Hey Terri & Yvonne! DE PTA Needs To Get Back On The Opt Out Bus! If NY PTA Can Do This, You Should Too!

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the United States Department of Education is required to issue regulations associated with the new law.  Of course U.S. Secretary of Education John King saw this as his big chance to make his national mark for his corporate education reform buddies, so he stuck with the accountability script and harsh rules about opt out of high-stakes tests.  The New York Parent Teacher Organization wrote a letter to King as part of their public comment for the regulations.

Something to keep in mind is the National PTA’s bizarre stance on parent opt out.  They are against it and don’t want the state PTA’s advocating it either.  Last February, they threatened Delaware with severe sanctions if they continue to advocate for a parent’s right to opt out.  This caused a complete shutdown with Delaware PTA on the issue.

Here is the letter the NY PTA sent to King:

There are a few other things readers need to be aware of when it comes to this issue.  Sanctions against the NY PTA would not be as damaging as ones against Delaware PTA.  If even ten percent of NY parents belong to their PTA, that is still at least ten times the amount of members as Delaware PTA.  Which means they have a lot more cash and pull with National PTA.  Plus, New Yorkers are a hell of a lot fiestier than Delawareans.  That doesn’t mean I would seriously mess with the Dynamic Duo of Dr. Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson.  I wrote a few articles about this issue last winter, as well as poking a bit at Johnson’s involvement with the Christina School District.  I caught holy hell for that.

But I do wish Delaware would follow New York’s lead on this.  They are basically telling John King AND National PTA “We don’t care what your stance on opt out is.  We are going to tell parents what their rights are.”  New York leads the way with opt outs, followed by New Jersey.  Yes, Delaware’s PTA could get into a heck of a lot of trouble with National PTA if they get back on their opt out positions, but who cares?  This a PARENT-TEACHER organization, not Laura Bay and Friends.  If the former district testing coördinator wants to hate on opt out, let her.  But she should not get a whole parent organization to stop doing what they feel is best for parents.  It’s kind of what they are there for Ms. Bay!

In the meantime, the next few months will be very interesting, not only in Delaware, but across the country.  As these regulations go forward, I predict a lot of pushback from many states, teacher unions, parents, schools, and advocates for public education.  Hopefully, the members of Congress who like to call out John King on a monthly basis will continue to do so.  If they don’t, John King gets his way, and the punitive mandates of Race To The Top will still be here.

The Parent Bill Of Rights For Education

Since the Center for American Progress, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, and the President of the National PTA want to get 10,000 signatures on their Testing Bill of Rights within the next month, I think it is only fair parents who opt their children out of high-stakes assessments do the same.  With that being said, this article needs 20,000 commenters, or official signatures, within the next month.  We need to tell these corporate education reformers: NO MORE!  If we get 50,000, even better.

Our parental bill of rights regarding opt out or refusing the test bill of rights will be a work in progress, morphing and changing based on the need.  We will make sure every single legislator and decision-maker as it pertains to education in our country has a copy of this.  Parents and guardians are the stewards of our children, not corporations and politicians.  They are not “your” property.  They are unique and individual.

THE PARENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS FOR OUR CHILDREN IN EARLY EDUCATION, PRE-SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

CONCERNING HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENTS, OUR RIGHT TO OPT OUT OR REFUSE OUR CHILD OUT OF THOSE ASSESSMENTS, THE COLLECTION OF STUDENT DATA, AND OUR RIGHT TO GATHER

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PARENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Definition of parent: any biological parent, or a parent through legal adoption, or foster parent, or guardian, or court-appointed guardian, for children through the ages of birth to 18 or 21 with guardianship through the end of an IEP, whichever is later.

Whereas parents have been given the responsibility to raise a child and to help guide them to adulthood, as their primary caregiver, and

Whereas parents, through United States Supreme Court decisions and other laws, have the right to decide what is best for our children in education matters until they come to a legal age when they are able to make those decisions on their own, and

Whereas, we believe public education should be reserved for the public at large and not the corporations, be they profit or non-profit, and that decisions based on education are best made at the local level, and

Whereas, we believe any assessments given to our children should provide immediate feedback for the student, teacher, school, and parent as defined for the sole purpose of giving reasonable and interpretive analysis of academic progress for our child’s allotted grade.

Whereas, as the caretakers of our children, we demand that decisions regarding data and the collection of data are parental decisions and that we furthermore have the absolute, unconditional right and ability to consent or not consent to any sharing of said data

(1) As parents, we have the fundamental, moral, and constitutional right to make decisions on behalf of our children in regards to their education.

(a) This includes the type of school we decide they go to, whether it be in a traditional school district, public charter school, vocational school, private school, homeschool, or homeschool co-op program.

(b) This includes our ability to refuse or opt our children out of standardized assessments despite accountability measures placed upon a school.

(1) Once we have submitted our letter indicating our choice to refuse or opt out our child, we shall receive no verbal or written words meant to threaten, bully, or intimidate, in an effort, whether intentional or coincidental, to coerce us into changing our minds.

(2) We expect our children to receive instruction while their peers take the state assessment that is of equal or greater value to the type of instruction they would receive prior to or after the administration of the state assessment.

(3) If our child is forced to take a test after we have already given our consent to refuse or opt out, we reserve the right to call the local police and press charges against the local education administration.

(4) If we witness parents who are bullied or intimidated, we will advocate on their behalf with their consent, if they feel they are unable to do so.

(2) We reserve the right, as dictated by United States of America Federal Law, Title 34, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Part 99.32 (b), to request all personal identifiable information sent as data or official records to all parties indicated in the entirety of Title 34, Subtitle A, and to receive the entire list of all those who have disseminated, received, or researched said data, and to receive such record keeping as required by federal law, within the 30 day timeframe.

(a) Parents also reserve the right to have any aggregated data on our child, which could conceivably set up a pattern of identification based on our unique and individual child’s health records, social-emotional behavior, discipline, socio-economic, or any such identifiable trait or history of said traits, be banned from any education research organization, personalized learning computer system, or blending learning computer systems, standardized assessment(s), or any other form of educational environment practice or computer-based digital learning environment, whether it is through algorithms already built into a system or any other form of data collection that does not include the legal definition of personal identifiable information, at our request.

(1) This would also include any State Longitudinal Data System, or any Federal system, up to and including the Federal Learning Registry, a joint system shared by the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Defense.

(2) Parents have the right to reject any “competency-based education” decisions for our children that we feel are not based on reasonable, valued, well-researched, or statistically-normed guidelines or analysis.

(3) Parents may freely reject any form of data collection, data-mining, or data sharing that would lead to our child having a pre-determined pathway to a career based on any such data unless we give consent for said behavior, before the actual data collection, data-mining, or data sharing by any education agency or institution, and as such, we reject and forbid any trajectory-based decisions for our child unless we have given complicit consent.

(3) For any education decisions regarding our children that we, as parents, feel is not safe, or is inadequate, or is unhealthy for our children, we hereby reserve the right to be able to give public comment to any governing body, without incident or refusal, based on compliance with existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of public meeting conduct, based on our First Amendment Rights.

(4) As parents, we reserve the right to gather, discuss, and give advice to other parents or concerned citizens, in any public meeting or gathering place or social gathering place, whether it is physical or on the internet, without censorship, removal, or banishment, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable rules of conduct set forth by the host of the public meeting place or social gathering place.

(5) Parents have the right to lobby elected officials or local school board officials or state board of education officials, regarding pending, suggested, or passed legislation or regulation, that parents deem harmful to their child or children in general, without cause or incident, based on existing, applicable, and reasonable law.

(a) We expect our elected officials, based on their availability, to make every concerted effort to personally respond to our request(s) and to not send a generic form letter, but rather to constructively engage with parents to the same effort they would with any official registered lobbyist who is paid to do so.

(6) As parents, we reject the ability of corporations to “invest” or “hedge” in education with financial predictors of success, including social impact bonds, or any other type of investments where financial institutions or corporations would gain financial benefit or loss based on student outcomes, as we believe a child’s education should be based on the unique and individual talents and abilities of each child, not as a collective group or whole.

(7) As parents, we believe our child’s teacher(s) are the front line for their education, and therefore, have the most immediate ability and responsibility to guide our children towards academic success, and therefore, should have the most say in their instruction.

(a) Therefore, we believe no state assessment can give a clear picture of a teacher’s ability to instruct a student or group thereof, and therefore, we reject any evaluation methods for teachers based on high-stakes standardized testing.

(b) Therefore, we believe a teacher’s best efforts should remain at the local level, in the classroom, and not to conform to a state assessment or to guide instruction towards proficiency on a state assessment, but rather on the material and instruction present before the students based on the material and instruction they have learned before.

(8) We reject any basis of accountability or framework system meant to falsely label or demean any teacher, administrator, school staff, or school, based on students outcomes as it pertains to state or national standardized assessments.

(9) As parents, we are the primary stakeholders for our child’s education, and therefore demand representation on any group, committee, task force, commission, or any such gathering of stakeholders to determine educational decisions for children, be it at a local, state, or national level.

(a) We demand equal or greater representation on any such group as that allotted to outside corporations.

Updated, 7:58pm, EST: I have started a petition at Change.org which will be sent to United States Representative John Kline (MN) who serves as the Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in Congress.  If you have already signed the article, please sign the change.org petition instead.  I apologize for the confusion!  It has been a crazy day!

Updated, 11:46am, EST: Apparently, Facebook does not like the idea of a Parent Bill of Rights for Education that touches upon an item concerning censorship of a parent’s First Amendment Rights to express their opinion that poses no physical harm or safety risk to any individual…

FacebookGroupCensorship

 

Updated, 3/29/16, 6:42pm: I am still in Facebook jail.  I’ve sent appeals to Facebook three times with no response whatsoever.  I guess they really don’t like parents protecting their rights…

Governor Markell & National PTA President To Take Part In “Testing Bill Of Rights” To Stop Opt Out

Here we go!  Right when high-stakes testing season is in full swing!  None other than Delaware Governor Jack “I disrespect parents” Markell will participate in a conference call along with National PTA President Laura “I stuck it to the Delaware PTA” Bay along with other civil rights representatives to call for a “Testing Bill Of Rights”.  I should have seen this one coming.  Is this part of the Governor’s official schedule as posted on his website?  Of course not.  This is sponsored by yet another think tank called the Center for American Progress.  So I must ask, which group that Markell is associated with is paying for this?  The National Governor’s Association?

 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Testing Bill of Rights Launch Press Conference Call

 

What: Governor Markell will participate in the testing Bill of Rights Launch Press Call– Joined by Center for American Progress Vice President of Education Policy Catherine Brown, National Parent Teacher Association President Laura Bay, New York Urban League President Arva Rice, and Queens Collegiate Teacher Rhashida Abdul-Malik, the Governor will participate in the testing Bill of Rights Launch conference call for members of the media. The call will focus on the right of teachers, parents, and students to high-quality tests that accurately assess student learning and help teachers understand how to improve instruction.

Who:   Governor Markell

              National PTA President

Paul Fanuele, President-elect, School Administrators Association of New York

New York Urban League President Arva Rice

Queens Collegiate Teacher Rhashida Abdul-Malik

            
WhenThursday, March 24th at 10:30 a.m. 

DIAL-IN INFORMATION: For dial-in information, RSVP to Allison Preiss at the Center for American Progress at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331

I love how the Governor’s office didn’t even put National PTA President Laura Bay’s name on this.  I thought I should check this out on the Center for American Progress website, and this is what it said in their official press release which you can find on their website:

The Testing Bill of Rights aims to help move toward better, fairer, and fewer tests and reduce burden on students and educators.

Washington, D.C. — With standardized test season approaching across the United States, educators and civil rights and education groups—along with Delaware Governor Jack Markell—will hold a press call on Thursday to unveil a Testing Bill of Rights. The Testing Bill of Rights articulates a middle ground on standardized tests through which tests are in service of instruction, not the other way around. The Testing Bill of Rights aims to help move toward better, fairer, and fewer tests and reduce burden on students and educators.

The Testing Bill of Rights arrives when many parents and students have felt real frustration with school assessments. At the same time, the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December, retains the requirement that states test all students in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. However, the law also greatly reduces the stakes of state tests for schools and teachers—creating an ideal opportunity for states and school districts to revisit their approaches to testing.

The Testing Bill of Rights is centered around the idea that tests should serve as a tool to identify areas of improvement in order to ensure that every child has an opportunity to be ready for college or the workforce, and to identify persistent learning gaps that have pervaded in some communities—including communities of color—for decades. Rather than opting out of such assessments altogether, the focus should be to ensure that all students and families get an accurate and honest assessment of their progress towards career and college readiness, while making sure that such tests are less burdensome for students and teachers, and are used as a tool to help students grow and improve.

WHAT:

Press call on the Testing Bill of Rights: The Case For Better, Fewer, and Fairer Tests

WHO:

  • Catherine Brown, Vice President for Education Policy, Center for American Progress
  • Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware
  • Laura Bay, President, National PTA
  • Arva Rice, President and CEO, New York Urban League
  • Paul Fanuele, President-elect, School Administrators Association of New York; Executive Principal of Arlington High School, LaGrangeville, New York
  • Rhashida Abdul-malik, Queens Collegiate, Teacher

WHEN:

Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. EST

DIAL-IN INFORMATION: For dial-in information, RSVP to Allison Preiss at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331.

###

 

In another words, these stewards of corporate education reform are saying “Don’t opt out!  You’re going to screw up the data!  The data is important.  We must have the data!!!!!!”  Governor Markell is THE most parent un-friendly Governor in our country.  And guess what, he will continually say opting out is a civil rights issue and it will put us back to the days when low-income and African-American communities were marginalized in society.  And yet the whole high-stakes testing enterprise is designed to do just that.  This guy will never learn.  This is a good sign though for opt out.  When parents start opting out, our Governor gets testy and starts doing lame things like this.  He is a sore loser and can’t stand anyone questioning his authority.  This is the same Jack who jumped over a candlestick and vetoed an opt out bill in Delaware honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bill passed with an overwhelming majority in the Delaware House and Senate last Spring.

As for National PTA President Laura Bay, this doesn’t really shock me.  This is the same woman who works as a testing coordinator in her school district and shamed the Delaware PTA into compliance over supporting opt out.  It’s not surprising that the Governor of high-stakes testing would hook up with the not-really-representing parents Queen of the PTA.  And then throw in a civil rights advocate, a head of an administrator association in New York, and a teacher from Queens, and you have Jack’s hand-picked “we love testing and screw the kids and parents” group.

We all know Jack Markell is in bed with corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, the Gates Foundation, and all the rest.  It’s not a question of if he even likes opt out or not.  He can’t like it.  He is the front guy for a lot of companies and Wall Street investors, just itching for the upcoming personalized learning spree they are about to embark on.  And testing is a huge part of it.  It’s the string that binds the Common Core-career pathways-personalized learning-competency-based education quilt together.  It’s just a shame he can’t be the front guy for the people that matter the most: his constituents, those who voted for him (regrettably) and the children.

Who wants to start a real “Parents sticking up for their kids against bullies who should know better” Bill of Rights club?  Let me know!

Updated: I’ve just learned this was originally supposed to be some type of event in New York City and this think thank has been pushing this “testing bull of rights” nonsense for a while now.  It is now just a phone call.  I can only laugh and laugh and laugh…

Here are some pictures, one of the original event and the other for the cancellation:

Cent4AmerProgTweet

edprogresstweet

Something Doesn’t Add Up With National PTA’s Intimidation Letter To Delaware PTA…

PTABullying

I was thinking about this a lot the past two days.  Since I posted the National PTA “Comply Or We Will Make You” letter to the Delaware PTA, something didn’t feel quite right.  Was it the absolute absurdity and gall of National PTA, or the timing of it?

The Delaware PTA heavily advocated House Bill 50, the Delaware opt-out legislation that our cowardly weasel of a Governor vetoed last July.  When an attempt  to have our legislators do the right thing and override Markell’s veto, the Delaware PTA staged a rally outside of Legislative Hall in Dover.  This was a month and a half ago.  The very next week, the Delaware PTA announced National PTA would be coming out with a position statement against opt-out very soon.  They did so in the beginning of February.

Let us flash forward to last Wednesday.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has their post-State Board meeting where State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is grilled and served on a plate by Wilmington school districts and members of the Commission.  State Board Executive Director Donna Johnson is most likely highly embarrassed about the allegation she advised State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan.  The very next day, President of Delaware PTA Dr. Terri Hodges gets the comply or die letter from Laura Bay, the President of National PTA.  Right before the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education.  Right before.  As she walks into the meeting, handouts are provided to the committee and members of the public.  One of them is the National PTA position statement on assessment and opt-out.  It was a very odd choice for a hand-out.  Especially since it was NEVER discussed at all during the meeting.  Dr. Hodges attended the previous meeting, and I’m sure the DOE knew some type of Delaware PTA representation would attend the meeting.  I’m not coming right out and saying this, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Yes, the National PTA did issue the position statement against opt-out.  For what reasons, I absolutely cannot fathom.  But Kilroy’s Delaware did present something very interesting today in regards to National PTA President Laura Bay.  It turns out she is the coördinator for assessment and instruction in her Washington school district.  And she essentially runs National PTA.  But was there some outside influence to have Bay pull a sword on Delaware PTA?

We have January and February of 2016 as two key months with a lot of Delaware PTA/National PTA/State Board of Education/Delaware DOE/WEIC activity.  All involving some very key players in this very bizarre game of Russian Roulette with parental choices.  Add in some referendums, priority schools, and redistricting and we have a huge mess on our hands!

In the backdrop of it all: a very power-hungry Delaware Governor Jack Markell and John King, the very controversial figure at the US Department of Education who is hoping to become the next US Secretary of Education instead of Acting.  Surrounding all of this is the massive tome called the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The mammoth legislation that has not been clearly defined but will in the coming months when the US DOE begins issuing regulations around it.  To make matters more complicated, this will be going on during most state’s testing windows for their state assessments, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Also during an election year.

The bridge between Delaware PTA and National PTA has one person on both sides: Yvonne Johnson.  She serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for Delaware PTA and is a board member of National PTA.  The Governor was not pleased with the Delaware PTA’s defense of House Bill 50 at all.  The Delaware PTA has some choices ahead of them.  Fight, submit, or secede.  None will be easy decisions.  Secession is not an easy thing.  Fighting could result in major issues for them.  Submit will assuredly permanently scar the organization that has made a name for itself over the past year by supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  Dr. Hodges is not one to surrender quietly.  This will definitely be something to watch over the coming months.  Perhaps a little push is in order…