Anonymous sources are telling me about the latest rumors coming out of Dover. Apparently the DOE is hot to trot on some House Joint Resolution making the rounds. This resolution would have the General Assembly recognize the assessment inventory initiative going on in Delaware. This message was shown to me today in an email sent to all the Delaware district and charter chiefs. Included in this were several anti-parent opt-out talking points. All of which Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques gave as reasons in opposition of opt-out last month at the House Education Committee meeting. These talking points included the usual federal funding threats, too many assessments, important data, yada yada yada… But the interesting part of this communication was the part where the DOE representative talks about how some legislators will have a say in the assessment inventory but they won’t have any authority or oversight over the initiative. That’s like giving a kid Pringles, but you can only eat one. “We have legislators in on this but we retain the power!”
Jaques needs to separate from a Department that is using him because they are running out of life-lines. Take today for example. I stopped by the State Board of Education meeting to hear the tail end of the Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit give a big speech on their Educator Equity Plan. They talked about all these stakeholder groups they used for their plan and called this a “root cause analysis”. I had to crack up when even the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, said this is not a true root cause analysis with scientific-driven data. You can read the nonsense here by Chris Ruszkowski and the Gang, but really, it’s just more education reform drivel coming out of this department. But when the State Board is questioning how effective your data really is, the train has already left the station.
I have no doubt Earl Jaques has the best of intentions with education, but he’s listening to the wrong people. He came up to me before the House vote on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill. He explained how he wanted to get my son included on Senate Bill 229. This was a bill passed last June by the 147th General Assembly which exempts the “state’s most severely cognitively impaired students” from taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment or regular state standardized test. I explained to Jaques my son doesn’t qualify and he has Tourette Syndrome, but he is very smart. As he was walking away he said “I’m going to fix that.” I blew it off, but I received an email from him a few days later asking me to send him a list of 6-7 disabilities to add to the legislation. As if just adding these would change the Federal requirements SB 229 was based on. It shows a huge disconnect between the actual reality we all live in and how powerful Jaques seems to think he is as Chair of the House Education Committee.
I saw him last week at Legislative Hall and I explained to him, again, that you can’t just add disabilities to a law like that. He looked at me and said “We can’t? Oh well, I tried.” So not only did Jaques not understand the original legislation, but he didn’t understand the Federal law it is tied to. But this is a man the DOE whispers to with all these anti-opt-out sweet nothings and he takes it as the Gospel truth. This is classic political maneuvering on the DOE’s part, and they think they have their man with Earl Jaques. But nobody is drinking the Kool-Aid anymore. At least not in the General Assembly. When you have a House of Representatives that had a large majority pass legislation for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and then not even a year later, pass opt-out legislation with a 36-3 vote, then obviously they aren’t drinking the assessment Kool-Aid anymore.
Even Governor Markell has backed away from Jaques a bit. I haven’t seen Jaques appearing in any huge education announcements or cheerleader speeches with Jack in a couple months.
As House Bill 50 winds it’s way through the General Assembly, with it’s next stop at the Senate Education Committee on June 3rd, does Jaques still think he really has the ammunition to stop a bullet-train heading for the Governor’s desk? If anything, Jaques helped the parent opt-out movement with his vocal and stubborn opposition of it. In some respects, I hope Jaques keeps talking about it!
As I walked out of the State Board of Education meeting, Ruszkowski was asking Shana Young how it went with Jaques. I missed the answer, but it is important to note the email sent to the Delaware superintendents was written by the DOE’s own Shana Young. Were they talking about this superstar joint resolution or do they have something else cooking? Will anyone care?