Jacob’s Opt-Out

Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop while my son is at school.  The Delaware PTA sponsored rally to override the veto of House Bill 50 is going to happen today outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 1pm.  I hope to attend and speak.  Below is what I will be saying and what I emailed to the Delaware House of Representatives today.  Should circumstances not allow me to be present at the rally (as I am writing this at 10am), I wanted to make sure this got out there.  This is the heart of my personal reasons why I have fought so hard for House Bill 50 and a parent’s choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Jacob’s Opt-Out

I want to thank everyone who could make it today. Thank you to Yvonne Johnson, Terri Hodges, and the Delaware PTA for their incredible and outstanding support on House Bill 50.  Thank you to the DSEA for their support of a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.  Thank you to Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for seeing the wisdom in bringing this bill forward in support of student and parental rights.  Thank you to all the legislators who voted yes for the bill last Spring, and I pray you will find it in your hearts to echo your votes today.

While all of this has been going on for the past year, I have been unable to talk about my personal experience with opting my son out. Many have asked me what kind of response I received, and I said that I didn’t believe there was any.  Now that matters have been resolved with my son Jacob’s former district, I feel it is important to let folks know what happened to him and my family when we opted him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

My son had an IEP at his school. It was a very difficult IEP process as my son’s disabilities are very unique.  There was a great deal of conflict with some of the members of his IEP team, I will not shy away from that.  But we were always at the table and able to work through the issues.  Until I opted my son out in a letter to the Delaware State News on October 7th, 2014.  Immediately afterwards, my son’s situation at his school deteriorated.  We received a very threatening letter from the district superintendent within days of the article posting, even going so far as advising us we would not be allowed to be involved in our son’s IEP process unless we “behaved”.  While the letter did not mention opt out, it became more than obvious the school was not in the same collaborative mood they had been previously.  At the end of October that year, my son was denied social skills services that were a part of his signed IEP.  Accommodations were not being followed with fidelity.  Communication over things going on with my son came to a stop.  The principal would not address me at all.  On December 23rd, after eight physical assaults against my son at his school, he received a concussion.  He went on homebound instruction for the rest of the school year, and we had no choice but to pull him out of his district and send him to a private school, at great personal pain and expense to my family.

I love my son more than anything in this world. He suffered immensely, I believe, due to my decision to opt him out.  I wrestle with guilt over that every single day, but I stand firm in my belief that I made the right decision for him.  My son is not a test score.  He is not data.  He is a human being.  I support House Bill 50 because it is about protecting a parent’s choice and it gives protection to students.  I firmly believe, with every fiber of my being, that if House Bill 50 was put into law in October 2014, my son’s life would be completely different.  This is Jacob’s story, and I hope and pray no student ever has to go through the pain, loneliness, and depression my son went through.  No parent should ever have to question decisions they make for their child when it is supported by something they feel is right for their child after careful research and consideration.  This is something I haven’t shared with anyone until now because of how personal it is, but I believe now is the time.

To the Delaware House of Representatives: Please vote yes for both the suspension of rules and the override of House Bill 50 today. Please put aside the political bickering over suspension of rules for this one issue today and vote for what is right for the students and parents of Delaware.  The people of Delaware are watching you and they want their voices to be heard.

If Delaware Legislators Don’t Pass Opt Out Bill They Must Not Care What Parents Think, #supportHB50

DelawareOptOut

In one week, 144 hours to be exact, the Delaware House Education Committee will meet at 2:30pm to discuss House Bill 50, the controversial parent opt-out bill.  This is a crucial moment for Delaware education.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko and State Senator Dave Lawson, House Bill 50 would honor a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment without penalty to the student or the school.

The Chair of the House Education Committee meeting, Earl Jaques, is very much against parent opt out.  Last month, he publicly said opt-out is admitting your children are failures and can’t measure up.  He apologized to special needs parents for his comments, but not every parent.  As if special needs students are the only ones opting out.  While I laid off on my attempt to have him removed as the Chair of the House Education Committee, I have not forgotten his public insult to every Delaware parent and student considering opting out.

Governor Markell is working overtime trying to come up with new schemes to thwart the parent opt-out movement.  With the assistance of Jaques and other legislators, he introduced a measure to reduce the amount of “other” standardized testing students have to take while ignoring the plain simple fact that many parents hate and loathe the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It’s not just because its based on the Common Core State Standards, it is because the test is designed in such a way that many students will do poorly on it.  This allows those in the corporate education reform movement to continue to invade our schools with the “fixes” our schools need.  While they walk away with a tidy profit.  Markell and the Delaware DOE are committed to these “reforms” for our schools.

If this bill does not pass the House Education Committee, it will show that the majority of our Delaware legislators do not believe in choice for parents.  Only when it comes to charter schools.  Because at the end of the day, that is what this boils down to: parents choosing the best possible educational outcome for their children.  And the Smarter Balanced Assessment is NOT even close to being good for our children.  Or our teachers, schools and our community.

I need every active opt out parent in Delaware to do their best to come to this meeting on Wednesday April 22nd at 2:30pm at Legislative Hall in Dover.  While this is a very inconvenient time for most parents, take your child out of school early and bring them.  Public comment will be available.  If your child is up for it, let them speak about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is the moment in Delaware when we can take back control of education in Delaware.  This is the time when we tell Governor Markell, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the Delaware DOE that they do not control our children’s lives and the state does not own them.

We need the House Education Committee to pass this legislation so our schools can consistently and openly respect parent choice.  Capital and Christina have already passed similar resolutions, and Red Clay could be next.  We will find out the answer to that tonight at their board meeting.  State Rep. Kim Williams opted her son, a junior in high school, out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I am sure she has received a ton of heat for this decision from Markell and other legislators, but the amount of respect she has earned is beyond measure.

This is the House Education Committee, and I would get busy now emailing them asking them for their support of this important legislation.  Cause I can guarantee, many parents will remember their vote when they are up for reelection!

Chair: Earl Jaques: Earl.Jacques@state.de.us

Vice-Chair: Kim Williams: kimberly.williams@state.de.us

Michael Barbieri: michael.barbieri@state.de.us

Stephanie Bolden: StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us

Timothy Dukes: Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us

Debra Heffernan: debra.heffernan@state.de.us

Kevin Hensley: Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us

Harvey Kenton: Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us

Sean Lynn: Sean.Lynn@state.de.us

Sean Matthews: sean.matthews@state.de.us

Joseph Miro: joseph.miro@state.de.us

Edward Osienski: Edward.Osienski@state.de.us

Charles Potter: Charles.Potter@state.de.us

Michael Ramone: Michael.Ramone@state.de.us

In the meantime, please show your support by sharing this article everywhere, on Twitter with hashtag #supportHB50 or on Facebook by posting this to all your friends and anywhere you can think of where it can make a difference.  Talk to parents at your child’s school or at extracurricular activities.  Contact your relatives and loved ones in Delaware to help support this.  The children of Delaware need YOU!