DSEA Will Be Part Of NEA’s ESSA Implementation Team

The largest teachers union in America is going to have representatives from each state as part of their Every Student Succeeds Implementation Team.  This group was formed so they can comb through the recently passed ESSA signed by President Obama last month.  I know a few of the folks on this team, and I certainly hope they can help Delaware students, parents, teachers, and schools navigate through this transitional period.

There is news below about the ESSA and opt-out.  I strongly urge all Delaware parents to read this as the new law allows for opt-out policies to be made at the state level, not the Federal level.  This comes at a crucial time as the Delaware General Assembly is on the cusp of overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  The ESSA does not allow for the feds to issue letters about funding cuts whatsoever.  The key words in this are “maintains requirements that assessments be administered to at least 95% of all students“.  Schools control that, but they have absolutely no control if a parent chooses to not have their child take the assessment.

From their monthly newsletter, “Professionally Speaking”:

ESSA Explained

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December has raised an overwhelming number of questions from educators and other education stakeholders as to what is actually contained within the law.  Over the next few issues of DSEA’s digital newsletters, Professionally Speaking and Legislative Matters, we will feature some of the key differences between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In this issue we focus upon Standards and Assessments:

ESSA Standards Table_2

ESSA Assessments Table_2
For any of the changes outlined above, it is important to remember that successful implementation of this new bill will be dependent upon the decisions made at the state and local levels.  Educator input on state and district policies covering testing, accountability systems, and how ESSA can best support the whole child will be crucial to ensuring that the bill truly works for students and schools.

To meet DSEA and other state affiliate needs, NEA has created an ESSA Implementation Team.  This team will have its first meeting in Washington, DC on January 22-23, 2016.   Implementation team members will learn more about the core aspects of the law, provide advice about how best to equip affiliates and members with tools they need, and formulate strategies for connecting affiliates, members and staff together in this implementation effort so that we learn from each other and can help each other.  

State affiliates were asked to submit name of staff and educators to be part of this team. DSEA team members from Delaware include Kristin Dwyer, DSEA Director of Government Relations, Deb Stevens, DSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy, Jesse Parsley, an Association Rep and 8th grade math teacher at Milford Central Academy, and Jill League, a member of the DPAS II Advisory Committee and a 5th grade teacher at Brandywine Springs Elementary.  Watch for more information about ESSA implementation from our team in the near future.

I’ll Take The Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, But I’ll Opt Out Of The Parsley!

I thought my recording of the Delaware Senate legislative session covering House Bill 50 would have able to be transcribed, but I’ll have to tinker with it and see if I can muffle some sounds (like the tip tap of me typing live during it).  I especially want to get the part with the Milford special education teacher, Jesse Parsley on here.  I’ll do my best.

Every single teacher I talked to about his testimony thought it was very flawed compared to their experience, including a couple teachers at the very school he teaches at.  None of them had such a flawless Smarter Balanced Assessment implementation.  They ALL took offense about his “teaching to the test” comments and if teachers are doing that then they aren’t doing it right.

Interesting facts continue to come my way about Mr. Parsley.  I’ll hold off on some of them cause I don’t like to go the personal route.  But I find it bizarre to say the least.  It almost seemed as if he was my counter, as a special education teacher, to somehow discount the problems numerous special education teachers and parents of special needs children have been saying.  If nobody else agrees with you, what does that make your testimony in front of a room full of state senators?

I’m sure certain people will take offense I am singling out Mr. Parsley, but he can take the credit for that.  If you want to go public about a controversial topic, you should expect some controversy, especially when most people aren’t on the same page as you.  I’ll opt out of the Parsley thank you very much!

If you are wondering about the odd title, it’s from a Simon and Garfunkel song from back in the 1960’s.  I’m showing my age here (even though I was technically born in the 1970’s).

Delaware Parents: You Don’t Need House Bill 50 To Opt-Out

After watching the absolute degrading way some Delaware legislators handled House Bill 50, I find myself no longer caring if this bill passes or not.  With no disrespect to State Rep. Kowalko, Senator Lawson, and the many legislators who supported this bill, but it has become so watered down it is now a joke.  To the parents of Delaware: you have never needed this legislation to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bill, as originally written, was always meant to stop the bullying and intimidation going on in our schools.  Yes, it codified a parents right to opt-out, but even more important, it offered protection.  This is what Senator Sokola, State Rep. Jaques, the DOE, Rodel, Governor Markell and all the opposition feared the most.

They don’t want schools to NOT be held accountable.  They don’t want teachers to NOT have their evaluations become skewed due to opt-out.  But most of all, they don’t want their data to become tarnished.  Opt-out does that, in spades.  Seeing the opposition in action has absolutely sickened me to my stomach.  These are people who do not give one iota of a crap about parents.  They are in it for themselves: for power, for an imagined standing with God knows what, for money, and for opportunity.  We all know who they are, and if I haven’t made that abundantly clear in the past year, then I will again and again, one by one.

What I can no longer do is keep going to meeting after meeting, watching vote after vote, and keep seeing a mockery made of parents and students.  Politics in Delaware is frightening.  The side deals, the messages scurried back and forth, like little rats trying to get to the prize.  The very fact that legislators and their aides are not subject to FOIA allows for all kinds of shenanigans.  I saw it yesterday as Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsey O’Mara, was sending notes to legislators and texting Sokola’s legislative assistant Tanner Polce, who would then go to Sokola to say what she said.  What the hell is that?  I’m sure this goes on in politics all the time, and it’s probably not even illegal in this whacked out state, but does that make it right?  No.

We deserve better from our state.  But we continue to vote some of the same people into power again and again and then we scratch our heads and wonder why.  Sokola has been jacking up education in our state for 25 years.  That’s a quarter of a century with a lot of damage.  I’m sure, like most politicians, he had honorable intentions in the beginning.  But now he is a mockery of the office he holds, and I seriously hope a contender comes along and knocks him off his high horse.

I will be writing more about all of this, but I will no longer beg and plead to have my rights honored and those of other parents in our state.  Our rights are there.  You can’t touch them, you can’t see them, but they are as real as the stars in the sky.  Opt your kids out if you don’t like this test.  I will cheer you on the whole time you are doing it, but trying to get laws in place for this I can no longer do in the environment we live in.  What the “evil” legislators are doing is so toxic to children, and they don’t care.  They don’t live in the same world as you or I.  To so many of them, it is about what happens in their chamber at Legislative Hall in Dover.

To the teachers of Delaware: you all need to rise up and finally make a stand.  If you don’t like what is happening with your jobs, then you need to once and for all unite and do it loudly.  But do it right, and do it with pride and dignity and don’t back down.  As the saying goes, “you can’t negotiate with terrorists”, and that’s what is happening in your profession.  The fear mongering and threats held over your head cause many of you to sink into a corner.  Stop doing that.  If you believe in what you do, then stand up for it.  Fight.  Do not like a traitor like Jesse Parsley be the voice for teachers.  Call them out and name them.

Parents will fight for their children.  And this battle will continue.  The war is not over.

I am not abandoning opt-out.  At its essence it has always been a grassroots movement based on our deep and abiding love for our children and getting the policy-makers to listen.  None of us wanted this to be a perversion of our beliefs, but that’s what happened thanks to Sokola, Jaques, and all the rest.