Nothing Is Invincible

Nothing is invincible.  Both statements are correct.  No one person or power is absolutely invincible.  But if you do nothing, then nothing becomes invincible.  This is where we are these days, a synchronicity, a play on words.  Not just in my home state, but as a country.  People seem to be making decisions based on fear more than what is necessary.  If I do this, then this will happen.  If I speak against this then it may make me look bad or it could cause me problems.  You are exactly where they want you.  Because even if they aren’t invincible, they know nothing is.  They also know if you do nothing, they are that much closer to becoming invincible.

I heard these words this morning driving to work.  Nothing is invincible.  A guy named Gordon Sumner sang these words along with a couple of his friends back in 1983.  Gordon was a teacher back in the day.  His words from thirty-three years ago are very prophetic.  Because nothing is winning the day in public education.  A lot of people talk about something but too many say nothing.  But trust me, the  enemies of public education have plenty to say.  They hold an illusionary  power.  This is power they have been given.  They use fear tactics to silence their oppressors because they know how to do it.  They turn words like “rigor”, and “robust”, and “pathways” into their symbols of change.  But they experience fear too.

Nothing scared them more than 22% of New York students opting out of the state assessment this year.  New York parents are smart.  They know that if enough of them opt out it makes the policy makers who love these tests.  They know nothing is invincible.  We all need to take this cue from the Empire State.  Imagine if 22% of Americans said something instead of nothing?  Imagine if that number grew to 30%? 50%, or 75%?  It would destroy their corporate profit-driven dreams for our children.  Politicians would stand up and take notice.  The King would fall.  For the corporate education reformers, their illusionary invincibility would crumble into dust.   They would become nothing.

How many parents in Delaware and the rest of America got their kid’s state assessment results, looked at them, and thought “my kid’s grades don’t reflect this.  What the hell are they taking this test for?”  I know many who felt it was a waste of paper and ink and disposed of these results.  I know some parents are worried about choicing their child to another school if they opt them out of the test.  To them I say “Do it anyways,” because if enough of you do it those choice qualifications won’t matter.  Those qualifications will become the dust on the reformer’s mirrors when they look at themselves and say “Why”?

Remember, nothing is invincible.  If you believe in something, say it.  It’s what makes us America.  Don’t let fear rule the day.  Let your voice and your conscience and your own inherent sense of what is right and what is wrong make the decision, not what others say or what they pressure you into believing.  They are liars and will stop at nothing to tear down your child’s own sense of what is right and wrong so they can get their way.  Don’t give them that power.  Don’t let them try to brainwash our kids into believing their way is the right way.

 

The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.

One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled Rasch-Analysis.com explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:

What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.

In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.

Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.

Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.

The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.

Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get.  But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same.  This is NOT what is going on currently.  With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items.  What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone.  But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests.  In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test.  The rest varies based on what is in the bucket.  What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment.  For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same.  The same for PARCC as well.

The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix.  If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale.  If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale.  So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong.  But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack.  The testing companies know this.  Our state DOEs know this.  The US DOE knows this.  Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this.  Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.

This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray.  If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability.  If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high.  The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money.  With this model, schools fail and schools succeed.  It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school.  This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome.  With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much.  But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction.  None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not.  They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out.  That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.

In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time.  There is a three month testing window.  Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May.  How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly?  How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test?  How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?

For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next.  This could be a charter school.  While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be.  As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there.  It could flip around another way.  Say a state DOE really is  just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area.  The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools.  Even some charters could be expendable.  Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones.  With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools.  The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school.  This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.

While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme.  By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students.  Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test.  It is an ingenious scheme.

For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum.  Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments.  It is the grandest illusion of them all.  The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees.  Teachers pick the items for the test.”  I’m sure they do.  And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees.  Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies.  It sounds so shady, doesn’t it?  How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?

While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”?  When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests?  Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter.  They will become end of unit assessments.  Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work!  How convenient.  Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort.  A true cause for celebration.  And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test.  We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.

Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data.  They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson.  Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools.  Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports.  Through contracts and extensions of contracts.  Yes, only the student identifier code goes out.  These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data.  But then that information comes back to the state.  The state knows who that student identifier belongs to.  For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School.  Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student.  Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track.  So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards.  Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program.  Or maybe Bio-technology pathways.  Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position.  FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.

Want to know who always loses in these testing games?  Students with disabilities.  They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most.  For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question.  Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions.  Standardized tests don’t allow for that.  The answer is always the same: they will get more time.  What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students.  It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test.  What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”?  They are learning.  Receiving instruction.  Getting ahead.  Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.

We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests.  We just didn’t know how much.  The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now.  Not later, not tomorrow.  Now.  Today is your opt out day for your child.

Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment.  I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this.  I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully.  But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…

Family of 3rd Grader Suing The Florida DOE

In Florida, the parents of a 3rd grader are taking the very courageous step to sue their state Department of Education.  Why?  Because in Florida, if you opt your child out of the Florida State Assessment, the student will be retained and have to stay in 3rd grade.  The parents not only find this unfair, but also unconstitutional.  To move forward, they need a $17,000 retainer fee for their attorney.  To date, they have raised an astonishing $12,200 in just 18 days.  But they still have a little bit further to go.  If you are able, please help them at their Go Fund Me account.  Cases like this are how laws change.

If my state (Delaware) did this, you better believe I would be first in line to sue them!  What our states are trying to do in the name of education is anything but.  They sold out our students to corporations and testing companies.  And they wonder why parents revolt!

With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

StateBoardESSASpideyPic

“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp

Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Final Report Is A Complete Waste Of Time

This makes me sick.  All that time, wasted.  What did this assessment inventory accomplish?  Not a heck of a lot.  That’s for sure.  Just another notch in the DOE’s bedpost sucking away money from public education, yet again.  A bunch of people got together, but at the end of the day we still have Smarter Balanced and districts still have assessments.  So what was the point of all this?  Oh yeah, it was the “antidote” to opt out.  We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Let me reiterate.  We still have it.  Even though everyone NOT affiliated with the DOE and Markell’s pals in the General Assembly said “Get rid of it”.

I don’t remember all the talk about computer-based assessments as a best path forward.  How about those who attended a lot of these meetings?  Do you remember that?  And I’m sorry.  I don’t know Equetta Jones at all aside from a public comment she gave at a Red Clay board meeting.  But the “parent” representative was picked by Governor Markell and she showed up to one meeting, the first one.  I don’t know her circumstances, but if she was unable to commit to being on the committee, she should have resigned.  All that time was wasted when a parent (who is not also a teacher) could have been giving worthwhile feedback.  State Rep. Kim Williams noted in public comment at one of the meetings that she reached out to the Delaware DOE about this without any response.  Once again, parents were completely shut out as if our opinions don’t matter at all.  The usual kick in the back by those who know best.

Here is the final report folks.  I predicted months ago nothing of great importance would come of it.  It was a distraction, pure and simple.

Federal Role In Opt-Out Will Be The Same, John King Ignores The Intent Of ESSA

The United States Department of Education will continue to exert authority in regards to parents opting their child out of state assessments through regulations.

Congressman Jared Polis from Colorado asked Acting Secretary of Education John King, during the “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act” hearing, about opt-out and participation rates.

By stating “we all know states have a historically checkered record of making sure all vulnerable sub-groups are served,”  Polis referenced Oklahoma’s State Superintendent as saying “While a state is  welcome to pass bad laws as relating to opt-outs, we have Section 4-C-E of ESSA that says states must assess 95% of students.  That means all means all.”

Polis quoted US DOE as responding “While it is up to states to determine the consequences of failing to assess students, the Department will provide oversight and enforcement to ensure that states are assessing all students, regardless of what the states laws are and how opt-outs occur.”  He then asked John King what steps he plans to take to make sure “all means all” with participation rates.

King responded: “I take that responsibility quite seriously to ensure that all means all.  This implementation of the law advances equity in excellence.  I think we have an opportunity in the regulations and guidance that we help to provide guardrails that will ensure that states use their new flexibility around accountability and interventions to advance equity.  For example, as we begin the negotiated rule-making process around assessments, the kind of questions we’ve been getting have been questions around the participation of students with disabilities, the participation of English learners, the implementation of computer adaptive assessment, in a way that protects equity.  And so as we move forward, that negotiated rule-making, a central question will be how do we ensure that regulations we do on assessment protect civil rights of students.  And we’ll take a similar approach to the work on the on our negotiated rule-making for supplemented non-supplant and we continue to review, comment, and feedback from stakeholders to define other areas where we need to move forward with regs and guidance.”

Polis went on…. “And while the consequences of meeting the requirements are left up to state law, do you feel that you have sufficient leverage to ensure that those consequences are meaningful and not meaningless?”

King replied: “We do, and I will say it will require vigilance from the part of the Department, especially as states implement their first round of interventions and identify whether or not those interventions are helping to achieve progress, particularly for at-risk sub-groups.  We’re gonna have to be vigilant to ensure that states continue to move forward to shift strategy, if a strategy is not working for the highest-need students.”

Define vigilance John King!  This violates parental rights at a massive scale.  Opt-out is an individual parent choice for their child, not a school’s responsibility to make sure it does or does not happen.  It is our right that we choose to exercise.  This law gives parents, teachers, and schools absolutely no protection from the iron fist of the federal government.  We are back to square one…

Delaware DOE, Learn The Difference Between “Guidance” & “Regulatory”

Guidance means a “suggested” way of doing things.  “Regulatory” means you have to do it.  The Delaware DOE doesn’t seem to know the difference between the two.  There is a very fine distinction.  This is the case with the Accountability Framework Working Group being told by Penny Schwinn at the DOE that participation rate penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework are “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.  This is a complete fabrication and distortion of the truth.  But it appears the district superintendents and administrators on this group swallowed the lie, because they agreed to it.

But here is the important distinction between guidance and regulatory.  The US DOE issued guidance on charter school enrollment preferences surrounding specific interest in their applications.  They stated charter schools should only use this to benefit Title I, IDEA, low-income & minority students, and students with disabilities.  As we all know, certain charters in our state completely ignore this and pick who they want for their schools.  I don’t see the Delaware DOE rushing to enforce this “guidance”.  If they had, there wouldn’t be a pending complaint in the Office of Civil Rights from the ACLU of Delaware and Delaware Community Legal Aid against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  But when it comes to parent opt-out, that guidance becomes “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.

In the presentation below, the key pages are 4 and 16.  It indicates a potential way of using opt-out or participation rate in accountability but nowhere does it say “You must do this or we won’t approve your waiver request.”  They can threaten and bully all they want, but we all know how that turns out in the end.

To read the non-regulatory guidance concerning charter school enrollment preferences, please read below:

Governor Markell Gives “College Ready” Speech At New America, Gets Bonus Points For Not Using The Word “Rigor”

Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote address at a forum called “Making ‘College Ready’ Matter: College and Career Ready Policies in the States” this morning in an event sponsored by the corporate education reform non-profit called New America Foundation.

Markell looked visibly weary and tired.  The speech began at 9:15am.  He used the same line I’ve heard from him a few times this year: “There has never been a better time for someone with the right skills, but there has never been a worse time for someone with the worst skills.”  Markell explained that states that have fully adapted the state standards have done better.  He cited Massachusetts as the first state to adapt to new standards and how it has paid off for them.

He said Delaware is one of the only states still calling them the “Common Core State Standards”, but even if other states are no longer calling them that they are still the same.  In talking about pushback to the standards, he blamed the original intent of supporters thinking it would keep federal intrusion at bay.  He said the opponents have gained a lot of traction around the country.  “Implementation hasn’t been very good in some places.  We worked hard with the Delaware Department of Education to make sure that didn’t happen.”

Markell said it was “exciting to see educators so empowered with sharing information” across districts and “we have a responsibility to fix the implementation.”  He believes the standards are “elevating the teacher profession.”

The Governor addressed the issue of opt-out and firmly stated he is opposed to opt-out.  He “understands the concerns about parents and teachers about too much testing”.  He dovetailed into the assessment inventory as if this is the answer to the Smarter Balanced problem.  “Good assessments are critical, they add value to educators.”  In talking about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Markell said “It’s the best test we’ve ever made in Delaware”, it was “the right way for us to go”, “it’s more difficult than our predecessors”, and it is a “fair measure for parents and educators.”  “In Delaware, our colleges and universities have agreed to use Smarter Balanced scores for college coursework.”

This brought up the subject of remedial classes.  As Markell was citing figures, the camera panned to what looked like a classroom and several teenagers present.  When Markell asked the crowd if they were still with him, the camera caught a teenage girl yawning.  Markell bragged about getting 100% of college-ready seniors to apply to college which included sending volunteers to schools to help applicants out with college essays and financial aid.  “We had 250 students who wouldn’t have bothered to apply.”

He stated college is not for everyone, and it is our (America) responsibility to make sure these students have a place and they get the necessary training to enter the workforce.

My biggest question concerning this speech was if the Governor receives revenue for these types of events as well as the travel costs associated with them.  So I emailed the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara with some questions just now:

  • Today at 12:11 PM
To
  • O’Mara Lindsay (Governor)

Good afternoon Lindsay,

I happened to listen to Governor Markell’s speech on college readiness today at New America in Washington D.C., and I had some questions concerning these speeches.

Does he get paid for these speeches?  Does the non-profit or company pay the travel costs associated with them (such as fuel, food, lodging, the Governor’s protection, etc.)?  If not, what part of the state budget is that allocated in?

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

We shall see if I get a response.  I’m sure I will see her tomorrow at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  I have to give Governor Markell props for not using the word “rigor” but he more than made up for it with the term “college and career ready”.

Exclusive: Why the Delaware DOE Really Can’t Stand Teachers… It’s Not What You Think!

DPAS-II.  Component V.  Teacher Evaluations.  Standardized Testing scores.  Priority Schools.  Smarter Balanced Assessments.  Teachers have it rough now.  It’s not like the halcyon days of old.  The Delaware Department of Education doesn’t make it easy on teachers.  Where did this apathy come from?

In a very extensive investigation, I have stumbled upon the unfettered truth.  I interviewed many members of the DOE.  None of them wanted to go on the record with their actual names for fear of reprisal, not only from their superiors, but also the actual teachers.

One employee, who would only go by the name of Nickle Huffy said “It’s our priority to put teachers in their place.”  When I asked why she would only say “You know why.  Don’t try to make me look stupid.”

Another employee, very high up, named Davina Gustwoman, said “It’s obvious Mr. Ohlandt.  They get something none of us do.  It’s called summer.  They are off.  Sure, some of them do some ESY classes or work other jobs, but they have a flexibility we don’t have at the DOE.  We have to work year-round.  And we don’t get “professional development days”.  We get meeting after meeting, all year long.”

I checked with another employee, who would only say his name was “Surfer Boy”, said “I take every chance I can humanly get to put these teachers in their place.  They are nothing but human capital, fit only for the dregs of society.  I’m working on something I can only call “Component VI”.  This will solve the problem once and for all.”  I asked Surfer Boy if this hatred had anything to do with the DOE not getting off in the summer.  He just looked at me for a while.  “Yes, it has everything to do with that.  Look at me, I was born to be at the beach.  But no, I have to do report after report.  Screw those teachers.  Why can’t they just do the normal thing and go to Teach For America?”

One of the state board members, who would only go by the name of “Professor Beige”, said “Do we give teachers a rough time?  I wasn’t aware of this.  I know they come to our meetings sometimes, but I don’t pay them any mind.  Is this related to Common Core?”  I just kind of shrugged my head and walked away.

I was talking to a receptionist about some current legislation when the oddest thing happened.  The Secretary came out of his office as I was talking about a bill concerning “death with dignity”.  I mentioned the word euthanasia and the Secretary said “Yes, youth in Asia know all about rigor.  They don’t opt out of tests.  They would be shot!”  I asked the Secretary what he thought of teachers in Delaware.  He said “Kids can’t opt out of the test, they aren’t allowed.  Kids have to take tests.  It’s a part of life.”  The receptionist said he has been saying that ever since he appeared on the Delaware Way a couple months ago with Larry Mendte.  Apparently it takes weeks to train him on these things, but the effect doesn’t go away for a long time.

I saw Nickle Huffy again.  She said things haven’t been the same for the Secretary since all the teachers were rated effective last year.  “Something popped in his brain, and it never popped back into its proper slot.”  She said this happened to many of the employees there last August.  She said at meetings the Secretary just kind of stares into space.  “We don’t know where he is most of the time, even when he is sitting right in front of us.”

While interviewing employees, I accidentally walked into a leadership meeting.  “Suzie Wannamichelob”, as she preferred to be called, said “What are you doing here sir?”  I looked at her and said “Calm down.  It could be worse.  I could be Mike Matthews.”  Everyone looked at me as if I dropped a bomb in the room.  It got quieter than the DOE at a Race To The Top Q&A House Education Committee meeting.  “We don’t say that name around here,” Suzie said.  “Mr. Ohlandt, I think we’ve given you enough information.  Why don’t you just go back to your blogger batcave and write more horrible and nasty things about us,” Surfer Boy shouted.

On the way out, I saw a State Board employee named “DJ”.  She was very secretive about not revealing her identity.  She told me some more about what happened the day all the teachers were rated effective.  The Governor came in and had a sit down with the entire Department.  The Secretary just kept banging his head on the desk.  The Governor said to the group “What is wrong with you people?  It’s not supposed to go down like this.  How can we ever get rid of a group of perfect people?”  He told them from here on out they had to increase the gap between a horrible teacher and effective teachers.  “Only I get to say who is a good teacher.  Or my buddy Paul and his illustrious dream team.  But you sorry sacks of… You just aren’t proficient enough!”  At this point, no one was able to keep it in anymore.  Everyone started crying hysterically.  “It was the darkest day I’ve ever seen at the Department,” DJ explained.  “We all thought we were doing such a rigorous job, but somehow the teachers made us look like a bunch of standard government employees.”

It was obvious the DOE was infected by some sort of illness I’ve never seen before.  It was like rigor mania.  But I at last knew why they couldn’t stand teachers… the whole summer vacation thing.  At the end of the day, they were jealous.  I walked out of the DOE and I had to wonder… how soon would this Department collapse under its own weight?

This Week At Legislative Hall: IEP Task Force Bill, Parent Opt-Out, Assessment Inventory & More!!!!

This will be one busy education week at Legislative Hall in Dover, DE.  Many education bills are moving to their next phase in the legislative process.  Here is what’s on the docket:

Senate Bill 33 w/Senate Amendment #3: This is the legislation that came out of the IEP Task Force.  It is up for a House vote, and if it passes, it goes to Governor Markell’s desk.  I like this bill with one exception: they took out a part about parent groups at schools.  Originally, it was supposed to be parents who first ask for an IEP will have an opportunity to meet with newly constructed parent groups at each charter school or district.  Now it is only for “existing” groups.  Even if Jack signs it, it won’t go into effect right away, so I would suggest parents get these “existing” groups going now.  No one knows what to look for in IEPs more than parents who have been through the process.

At the House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd, at 2:30, the following bills will be discussed: Senate Bill 62: regarding transportation of students, House Bill 144: another transportation bill dealing with appropriations, House Bill 146: Kim Williams bill dealing w/waiving of teacher licensure fees, and House Bill 148: Helene Keeley’s bill creating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

And last, but certainly not least, we have the Senate Education Committee meeting at Wednesday at 3pm.  House Bill 50!!! Parent Opt-Out!  Also Senate Joint Resolution #2: the evil assessment inventory resolution the DOE thinks will stop House Bill 50.  Also Senate Bills #92 and 93, dealing with Autism, and Senate Bill #94, dealing with military identification for students w/military ties in their family.

If you plan on coming Wednesday, GET THERE EARLY and wait for the doors to open up if you want a halfway decent seat!

A Warning For All Delaware Legislators of the 148th General Assembly

In 11 days, students in Delaware will begin the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This was voted into law through House Bill 334 last June by both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate, and then signed by Governor Markell.  I believe some of you thought you were doing the right thing.  Others didn’t want to tick off the Governor who has made education his top priority.  Some of you are actually a part of the corporate education reform movement in Delaware.  A few of you felt manipulated and trapped because Secretary of Education Mark Murphy already bought the assessment for Delaware.  And some of you wisely voted no, in both rounds of voting.

We now face another bill in the 148th General Assembly, closely tied to this assessment.  A Parent Opt Out bill would legally allow parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Many parents, including myself, feel this law would not change our Constitutional rights at all.  But we are in agreement this would allow parents who are either too afraid to opt their child out or aren’t even aware of the possibility the ability to do so.

One of you publicly stated two nights ago to a room full of teachers this bill will not pass and you will not allow Delaware to give up Federal money.  What this legislator fails to realize is Federal funds did not put him in his current position.  Governor Markell didn’t put him there either.  It was the people of Delaware, within his own district, who believed this man would rightfully serve their will and their needs.

In the coming months, children will take this test.  Most of them will fail.  This is not to say they won’t try their best, but the actual test is designed for this.  It is intentionally supposed to be hard.  This will continue for the next three years.  Some parents in our state don’t even know what this test is.  These are the parents who will be shouting at the top of their lungs in about four to five months when the scores come in.  When their child’s scores come in and they are no longer proficient when they have been for the past few years.  This is when all of you will be faced with a very large challenge.

Some will say “I never voted for this in the first place.”  Others will say “I voted for it, and I’m sorry, but I realized the danger signs and voted for the parent opt out bill.”  Then there are the rest of you.  You are the ones who will be held accountable.  It will be well-known at this point in time who allowed this to happen.  Even the beloved charter school parents whom you have catered to with your legislative votes will no longer be patient with you.

2016 is not that far away.  Some of you will be content, not facing re-election.  For those of you who are hoping to stay in the General Assembly, or have aspirations for higher office, you need to make some choices now.  The vast majority of your votes will comes from parents.  They will remember the annual suffering their children had inflicted upon them.  They will want to make a change.  Nothing will cause parents to rise up more than watching their children suffer.  They will not sit back and do nothing.

You should really watch what is happening in other states.  Parents are outright refusing this test.  Opt out are two words no longer said, it is REFUSE.  They are angry, and going on TV, and putting up billboards.  They are saying “No more!”  While Delaware’s opt out movement may be seen as small and a temporary annoyance, I can assure you it is not.  It is gaining traction every single day, every hour.  It is spreading from Wilmington to the beaches.  This is not civil disobedience.  This is not parents flaunting the law and becoming activists.  We are parents who care about our children and refuse to let them be guinea pigs.

You all need to remember this when you make blanket statements about parent opt out.  You need to choose your words very carefully.  You need to also realize saying nothing is the same as speaking out against it.  This is not a subject you can sit on the fence about.  If you truly believe this test is good for students, this is fair warning: those who put you in power can assuredly take you out.  If you enjoy serving your constituents and helping to make laws for the citizens of the First State, remember this simple fact.

Will Markell Break the CEA Union? Priority Schools Showdown & The Unseen Force Waiting In The Wings

The Christina Board of Education may have approved the Memorandum of Understanding for the three priority schools within their district, but the Christina Educators Association (CEA) is a different story.  To date, they have not approved the MOU.  Tonight, the Christina Board will look at the plans for the three schools, but if the CEA doesn’t approve either than this will put Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a position of breaking up a teacher’s union in order to implement the priority schools for Christina.

This is a no win situation for both Christina School District, the teachers, the students, and the CEA.  Markell doesn’t seem to care because he has two years left in office, can’t be re-elected as Governor, and will move on to greener pastures when his time is done.  The DOE would like nothing more than to put an end to teacher’s unions so they can continue to push their pro corporate education reform agendas.  It is my belief this is what they have wanted all along.  This is the Achilles Heel they found and are doing their best to utilize this advantage.

Add in the Wilmington Education Committee’s reform education in Wilmington plan, which is led by one of the most pro-charter school individuals in the state, and this is a recipe for disaster.  One item that hasn’t even come up in any of these conversations is the voice that will soon roar.  The parent opt out moment will be the talk of the state in coming weeks, and this is the situation the DOE has desperately been trying to avoid for months now.  The legality behind parent opt out is being questioned at very high levels at this very moment.  Everything Markell, the DOE, and the Wilmington Education Committee are doing rests on one test.  This is not what education should be about.  Our children are more than test scores. Our schools are more than test scores.  And Delaware should be more than test scores.

Why Am I Always Picking On Delaware Charter Schools?

The obvious answer to my title would be “because it’s easy”.  It’s not like I create these stories.  They do it themselves.  I just bring them to light for all of Delaware to see.  Take Prestige Academy, and their board meeting at a tavern where they didn’t have a quorum and voted on stuff anyways.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.  I knew Jack Perry was “resigning”, so I thought I would see what their board minutes say.  I wasn’t looking for anything sinister.  By the time I got to their board minutes, and I saw what I saw, it was just another example of a Delaware charter school doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of the law.

I get a great deal of flack on Kilroy’s Delaware in the comments section when I say something negative about charters.  There’s one guy named Publius.  You would think the charters could no wrong, and because the ability for “choice” is out there, it is the charters God-given right for any type of pre-assessment before a prospective student is selected.  Another guy, named lastDEconservative, will side with Publius every chance he gets.  They have their opinion, and I have mine.  But because I want to try to help people, I have a big head and I won’t agree with anyone’s opinion but my own.  Or so they say.  I think they are hoping I will just go away, but that just encourages me to fight harder. Continue reading

Full Presentation of DE State Board of Education to Public and Charter School Boards

On January 6th, the Delaware State Board of Education had a State Board Workshop with Local School District and Charter School Boards and other “stakeholders”.  Led by Executive Director Donna Johnson, this workshop went over the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the upcoming ESEA waivers, and school accountability.  Included is the entire presentation for the public to view.

I have to wonder exactly which schools had the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test last Spring.  How many of these schools and classrooms had “Vision Network” teachers administering these tests.  How many classrooms had a high population of minorities, low-income and special education students.  The parameters around the success of these field tests are only as good as the pool of test takers.

Once again, if students aren’t expected to do as well the first few years, how in hell can you blame any teacher or school for the results of a test you have already admitted is too hard and only provides a baseline?  This is a system that is pre-stacked against those who care more about education than this department.

As far as the “Common Themes” from the Town Hall meetings the DOE had in November with the public, I was at one of them, and the common themes were not so common at the one I attended.  It wasn’t all about “clear consequences for lack of performance” unless you counted complaints against the Delaware DOE.  If anyone needs to be measured to by that standard, it’s the DOE.  But they seem to have no consequences for their actions, whether they are legal or not.

Delaware parents, do not get sucked up into the Departments web of lies and coercion.  This is spin, and it only spins in their direction.  They want to hold entire school districts accountable for performance based on a test that has already been deemed to fail.  How is that right or just?  This is a corporate education reform agenda to privatize our public school districts and turn them into charter schools which have never been proven to be more effective than regular schools.  In point of fact, they have been proven in this state to have no transparency, financial mismanagement, and severe discrimination across the state to the most vulnerable of students.  Don’t drink the kool-aid they want you to drink public!  You are better than them.

New Jersey Blogger Mel Katz Gives All The Reasons For Opt-Out To Superintendent!!!

My Response To SB Superintendent
At the last South Brunswick Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jelling came to the podium for about 10 minutes to give a short speech on PARCC, testing, and opting-out. I recorded his short speech, which can be seen below (the link should bring you right to the video). After coming home from the meeting unsatisfied (to say the least) with a lot of what he said, I decided to go through and break down his main points.
Video of speech:
Breakdown of points:
“Something that we are going to administer to so many students across so many states.”

Continue reading

Delaware DOE, Stop Bullying & Lying To Parents re: Opt Out With Your Scare Tactic Letter

Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) Please stop telling parents they are breaking the law if they opt their child out of Smarter Balanced. No where in the federal law does it state a parent can not do that. As for the state law you cite in your letter, it does say “schools” and “individuals”, but you need to reread the law, because earlier it specifically states:

(4) ”Individual” means a student, teacher, administrator, local or state school board member, or other employee, agent or contractor employed by the Delaware public school system whether local or at the state level, and including an employee, agent or contractor of a charter school;

For anyone reading this article through a link on Facebook or Twitter, please spread this everywhere.  If you live in Delaware, spread it to every corner of the state, from Wilmington to Rehoboth.  Email it, print it, give it to your friends and neighbors.  The only way we can get our DOE to stop this madness is by letting every single person in the state know what they are up to.

This is threatening parents based on a misinterpretation of the law. If you want to sit there and tell all parents it’s okay for the DOE to give this information, go right ahead. But know that parents will find out this information, one way or another. Until the DOE takes away parental rights from a parent, you can save some paper costs and try to find some other way to get parents to believe the lies you are telling them.  The only thing illegal in this letter is the act of making this letter.

This is why you are losing trust with more parents every day!  By deliberately misleading and bullying parents, you are showing what educators and schools across the state already know: You will do whatever it takes to please Governor Markell and his friends at Rodel.  This is not something any parent or educator or student signed off on.  The Common Core Standards were developed by the Feds and the governors of every single state at the time forced it upon local school districts, and with every year and every waiver that occurs, schools are losing more and more control and education has become a joke.  The more you bully all of us, the more we will stand up to you.  The more you send out threatening letters like this to school districts and parents, the more parents will want to opt out.  By manipulating and twisting regulations and the law, you will do the one thing you didn’t want to happen: cause a very massive opt out in this state.

For any news outlet reading this, please investigate the Delaware Department of Education.  From the time Race To The Top began until the present.  This DOE has manipulated and used standardized testing to further their own agendas to have more charter schools open in the state.  This is all part of an “education blueprint” developed by a non-profit (debated in some circles) and Governor Markell in the four years before he became Governor.  I would look at all DOE contracts, Race To The Top spending, and more.  I will gladly assist anyone in their investigation.  In fact, myself and other individual have some pending FOIA requests that may shed some light on matters.

For all parents reading this in Delaware: It is NOW time to end this.  We need to speak up and demand accountability and action from our legislators, DOE, and Governor Markell, even if it means calling for impeachment of Governor Jack Markell and demanding Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy be fired.

I posted this last week and I will repost it here again:

I’ve obtained a copy of the sample letter parents can expect to receive if they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  There is a lot of threatening statements in this letter, but THEY HAVE NO MERIT ACCORDING TO THE LAW!!!!

Parents, do not be threatened by this vain attempt by the Delaware DOE to prevent you from honoring your constitutional right to determine what is best for your child’s education!!!

SAMPLE LETTER
LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY (LEA)

DATE

Dear (Parent/Guardian),

This letter is in response to your request to have your child not participate in mandated state testing, which will be administered this spring. Unfortunately, (LEA) has no discretion in the matter. Federal and state laws require that public-school students be tested.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)(3)(C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not allow parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.

Delaware State Code also is clear that school districts and individuals shall not “exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department” (Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter IV § 173).

The only exemptions allowed under the law due to extreme medical incidents or for reasons of mental health of the child. Each requires documentation from a physician.

Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language—that all students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessments. The Delaware Department of Education and each school district and charter school must comply with federal and state mandates.

If you have any questions, please contact (NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR LEA CONTACT PERSON).

Sincerely,
(SUPERINTENDENT/CHARTER DIRECTOR’S NAME)
(LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY NAME)

So let’s take a look at the specific codes they are mentioning:

20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)

(3)  Academic assessments

 (A)  In general
Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments that include, at a minimum, academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that will be used as the primary means of determining the yearly performance of the State and of each local educational agency and school in the State in enabling all children to meet the State’s challenging student academic achievement standards, except that no State shall be required to meet the requirements of this part relating to science assessments until the beginning of the 2007–2008 school year.

The State shall have such academic standards for all public elementary school and secondary school children, including children served under this part, in subjects determined by the State, but including at least mathematics, reading or language arts, and (beginning in the 2005–2006 school year) science, which shall include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all children. 

(C)  Requirements
Such assessments shall—

 (i) be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children;

 (ii) be aligned with the State’s challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment of such standards;

 (iii) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, and be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards;

 (iv) be used only if the State educational agency provides to the Secretary evidence from the test publisher or other relevant sources that the assessments used are of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this chapter and are consistent with the requirements of this section, and such evidence is made public by the Secretary upon request;

And the Delaware Code, from Title 14:

§ 173. Data reporting violations.

School districts and individuals shall not:

(1) Fail to report assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(2) Report incorrect or otherwise inaccurate assessment scores, numbers of students administered the assessments or any other data element required to be reported to the Department;

(3) Exclude a student from participation in the state assessment except in accordance with the regulations of the Department;

(4) Refuse to disclose to the Department information concerning a violation of the foregoing data reporting requirements; or

(5) Refuse to cooperate in the investigation of a suspected data reporting violation, whether such investigation is conducted by a school district or the Department. The investigation shall include a review of mitigating circumstances, if applicable.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, §§ 42, 43.;

Now who are these individuals?  Does this refer to any parent who opts their child out of Smarter Balanced?  Or do they mean individuals who are employed by the school district?  The next paragraph in the code makes this VERY clear:

§ 174. Civil sanctions for violations.

(a) A student who violates any of the provisions of § 172 of this title shall be subject to the following:

(1) At the discretion of the Department, the assessment score of such student may be invalidated and the student may be declared ineligible to retake the assessment until the next official testing opportunity; and

(2) Such disciplinary action as deemed appropriate by the student’s school district.

(b) An individual other than a student who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this subchapter shall be subject to the following:

(1) Such personnel sanctions as might otherwise be imposed by the individual’s employer for an act of misconduct;

(2) A hearing conducted by the Professional Standards Board to determine revocation of any license issued to such individual pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 12 of this title; and

(3) Payment of any costs incurred by the State or Department as a result of the violation.

73 Del. Laws, c. 81, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 53, § 44.;

As well, the law defines who these individuals are:

(4) ”Individual” means a student, teacher, administrator, local or state school board member, or other employee, agent or contractor employed by the Delaware public school system whether local or at the state level, and including an employee,  agent or contractor of a charter school;

Did you see the word “parent” on that list?  I sure as hell didn’t!  If you are going to cite law, don’t just throw arbitrary paragraphs out there when others ones contradict what you are trying to accomplish.  I don’t think the Professional Standards Board can revoke my license to be a parent.  No one can take away my right to opt my son out as it is currently written in the law.  Once again parents, do not be fooled!

Special Needs Parent’s Awesome Response To Common Core Homework! Opt Out Now!

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In yet another brilliant Common Core homework response, this parent showed why Common Core and test-prep homework is beyond ridiculous.  She has a child with special needs, and this is what she wrote about it on a Facebook group:

Asking a child with a language based learning disability who struggles to articulate his thoughts in written words is difficulty enough….now expect that child to write out a lengthy written analysis of the mathematical process that are basically automatic….that’s pure torture….this common core “ccrap” has got to go…hence my response to my son’s homework last night….

People in power, who aren’t profiting from this insane corporate education reform, need to realize this is not only bad for regular students, it’s a nightmare of epic proportions for special needs children.  How good is anything is someone has to suffer?  Please parents, just opt out now.  Don’t let your state try to trick you into this and say it’s not your legal right to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment or PARCC test.  This is NOT about helping students, it’s about helping wallets, stock portfolios and hedge funds.  And none of that will benefit the other 99% of the country.

Delaware DOE Citing Non-Existent Law Against Parent Opt Out Of Smarter Balanced! Nice Try!

This is rich! The Delaware DOE, knowing a massive wave of parent opt outs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is coming, have put out a letter to all Delaware schools for how to handle this situation.  They even cite laws that don’t even mention the words “parent” or “opt out”.  You have to read this to believe it!

Parent Refusal to Student Assessment

Local education agency guidelines

The Smarter Balanced assessments are a key part of implementing the Common Core State Standards and preparing all students for success in college and careers. Delaware’s move to the Smarter Balanced assessment system replaces previous tests, offering significant improvements over assessments of the past. The Smarter assessments provide an academic checkup by measuring real-world skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.  In addition, through optional formative assessments and a digital resource library and interim item bank, Smarter provides information during the year to give teachers and parents a better picture of where students are succeeding and where they need help.

In Delaware, the purpose of state testing is to ensure students get the help they need to graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of their talents. The Delaware Department of Education recognizes state testing as an important part of understanding how schools, districts and the state are doing in educating and preparing students for college and careers. This is the primary way we can know if we are making appropriate progress toward educating students on the academic standards. 

Student testing also helps districts and schools identify if there are specific populations within their school that are behind and may need extra assistance. And state testing helps parents understand how their child is doing in comparison to students in other schools. 

That said, we cannot spend precious student and teacher time on assessments that do not offer this important information. The Delaware Department of Education over the past two years has eliminated some required tests and its switch this year to the Smarter assessments will reduce the number of times students take the state English language arts and mathematics assessments from up to three times a year to only one.

Background

There are no provisions in state or federal regulation that allow Delaware to have a system for parents to refuse student assessment. In addition, state and federal laws are clear that there is an expectation that all students will participate in the state assessment system. The only instances in which students can be excluded relate to exemption requests. Only two reasons are allowable for requests for exemptions: extreme medical incidents or for reasons of mental health of the child (each requires documentation from a physician).

State Code: http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c001/sc04/index.shtml

ESEA, Subpart 1, Subsection 1111(b)(3): http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg2.html

Suggested response

When parents contact their schools or districts to request that their children be removed from testing, the school or district administrators should explain to the parents why assessment is important for their children (see language provided above). The administrators also should explain that the districts/charters have no discretion in the matter because federal and state law requires public school students are to be tested.

Likewise, when a parents call the Delaware Department of Education to ask if they may refuse testing, state officials should explain to the parents why assessment is important for their children. They also should inform parents that there is no refusal allowed under the law: If the student is enrolled in a Delaware public school, the district or charter is required to administer the assessment to the child. Department staff also should send a copy of the statutory references to the parents.

If a parent informs the district or charter that, regardless of the law, the child is not to be tested, the district/charter should get this statement of intent from the parent in writing so that the district/charter can provide a written response, which should cite the regulations and ask the parent to reconsider as it is a violation of the law not to comply (see model letter).

If a parent response in writing that he/she has read and understood the district/charter letter but insists that the child not be tested, the district/charter could choose not to test the student, who thus would be counted as “absent” for purposes of testing. This negatively impacts the district/charter’s participation rate.

So they cite state and federal law over assessments, but nothing is said at all about the constitutional right for parents to opt their child out of these tests!  Do they really think that by telling parents a numbered law or regulation will stop them?  Have they become that desperate?  All the Federal link states is what happens to the state if assessment guidelines aren’t followed.  The Delaware one is directed to the schools and “security violations” of the test.

This is my favorite line in the whole letter:

There are no provisions in state or federal regulation that allow Delaware to have a system for parents to refuse student assessment.

Guess what?  There are no provisions in state or federal regulation that DO NOT allow Delaware to have a system for parents to refuse student assessment.  If the DOE is actually telling schools to tell parents they are violating the law when NO SUCH LAW EXISTS, then they are giving legal advice without any justification or actual bearing.  Yes, the schools are required to administer the assessment, but the students are NOT REQUIRED!  An expectation is not the same as a requirement.  I expect people not to cuss in public around my kid, but I can’t make them not do it.  Same thing here parents!  DOE, get over your big bad self and accept the cold hard reality that in trying to make this “legal” you have shot yourself in the foot!

You all know if enough kids are opted out you won’t have any “legal” justification for closing more schools and making them part of your super charter chain in Delaware.  So the closer it gets to the test, the more you will try to pull the wool over parents eyes.  The jig is up!  Parents: Opt Out Now!  The DOE has just proven there is nothing illegal about opting your child out.  Don’t let them try to bully you.  This is an act of cowardice on their part.  Be brave, don’t let your child take the test!

 

The Heroes of Delaware: Transcript of Parent Opt Out Decision at Capital School District Board Meeting @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @BadassTeachersA #netde #eduDE #edchat

On Wednesday, October 15th, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a resolution allowing parents to opt their children out of state assessments without any penalty from the schools or the district. The following is a transcript, taken from the digital audio recording of the meeting.

Capital School District Board of Education: Matthew Lindell (Vice-President, Acting President in lieu of President Kay Dietz-Sass’ absence), Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Brian Lewis (absent), Dr. Michael Thomas (Superintendent)

Lindell: Moving on. 3.10, State Assessment, Parent Opt Out, Resolution #15-041. Ms. Sass asked to put this on the agenda. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we ended up tabling the policy itself when we were trying to adjust the policy as far as protecting parents who choose to opt their children out of standardized testing within the school district. Upon just taking things into consideration and other thoughts, feelings and so forth. You know, parents, by creating a policy we’ve basically already, basically were almost like DOE but were just saying, were giving you the ability to do this. The parents have the choice, it’s just frowned upon by DOE. And yes, can there be consequences for the district? Yes, there can be. I think we’ve debated that extensively. But there comes a time, and I think I mentioned this the last time we tabled this, there comes a time when, imagine in history, when some of the key points in history when some individuals said “I’m gonna sit down and I’m not gonna risk it.” Imagine if George Washington said “I’m gonna turn down the command of the Continental Army in 1775,” or Thomas Jefferson was like “No, I’m not going to risk King George III hanging me from the closest tree.” Or Martin Luther King Jr. saying “You know what, I don’t want to rock the boat so I’m just going to let things go as they may.” If we did this every single time someone threatened us, and said “This is going to happen to you if you don’t do this,” what’s going to happen? I grew up in an America standing up for issues of great importance. Not being afraid of what might happen if you take the step of questioning the government that the people duly elect. Our government is not perfect, we’re certainly not perfect, but there comes a time when policies and the continuation of the same old same old needs to be questioned and addressed. When that communication is ignored, sometimes it requires bolder action.

I would support, and I hope the board would support, the idea that we would entertain a motion to protect the parents and the district who choose to opt out their children from the test. Just as much as we would protect the parents who choose to have their kid take the test. I think it comes down to parental rights. Who knows more about their kids, many times, than their parents? Just to see the stories of kids struggling and the lack of confidence… Just tonight we saw Mr. McCove (a former alumni of Capital who gave a presentation on a program called Passport To Success earlier in the meeting)… that creativity. That is what, in my personal opinion, I think, many countries around the world admire that they can’t duplicate about our system. We’re creative, and the one thing we try to do is educate everyone. But we’ve come to the point now where it’s just about the test. You see the excitement for learning just draining out of kids. We shouldn’t see that in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade. We shouldn’t see kids going to the bathroom having to throw up, or being afraid to go to school because they have to take this test. There’s more to measuring our schools. The banners tonight, recognizing our schools, (banners were presented earlier in the meeting to schools in Capital School District that had significant increases in DCAS scores or decreased percentages in different proficiency gaps between regular groups and sub-groups such as minorities or special education students) I didn’t need the test data telling us our district and our schools are successful. I can walk in there and see what good teaching looks like. I can see what our students are doing. It’s about time that we started addressing these things and making waves and saying enough is enough. And hopefully we have some legislators that might join on board and say this is an issue we need to take a look at.

Christiansen: Mr. Lindell, as one of those parents that witnessed a child losing his mind because he was worried about a test, “I got a 4 Dad, but they need me to do better.” He didn’t sleep that night, he didn’t want to go to school the next morning, but he went. He took his test, he came home, (I said) “How did you do?” He said “Dad, I sat in the test.” “What did you learn today?” “How to take a test.” And that’s what our teachers are being pushed to do. You know, a lot of these teachers have been here a long time, and they’re going to be here a lot longer. Teaching has changed. The demands on our students have changed. The demands on our teachers have drastically changed. And it’s not easy for you to wake up every morning and say I’m going to school to educate because you’re worried about one thing or another. But when we take fun out of learning, we take kids that are in elementary school, not getting on the bus and hiding behind a bush because they don’t want to take a test, that’s an issue. We talked about this in May, of this year, and that’s when we tabled it I believe. And we stood up here strong and said we’re going to fight for the student or fight for the parents to be a parent. I think it’s time. I wish there were five of us here instead of three of us. But unless Mr. Martin’s got something to say or has a question I’d like to make a motion.

Martin: I’ve been waiting for this one all night long, the whole dog-gone time!

Christiansen: Are you okay with me making a motion now or do you have something to say?

Martin: Oh no, I have something audacious to say.

Christiansen: I can’t wait.

Martin: Let’s do it!

Christiansen: Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion that this Board of Education will support a parent’s decision for a child to opt out of standardized state testing without any repurcussions from the Capital School District.

Martin: Mr. Lindell, I second that motion. Resolution #15-041 for parents to be able to opt out of the state assessment.

Lindell: The motion has been made by Mr. Christiansen, and it’s been seconded by Mr. Martin. Any further discussion gentlemen?

Martin: None.

Lindell: All those in favor? Say aye.

Lindell, Christiansen and Martin: Aye.

Lindell: All those opposed? (None) Motion carries. (clapping coming from audience)

My Public Comment at the Capital School District Board Meeting when they passed Parent Opt-Out @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @ecpaige @dwablog @nannyfat @TNJ_malbright #netde #eduDE #prioritizethat

Last night was a packed house at the Capital School Board meeting in Dover, DE.  But appearances can be deceiving.  Many schools in the district received awards from the Board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas.  Teachers, staff, and administrators were all there to get the awards and have pictures taken.  After this was done, most of them left.  I asked a couple of them prior to that if they were there for the parent opt-out item on the agenda.  They hadn’t heard of it.  Shortly thereafter, I gave my public comment to the board.  My son was there and heard every word of it.

Good evening members of the board. I’ve spoken to you a couple times before, and one of those was in regards to a matter on your agenda tonight,  Resolution #15-041. I have been a major proponent of the ability for parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, specifically, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I speak for all the students of Capital School District, the 18,000 children with disabilities in our state, and all of the students in Delaware. We don’t want this test.

I first became aware of “Smarter” as the DOE now calls it, last April. It came up in an IEP meeting, and my wife and I were told how much harder it would be than DCAS. I researched it, and found that some of the accommodations my son had on his IEP would not be allowed on the Smarter test. I emailed several people: members of the Delaware DOE, Dr. Denman, even betters of the Smarter Balanced Consortium. I received no response, aside from Dr. Denman, who did not have a clear answer from the DOE on my question of how a state test could circumvent Federal IDEA law. I did a lot more research on standardized testing, and it’s driving force, the Common Core State Standards. I have no problem with consistent standards for the whole country. But the standards that our educators are teaching right now every day in classrooms, are standards that were forced upon Delaware schools by Governor Markell, who accepted them for the state without any stakeholder input. It was at a time when there were very deep cuts in education, and we were still in a recession.

Ever since then, our DOE has infringed upon the fundamental rights of every public school district in this state. Teachers will be unfairly judged based on the scores of a test the state judged as a failure. They have used the scores of DCAS tests to label schools as failures in, what I believe, to be a grand design to turn them into charter schools up in Wilmington. And if they can do it there, they can and will do it anywhere in our state, including here in Capital. Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has already publicly stated he expects 70% of students in our state will fail the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He expects the trend to continue for a couple years, as schools learn how to roll out the Common Core standards. Many school districts, including Capital, have been doing that for four years. If the test has such a dire failure rate, it’s because it’s a bad test. Period. And now they want to use this test, with a high expected failure rate, to be the sole measuring factor in the proficiency of our children’s educators? No, I’m not swallowing that. I’ve been told it will weed out the “bad” teachers. But it will also weed out very good teachers, and this is unacceptable. It’s a bad measure. For far too long, Delaware teachers have been the whipping post of the Delaware DOE. They have been told to “teach the standards”, “follow this schedule”, “teach to the test”. No. This is not right, and it is not fair. Teachers should be held accountable for student’s classwork, homework, and formative and summative assessments, developed by the teachers and schools. We want our kids to be college ready, but we can’t accept the formal education our teachers received in college?

It’s an agenda that serves to profit no one but corporations and those who swear allegiance to them. Our DOE and other publicly elected officials have these backroom deals, but smile in public while they stab every single student and teacher in the back. Terms like “rigor” and “centers of excellence” are used all too often by our DOE, and I will not subject my son to anything that does not profit his educational experience. I opted him out last week in a letter to the editor of the Delaware State News. No matter what this board votes tonight, my son will NOT take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

This board can make history tonight. You can vote for change, and inspire others within our state to do the same. A passing of this resolution will send a clear message to our DOE and Governor Markell that our teachers, our students, and our schools will NOT be bullied, and they will certainly not be humiliated and disgraced the way six “priority” schools are up in Wilmington. In Red Clay, right now, they are deciding on how to hold onto three of those schools with the DOE claiming it is because of standardized test scores. Tonight, you will make a decision that may have consequences for our district. But with a passing vote, you will be the first to light a flame that will carry to every school district in Delaware. My son will learn more about conviction, bravery and teamwork than anything the Smarter Balanced Assessment would. He will remember the night his school district cared more about freedom and individuality than data and rigor. Our children are more than test scores. Let’s show the DOE how much we believe those words tonight. Thank you.