Farewell Dr. Terri Hodges, Hello Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

For the past five years, Dr. Terri Hodges led the Delaware Parent Teachers Association through some very trying times in Delaware.  As Common Core became a staple, along with its evil counterpart, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Hodges stood up for parents during the opt out movement in Delaware.  Yesterday, Hodges turned over the mantle to the newly elected Julie Alvarez at the annual Delaware PTA convention.

Yvonne Johnson, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, and Dr. Terri Hodges

Together with their Vice President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, Hodges and Johnson were the PTA Mafia in Delaware.  I mean that in the best way possible.  They made the opt out movement what it was back in 2015 with their non-stop advocacy for parental rights on the issue.  Sadly, they were shut down on that advocacy by their parent organization, the National PTA.  The Nation PTA President, Laura Bay, threatened to shut off their national funding if they didn’t shut up.  It was a classic case of bullying.

Johnson, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, Hodges

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Hodges in support of House Bill 50, the infamous legislation that ultimately passed the General Assembly but was subject to a veto by the very corporate education reformer loving Governor, Jack Markell.  Hodges strongly supports funding for basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade along with tons of common sense legislation.  I will miss her as President of Delaware PTA but I have no doubt I will continue to count her as a friend I met during my journey in Delaware public education.  Thank you Terri for your outstanding advocacy and looking out for Delaware students!

As for President Alvarez, she had some words to say about her new role.  I look forward to working together with her on various education bills and policy in the years ahead.

Thank you for joining us at the annual Delaware PTA Convention and for all of the work that you do on behalf of Delaware’s children. We have put together an extensive day of networking and information gathering opportunities for you that we hope you will find beneficial.  Make sure to visit the vendor area and take advantage of the door prizes and giveaways.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Terri Hodges for all of her hard work and tireless efforts as the Delaware State PTA President for the past five years. In that capacity, she has created a strong platform on which I plan to continue to build upon. I am excited to continue working with her as she moves to the position of Immediate Past President as well as with the other members of the board.

In the coming year, my focus will be on three major areas: expanding family engagement in our schools, increasing PTA membership and involvement through raising awareness of the value of and developing excitement for PTA, and continuing the advocacy that is the foundation of PTA.

I invite you all to join Delaware PTA as we work together to make positive change towards the mission of making every child’s potential a reality.  Enjoy the Convention!

Regards,

Julie Alvarez

Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

Caroline Harrison-DeJose became the Delaware PTA 1st Vice-President as well yesterday.

Action Alert: Opt Out Bill To Be Heard In House Education Committee Next Wednesday, It Needs YOUR Support!

Here we go again!  House Bill 60 is on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 14th, at 2:30pm.  It is the ONLY bill on the agenda.  Most educators should be done with school by then.  Parents, teachers, students, and Delaware citizens: I invite you to attend this committee meeting and give public comment on why you feel this bill should pass!

Delaware Governor John Carney has been very quiet on the subject of opt out.  When he was a U.S. Congressman, he voted against a part of the reauthorization of the ESEA which would have honored a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment prior to the bill becoming the Every Student Succeeds Act.  When the last opt out bill, House Bill 50, overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, former Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill within weeks.  An attempted override of that veto led to a lot of shady deal-making between Markell’s office and legislators and the attempt failed.

While opt out has not been a huge topic, it is more important than ever.  I feel the bill should also include personalized learning assessments and any “stealth” assessments embedded in digital technology.  While these aren’t the norm in Delaware yet, they will be.  These mini assessments will replace the once a year test in a competency-based education arena.

Due to an actual “gag order” by National PTA concerning opt out, we will not be able to get support from the Delaware PTA this go-around.  So any participation in this committee meeting will have to be a grassroots effort by parents.  Please spread the word.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, please email the members of the House Education Committee asking for their support of House Bill 60.  As well, you can sign this petition on Change.Org which can be found here: Please release House Bill 60 from the House Education Committee

Here are their emails:

earl.jaques@state.de.us

kimberly.williams@state.de.us

sean.matthews@state.de.us

sean.lynn@state.de.us

michael.ramone@state.de.us

Charles.Postles@state.de.us

joseph.miro@state.de.us

edward.osienski@state.de.us

charles.potter@state.de.us

debra.heffernan@state.de.us

david.bentz@state.de.us

melanie.g.smith@state.de.us

harvey.kenton@state.de.us

stephanie.bolden@state.de.us

ruth.briggsking@state.de.us

timothy.dukes@state.de.us

kevin.hensley@state.de.us

 

Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

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

The Appo Vs. Opt Out Parents War Is Building…

Appoquinimink does not want parent opt out at all.  They don’t want parents talking about it with outsiders.  Especially me.  Parents are getting VERY upset and they have justification.  I wrote about the latest intimidation tactics the district is taking earlier last week.  It turns out that isn’t all they are doing!

Last Thursday, I spoke with the Public Information Officer for Appo, Lilian Miles.  I advised her the Appo letter about opt out is very confusing to parents and it is hard for them to understand what it even means.  Between the “absent” for the purposes of testing portion and the illegal portion with federal and state code with their glaring omissions surrounding parents, I told her they need to change the wording  in the letter.

Lilian explained she understands but they are following the Delaware Department of Education’s suggested template.  She was going to check with some district folks and get back to me.  She asked which parents were coming to me about this.  I advised her I didn’t feel comfortable giving out that information.  Apparently, she didn’t like that.

From: Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
To: “kevino3670@yahoo.com” <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 1:12 PM
Subject: wording on letter

Mr. Ohlandt:
 
Thank you for your time on the phone yesterday. If you find yourself in conversation with an Appoquinimink parent who feels unclear about the language in the letter they received (which employs a template supplied by DDOE), we encourage you to have them reach out to the educational leader in their child’s building. Parents are partners in our district and as such, we respect their decision-making process. We would appreciate the opportunity to address any concerns they may have personally.
 
Thank you in advance for your support and understanding!
 
Lilian Miles
Public Information Officer
Appo is trying to make parents sign an illegal letter so Appo is “off the hook” with opt out.  Even they are naïve enough to think that is acceptable for the testing overlords at the DOE!  Another parent approached me after I received this email.  The district was really pushing this parent to sign their illegal letter.  I responded to Lilian Miles and decided a few more people may want to be aware of what is going on in Appoquimink…
From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Miles Lilian <Lilian.Miles@appo.k12.de.us>
Cc:
Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Burrows Matthew L. <matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Lawson Dave (LegHall) <dave.lawson@state.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, March 11, 2016 4:33 PM
Subject:
Re: wording on letter

Lilian,
With all due respect, Appoquinimink is making this much harder than it has to be.  The DOE and the Appo letter are both wrong with their wording in the letter.  The US DOE code, which I informed Appo of last year, is for schools to administer the test.  It doesn’t mean a student has to take it or that a parent can not opt their child out.  As well, the Delaware code is completely wrong because they only provide the part that states “individuals” without including the part of the code that defines who “individuals” are, like school teachers, principals, administrators, etc.  Not once is “parents” any part of that definition.  Just because Attorney General Matt Denn did not have the Dept. of Justice do a legal opinion on this letter does not mean it couldn’t be challenged in court.  This letter was one of many reasons parents and legislators in Delaware fought so strongly for House Bill 50.
I would strongly encourage Appoquinimink to stop using this outdated and complete fabrication of a letter.  It is not enforceable and nor should the Appoquinimink district make it so.  If parents were indeed partners in your district, you would not be sending them a letter like this.  As far as my telling parents to reach out to the district, I will not do that.  I informed the district about the fallacies in this letter a year ago and here we are a year later having the same conversation.  Delaware DOE is well aware of this as well with the wording in this letter.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt
Opt out is a little bit different this year.  For the second timers, they know what they are doing.  But for the first timers, they don’t have as much support from the state or organizations.  The Delaware PTA was hushed into compliance with National PTA who is against opt out.  The legislators of the General Assembly could not muster enough votes to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 50, the parent opt out legislation that would have prevented the bullying and intimidation Appoquinimink is practicing.  So what is a parent going to do?  If they do a Google search on opt out in Delaware, my name or this blog is going to come up pretty fast.
If a parent reaches out to me, I am not mentioning their name if I deal with a district.  If a parent is taking the time to come to me about this, I trust they have already done their own due diligence and already dealt with an administrator in their child’s school.  Appo just needs to gut this letter, period!  Upon discussion of this with another parent, they shot off a response to the district referencing the response I sent to Lilian Miles.
I will do this for any parent in Delaware if they want me to.  If I have to be the only opt out advocate you have, I will gladly take on that mission.  I have no qualms about doing so.  I don’t care if it ticks people or districts off.  Parents have no one else to turn to.  So until our state can put a law into place honoring this fundamental and Constitutional right for parents, schools and districts need to know that if they bully or intimidate, I will act on a parent’s behalf.  If they don’t like it that is just too bad!
I have not received a response from anyone since my latest email.  That may change tomorrow.

Is There A Conflict Of Interest With A High-Ranking DE PTA Member Involving Christina School District?

Yvonne Johnson serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, sits on the board of the National PTA, and in news that most people don’t know is also employed with the Christina School District as the Parent Engagement Coordinator.  The issue with this surrounds transparency.  Nothing has ever been officially announced with Johnson’s hiring in this role.  There is no official name on the Delaware Division of Corporations for Yvonne Johnson as a business.  According to her National PTA profile, Johnson is a self-employed education consultant:

YvonneNationalPTAProfile

She has also been very involved in several current initiatives with the Christina School District, including their upcoming referendum and the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.  The Christina referendum is on March 23rd.  As for the elementary school, Johnson is listed as the Christina Parent Engagement Coordinator in an announcement for a meeting at the school on March 1st:

MarshallInterestMtg

I looked on the Christina School District website, and it seems Christina already has someone else listed as their Family & Community Engagement Supervisor, Whitney Williams.  What is even more interesting is this idea for Thurgood Marshall in turning it into a Kindergarten to 8th grade school.  Quite simply, this is not in the district’s official plans for their upcoming referendum.  The current building for the school would not even be able to house a K-8 program.

As for Johnson’s role in this idea, is it proper for someone to be paid to have parents lobby the school board?  As the next three pictures show, taken from notes and a presentation on the “Marshall Plan”, Johnson has very specific ideas about this idea and the referendum.  Johnson also served as the head of the Referendum Committee for the Red Clay Consolidated School District last year.  Red Clay’s referendum was subject to a lawsuit that has not been decided on as of this date.

MarshallPlan1

We don’t see a Christina School District email address for Johnson, but that makes sense if she is self-employed and has some type of contract with the district.  However, no such contract exists on their website.

MarshallPlan2

This is where we see Yvonne Johnson actively soliciting parents to advocate for the “Marshall Plan” by essentially lobbying the Christina Board of Education.  But the next picture paints an even bigger picture:

MarshallPlan3

We see the line “Get out and vote for the referendum for planning $$”.  Should a paid consultant to the district be advocating for parents to “get out and vote” for increased money for the school district in which she is paid to consult for?  Is this plan even a part of the board-approved referendum?

The referendum does call for planning funds for potential grade reconfiguration in the amount of $100,000.00.  However, the “Marshall Plan” is looking at getting this going in the 2017-2018 school year.  That would require extensive capital costs to reconfigure an existing school that does not have the capacity.  If they shrunk the class sizes, the district does not have the ability to pay for that either.  The upcoming referendum is strictly for operating costs and not capital costs, which would be needed to move the school if necessary.  So my big question would be what in the name of Thurgood Marshall is going on with all of this?  While there is nothing in writing on the district website or in board documents indicating Johnson has a contract, several sources who wished to have their name withheld for this article have indicated Johnson has openly told them she is being paid for her services to the Christina School District.

In my opinion, Johnson’s capacity as serving on several different groups as well as her self-employed advocacy job, the Delaware PTA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, several different Red Clay initiatives, and now her job with Christina, has far too many potential conflicts of interest for her to be issuing fair and impartial judgment on the Wilmington education scene.  As well, her position as a National PTA board member forbids her from advocating for opt-out of standardized testing but she is a consultant with a school district that had their board pass a policy honoring a parent’s right to opt out.

Don’t get me wrong here, I very much want Christina’s referendum to be successful.  I was not happy when their referenda did not pass last year.  But I also believe in full transparency, especially when a school district is asking for trust from their voters.  Trust is a two-way street.  Which means all aspects of school finances, contracts, and vendors need to be visibly apparent for all to see.

On a personal note, Yvonne Johnson is a great advocate.  There aren’t too many people in Delaware who have advocated for students as long as she has.  But the lines get blurry at times when people in Delaware jump on too many trains.  Yes, Delaware is a small state and if we had more parents taking on these kinds of roles, this wouldn’t be an issue.  But for those who do, they must recognize any potential conflicts of interest and act accordingly for the betterment of students.

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…

 

 

National PTA Forces Delaware PTA To Back Down From Honoring Parent’s Right To Opt-Out, Time To End That Relationship!!!!

Immediately cease advocacy efforts in support of the Delaware PTA Position Statement on Parent Opt Out HB50 including but not limited to website promotion, action alerts, e-newsletters, media interview and information flyers.

Per National PTA SOA Policy, if you are unable to comply with the SOA requirements by April 26, 2016 (60 days from this notification), a support team will be assigned to Delaware PTA to help create and implement a plan to move your PTA back into compliance.

Unbelievable!  It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with someone for doing something.  But then you force them to take a position on it? And if they don’t you will make sure they do?  I say the Delaware PTA renames itself and kicks National PTA to the curb!  Who do they think they are?  What a bunch of arrogant jerks!  It is the PARENT-Teacher Association.  Not the “we got more money from Bill Gates so we are going to force our state PTAs to shut up about opt-out” Association.  What a bunch of sell-outs!  What the hell kind of parent organization doesn’t honor parent’s rights?  Terri and Yvonne, do the right thing for the parents of Delaware, not this bureaucratic nightmare in Washington D.C.  Absolutely ridiculous!

And the Delaware PTA sent some questions to National PTA:

Yeah, they may not say places like the Gates Foundation won’t fund you if you support opt-out.  But guess what, they just won’t give you money in the future.  National PTA knows this.  Time for a clean break Delaware PTA!  Meanwhile, Delaware PTA President Terri Hodges sent this out to the Delaware PTA membership this afternoon:

PTA members and supporters,

            As you are aware, National PTA issued an updated position statement in January 2016 regarding state assessments. The position statement, developed by the National PTA Legislative Committee and approved by the National Board of Directors, also outlines National PTA’s opposition of the growing parent opt-out movement across the United States.

            When the position statement was released in January, we were initially informed that our advocacy of parental rights was not in conflict with the updated position statement, as Delaware PTA has never encouraged parents to opt of testing. However, upon further review National PTA has determined that our advocacy of parental rights is in fact in conflict with the updated position statement. As a result, Delaware PTA has received the attached DE Sanctions Letter from National PTA informing us that as a state association we are not in compliance with the Standards of Affiliation.

            As a state association, we are obligated to comply with the National PTA Standard of Affiliations which governs the relationship between National PTA and the state associations. Similarly, our bylaws define the relationship between the state association and our local units in that the local units may not collectively take up any position that contradicts the position of Delaware State PTA and by extension National PTA. As indicated in the letter, the position statement can only be amended /rescinded by the voting body. This will be an action item on the agenda for our upcoming Board of Managers meeting, where we will also accept a motion to amend the legislative priorities at the next state convention. In the interim, Delaware PTA is required to cease all advocacy related to parent opt out.

            We recognize that with the support of parents and teachers, several of our school districts have adopted policies, resolutions and/or procedures for honoring a parent’s request to opt out of the state assessment. National PTA’s prohibition on our advocacy only extends to the state association and thus the local units. This position does not have any impact on individual activity and advocacy.

            We want to ensure our members that we have done our due diligence in sharing our concerns with National PTA and requesting complete transparency around the new position statement via the Questions posed to National PTA(attached). Delaware PTA remains committed to our membership and advocating for the students of Delaware. PTA is a multi-issue advocacy organization. As such, we will continue our advocacy in the following key areas:

  • A reduction in testing across all grade levels
  • A reliable and valid state assessment that measures student growth
  • A fair and representative teacher evaluation system
  • Weighted funding
  • Anti-Bullying compliance

            We thank everyone for your continued support. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at de_office@pta.org

 Delaware PTA

American Parents Go It Alone As National PTA Opts Out of Opt-Out

Sending a very confusing message to American parents, the National PTA will be issuing a position statement on testing and opt-out in the next couple days.  In anticipation of this, the Delaware PTA issued a press release indicating they still support House Bill 50 because it supports parent’s rights, and in turn, children’s rights.  The National PTA will not support the opt-out movement according to the Delaware PTA statement.  The Delaware PTA has always advised they do not tell parents to opt out or tell them not to.  But they have done a lot for opt-out in their support for House Bill 50.

As state teacher’s unions and the national unions, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, have never really supported the movement one way or another, the focus for all these groups has now become the nature of testing.  In other words, the reformers have won.  They have convinced the biggest organizations concerning schools that the problem isn’t with these upstart parents opting their kids out, it is the actual tests.  Which is why we are seeing these assessment inventory committees popping up all over the country.

The end goal will be the same tests parents object to, but in smaller chunks, embedded in tests throughout the year.  As students reach the end of units they are learning in their personalized learning environment, they will be given unit tests.  They will still be standardized assessments, but not on the surface.  Students will only progress when they have become proficient on the material.  Based on “their” material.  Not the standards most people grew up with, but the Common Core standards.

It is a disgrace.  I still believe the only way to stop the takeover of our children by these reprehensible companies and organizations is to make a lot of noise and opt-out.  The PTA’s and unions have been lulled into a false sense of security by these animals.  They still don’t get what the essential problem is here.  But many parents do.  It is Common Core.  It is the resources pouring out of the classroom and into corporations that disguise themselves as think tanks and non-profits.  Where their CEO’s make more than most people make in six years.  Where they buy off legislators and politicians with their big money and big words.   With promises of power and security at the expense of children.

I have felt many betrayals in the past year and a half, but none have stung like the ones in the past two months.  Organizations and people I thought were allies.  They know who they are.  If they don’t, be assured I hear a lot.  Much more than you probably realize.  Delaware isn’t that big.  People who think the world will stop revolving if they don’t make sure they are heard.  I respect the Delaware PTA for getting this out there ahead of time.  I joined the PTA back in September so I could hopefully get some more access to things.  That never happened, despite assurances from someone that it would.  So I will not be paying my “membership fee” again.  I truly can’t support an organization that thinks a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced is okay but still thinks Common Core is a good thing.  I always knew this day would come, but it happened much sooner than I expected.

Delaware and American parents are on their own.  We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves.  We must shoulder the fight for our children by ourselves, without any true support.  And you know what, I kind of like it better that way…

#StopESEA @DelawarePTA @DSEA1 @gacecoffice Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid!!!!

Delaware PTA, DSEA & Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens:

You  hold a great deal of power in your groups.  We the people need you to band together and unite for the students of Delaware.  The ESEA reauthorization is all about more testing, more federal mandates and waivers, and even “social impact bonds”.  I know your bosses in the National PTA, NEA and Governor Markell are all behind this federal legislation.  But that does not mean you need to endorse legislation that has not even been seen by the public yet.

Delaware PTA: You know I love you for your support on the opt-out movement and House Bill 50!  We need you to take a serious look at the personalized learning models and competency-based education supports embedded in this legislation.  These are not good for students over the long-term, especially those students who are most in need.  This bill is big on accountability systems created at the state level, and we all know what that kind of power can have in a few corrupt minds in our state.  Please, do not endorse this bill and let your National PTA know they shouldn’t either.

DSEA: I have to admit, you folks are an enigma to me!  From my perspective, the best words I can think of are this- you always want a seat at the table but don’t realize you are actually on the table as the main course.  I’ve seen this with the Delaware School Success Framework, teacher evaluations, and Race To The Top.  I know you wish there didn’t even have to be opt-out, but the plain simple fact is that it is here and it is necessary for parents to do this.  I get that teachers endorsing opt-out could put them in rough waters, but they are already in that position because of the state and federal mandates coming down.  Please do not endorse this bill that will make sure teachers lose even more voice.

GACEC: You are a Governor’s council run by the state, which puts you under the shadow of Governor Markell.  But your mandate is to look out for exceptional citizens, those with disabilities.  Please tell me how supporting the Governor against opt-out helps those citizens.  Please tell me you truly want the best outcome for children with special needs.  Please tell me you do not support this latest edition of the ESEA reauthorization.  We’ve seen the outcome of Smarter Balanced for our children with disabilities.  They are now further behind.  That isn’t progress, and I’m sure you have seen how Delaware wants these children to go from 19% proficiency to 59% in six years.  That is insanity, brought on by Governor Markell.  Please stop siding with the DOE on matters that only negatively impact our kids.

 

Arne Duncan Wants Parent Participation: Has He Been Listening? Parents Are Opting Kids Out Of Assessments He Endoreses! Wake Up Arne!

At the National PTA Conference in Charlotte, North Caroline, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech about parent participation in their children’s education.  The details of his speech are below, and I am going to make comments for each paragraph.

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

My suggestion would be to actually listen to parents Arne.  Hundreds of thousands of parents in our country are opting their kids out of standardized assessments that your reign as Secretary has FORCED on schools through waivers and little or no choice requirements.  You are right though, an excellent education is every child’s right, which is why parents are exercising their rights to make sure our children are not forced to take assessments that have no bearing on their educational growth.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

But one thing many parents know is tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC are not valid methods to determine how our children are learning and growing.  Let me ask you Arne… you are Secretary of Education of the most powerful country in the world.  Did your education prevent that from happening for you?  Was Bill Gates education so bad that he felt the need to change it all?  Neil Armstrong?  Stephen Hawking?  So why do you want to remove that kind of education and make it so all children are forced to be the same?  Is it possible there is a lot of money to be made by making it appear children are doing bad in school?

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

I actually don’t have a problem with these rules.  However, the policies you have set in place put minority students, low-income students, and students with disabilities at an unfair advantage.  We can talk Civil Rights any day of the year, but what you have implemented has caused further distances in the education gaps between these sub-groups and their regular peers.  And the humiliating way you have disparaged and insulted teachers in our country is shameful.

Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

I do believe parents in Oregon and Delaware were very proud of their legislators for passing parent opt-out legislation honoring a parent’s right to choose the best education for their child.  Parents will hold elected officials accountable once the scores on this year’s standardized assessments come in.  They will remember the elected officials that allowed their children to be non-proficient and in need of intervention.  Especially those parents who did not encounter these problems before.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

Is that way the College Board is turning the SAT into a Common Core based assessment?  One that will mirror the SBAC and PARCC assessments?  And parents don’t need training.  We need responsible people like the Secretary of Education of the USA to get his paws out of local education and stop interfering and causing constant disruptions.  We all know you want to get rid of traditional public school districts and open up charterville across the country. 

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

Ah, yes, more personalized learning modules for students to learn from home and then have a teacher go over homework questions in the classroom.  That’s very crafty.  Teachers won’t need as much education and they will just have to follow a script.  We won’t need those pesky teacher unions anymore and we can lower the salaries for these robot teachers.  Promoting equity?  Are you kidding me?  This will ensure that those who struggle the most will continue to be left behind.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

I hope ALL parents join that Twitter party.  I will get a lot of parents to come to that fiesta.  I hope you seriously answer the questions your advisors tell you “don’t answer that question” if you are serious about wanting parent engagement.

This was written by Tiffany Taber and can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2015/06/the-critical-voice-of-parents-in-education-2/