Delaware Senator David Sokola Openly Lied To Citizens In His Debate Last Night

Delaware Senator David Sokola openly lied in a debate with his opponent for the 8th Senate District, Republican Meredith Chapman.  WDEL covered the event which included a lot of talk about opt out and districts vs. charters.  When confronted with the question of opt out, WDEL reported the following:

Longtime incumbent state Senator David Sokola does not fully support an opt-out provision.

“If it said opt-out of Smarter Balanced, I’d probably support it,” said Sokola. “But if just said opt-out of the state tests–then I’d have a problem because I think we will be moving to a different assessment within a couple of years anyway.”

As Senator Sokola knows, House Bill 50 in its original incarnation was for all state assessments.  However, prior to the House voting on the bill, State Rep. Sean Matthews added an amendment limiting the legislation to just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It overwhelmingly passed the House and went to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Sokola.  When it was released from that committee, it went to the floor for a full Senate vote.  Sokola added an amendment to the bill to include all district assessments.  The amendment passed but Sokola voted no on House Bill 50.  After another Senator put on an amendment which was taken off by the House, it went back to the Senate for a second vote and Sokola voted no a second time.

David Sokola is a flat-out liar.  Some have attempted to sway me into supporting Sokola because of his track record on other issues, but I see him for what he is.  He is no longer fit to represent the people of his district, much less any child in the State of Delaware.  He can’t even own up to his own decisions and be honest about it.  Vote for Meredith Chapman in the 8th Senate District.  A quarter of a century of this liar is far too long…

A Little Ditty About The Negan & Lucille Of Public Education: Jack & Dave

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Senator Sokola.  You need to get a Governor to try to win an election.  The Negan and Lucille of public education.  I would quote their silly little letter to the News Journal, but it is all rubbish.  Nothing you haven’t heard before.  It appears desperation breeds laziness in these two.  When they can’t come up with anything new, they resort to the same old every single time.  It is a broken record trying to be heard when the record player stopped working years ago.  Yawn…

God help us if David Sokola is re-elected.  Which means Meredith Chapman has to win!  We don’t need Governor Markell’s right-hand man destroying public education for another term.  Markell wouldn’t have been able to get 3/4 of his initiatives through without his Lucille.

This is the second time in the past two months we have been subjected to Sokolaness in the opinion section of the News Journal.  The last time was Sokola taking credit for the Council of State Legislatures big report on public education.  As if education would just stop working unless David Sokola wasn’t involved.  You have seen the videosDSEA did not endorse him.  But he is fine with endorsing a bogus lawsuit against Christina School District.  John Carney has the Sokola blinders on.  He screws over teachers every chance he gets.  He helped Newark Charter School get away with financial invisibility.  He serves on the Joint Finance Committee with this fellow Newark Charter School cheerleader.  He keeps his knife sharp so when he betrays his peers in the General Assembly it has the sharpest cut.  He brought the DSTP and Smarter Balanced Assessment into our schools.  He does not support parental rights.  He has a very bizarre partnership with the 2016 Genghis Khan of teacher evaluations.  When he lost his political prowess last Spring, the Governor had to issue an Executive Order to do the job Sokola couldn’t do.  He rips on blogs while providing the ammunition they hurl at him.  He chickened out on a vote to put the State Board of Education under Sunset Review.

Sadly, Delaware being what it is, his fellow Democrats are forced to support him.  As the Lucille to Jack Markell’s Negan, Sokola smashes Delaware public education constantly.  And then Jack takes all the credit.

Schools In Delaware Get Ugly By Using SBAC Scores Or Opt Out To Deny Student Access To AP Classes

In the past week, I have heard from several parents in our state that their children are not getting into AP or advanced classes based on either their Smarter Balanced scores or the fact that their parents opted them out of the test.  This is a horrible idea.  Some of these students are straight A students.  What the hell is wrong with these Principals and Superintendents who are making these foolish decisions?  While I won’t name schools or districts due to the privacy of these families, I think these actions are abusive on unheard of levels.

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When did Smarter Balanced become the barometer of student success in Delaware?   The sole purpose of this test is to understand where our children compare to each other, so we can reduce the so-called achievement gaps.  Now it is turning into a punitive measurement tool and it is affecting many lives.  What kind of sick and twisted crap is this?  Who is mandating this?  Is it the Delaware DOE or the districts themselves?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a fraudulent test.  It is horrible and how anyone can think this test in any way should decide what classes a student takes needs to take a look at what true education is all about.

Thecryingboy

We are gearing our kids toward this ridiculous notion of “rigor” at a very early age in Delaware.  I get that children need to read at earlier ages.  But the way we are going about it, by taking away play time and stripping these innocent children from the very creativity which allows them to grow as a human being is truly sad.

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Every single parent of a Delaware student this is happening to needs to be very loud and vocal.  They need to tell the school Principal this is unacceptable.  If the Principal doesn’t bend, go to the Superintendent.  If the Superintendent doesn’t bend, go to the School Board.  Go to the State Board of Education.  Go to the media.  Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, Delaware State News, and the News Journal.  Spread this to everyone you know on Facebook and other social media.  Email your friends and family about this.  Nothing in Delaware ever changes unless the people speak.  And on this issue, parents MUST speak.  And for those parents who don’t have kids in AP classes, if they are doing this to those students, just imagine how they are classifying other kids.  The best thing you can all do is opt out in mass numbers to make this waste of a test invalid.  That is the greatest option to end the destruction of public education.  You need to advocate for your child.  You are their parent.  If they are a victim of this insane testing abuse, you have to speak up for them.  Do not believe the lies far too many schools, districts, education non-profits like Rodel, and certain legislators are telling you.

It’s bad enough the Delaware DOE endorses ethical trickery with parents who try to opt their kids out.  It’s bad enough the Smarter Balanced Assessment students take isn’t the same test for every student (which in my mind makes this test worth less than fools gold).  But now we have this.  This is a state assessment.  Not a district mandated, or even school related assessment.  It was created by the state for state usage.  It should have absolutely no bearing on a student’s classroom progress.  Using Smarter Balanced as a competency-based model of student achievement is not a good idea at all.

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Can you imagine how students feel, who try their best in school, only to be victimized because of a once a year test?  The heartbreak they feel, like they just aren’t good enough.  This is what Delaware education has become, a travesty of epic proportions.  We have turned the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the center of education.  If it isn’t data walls, it’s accountability.  If it isn’t libraries closing for weeks at a time, it is teacher evaluations based on this wretched test.  If it isn’t state special education ratings from the feds, it’s standards-based IEPs designed to “help” kids do better on this test.  If it isn’t reshuffling of classrooms to have high-performing SBAC students help low-performing SBAC students, it’s fighting parents when they don’t want their kids taking the test.  If it isn’t students with disabilities being forced to take this test for 2-3 times longer than their peers, it’s the State Board of Education passing opt-out penalties in their school report card accountability joke.  This is NOT the best test Delaware ever made, despite Governor Markell’s comments to the contrary.

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When the 149th General Assembly reconvenes in January, their top priority needs to be setting firm laws dictating what this test can and can’t be used for.  They also need to finish the job with opt out and codify a parent’s right to opt their child out of these punitive tests without penalty to the student in any way, whether it is AP classes, graduation, summer school, standards-based IEPs, abuse by administration, or denying a student the ability to choice to another school.  This could have been written into law last January.  I warned them then this issue was only going to get worse.  My advice was unheeded by the majority of them.  Those that supported the override attempt know the real deal.  Those who didn’t need to seriously rethink their position on this.

And for any school in this state that has any type of data wall up in classrooms or anywhere in your schools with student names on them, take them down now.  The days of shaming students for a state assessment are done.  If any parent sees these data walls in any school, please take a picture of them and send them to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will file a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) complaint the very same day.  I will need to know the name of the school and the district.  I am in the process of filing a few of these today.

The abuse of students in this state needs to stop.  These are children, not testing guinea pigs for the data freaks.  Is this really what education is about?  Mental torture of children?  All in the name of progress and accountability.  I don’t think so.  People wonder why I am so passionate about education.  This is the main reason.  What we are doing to kids.  We are destroying the future.

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What’s So Bad About Educational Technology? Beware The Poverty Pimps!

Ed Tech.  It is everywhere.  Like the Vikings of yesteryear, it is invading every classroom in America.  It is pillaging the public education village.  For the Vikings, this was their way.  It was all they knew.  But for the Poverty Pimps, the companies who profit from students with the justification of fixing education for poor kids, it is disturbing on many levels.  If this technology is used in moderation and for the sole benefit of increasing the ability for students to learn, that would be one thing.  But companies are making billions of dollars off of our kids.  Even worse, the privacy of our children’s information is suspect at best.  One mom from Pennsylvania, Alison McDowell, has looked into all of this and she has found out a lot about what is going on with this aspect of the Ed Tech Boom.

A Skeptical Parent’s Thoughts on Evaluating Digital Learning Programs

With the school year beginning, questions about digital learning programs and computerized behavior management programs have started to pop up in my feed. Is X program ok? How about Y? Concerned parents are scanning privacy policies and trying to figure it all out. What does this mean for MY child?

As someone who took a symbolic stand and opted her child out of Google Apps for Education last year (and she didn’t seem to come out any the worse for wear for it BTW), I’d like to share my current thinking on this topic. I am not a Luddite, but I am concerned that rather than being taught to use and control technology, many children (especially children in turn-around or transformation schools) are increasingly being put into the position of being used BY technology to further the interests of for-profit cyber instruction and workforce development. I’m sharing my thoughts in the hope of opening up a discussion and to see where other folks are in this brave new world.

For me the bottom line is this: Does the technology under consideration empower students to be the creators of the content? Is the power with THEM?

If the answer is “yes,” then it shouldn’t depend on tracking personalized data to function properly. Sure kids should be able to work on a project, save it, and go back to it, but online monitors shouldn’t be tracking all their data. Students own the work they do. It is their intellectual property. It should remain accessible and editable by them for the purposes of what the child and the teacher are doing in the CLASSROOM-that’s it. Storing student learning with PII (personally identifiable information) in the cloud for some unspecified future purpose concerns me.

Fortunately for our family, the above scenario is the norm at my daughter’s school. Mostly they use GAFE for open-ended word processing and there is a geometry program that allows students to render shapes. But THEY are doing the creating. The work is being done in THEIR brains. They are not consuming pre-determined content and having their micro-data tracked and aggregated.

If the sole purpose of the technology under consideration is to distribute content from an online learning management system based on prior data that a program has gleaned from a student interacting with the program, that is NOT an empowering educational experience.

Others may feel differently, but right now that is my framework for looking at this issue. That, and the fact that technology should not supplant funds for human teachers and there should be age-appropriate screen time limits during the school day.

What we need is more educational sovereignty and less educational surveillance.

In Delaware, personalized learning is pushed heavily by the Rodel Foundation with support from the Delaware business community.  Rodel, a non-profit company, has been pimping personalized learning and competency-based education for years.  I have extreme issues with the CEO of a non-profit being the highest paid education person in the state, with a reported earning of $343,000 as of 2014.  That is a lot more money than the highest paid state employee in education, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, who earned $217,000 as of last year.  Every state has similar “foundations” doing the same thing.

Delaware teachers are at a crossroads.  Do they embrace this technology knowing it could eventually lead to the end of their career as they know it, or do they resist it and fade into obscurity as districts and charter schools feel they aren’t supporting education?  The problem is the power  structure.  The teachers who are embracing this technology are regarded as education heroes in the press.  They are considered the “trailblazers” who will lead our children to “college and career readiness”.  They get the rewards and the accolades while teachers in high-poverty schools, who work just as hard without proper funding and resources in bloated classrooms, get labeled and shamed over the state assessment scores.

For parents, their rights to protect their child’s personal information have slowly been dismantled through federal regulations involving FERPA.  Outside contractors with state and local education agencies have certain allowances which allow them to see personal information.  The laws surrounding this are very vague and unclear.  On the surface, they look great.  But the loopholes embedded in these laws are the true tale.  For parents, opt out is no longer about the state assessment.  It is also about education technology.  But how does a parent opt their child out of entire curriculums that use computers and hand-held devices?  It’s not like schools can say “that’s fine, we will give your child a textbook.”

As the world slowly begins to embrace Blockchain technology, modeled after Bitcoin, serious questions are being asked about how this could transform the education landscape.  And what it means for our children.  Make no mistake, the initiatives and “ideas” are already in play and have been for years.  Blockchain is the end of the agendas.  It is the Rubicon of the plans that began in the early 1990s.  While these “futurists” didn’t foresee the exact mechanism of what is now Blockchain, they knew education would become a master and apprentice society, with earn to learn programs replacing the traditional classroom.  Common Core and the high-stakes testing were a means to this end.  We are hearing more and more talk about career pathways and early education.  The role of corporations in these areas is too large to ignore.  We are knee-deep in Education Incorporated, but we are about to be swallowed whole.

Last March, I created a Parent Bill of Rights for Education.  It began as a response to the Center for American Progress’ Testing Bill of Rights.  I found their platform to be insulting to the students, parents, and teachers of America.  Since then, things have changed.  I landed in Facebook jail when I posted this to the same groups I show my articles to.  With no explanation whatsoever from Facebook.  The idea took on a life of its own.  But I need your help.  Please look at it.  Come up with ideas on how to improve it.  Let’s make this a real thing and present it to Congress next year.  We must be able to exert parental control over what is best for our children before that control is stripped from us forever.  To this end, I have created a Parent Bill of Rights for Public Education group.  It will be a private group.  It will be by invitation only, which some may see as hypocritical on my end given my  rants about transparency.  But we don’t want the corporations getting their hooks into this.  This will be created by parents, for their children.  Not for profit or power and gain.  This is for our kids.  Because we love them better than any company ever will.

 

Lisa Blunt-Rochester: “To Be Able To Have The Luxury To Opt Out Is A Luxury”

At the Delaware Congressional education debate last evening, a question concerning state testing led to some very offensive comments from candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester.  Senator Bryan Townsend was asked a question by a member of the audience concerning his fights with state testing at Legislative Hall and his endorsement by DSEA (the Delaware teachers union).  The question was confusing but it alleged that since civil rights groups stand by testing as an accurate way to measure the progress of African-American students, and he fought against the state testing, how would he respond to that? The question was read by one of the moderators, Nichole Dobo.  Townsend defended his stance on testing because the testing was being used for purposes it was not meant for.

By the time candidate Lisa Blunt-Rochester answered, the subject of opt out had already come up by candidate Scott Walker.  He indicated he does not support opt out, especially for students with disabilities and feels it is illegal.  I’m assuming Walker didn’t see the very atrocious scores students with disabilities had on the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year.  But I digress.  By the time the question came back to Rochester, this was her response, as I understood it, while I typed it as I was live blogging:

The original question was about civil rights.  She understands why some folks would opt out, but as a person coming from the Civil Rights movement, to not measure anything is a problem.  Opting out isn’t the issue.  We need to measure to know where we are discriminating.  We need to put our money where our mouth is.

This is what she actually said, thanks to videos shown on the DelaCore Leaders Facebook page:

So the original question was about civil rights organizations and their positions on state testing and the concern that you can’t have it, kind of, both ways.  I understand why some folks would want to opt out, but for myself, as a parent, also as a person who comes from a Civil Rights background, you have to measure growth.  Maybe that’s part of what the challenges folks were concerned about, what we were measuring.  To not measure anything is a problem, to be able to have the luxury to opt out is a luxury.  If we need to fix the test, let’s fix the testing.  But we do have to hold ourselves accountable.  In all the conversation about discrimination, we need to be able to measure, so that we know we are being discriminated against.  So, I think, you put your money where your mouth is.

This statement could be taken a lot of ways.  I see it as the same argument as other folks defending the civil rights groups statements as “it doesn’t matter how bad the test is, we still need that measurement.”  I’m sorry, but I can’t, won’t, and never will buy that logic.  First off, there is a cultural bias with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It wasn’t written for African-Americans, English Language learners, or students with disabilities.  It was written for white kids.  We see this with every single score release of standardized tests.  This isn’t new.  It has been going on for decades.

If Blunt-Rochester feels opting out is a “luxury”, an option that is truly open and is not illegal under any circumstances in Delaware, then by her logic we can all enjoy that luxury.  Parents don’t opt out because it is a luxury.  They opt their kids out of the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They don’t opt out of MAPS, or SRI, or SMI, or final exams.  They opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The test is long.  Parents and teachers don’t get the scores back on time.  Students aren’t even given the exact same test.  It is a test for accountability for schools.  This was said by Jon Cohen, who runs the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which just so happens to be the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment:

When you use a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid.  You’re using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.  And you want that school or teacher or district to have an incentive to teach the full range of curriculum.

This statement was taken from a video that used to appear in an article about AIR on this very blog, but AIR changed the settings on it so it could not be embedded outside of their reach.  It is my contention they don’t want people seeing this video.  When talking about the computer adaptability of the assessment, Cohen very frighteningly tells viewers students are not receiving the same test.  The questions aren’t the same for every student.  I wrote in greater detail about this a few weeks ago.  For all the talk about resources and funding we need for schools in Delaware, the one question many candidates aren’t asking is where is the existing funding going?  In Delaware, we have given AIR well over $40 million dollars over a five year period.  That is $8 million a year.  For results that really haven’t changed much when looking at this measurement.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sure our schools would be more than happy to be able to use that money towards lower class-room sizes or more support for students who are at-risk.

While I respect your right to choose whether or not your child takes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, what I don’t respect is you’re telling me that my choice is a luxury.  I actually found this extremely offensive.  I have a child with disabilities.  For these students, who score much lower than African-Americans, it frequently takes them two to three times longer to take this test with accommodations than their peers.  And yes, non-disabled African-Americans are their peers.  They are easily frustrated being forced to take a test for this long.  Because at the same time, their neurological disabilities are manifesting.  Whether it is high-functioning Autism, or Tourette Syndrome, or ADHD, or OCD, or in some cases (as it is with my child) a combination of co-morbidities.

I would like anyone reading this to try something.  Grab a piece of paper and start writing the Pledge of Allegiance.  While you are writing with your hand of choice, take your other hand and start swinging it out.  Keep writing.  At the same time you are doing both of these, start making humming noises.  Do all three at once.  How far did you get on the Pledge of Allegiance?  Now put that in a scenario where you are taking the state assessment on a computer.

Now, imagine you are a low-income African-American student with disabilities taking this test.

I’m sorry Lisa Blunt-Rochester, but you don’t get the luxury of telling me it is a luxury for me to opt my son out.  I respect your choice, but if you want to talk about discrimination, we can do that.  I can talk about how my son was denied an IEP at a charter school in Delaware because of a poorly-trained special education staff who were not even aware of the classification for disabilities of “other-health impaired” until my wife told them.  I can talk about how they treated his disability as behavior issues and wanted to punish him when they wouldn’t give him the accommodations he deserved under federal law.  And when things got so bad there, over a dropped cookie in the lunchroom, he ran to a confined space because he was so scared of their behavior interventionist who told him he would be suspended if he didn’t pick it up.  When they found him, he wanted to get out of that confined space.  And as my son sat there screaming to be let out of that confined space for half an hour, while I was in the school substituting that day and they never bothered to come get me knowing I was there, I found my son in a state I had never seen him in before.  I also found the behavior interventionist sitting in the hallway eating a sandwich and the head of school sitting there as well.  His face was the only face my son could see as they ignored his cries for help.  As I managed to coax my son out, who was crying, embarrassed, and afraid, the head of school and I took him to a conference room.  He explained I should take him home and talk about this the following Monday.  My son, who was in a very distraught state, said to the Head of School, “I’m going to get revenge on you.”  He didn’t specify what kind of revenge or anything he would do.  He just blurted it out.  The Head of School yelled, “That is duly noted”.

As I drove home with my son, my wife called the school.  She was unaware of what had just gone down.  She spoke with the Head of School.  When my wife asked him what he knew about Tourette Syndrome, he started making a tapping noise and said “I know there is a meeting on Concord Pike next week about it.”  He wound up yelling at my wife and hanging up on her.  When we brought my son back into school the next Monday, we were told my son was suspended for three days and when he came back he had to meet with a police officer to discuss “terroristic threats”.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was nine years old.

We pulled him out and took him to the local school district.  He got an IEP… after five long months.  It was the end of the school year.  The way my district is set up, he went to 5th grade in a middle school.  We were told by the new IEP team that his IEP was too complicated and we should rework it.  Over the next four months, my son was physically assaulted nine times.  The last of which gave him a severe concussion two days before Christmas.  That was the last time my son was in that school.  He was on homebound instruction for the rest of the year, along with months of physical therapy, headaches, and a very real fear that if he stepped out of the house he would get beat up.  He was ten years old.

We tried a local private school who would only take him on a probationary status because of his disabilities.  He received hours upon hours of homework each day which he had not received in the other two schools.  It was too much for him, so we pulled him out.  He was eleven years old.

We found a good school for him now, far away from Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He is receiving the best instruction he ever has.  He is twelve years old.

So we can sit here and talk about equity and discrimination.  But I can tell you I have lived it through my son.  So I’m sorry you see it as a luxury that I opted him out at the school where he got his concussion.  The ironic truth is that even though I opted him out, he didn’t have to take the test because he was released from the obligation by the school due to his medical issues, received at the school.  While all this was going on that year, I spent a considerable amount of time at Legislative Hall fighting for the rights of other parents to opt their child out.  In all the conversations about opt out, I never heard it referred to as a luxury.  Until last night.

The odds of your child having greater success at life are greater than mine.  This is a fact for persons with disabilities.  So if I make a choice to opt my son out of a test, that has nothing to do with your child, or someone else’s child.  It has nothing to do with civil rights.  I chose not to have my son be used as a guinea pig for results that have stated the same measurements you so vigorously defended last night.  A person can defend civil rights and be against state assessments.  They can have it both ways.  Many civil rights groups do this already, without financial backing from the Gates Foundation.  I am a staunch supporter of civil rights.  But I refuse to let my child be a part of your measuring stick for a test that is horrible to begin with so we can endlessly compare where your child is against mine.  You are a pawn to a money-making scheme that has been going on far longer than you realize.  All our children are being used.  It has nothing to do with proficiency.  The tests are rigged so there will always be winners and losers.  I don’t need my son to take a test to know he has been a victim of disability discrimination.  He didn’t even have to log onto a computer for me to realize that.

I have a very strong suspicion why Senator Townsend was asked such a specific question about state testing, civil rights, and DSEA.  It was meant to trip him up.  It was very carefully worded.  There was only one person in that audience who would have asked him a question like that.  You may or may not know who it is.  I doubt he would ever own up to it.  But he now knows I know.  I’ve seen his manipulation at play before.  But it backfired and most likely forced you to address something that may end up hurting your campaign.

As a candidate for Congress, you need to be aware of how you can be used and how other people’s agendas can backfire on you.  There were hundreds of people in that audience last night.  How is that was the only question asked by a member of the audience at an education debate?  I invite you to think about that.  But in the meantime, let’s stop talking about measurements.  When I cast my vote in the primary, I will be choosing a candidate who looks at all sides of the issues, for all Delawareans, and what is best for us as a state.  I support civil rights and equity.  But I don’t think constantly measuring students so we can hold schools, teachers, and districts accountable is moving forward.  As long as some support this mistaken belief about measuring students against each other while ignoring the individual student and their individual needs, we will continue to have this conversation while testing companies and hedge fund managers make tons of money that isn’t going into our schools.  I am unable to support you as a candidate based on what I heard tonight.  And yes, one word left a very big impression on me.  I respect your choice to put your money where your mouth is.  Please respect my choice to put my voting finger where my beliefs are.  Because the only gap I saw tonight was how far away you and a couple of other candidates are to the reality of what is truly happening with Delaware education.

Federal representatives voted for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Federal representatives stood back while Race To The Top bribed and coerced our states into accepting dubious state standards, tied to a state assessment, and put our highest needs schools into a deplorable cycle of test, label, punish and shame.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted no for a clause that would have honored a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state assessment.  Federal representatives (from Delaware) voted yes for the Every Student Succeeds Act which reversed the other two but essentially kept the very worst from what came before but promises vast amounts of money for other things.  We have once again, been duped.  Many of you won’t know it until it is too late.  So yes, opt out is just as much a federal issue as it is a state issue.  But one thing will not change: my unwavering belief that all parents have the constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their child.  Education is only one part of what an elected U.S. representative faces.  But education, which is the foundation for our children, is also the foundation for our democracy.  It is our way of instilling hope for the future.  It isn’t a measurement, or accountability.  It is about what is best for each child based on their own unique and beautiful mind.  When we constantly compare, there are always going to be winners and losers.  This creates an environment of discrimination.  I don’t care what any candidate looks like, the color of their skin, or their gender.  I don’t care where they come from.  I care about what they are going to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, even before it came out, that we need to fix the test.  And yet, Smarter Balanced is still here.  With no indication of it disappearing anytime soon.  Our United States Secretary of Education just okayed illegal flexibility waivers for Delaware under the condition we use the Smarter Balanced Assessment until June 30th, 2019.  We can talk about the importance of “growth”, but for students with disabilities, their “growth” requires two to three times more “growth” than their peers according to the Delaware Department of Education.  But yeah, let’s keep using a flawed test to measure students.  But you don’t have to be an elected federal Congresswoman to speak up against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and “fix the testing”.  Please put your money where your mouth is.

You Have Until Monday To Submit Public Comment On Damaging Regulations Put Out By Corporate Education Dictator John King

You have until Monday, August 1st to submit public comment on the proposed regulations and rule-making put out by U.S. Secretary of Education John King on May 29th.  After that, no more public comment will be accepted.  You need to go to the Federal Register website, which can be found here.  Read through the regulations.  It is in-depth and monstrous.  But the future of the children of America is at stake here.  If you have been a big fan of the high-stakes testing anti-parental rights shame and label schools, teachers, and students era of education, then sit at home and watch the future of America crumble before your very eyes.  If you want to prevent John King from furthering the bad policies and agendas, first laid out by No Child Left Behind and then magnified a hundred fold under Race To The Top, then please leave public comment.

This was my public comment:

I do not agree with most of these proposed regulations. It is a further attempt to exert federal control over state decisions. Furthermore, many of those in power at the state level have eroded local control to the point of absurdity. It is a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment. Any regulation proposing to punish schools for a parent’s decision is illegal. The ESEA regulations state that all schools must make sure children take the assessment, not that all students MUST participate in the state assessment. That regulation has been perverted over the years to take away parental rights. No state should have to follow regulations formed to serve testing companies and their profits more than the rights of parents, students, teachers, and schools. Education has become a for-profit center at the expense of children and those who truly serve them.

Since the advent of charter schools, the rate of high-stakes associated with testing has increased dramatically. Charter schools have led to more discrimination and segregation of at-risk children while our government has mostly turned a blind eye to these practices while allowing to flourish, multiply, and take away necessary funding from traditional public schools. Too many states have tampered with existing law and regulations so charter schools benefit, whether through artificial n#s leaving out many charter students from accountability rankings, or shifting funding to charter schools without giving those same funds to traditional school districts.

As a result of all of this federal intrusion, students with disabilities have lost. They have lost instruction, time, and accommodations in the name of the almighty state assessment. Common Core IS a curriculum and it has become so embedded into state education structure that getting it out will be a mammoth task. Common Core does not work, will not work, and never has worked.

In states like my own, Delaware, we have a corrupt Governor who has made it his mission to demean teachers and punish schools all in the guise of students becoming “college and career ready”. It is a complete farce and a lie. It is for companies to profit, not students. I will make it my mission in life to overturn every single regulation that this heavily lobbied Department makes under the illusion of “student success” that benefits others over children. I will fight competency-based education through digital personalized learning that sends data out to “research” companies like American Institutes for Research who benefit immensely as the essential creators of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and also serve as the vendor for the very same test in Delaware and others.

We have sold out our children to companies, and these proposed regulations will only further solidify the stranglehold they have on our students, teachers, and schools. Say NO to these regulations and give our children the capability to receive the true education they deserve, not this bastardized corporate version of education. Let’s let students with disabilities get the rights they deserve. Let’s let minority students not be subject to rigor in an attempt to “close the achievement gaps” that were created by corporations with tests designed for the upper-class. Let’s let parents decide (and they already do) if their child should or should not take the state assessment.

How dare this Department try to impose into law, with haste and desperation, the same type of regulatory schemes the Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to get rid of before the lobbyists twisted the original intent of the law and Congress passed, very quickly I might add, a completely different law in a matter of weeks with little to no room for public comment or oversight. I expect our the United States of America government to immediately halt these regulations and to strip away the power of U.S. Secretary of Education John King so I no longer have to write comments like this in a Federal Register, as well as any future U.S. Secretary of Education.

Thank you.

 

Delaware Opt Out Numbers By School District: Who Rose? Who Fell? And What About The Charters?

Thanks to the always faithful Delaware Department of Education for their obsession with data.  It makes my job a lot easier!  As I announced earlier today, opt out numbers went up this year for Delaware students in 3rd to 8th grade.  Despite whatever flawed data system the accountability gurus at the DOE are using.  Because they seem to think opt out went down this year.  But in my eyes, they went up:

2014-2015 ELA: 1,269

2015-2016 ELA: 1,375 (+106)

2014-2015 MATH: 1,116

2015-2016 MATH: 1,267 (+151)

These numbers do play games with my head.  Why are some parents just opting kids out of ELA and not Math, or vice versa?  I believe any increase is good.  That means more parents are wising up to the high-stakes testing regimen and telling schools they don’t want their kids to be a part of this nonsense.

So which districts saw more students opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Which saw less?  And where the heck are the charter schools actual participation rate numbers?  I guess since charters are “special” and have “autonomy” we can’t see their numbers….  But we can see Prestige Academy and Gateway Lab School definitely didn’t make the 95% overall participation rate, Family Foundations Academy is questionable, and 4th graders at Kuumba missed the mark.  Great job charter parents at those schools!  Too bad the document only has ELA numbers…whoops!  I can say I was able to determine that 161 students in the combined charters were opted out of the Smarter Balanced ELA and 111 were opted out of Math.  I am basing this on the total of the below numbers for this year subtracted from the overall numbers for this year in both ELA and Math.

OPT OUT NUMBERS BY DELAWARE SCHOOL DISTRICT 

Appoquinimink:

15-16 ELA 101 (+14)

14-15 ELA 87

15-16 MATH 138 (+45)

14-15 MATH 93

Brandywine:

15-16 ELA 167 (+90)

14-15 ELA 77

15-16 MATH 138 (+55)

14-15 MATH 83

Caesar Rodney:

15-16 ELA 56 (+5)

14-15 ELA 51

15-16 MATH 41 (-7)

14-15 MATH 48 BOO

Cape Henlopen:

15-16 ELA 60 (+17)

14-15 ELA 43

15-16 MATH 75 (+25)

14-15 MATH 50

Capital:

15-16 ELA 118 (+62)

14-15 ELA 56

15-16 MATH 83 (+30)

14-15 MATH 53

Christina:

15-16 ELA 246 (-77)

14-15 ELA 323 BOO

15-16 MATH 231 (-52)

14-15 MATH 283 BOO

Colonial:

15-16 ELA 92 (-15)

14-15 ELA 107 BOO

15-16 MATH 86 (-28)

14-15 MATH 114 BOO

Delmar:

15-16 ELA 6 (+5)

14-15 ELA 1

15-16 MATH 7 (+6)

14-15 MATH 1

Indian River:

15-16 ELA 34 (-45)

14-15 ELA 79 BOO

15-16 MATH 39 (+16)

14-15 MATH 23

Lake Forest:

15-16 ELA 27 (+4)

14-15 ELA 23

15-16 MATH 31 (+6)

14-15 MATH 25

Laurel:

15-16 ELA 15 (+9)

14-15 ELA 6

15-16 MATH 9 (+5)

14-15 MATH 4

Milford:

15-16 ELA 27 (+3)

14-15 ELA 24

15-16 MATH 28 (+9)

14-15 MATH 19

Red Clay:

15-16 ELA 198 (+1)

14-15 ELA 197

15-16 MATH 175 (+26)

14-15 MATH 149

Seaford:

15-16 ELA 20 (-8)

14-15 ELA 28 BOO

15-16 MATH 26 (0)

14-15 MATH 26 SORT OF BOO

Smyrna:

15-16 ELA 49 (+6)

14-15 ELA 43

15-16 MATH 37 (+3)

14-15 MATH 34

Woodbridge:

15-16 ELA 13 (-9)

14-15 ELA 22 BOO

15-16 MATH 12 (-1)

14-15 MATH 13 BOO

It looks like Christina and Colonial shed a lot of opt outs this year.  There could be different reasons for that.  8th graders who were opted out last year wouldn’t count for this year.  And by my recollection, those were the second highest opt out numbers last year behind juniors.  Those 2014-2015 8th graders are not represented in opt out numbers now that they (luckily) don’t have to take the test anymore.  Which also eliminated the vo-tech school districts from these kind of comparisons.  How convenient it was for a former vo-tech Superintendent to become Secretary of Education for Delaware and one of the first major things he does is get rid of the “opt-out problem” for the vo-techs.  I never made that connection until just now… you do learn something new every day!  I did have to help a few parents in Christina with regards to opt out even though their board passed a policy honoring a parent’s right to do so.  But never underestimate a principal who just won’t have that in their school.  While they may have felt powerful at the moment, I’m sure they didn’t by the time I advised the board.

In terms of gains, it looks like Appoquinimink, Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Indian River (Math) and Red Clay (Math) were the biggest gainers.  But Indian River is weird cause they lost 45 opt outs for ELA.

There is one district listed on here I am very happy to see the numbers on.  And I know one mom in that district who is as well.

No man is alone who has friends.

As always, my door is always open for any parent who has questions about opt out or is having issues with a district about it.  There are Opt Out Delaware: (Insert District Name) Facebook pages for all districts and one for all charter schools.  Now that I have opt out baseline data, I know what I have to do next year and which districts I need to reach out to.  In the meantime, I encourage all Delaware parents to really question these scores when you get them in the next couple of weeks.  What does it tell you about a test where only 41% of Delaware students were proficient last year and only 44% this year?  Considering the cut scores for these things, and how a lot of schools fell on those cut scores, within a 200 point range in the mid 2000s, what are we really using this test for?  When you get the scores in late July or early August, how is that going to help your child next year with a new teacher and new classes?  Not to mention the data going out like the Hoover Dam just burst to education “research” companies?  You do realize your kid is just a guinea pig for companies, right?  No matter what the DOE or the district or the school tells you, you know in your heart what your kid can and can’t do.  Does this test tell you the same thing?  Does it change anything?  Will it make your child “college and career ready” just because someone tells you it will?  Only you can answer these questions.  But if your heart has that nagging feeling that you know this test is bad, opt your kid out next year.  I got your back, and so do 1,375 other parents in Delaware.  Maybe Governor Markell doesn’t, but he will be gone in six months.  Hopefully the next Governor will care more about parents than this one does.

Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive

GodowskyHR22Pic

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has violated a directive issued to him by the law-making body of the State of Delaware, the Delaware General Assembly. Continue reading “Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive”

“Let’s Go Straight To MAP Testing After SBAC Since They Are In A Testing Frame Of Mind!”

A parent in the Appoquinimink School District informed me one of the schools is actually doing this.  Right after students finish the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they will immediately do their MAP testing.  Apparently the testing overlords don’t want to give the kids a break.  Gee, maybe they might be tired of testing?  This is equivalent to having someone do a marathon and then going to basic training immediately after.  Is it any wonder parents hate standardized assessments?  I say opt them out of both if school districts are going to have this asinine behavior.

Meanwhile, in one school in Appo, they canceled a field trip to the Old State Elementary School because it fell on a day of Smarter Balanced testing.  Forget that April is, you know, Education History Month!  Who cares about history anyways?  Who wants to see Colonial technology and fashion when they can sit in front of a computer screen and take high-stakes tests?  How boring and trite!  Who wants to reminisce about a time when education actually existed and students learned more than how to take a test?

Delaware Parents: Take back control!  Slay the testing beast!  Tell your schools to banish testing rigor from your child’s life!

Have You Signed The “Parent Bill of Rights for Education” Change.org Petition Yet? This Is Not The “Testing Bill Of Rights” From Center for American Progress

Two weeks ago, I posted the “Parent Bill of Rights for Education”.  As a result of posting this on Facebook to various education groups that promote opt out, Facebook banned me for two weeks from posting to groups or joining groups.  So I created a petition on Change.org.  Please sign it today if you haven’t already.  When you finish, please share the Change.org link or this one on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, or anywhere else you can think of.  Share it with your family and neighbors.

This was a reaction to the “Testing Bill of Rights” promoted by the Center for American Progress, an education reform company that heavily supports high-stakes testing and Common Core.  They are against opt out and hope to make more money from their education reforms.  Their petition, which they claim has 11,000 signatures in the past two weeks, does nothing to protect a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Their claim that reducing testing, while getting rid of the tests that do matter, is bogus.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at some of their recent tweets:

So what is the “Parents Bill of Rights for Education”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Mexico ACLU Complaint Could Have Huge Impact For Teachers Nationwide

The New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint yesterday with the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe County.  The plaintiffs, five public school teachers and a parent, allege that the New Mexico Public Education Department is violating their First Amendment rights by forbidding them to talk negatively about standardized assessments.

The concerns are serious, touching on one of the most basic functions of government, public education.  They include criticisms that government officials have prioritized profit and politics over public education; have fundamentally changed education, as teachers must now devote significant hours to teaching to the tests, not their students’ actual education needs; and have ignored that the tests are often developmentally inappropriate and traumatic for some students with disabilities.

The teachers and the parent work or live in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque Public School districts.  Both districts give parents the right to opt their children out of standardized tests, but state law forbids teachers from “disparaging” standardized tests.  The teachers and the parent this robs educators of the ability to advocate for students when they have first-hand knowledge of what high-stakes tests do to students.  They also allege these tests give school districts false labels in accountability measures.

I could easily see this case, if not won at a state level, advancing even higher.  It was only a matter of time before this country saw a case like this.  This could have far-reaching implications for opt out across the country.  If the plaintiff wins, it could be used as precedent in other cases across America.  If they lose, I would certainly hope they would appeal.  I truly wouldn’t mind if a case like this wound up in the United States Supreme Court so the decision on parental rights is made once and for all by the highest court in the country.

New Mexico uses the PARCC as their state assessment.

I salute these five teachers and parent for bringing this case forward as well as the ACLU for taking the case.  It is about time people stood up for their own rights, student rights, and parent rights.  I will be following this case closely going forward!  To read the full complaint, please see below:

The Parent Bill Of Rights For Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Opt Out Letter For Delaware Parents To Use

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

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

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

 

Dear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

 

Why I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board

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For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire!  Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education.  Is it enough though?  We need change and we need it now.

These are the reasons I am running.  I will tackle each reason below.

  1. Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
  2. Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
  3. Our middle schools need a lot of help.
  4. We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
  5. Low-Income Students.
  6. The Every Student Succeeds Act.
  7. Student Data.
  8. More participation from parents in the district.
  9. Special Education.
  10. More participation in state legislative matters.
  11. Charter schools within our district.
  12. Kindergarten.
  13. Support for our teachers.
  14. Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
  15. More focus on the arts.
  16. Perception of the district.
  17. Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
  18. Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
  19. Leadership

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“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District” Continue reading “Why I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board”

Appoquinimink Taking The Hard Line On Opt Out! General Assembly, You Could Have Stopped This…

An Appoquinimink parent just told me they received the Appo opt out threat letter I wrote about last year.  Two parents from Appo have informed me their child would not receive academic instruction when their peers took the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware General Assembly could have stopped this nonsense in January by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Now they are going to have to deal with ticked off parents.  I personally sent each and every one of them an email letting them know this would happen.  The vast majority of the Delaware House of Representatives ignored this.

One parent was very confused by the wording of the letter and was very upset.  Is this really a repeat of last year?  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, I demand you put House Bill 50 off of the ready list and let the Delaware House give it a vote.  Let’s see how these “representatives of the people” vote when they can’t hide behind a suspension of rules!

Christina Board Member Opts His Son Out Of DCAS-Alt1

Christina Board of Education member John Young just forwarded me an email he sent to the administrators at his son’s school in the district.

All,
 
Please be advised that Evan Young is being opted out of DCAS-Alt1. DCAS-Alt1 is a painful, inappropriate, and worthless exercise designed to cause pain to the student and educator alike. It provides no useful data and as such is, as is SBAC, irredeemably valueless.
 
Under no circumstance is he permitted to take DCAS-Alt1. This is in addition to the Opt Out demand for SBAC.
 
Please provide Evan academic opportunities pursuant to established CSD board policy permitting parental opt out devoid of retaliation and penalty of any kind during the sadly allotted time of the administration of this inappropriate measure.
 
Thanks,
 
John Young

Christina, along with Red Clay, has opt-out policies passed by their board.  The only other board in Delaware that has an opt-out resolution is the Capital board.  There are sixteen other districts in Delaware.  What are they waiting for?  Please keep in mind parents, you don’t need a board resolution or policy, or even legislation to opt your child out.  While House Bill 50 (which sits on the Pete Schwartzkopf “ready list”, meaning it sits there until he realizes he is wrong or until the end of the legislative session where the bill dies) would certainly add extra protection for parents, students, and schools, it does not “allow” you to opt your child out the Smarter Balanced Assessment or any standardized assessment.  YOU already own that right!

Once again, the Smarter Balanced Assessment starts Wednesday in a lot of districts.  Opt your child out tomorrow!  Once they log in, the data collection begins!

Delaware DOE’s “Participation Rate Plan” Approved By US DOE, Don’t Mention Opt-Out At All

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The Delaware Department of Education submitted their participation rate plan to the United States Department of Education on 2/11/16.  Less than 24 hours later, the “plan” was approved by US DOE.  In my opinion, this is all smoke and mirrors.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment window opens next week.  I have no clue what opt-out numbers will be this year.  I know many of the same parents who opted their child out last year plan on doing it this year as well.  The big factor is going to be the replacement of the Smarter Balanced Assessment with the Common Core aligned SAT for high school juniors.  Many of the opt-outs last year were high school juniors.

I love how the Delaware DOE talks about how some communities balked about over-testing which resulted in the Assessment Inventory.  The ironic part is parental choice to have their kids not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Parents didn’t opt their kids out of the SAT, AP exams, or any of the other tests: just Smarter Balanced.  Much of the over-testing discussion for lower grades was around the DCAS which was administered two to three times a year depending on how the student did on the first Spring test.

Okay Secretary Godowsky, the DOE will send letters to Superintendents and Principals if the numbers are too low.  What do you expect them to do at that point?  The parents have already opted their child out.  Do you expect them to threaten or cajole the parent into having their kid take the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Bribe them?  Or even worse, have the kid take it without the parent’s knowledge?  That isn’t a plan!  The plain simple fact is the DOE cannot and should not make an opt-out plan.  It is something the DOE, school districts, and charter schools have no control over.  It’s a parental decision that should not be tampered with in any way!  And I love how you can’t use the participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework this year because the US DOE didn’t approve it because of the Every Student Succeeds Act!

But let’s look at the US DOE response:

Alrighty then, that’s a plan!  Cut the Title I administrative funds for the state assessment?  Yes!  Please do it!  Cut it all!  Bankrupt the federal funding for state assessments?  Sounds like a plan to me!  Delaware parents, opt your kids out TODAY!  Or better yet, REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE!!!!  And while your at it, all American parents need to contact their US Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote NO on confirming Acting US Secretary of Education John King!

 

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…

The DOE’s “Rules” For Participation Rate On Smarter Balanced

The Delaware Department of Education apparently has their “business” rules for participation rate on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While these are more technical, they do show an obvious ignorance of a parent’s right to opt their child out of the high-stakes assessment.  For those parents who are concerned about the data sharing aspect of the test, I would make sure you opt your child out well before the test window even opens up for your school.  Because if they answer six questions on either ELA or Math, they count as a participant.  There are a lot of tricky rules in this, so I would read each one very carefully to determine if your child or student will be counted as a participant or not.  Of course, none of this takes away from your ability to opt your child out.  I highly recommend doing it as soon as possible and ending this high-stakes testing madness!

 

Why We Fight

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I wrote an article over the weekend about Newark Charter School that touched on the heart of this blog. It was about a denial of the ability for parents to apply their daughter to NCS.  Their daughter happens to have a very rare disability.  Only a few people, from my viewpoint, have defended the school’s actions.  One was the head of school.  Thousands have come to the defense of the parents.  Eventually, the school heard the people and allowed the little girl into the lottery.  While she didn’t get picked in the lottery, equality was reached.  This is why we fight.

I don’t write this blog for the schools.  I write it to be a voice for parents in Delaware.  It began as a voice for my own son, but quickly spread to ALL parents.  In this article, the parents reached out to the admissions office, the school board, and the Delaware Department of Education.  In all three instances they were told NO.  The parents then reached out to a State Representative which was how I became involved.  I brought the people into this and they spoke with a loud and clear voice.  This is why we fight.

Had I contacted the school first, the article most likely would have been very different. The school could have flat-out refused to respond to me, which has happened in many situations.  They also could have reached out to the parent, spun the tale their way, and no article would have been written.  The parents wanted this information out there.  They wanted parents to be aware of what was going on at one of our most “prestigious” public schools in Delaware.  This is why we fight.

Right now, Delaware Governor Jack Markell is signing a joint resolution apologizing for slavery in Delaware. He will talk about how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.  In the meantime, his education policies, followed by those of the US Government, have done more to cause 21st Century segregation and discrimination in Delaware schools than anything else in the past ten years.  Students with disabilities, English Language Learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and children from low-income and poverty environments all bear the brunt of his false ideology.  This is why we fight.

I changed the header image on Exceptional Delaware this morning. In my opinion, all seventeen pictures represent the faces of education reform in Delaware.  They have ignored parents and caused most of the problems.  Whether it was through their votes, policies, agendas, manipulation, fraud, plots, schemes, lobbying, coalitions, dictatorship, coercion, money-grabs, or arrogance, they are all guilty.  This is why we fight.

Penny Schwinn. John King.  Earl Jaques.  Mark Murphy.  Jack Markell.  Greg Lavelle.  David Sokola.  Kendall Massett.  Arne Duncan.  Teri Quinn Gray.  Chris Ruszkowski.  Paul Herdman.  Donna Johnson.  Pete Schwartzkopf.  Michael Watson.  Chris Coons.  Tim Dukes.  This is why we fight.

They are the power brokers of education in Delaware. They destroy what is good and meaningful.  They believe high-stakes testing is the right thing.  Not for the good of students, but for their power.  They institute policies that give no regard to what children are.  They use them, as pawns and widgets in their laws and regulations.  They don’t believe parents have the right to voice their opinion and they view transparency as a joke.  This is why we fight.

To date, not one of them has been held accountable for their actions. Sure, they’ve had mud slung at them, but nothing has resulted in anything positive for students.  Some are new to the landscape while others have been around from the very beginning.  I’ve met some of these people, and they are very nice when it is just the two of you.  But behind the scenes, in the offices where nobody sees what really goes on, that is when the plans take shape.  This is why we fight.

Parents have the power to stop all this, but we lack the numbers. We talk about all this, or write about it, but to date we haven’t been able to stop anything they are doing.  We need to change this.  We need to fight, in unity and as a large and powerful group.  Parents did this in New York.  They forced change and it has come.  There is no reason why, in a state as small as Delaware, we can’t do the same.  Until they hear us, really hear us, we must opt our children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We must face those who would ignore us and make decisions about our children without any thought to the damaging consequences.  We must stop believing the lies and manipulation and force the truth out of these people.  This is why we fight.

Our children are the legacy we leave the world. They are the future.  They are tomorrow.  The forces around them will smile in front of you while planting the seeds for their control of your children.  Every single law, every single regulation, every “non-profit” event we attend… we give them power.  There are some organizations that have no choice but to comply with some of this.  They will fight, but their power is limited because of who they are.  I get that.  They are also fighting for their own survival.  I have judged these groups in the past, sometimes with humor, but most times with righteous anger.  We just need to go around them and not go through them to make change.  They are not evil, but they are in awkward positions.  This is why we fight.

Only parents can speak loud enough to make the changes necessary for our children. We are their voice in the truest sense of the word.  They need us to fight their battles for them until the time comes when they need to do the same for their children.  They can’t see what is happening.  They need us to find the truth and act on the knowledge we find.  They need us to stop what is going on in their classrooms, in their schools, and how they want to control our children outside of school.  This is why we fight.

We fight for our own children and we fight for all children. We fight for those who have neurobiological actions they cannot always control.  We fight for those who are not picked because of the color of their skin or their last name.  We fight for those who have nothing except the clothes on their back.  We fight for those who want to teach our children the best way they can but have no voice because of the fear of retribution.  We fight for equality and justice.  We fight for public education and getting rid of anything that brings profit to those who don’t belong in our schools.  We fight for our own rights, silenced by those in power because they know as a whole we can destroy what they seek to tear down.  This is why we fight.