Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: ______

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

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

Thank you for your time,

Respectfully,

_______ ____________

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

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

Date: _________

Signature: ________

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

 

2016 Opt Out Letter For Delaware Parents To Use

I wrote this a year ago, but it still applies.  If you really want to drive the point home to a school, use this letter.  If they still give you grief, stand your ground.  Do not give in to what they try to tell you.  This is your right!

I have had a few parents ask how this could affect a school choice application.  Since the scores of the Smarter Balanced Assessment won’t come out until the summer, and you would have received an answer to your school choice application well before that time, it should not play a factor.  Any school denying your child a spot in their school over a parent exercising their Constitutional rights is on very shaky legal ground and you could certainly have just cause if your child was denied admission based on a parent opt out.  To be clear though, I am not an attorney, so this is your choice!

Here is the suggested letter to use.  I would include the school’s name and address, the date, your child’s name, and your name and address.  Make copies!!!  You can bring it to a school board meeting (for dates at times for your district, charter or vocational see my article from yesterday), or bring it to the school.  I would bring a separate form indicating the school recognizes they have received an opt out letter from you and have them sign it.  If a school gives you a letter to sign indicating you are understanding you are not following the law, DO NOT SIGN IT.  If they ask for a medical note and there is no medical condition present in your child, DO NOT GET ONE!!!

 

Dear

Please accept this letter as record of my decision to refuse for my child (name) to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment at (school) during the 2015-2016 school year. My refusal to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment is because I believe standardized high stakes testing take away time from the instructional experiences my child might otherwise receive. I want more teaching and learning, and less testing! The state seems to believe that my child is obligated to participate in testing because the state or the policy makers demand it, when in fact the social contract of public schooling is grounded on the premise that the state and policy makers are obligated to the needs of children. I am aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of Delaware. But the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that my child may not exercise his or her right to refuse the tests.

According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158).

I understand that it is state and local policy to require all students to be evaluated for proficiency in various subject areas at each grade level. However, I believe that testing is not synonymous with standardized testing and request that the school and my child’s teacher(s) evaluate his or her progress using alternative (and more meaningful) measures including: project-based assignments, teacher-made tests, portfolios, and performance-based assessments, to be determined at the discretion of the teachers and myself together.

My child is prepared to come to school every day during the testing window with alternative meaningful self-directed learning activities that support the essential curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or his or her teachers during testing times. It is my child’s right as a public school student to receive instruction daily, and if you do not do so, I will file a discrimination report with the district and consult an attorney. I am a taxpayer, and you do not have the authority to bar my child from accessing this public good of which I contribute in the form of tax payment. I will call the police if you attempt to bar my child from entering the building. However, should you prove to me in writing that this last alternative is legally REQUIRED, then I respectfully request to both see that policy as stated IN WRITING so that I may show it to my attorney, and I require WRITTEN documentation that my child and his parents WILL NOT be punished for ‘delinquency’ –and that we are EXEMPT from the usual attendance policies.

If my child is forced to sit in the testing room and stare at the wall for upwards of 70 minutes in total silence without being allowed to leave the test room, nor move nor speak, while refusing to test, or is intimidated in any way, will be seen as tantamount to solitary confinement. If you attempt to force my child to do so, I will report you to the child abuse authorities. If anyone places their hands on my child after he/she has respectfully declined to report to a test site, he/she has been instructed to call the police and file charges.

I do not recognize the authority of the letter the Delaware Department of Education or any school district crafted to have schools give parents when they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as it has no legal bearing.

I have a tremendous respect for my child’s teachers and his school. They do a tremendous job and I wish to continue to send my son to a school where he looks forward to participating every day. My school’s teachers and administrators understand that this action is no way a reflection of my feelings towards them nor is it intended as an attack toward them or the great work that they do every day. My issue is with high stakes standardized testing and the harm it does to children and our public schools. I believe we can work constructively together to ensure that my child will not be negatively affected in any way, and that successful alternatives that are neither punitive nor require further legal complications are indeed possible.

Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

 

DOOM 2016 Strikes Delaware As Parent Rights Month Begins

finger-prints-optout-large

If it is February, DOOM will strike Delaware again this year.  It just so happens that I am declaring this month Parent Rights Month.  This works out perfectly because it is also Delaware Opt-Out Month!  This is the month where you should really opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The test window begins at the beginning of March.  Different schools will take the test at some point between March and the first week of June.  These are the things you may hear.  Ignore them…

  1. We will get our funding cut if you opt your child out.
  2. Our school will get a bad rating.
  3. No.
  4. Don’t listen to that blogger.
  5. But House Bill 50 got vetoed and never passed.  You can’t opt out.
  6. It’s against the law to opt your child out.
  7. We should talk about this first.  Can we arrange for a meeting?
  8. Why don’t you give the test a chance.  It really isn’t that bad.
  9. Only I decide who opts out of the test.
  10. It is a civil rights violation to opt out.

Whatever the Principal or Superintendent says, ignore it.  If your child is in the Capital, Christina, or Red Clay school districts, they shouldn’t be giving you any flack at all.  Their boards already voted and said it is okay and they will not punish your child.  You have every right to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  There is no law that says you can’t.  It is not against the law for you to opt out!!!!  Could the feds pull funding?  It is remotely possible.  But it is also an election year.  The feds can threaten all they want, but I would love to actually see them play that card.  It’s never happened before.  And No Child Left Behind officially ends at the end of July.  After that, states are allowed to determine their own opt out rules.

Tomorrow, I’m going to make a list of all the district and charter board meetings this month.  If you haven’t opted your child out before, here is how you do it.  Write a letter to the Principal of your child’s school.  State you do not want your child taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  As well, let the Principal know you want your child to receive instruction while the other kids are taking the test.  Hand deliver a copy to the principal.  As extra insurance, I would also write an acknowledgement letter and have the principal sign it.  If you can, bring a witness.  While these precautions may seem overboard, it is for your own protection as well as that of your child.  If the principal or primary school leader refuses to accept your information, yells at you, or acts in a way that in any way appears to be intimidating, please let me know.  My email is kevino3670@yahoo.com or you can join the Refuse The Test Delaware page on Facebook.

Tomorrow, I will put down every single district or charter school board meeting for February.  Others opted out at board meetings last year.  It sends a clear message to the decision makers.  These are public meetings.  You can sign up for public comment when you get to the board meeting.

February is also Parent Rights month.  Throughout the month, I will write articles on why your rights matter.  In most situations, a parent knows what is best for their child.  Our voices are ignored a lot when it comes to education.  We are treated as “guests” at many of our schools and that is unacceptable.  The Supreme Court recognized the rights of parents many times.  It is YOUR child, not the school’s child.  Some will tell you when your child walks into school, they are no longer your child but the school or the principal’s child.  This is completely false, and actually very damaging.  If you don’t want your child to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they can’t make your child take it.

I believe in my soul this test has no purpose other than to feed data to outside companies to which they will profit greatly off your child.  It won’t help your child.  It will cause them anxiety.  Some schools are attempting to coerce kids into taking the test by offering some type of reward.  A charter school is thinking of giving the top performers tickets to an amusement park.  What kind of message does that send?  Some children don’t do well on these types of tests no matter how smart they are.  Some children have disabilities.  How does that make a child feel?  Some who take this test will try very hard and they still won’t be proficient.  Do we reward the top and tell the others they have to watch as others get awards and rewards?  That does far more damage than anything else.  Don’t let your child be a pawn in these adult games.  Let your child be child.  Opt your child out as soon as possible.

*The above photograph was used on the Edubloggers.org website.

Capital School District Parents: Go To The Board Meeting Tonight & Give Dr. Shelton Your Opt-Out Letter

This is a special announcement for all parents of students in the Capital School District: Please go to their board meeting tonight, at 7:30 pm at the District Office, and give Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton your opt-out letter.  And then give public comment about why you are opting your child out and your desire to have the Capital board pass a parent opt-out policy like the Christina School District board did two months ago and the Red Clay board is going to vote on tonight.  The Capital Board did pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right a year ago, but a policy would make sure this is ironclad in Capital.  This is a public service announcement brought to you by Exceptional Delaware.  Thank you!

Red Clay Board To Vote On Opt-Out Policy Tonight

The Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education will vote on an opt-out policy this evening at their monthly board meeting.  This is an action item.  Like the Christina Board of Education did a couple months ago, this would make parent opt-out a policy in Red Clay.  While both boards as well as Capital passed resolutions over the past year, these policies would ensure superintendents, administrators and schools would have to follow this.  I fully support this measure and sincerely hope the board passes this unanimously.

In light of the impending hammer of doom about to be imposed on all Delaware public schools by the unelected State Board of Education and Secretary Godowsky, I encourage ALL boards to adopt this policy.  As well, I encourage all parents to opt their child out today.  If you live in Red Clay, go to the board meeting tonight at Conrad, beginning at 7:00pm and hand the letter to Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

Did You Opt Your Child Out Of The Smarter Balanced Assessment Today? Many Have! Join The Club!

I am happily hearing many parents in Delaware submitted opt-out letters to schools today.  This has become even more important than it was yesterday, for reasons that will be revealed in the next 24 hours.  Opt-out is a parental right, pure and simple.  It is also a choice.  I will make very clear why parents need to exercise that choice very soon.  There are huge games going on, and we are merely pawns.  The key to making the change for your child’s education and future is opt-out.  Please opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced assessment immediately, if not sooner.  Your child is becoming a victim of one of the most craftily laid plans I have ever seen.  But this plan has its cracks and they are so small and tiny, if you didn’t see the big picture it wouldn’t even dawn on you.  It is way more than we ever imagined and answers all the questions about why Delaware is so insistent on harsh opt-out penalties against our schools while other states are not.  The convergence is upon us…

Podcast of WDEL Interview w/Rick Jensen on Parent Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing

I had an awesome time with Rick Jensen today talking about parent opt out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.   There was so much more I could have said, but I had an hour.  Some folks called in.  John Young from the Christina School Board, Delaware State Rep Sean Matthews and Delaware State Rep John Kowalko.  Rick and I talked about special needs children, the Delaware DOE, Smarter Balanced Assessment, and how it is not illegal to opt your child out in Delaware.  We talked about the “scare tactic” letter the DOE wants districts to give to parents when they opt their kid out and how it is based on state code that does not include parents at all.  I hope to do this again soon!