empty threats.  I’ve been saying this for months, as well as many others, but no one in my state, Delaware, would indicate this would or would not happen.  I heard from one state legislator in Delaware who indicated he opposed our opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, because “you don’t know what Arne Duncan told me he will do if this passes.”  Now we have a crystal clear answer: nothing.

In Delaware, in approximately one month, we will experience Parent Freak-Out 2015 when Delaware parents receive the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  As I stated when Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50 in July, opt-out is dead, just REFUSE THE TEST!  But I still want the 148th General Assembly to override Markell’s veto, because it is a great bill!

On the first day of school, starting next week for many Delaware students, just give the letter to the principal stating you refuse to let your child take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, you expect your child to be educated based on their current curriculum, and you do not want to discuss it further.  This is your right Delaware parents, and no one can stop you from doing this.  Do what is right for your child and REFUSE THE TEST!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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