Wahl v. Brandywine Case Settles! Justice For Joseph & An End To Zero Tolerance In Brandywine!

Over two years later, the Wahl family and Brandywine have settled on a matter involving zero tolerance and due process.  As reported by Amy Cherry with WDEL this morning, Patrick Wahl, father of Joseph Wahl, has reached an agreement with the Brandywine School District.  In January of 2015, Joseph Wahl was suspended for bringing “sharp objects” to school.  While not intentional, the discovery of the objects were ripe with controversy.  Patrick Wahl began a one-man crusade to change the district’s zero tolerance policy.

I’ve been following this story for years now and I am delighted Wahl and Brandywine were able to work this out.  This morning, Patrick Wahl released the following statement:

FINALLY! JUSTICE FOR JOSEPH — AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

I’m very happy to report that the Brandywine School District and my family have settled our differences. I would like to thank the Brandywine School District for all of the work they’ve done to improve policies and to prevent the situation that occurred with my family from ever happening again. At their heart, these changes recognize that “exclusionary discipline” — out-of-school suspensions and expulsions which deny children their property right to a free education — must not be doled out cavalierly, and should be treated with all the seriousness and due process that denying this property right merits.

I said that Joseph’s suspension would not stand. It fell. I said that policies would be changed. They have been. And I said that Delaware’s “Zero Tolerance” laws which tie the hands of school administrators must go. They’re next.

As a result of Joseph’s case, the District has already created and implemented a new, mandatory training program for administrators regarding student rights, due process, what reasonable suspicion is and what it isn’t, how to conduct searches properly, and what the grievance processes are should a student or parent feel treated unfairly. They have fixed their Defiance Policy, clarifying that students can refuse certain requests without fear of punishment. Students will know why they are being searched and absent an immediate threat, students will be allowed to await their parent before any individualized search of their person or personal possessions.

Whenever a student is suspended from school, he or she will be given a form that is now truly informative, even including the contact information for any police officer who has been notified. No parent need lay awake ever again worrying that his child is under criminal investigation, and without any way to find out the status of that investigation. Steps to appeal the suspension are now spelled out on this very form, as is notification of any right to stay in school during an appeal process.

Even more importantly, the District will issue a position statement opposing “Zero Tolerance” laws and calling for our legislators to give our school administrators the ability to address disciplinary issues on a case by case basis. The District vows to lobby for this discretion. Schools breaking their silence on this issue is exactly what’s needed to get our legislators to reform bad law.

Remember when the Christina School District expelled the third-grader whose grandmother had sent a birthday cake and a knife with which to cut it to the school? The teacher used the knife, then reported the girl to the administration for having brought a dangerous weapon to the school. This mind-boggling case led to Delaware amending a law and giving school districts the ability to consider the circumstances when making expulsion decisions. That same law must now be amended once more, this time to include suspension decisions. It is a very simple change to make.

Out-of-school suspensions for first-time, unintentional offenses are especially harmful to the marginal, at-risk student. How many disciplinary issues would be better handled by an in-school suspension, where the offender can be assigned educational tasks like writing an essay about his behavior, performing some service around the school, and perhaps apologizing in front of an assembly? If there is no investigation as to who started a fight, are we punishing the victim and turning a blind eye to bullying?

Case by case does not mean weak! On the contrary, when a punishment does not fit the offense, students learn not about justice but about injustice. Students do not turn in found contraband, because they fear, correctly, that doing so will get them punished. They learn to subvert rules and policies and to have no respect for authority.

How long will Delaware schools be forced to treat plastic knives the same way they treat guns? How long are we going to keep pretending that the Advil a student inadvertently brings to school might as well have been cocaine? What happens when a student from a broken home, already feeling that school may not be the place for him, is told he is not welcome on school grounds or in school activities for a week? How does further alienating him from the school advance his education or that of others? It’s time we end the criminalization of childish mistakes. Zero tolerance policies, too, will fall.

Thank you very much to all of you for your support. Community involvement is essential if our schools are to thrive.

Oh, and one more thing.

I’m 51 years old and starting law school at Widener in the fall!

Hey, Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78 years old!

#BSDisGreatandGettingBetter

Wahl was not alone in issuing a statement.  The district released the following language concerning the issue:

The District appreciates Joseph Wahl raising awareness of potential imperfections in the Defiance, Search and Seizure, and Due Process provisions in our Student Code of Conduct. While we admit no liability, we have used Joseph’s situation as a learning opportunity and have made substantive changes to the District’s policies, procedures, and practices including changes to our Student Code of Conduct. We have also implemented safeguards to ensure teachers, administrators, and other school employees are properly trained regarding the students’ rights. These revised provisions are available on the District’s Facebook page, website and will be printed in the next printed version of the Student Code of Conduct. Faculty and staff will be receiving training on these revised procedures.”

It looks like Brandywine’s zero tolerance policy will become a thing of the past.  All Delaware school districts should get rid of these obscene policies.  Our General Assembly should do whatever it takes to make them extinct as well.  While no one wants a Columbine situation at our schools, there is such a thing as taking things too far.  Zero tolerance results in situations exactly like what Joseph Wahl went through.

Never underestimate the will and resolve of a parent when something doesn’t feel quite right.  Wahl fought the district, the Brandywine Board of Education, took it to the State Board of Education, had a FOIA complaint ruled in his son’s favor with the Delaware Department of Justice, and filed suit.  Some have said he didn’t have to do this, but look at the results.  He got the district to change a policy.  That is not an easy thing to do, especially when dealing with a discipline issue.  I salute Wahl for his perseverance.

If Wahl does become a lawyer, I can only imagine what opposing attorneys would go through in a courtroom if this case was any indication.

To follow the storyline of Wahl v. Brandywine, please go to the following links.  It looks like all of Wahl’s Youtube videos are no longer viewable.

brandywine-board-violated-foia-according-to-doj-legal-opinion-over-removal-of-student-discipline-record/

holodick-brandywine-name-in-lawsuit-as-father-seeks-justice-for-year-long-nightmare/

patrick-wahl-launches-youtube-video-called-why-im-suing-the-brandywine-school-district-its-not-for-my-kid-its-for-yours/

an-open-letter-to-brandywine-superintendent-dr-mark-holodick/

brandywine-threatens-8-million-in-cuts-if-referendum-doesnt-pass-40-teachers-at-risk-of-losing-jobs/

doc-holodick-gets-superintendent-of-the-year-patrick-wahl-gets-the-ed-parent-warrior-of-the-year-award/

 

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:

Why We Fight

cropped-deledreformers4.png

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.

DOOM 2016 Strikes Delaware As Parent Rights Month Begins

finger-prints-optout-large

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Parents Go It Alone As National PTA Opts Out of Opt-Out

Sending a very confusing message to American parents, the National PTA will be issuing a position statement on testing and opt-out in the next couple days.  In anticipation of this, the Delaware PTA issued a press release indicating they still support House Bill 50 because it supports parent’s rights, and in turn, children’s rights.  The National PTA will not support the opt-out movement according to the Delaware PTA statement.  The Delaware PTA has always advised they do not tell parents to opt out or tell them not to.  But they have done a lot for opt-out in their support for House Bill 50.

As state teacher’s unions and the national unions, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, have never really supported the movement one way or another, the focus for all these groups has now become the nature of testing.  In other words, the reformers have won.  They have convinced the biggest organizations concerning schools that the problem isn’t with these upstart parents opting their kids out, it is the actual tests.  Which is why we are seeing these assessment inventory committees popping up all over the country.

The end goal will be the same tests parents object to, but in smaller chunks, embedded in tests throughout the year.  As students reach the end of units they are learning in their personalized learning environment, they will be given unit tests.  They will still be standardized assessments, but not on the surface.  Students will only progress when they have become proficient on the material.  Based on “their” material.  Not the standards most people grew up with, but the Common Core standards.

It is a disgrace.  I still believe the only way to stop the takeover of our children by these reprehensible companies and organizations is to make a lot of noise and opt-out.  The PTA’s and unions have been lulled into a false sense of security by these animals.  They still don’t get what the essential problem is here.  But many parents do.  It is Common Core.  It is the resources pouring out of the classroom and into corporations that disguise themselves as think tanks and non-profits.  Where their CEO’s make more than most people make in six years.  Where they buy off legislators and politicians with their big money and big words.   With promises of power and security at the expense of children.

I have felt many betrayals in the past year and a half, but none have stung like the ones in the past two months.  Organizations and people I thought were allies.  They know who they are.  If they don’t, be assured I hear a lot.  Much more than you probably realize.  Delaware isn’t that big.  People who think the world will stop revolving if they don’t make sure they are heard.  I respect the Delaware PTA for getting this out there ahead of time.  I joined the PTA back in September so I could hopefully get some more access to things.  That never happened, despite assurances from someone that it would.  So I will not be paying my “membership fee” again.  I truly can’t support an organization that thinks a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced is okay but still thinks Common Core is a good thing.  I always knew this day would come, but it happened much sooner than I expected.

Delaware and American parents are on their own.  We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves.  We must shoulder the fight for our children by ourselves, without any true support.  And you know what, I kind of like it better that way…

Delaware PTA, House Bill 50, House Resolution 22, House Bill 243: What Happened Today

Chaos.  There is no other word for it.  The rally went great, we got a good turnout, and there was a lot of media there.  By the time Rep. Kowalko brought the suspension of rules motion to the floor, I had an ominous feeling.  Too many of the reps, who know who I am, were not looking at me.  The suspension of the rules was seconded, and a voice vote was called.  13 yes, 26 no, 1 no vote, and 1 absent.  I can say Rep. Bennett, who was absent, reached out to me a couple weeks ago giving her support for this.  Unfortunately she was not able to attend today.

State Rep. Byron Short gave a long talk about standardized testing and how he wants a valid look at what we are doing with state assessments.  He indicated this last Spring, but he felt he wasn’t heard.  Short was NOT talking about the assessment inventory currently going on, but the state assessment.

State Rep. Debbie Hudson indicated she had brought two bills to be filed regarding opt-out, but they were not filed before today’s session.  She indicated that they had “wasted their time” on House Bill 50.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf indicated the bills would be filed today.  Rep. Kowalko indicated he wanted House Bill 50 put on the ready list.  This means it would come to a full House vote… if Schwartzkopf puts it on the agenda.  If anyone wants to know what this means, Kilroy got Hudson to introduce legislation in the 147th AND 148th General Assembly.  Both times it went out of the education committee, but Schwartzkopf NEVER put it out for a full House vote.

I made a point to thank as many of the legislators who voted yes on the suspension of rules that I could.  I went up to Rep. Hudson and told her flat-out, “I’ll be sure to tell my son who was physically assaulted nine times after I opted him out that you thought this was a worthless bill.”  She came up to me and Yvonne Johnson, Teri Hodges, and Ashley Sabo and indicated she wanted to show us the new bills.  As we ventured down into the Republican office, I had a bad feeling in my stomach again.  This feeling was soon realized when State Rep. Mike Ramone, with a huge smile, showed me House Resolution #22.

While this certainly looks good, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, a House Resolution in Delaware is not enforceable and it is only passed by one chamber.  So while it looks like the answer, I knew it was not.  Then I was given a copy of the as-yet unnumbered House Bill 243.

HB243

Again, it looks great and it stops the DOE from implementing opt-out penalties against schools on the Delaware School Success Framework, or the school report card.  Fantastic!  NOT!  Here is the fatal flaw.  The DOE already submitted their ESEA waiver at the end of November.  They will most likely get that back in the next few weeks.  That is then tied to Federal Law, ESEA, which does not expire until the end of this year.

So the unenforceable House Resolution and the bill that would get tied up in education committees and protects schools more than parents and students, is not a win at all.  I don’t view either of these as good solutions to House Bill 50.  But the very bizarre nature of today is yet to come.  While all this is going on, there was a corporate tax bill introduced by Valerie Longhurst the other day.  It gets fast-tracked out of the appropriations committee, but it still requires a suspension of rules to get to a vote today.  Now this is a bill, who many legislators told me, would NEVER be introduced by a Democrat.  Longhurst is a Democrat.  Longhurst is very loyal to the Governor, who suggested this last week.  So it is more than obvious this bill is coming from Governor Markell.

As the legislators were in caucus discussing all of this I’m sure, I sat with the PTA and legislators slowly drifted out.  The Republicans two bills were talked about, and originally Reps. Williams and Kowalko were willing to be co-sponsors on it.  However, two other legislators informed us the House Resolution does nothing, and the House Bill does nothing for parents.  It protects the schools.  As well, without support from the Senate, House Resolution #22 is just a piece of paper.  To get something with strong support from both sides that would not require the Governor’s signature and is enforceable would be a concurrent resolution.  Legislative Hall is a funny place.  If you are at the right place, at the right time, you can hear people talking.  There are enough columns and stairs and hallways on the first floor of that building.  I heard folks talking about HB50.  And HB235.  And how the Republicans will get that.  It is more than obvious there was a deal made.  Most likely from Governor Markell himself.

Back to legislative session.  Secretary Godowsky, Susan Haberstroh (from the DOE), Lindsay O’Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), and State Rep. Earl Jaques are huddled around each other.  To be a fly on that wall!  I made a point to talk to Rep. Charles Potter about House Bill 56, the charter school “freeze” bill where no new applications for charters in Wilmington could be submitted until the state figured out what to do with all this transition.  I advised him of the Wilmington charters that are submitting modifications to increase their enrollment and add grades.  He said he would take a look at that.  House Resolution #22 was introduced and floated around to the legislators.  Rep. Joe Miro is the primary sponsor.  Which told me the House Republicans behind this were still going through with their idea.  Schwartzkopf said House Bill 50 is now on the ready list.  But once again, the ready list can either be a full House vote or the limbo list like Kilroy’s bills.  State Rep. Stephanie Bolden talked about House Joint Resolution #10 which is a bill whereby Delaware officially apologizes for slavery.  I fully support that bill, however the discussion that ensued from some legislators, especially the one who talked about honoring the rights of people and the other who talked about the Bible and scripture, you know, the book that actually does go into parental rights quite a bit, I found it all to be a little hypocritical given their earlier votes.  After that ended (which passed), House Bill 235 came up.  The corporate tax bill.  The suspension of rules was put forth by Longhurst, and seconded by a few voices in the chamber.  Kowalko asked for a roll call.  And it came, numerous yes votes.  Many who VOTED NO ON THE SUSPENSION OF RULES FOR HOUSE BILL 50.  I kept track of all of them and published it right away.  Aside from the one Yearick vote I messed up, they are all here.  As I was getting ready to walk out the door, Rep. Mike Ramone whispered to me about how Kowalko goes on and on and their bills are better.  I whispered back to him, “I don’t trust any of you.”  As I walked out of Legislative Hall today, with House Bill 50 in limbo, crappy bills trying to take its place from Republicans so desperate not to get publicly thrashed over their vote today they would thrown anything to the wall to see if it sticks, a clear indication of who in the Delaware House cares an iota about parents and who doesn’t, and knowing the PTA would support these upcoming bills, I just smiled.

After a nice dinner with my wife and son and a trip to Toys R Us, I came home to a billion Facebook notifications, tons of emails, and knowing I had to write this.  House Resolution #22 passed after I left.  So did House Bill 235.  The Delaware PTA issued a statement on today’s events, which once again, looks good to read…

All Is Not Lost With The Parent Opt-Out- Discussion Still On The Table

It is important to remember that we had 3 primary goals with HB 50:

  1. Protections in place for parents that chose to opt their student(s) out of the state assessment
  2. Alternate academic instruction for students not taking the assessment
  3. A clear and consistent opt out process implemented statewide

Even with all the events that took place today at Legislative Hall, we are still primed to meet those goals, and it is looking like that is going to happen! Interestingly enough, we spoke with enough legislators today to see that they are definitely not supporting the Governor’s agenda and firmly believe that parents and schools should be protected during the opt out process.

As a recap to the events today at Legislative Hall, the House voted against a suspension of House rules on HB 50. While we are disappointed in our legislator’s actions, we do not see this as a loss. After conversations with multiple legislators with regards to their vote, we were informed that if HB 50 and been voted down under a suspension of the House Rules, the bill would have been dead. Given the mood in Legislative Hall today, it is likely that the bill would not have passed. HB 50 has been placed on the House Ready list.

In an unexpected turn of events, the House Republicans informed us of their intent to introduce legislation that would prohibit the state from using participation rates against a school or district. Delaware PTA supports this. The bill has been filed as HB 243. (See Below)

They also introduced a Resolution that prohibits schools and/or districts from penalizing students/parents from opting out. In addition, it requests that the Department of Education develop several options that outline a uniform opt out process. (See Below). Although a Resolution cannot mandate action from the Delaware Department of Education, Representatives Miro and Jaques both confirmed that they had spoken with interim Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky and that he has committed to following the resolution and developing several options for a statewide process on parent opt out. In addition, our Vice President of Advocacy spoke with Dr. Godowsky to request parent input on the development of these options. We were informed that even though the Secretary cannot be compelled to act under this resolution, he has indicated that he will do so and he has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts.

Everyone should be very proud of the energy that they put into advocating for parent rights, but our work is not done. We have never seen so many parents and teachers come together on a single issue as we have with the Parent Opt Out. We realize that sometimes compromise is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Our goal is to ensure that neither schools nor districts can send threatening letters to parents choosing to opt their child out of the assessment. We want to make sure that every district respects a parent’s decision and that they clearly communicate the parent’s options with regards to opting out of the state assessment.  Our message was definitely received. We will continue with our advocacy with the same amount of fervor that you have seen over the last several weeks. We must keep the pressure on, so please keep sending those emails to your representative. We will be reevaluating and disseminating the next steps in our advocacy plan in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you to everyone that has supported parent’s rights and our advocacy efforts.

 Delaware PTA

I truly have to think this one through.  Our legislators could have passed HB50 in the House today.  They could have overridden the veto in their chamber.  They chose not to.  So now we have Republicans, obviously working with Earl Jaques of all people and the DOE and the Secretary of Education, and not telling anyone about this, for weeks (I know this because Mike Ramone told me they have been working on this for a while.  When I said you could have given me a heads up, he said “We couldn’t.”  Makes sense, get the crowd to show up for the rally, stick the knife in parents and students backs, and then try riding in on the cavalry saying “We have something better!”  Nice try.  First off, I don’t trust Dr. Godowsky.  This is the man who said “looks like harsh opt-out penalties won’t rule the day” and then said he is recommending those very same opt-out penalties with no logical justification as to why.  Second of all, he indicated he “has the authority to mandate compliance from the schools/districts”.  If he has this magic wand, why hasn’t it been used already?  Why didn’t Mark Murphy use this all of a sudden too great to be true authority?  Why does it take all of this for them to get it?  And would I ever trust anyone at the DOE to determine opt-out policies for our schools and districts?  Furthermore, the PTA newsletter indicates a request was made to Godowsky to have parents as part of this process.  There is no answer from Godowsky on that very important issue.  Many parents who have opted their children out do not belong to the Delaware PTA and do not believe everything the Delaware PTA believes in.  And the due date for these “policies” is “on or before May 1st”, well into the testing window for Smarter Balanced when most students have already taken it or are finishing up.  Not a lot of protection for parents.  Not a lot to protect students.  Nothing to indicate schools will honor the spirit of this.

So where do we stand with opt-out in Delaware?  Pretty much the exact same place we were a year ago.  So once again Delaware parents, I beseech you to search within your hearts to do the right thing, and make the right choice for your child like I did with mine.  And I pray none of you have to experience what happened as a result of my decision.  As always, I am here to help and guide, and call out any school who gives you a hard time if that is what you wish.

For the citizens of Delaware, I would take a very strong look at my post about the votes today.  I would look at those districts, and if you know anyone who wants to run, tell them to do it.  If they are on the fence, explain how those House reps went against parents.

For the House Reps who voted yes today on the suspension of rules: thank you.  For those who voted no on those rules for HB50 and yes on the rules for HB235, everyone will know.  I will make sure of it, every day if need be.  You betrayed parents today.  We heard you, loud and clear.  And don’t think for one second that your “rescue legislation” means anything.  It is tied to the DOE, Markell, and tainted in legislative blood money.  This is not solely directed towards Republicans, but Democrats as well.  All of you who did this today.  The 13 who voted yes are safe.  Rep. Bennett is safe.  The rest… I have no words…

These are the things revolutions are made of.  This is how America was made.  When the rights of the people are violated, they will demand change.  And it will come.  Nothing stinks more than betrayal.  I told all of you, a vote of no on a suspension of rules is the same as a no vote on the override.  You lost the right to say “I would have voted yes” because you hid behind another vote.  Your motivations and affirmations are gone.  They don’t matter.  You played cards with the devil and now you are on the table.  You are all cowards and weak, all 27 of you.  And trust, that is gone with me and MANY others.

One last thing, for those who mock John Kowalko, I want to make something clear.  Don’t whisper in my ear about him.  Don’t talk about how he shouldn’t be in that chamber.  This is an honorable man.  He has conviction and passion.  He will fight like a dog, but he will do it with honesty.  Compared to what I saw from many of you today, I would take that any day of the year.  House Bill 50 was NOT a waste of time.  It was a simple bill, grounded in what is best for students and parents.  It wasn’t based on what the DOE wanted to do.  It wasn’t based on what was best for the districts and charter schools.  It was about parental rights and students.  I believe you all knew this.  Which makes what you did today so horrible, and morally wrong.

And Jack, don’t think you are slipping away.  As the rumor mill talks about your upcoming job at Alliance for Excellent Education, a corporate education reform company that has more Kool-Aid coming out of each word in its website than I have ever seen before, and the rumor mill talks about a crazy thought about you actually getting a payout to make sure House Bill 50 didn’t go through, be assured I will find out the truth to ALL of that.  You and I aren’t done yet.  You may be fooling people into thinking you are done in a year and you are just winding down, I know you are at your most dangerous now.  I know you fear opt-out more than anything that has ever come before your desk.  We both know what opt-out does.  How it undermines what you and your buddies have planned.  For our children.  I know.  I am not fooled.  Everything you touch is tainted with this plan.  Delaware children are not your children.  And tell your buddies, America’s children are not their children.  You will all be hearing from us VERY soon, you can take that to the bank.

Jacob’s Opt-Out

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

Jacob’s Opt-Out

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

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

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

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

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

How The Legislators Vote Today Will Determine How The People Vote In November

2016Election

You are an everyday normal Delaware citizen.  You have two kids in school.  One of them does well, the other struggles.  You usually vote Democrat in elections, but you are on the fence with some issues this year.  In your district, a Republican and a Democrat are running.  You aren’t sure who to vote for.  You get a flyer in the mail from one of the candidates.  It talks about how their opponent decided not to vote yes for a bill about parental rights.  You look into the issue and see it was a bill about parents opting out of standardized tests.  Your one child came home stressed and miserable during those testing days.  You thought about opting him out but the school pressured you into having him take it.  That bill would have prevented that.  You make up your mind: You are now firmly on the side of the candidate that sent the flyer.

For those legislators who are big on not voting yes for a suspension of rules, this could result in you being suspended from office: permanently.  For those who wish to side with a departing Governor who WILL profit off education and the very policies he had a hand in after he leaves office, I would think twice about that.  Jack Markell is a very shrewd man and he doesn’t care what happens after he gets his very excellent education job a year from now.  Education is a fickle beast.  It changes and morphs constantly in cycles.  Todays big changes will be gone in ten years.  But todays changes are things Jack Markell has been working on for the past ten years.  He is a futurist.  He plots and schemes with American dreams and uses people, legislators most of all.  He isn’t a true Democrat.  He is a corporatist through and through.  He even said so during the 2012 Democratic Convention.  It is his job to be against opt-out.  Because for Jack, it is NOT about the students.  It is NOT about the parents.  It IS about the money and big business.

There may be issues among all of us about education and how to best serve the students of Delaware.  But selling them out to the highest bidders and their alliance of thieves is NOT the way the students of Delaware will succeed.  It is how the businesses succeed.  Our children are more than test scores.  Remember that today and vote with your conscience.

House Bill 50 Gives Protection For Student Rights And Honors Parental Rights

The biggest fear any parent has when they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware is that their child will be punished by school officials.  They do not want their child suspended or told they won’t be able to go to the next grade or told they have to go to summer school.  They don’t want their child to sit around all day when other students take the test.  They don’t want to be told not to bring their child to school that day.  House Bill 50 guarantees these student rights just as much as honoring the parental right to have parents make this choice.

In all the conversation about House Bill 50, and what it is about, this is what is missing from the conversation.  It protects the student.  I recently heard something discussed at the first Delaware PTA Town Hall from last February.  A student was told to lie to other students about being opted out of Smarter Balanced.  This was done so the student couldn’t encourage other students to opt out.  Since when is it okay for anyone in a school to encourage a child to lie?

House Bill 50 states: “Schools shall honor any timely request and provide alternative educational activities during testing times” and “there shall be no academic or disciplinary repercussions on the student’s record for opting out of participating in the statewide assessment”.

Student rights are just as important as a parent’s right.  It is a given that preventing opt-out is doomed to failure.  The Governor actually understands this now, according to the infamous Washington Post editorial, as do our schools, teachers, and legislators.  House Bill 50 does not allow opt-out, which has been mistakenly written in the News Journal a number of times.  It honors the choice and offers protection.

I sincerely hope our legislators in the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate do not forget these very important facts and recognize those two things, choice and protection, are the most important part of their decision.  Why would they not want to protect student rights and honor parental rights?

Parent Opt-Out Veto Override Rally 1/14/16, I Know What You Have Been Up To Governor Markell

The Delaware PTA is hosting a parent rally at Legislative Hall in Dover on January 14th, at 2pm.  This event is changed from January 12th.  Please make every effort to attend: parents, students, citizens, teachers, administrators, superintendents, charter heads, and anyone else you can think of.  The latest bomb from the US DOE about opt-out is a slap in the face of every single parent of a child in public school America.  We need to make this standardized high-stakes testing madness stop.  Take off work that day, bring your kids, and support the God-given, fundamental and constitutional rights of parents.  This is YOUR moment.  Do not let it pass.  For school employees, bring the students on a field trip that day and show them how democracy in America works best.  This is about parents rights, pure and simple.  This is not a civil rights issue.  If anything, the Smarter Balanced Assessment has proven how disgusting and vile one test can cause illusions and perceptions about students who have the most needs for instruction.  And if you are the parent of a brilliant child who did great on the test, that is excellent.  Your child is going to be brilliant either way and doesn’t need this money-wasting time-consuming test to tell you what you already know.

I’VE HEARD FROM SEVERAL FOLKS THAT GOVERNOR MARKELL IS CALLING ALL OF THE HOUSE REPS AND ASKING FOR THEIR SUPPORT IN NOT VOTING YES TO THE OVERRIDE OF HOUSE BILL 50.  While everyone who told me this asked me not to share it, and I pretended with each one this was the first time I heard it, it is far too many for my comfort zone.  Jack Markell is telling legislators about how it would be so disrespectful to his office if they override HIS veto.  Sorry Jack, this is not YOUR bill.  This is not YOUR decision.  Our legislators sided with parents over your diabolically insane testing mentality.  You are a bully.  You do not care about parents.  How many of your children took the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  We both know the answer to that one!

FOR OUR DELAWARE LEGISLATORS: If you vote no to the veto, you are nothing more than a bully.  You are a pawn of Governor Markell and you care more about disrespecting one already disrespectful person than thousands of your constituents.  You serve Delaware.  The People of Delaware.  Not Jack Alan Markell.  The people.  A no vote on the veto could very well cost you your re-election if you are up again next year.  And if you aren’t running or don’t face the ballot until a later date, good luck getting any support from the thousands of Delaware parents who have been spit on, disrespected, bullied and intimidated.  I know for a fact some of you have already given your support to Jack on this issue.  I would think long and hard about that costly mistake if I were you.  Republicans and Democrats alike.  This is not the time for you to lend support to a failed Governor on education.  Seven out of twelve states who received the latest US DOE threat letter were Smarter Balanced Assessment states.  Do more than override the veto. Get rid of Smarter Balanced, and come up with a meaningful and productive assessment for our students without all the strings attached.  We don’t need to hire outside consultants and companies to do this.  We don’t need to spend tens of millions of dollars to do this.  We have the teachers and educators in our very own state to come up with something better for our children.  And as for you John Carney, you need to get your head out of the clouds and oppose Markell’s bullying tactics.  Loudly and clearly.  Stop being quiet on everything and just assuming you are a shoe-in on Election Day.  That is weak and tiring, and Delaware deserves better than that.

FOR GOVERNOR MARKELL: Do you hear that?  That is the sound of parents becoming more important than you.  That is the sound of the legislators in your state supporting those same parents and honoring their rights.  It rang like a bell on June 25th when the Delaware Senate cleared the final passage of House Bill 50, and it will ring again when they override your veto.  This is your legacy.  This is your thumbprint on Delaware: causing parents to rise in opposition to a tyrannical eight years of you.  We are done with you.  We are casting you aside and praying the next one is infinitely better.  For all the talk you had about education, you are no better than a school yard bully taunting those you believe are weaker than you.  We are stronger than you and we will show you once and for all how much stronger we are.  We know you taunt and tease our legislators with threats about not supporting this bill or that bill, or how you use your executive power to make promises when it comes to the budget.  We know you allowed Rodel to use their influence so you could hand-pick your leaders in the Delaware DOE and your unelected members of the State Board of Education.  We know which legislators are in your pocket.  No more.  Your power is waning and you know it.  Instead of succumbing to the will of the people you actually think exerting more power will make people listen.  No.  You are done.

As a state, we need to STOP making every single education decision that is surrounded by the measurements of standardized assessments.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is doing it.  Our schools do it.  Our DOE certainly does it.  Our businesses aligned with Markell and Rodel do it.  Enough.  What about YOUR child.  What about their INDIVIDUAL rights?  Do they mean anything anymore?

September 17 is REFUSE THE TEST PARENT STRIKE in Delaware! Press Conference at 12:30pm!

Parent Strike is a coordinated effort across America to take back public education from the corporate education reformers and those who would do our children irreparable harm with state standardized assessments.  In Delaware, we will be celebrating this momentous day, September 17th, with other states across our country.  I invite all parents and press to attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30pm, where I will announce the violations and complaints against Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Board of Education, and other entities within Delaware that have contributed to this toxic environment against our children.

If you want to make a statement during the press conference, please let me know ahead of time.  I will also help parents coordinate opt-out/refuse the test for their local schools.

Following this, at 1pm, is the Delaware State Board of Education meeting across the street at the Townshend Building.  I invite every single parent to attend this meeting, at least for the first half hour to forty-five minutes.  After they do their roll call and approval of minutes, it opens up to Public Comment.  Each speaker gets three minutes to speak on a topic.  Those who give public comment are not allowed to speak on an item that is up for action that day, but there is nothing in their agenda covering standardized testing or parent opt-out or Refusing The Test.

During the State Board of Education meeting, they will announce the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for the different sub-groups: low-income, English language learners, students with disabilities, African-American students, Hispanic Students and Asian students.  This is where we will see the very real impact of the Smarter Balanced Assessment on the most vulnerable of students.  They could have announced this information last week, but they chose to hold off on it.  Parents will also begin to receive their children’s official report on the test that week.

Please join in and let the unelected State Board of Education know your child is more than endless data.  Let them know your child is more than a pawn in their attempts to “fix” education.  Let them know their vain attempts at stifling parents is not allowed.  Be loud, be a parent, and let them know you will not tolerate this madness one more minute.  This is Parent Strike Delaware!

US Department of Education Gives A Case For Parent Opt Out of Standardized Testing

The United States Department of Education sent a letter to school superintendents December, 2014.  This explained to them exactly what student and parents rights are in regards to the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA).  This is the educational version of the medical HIPPA.  In this letter, it talks about when parents can opt their child out of certain events which could cover standardized testing if read the right way!

Page 4, #1 and #7 in the below document gives the best clear reason for opt out I have ever seen.  Under the section for the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, it clearly states:

PPRA may apply to the programs and activities of a State educational agency (SEA), LEA, or other recipient of funds under any program administered by the Department.  It governs the administration to elementary and secondary school students of a survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight protected areas:

1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the students’ parent;

7. religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent.

In addition, it states the following:

PPRA also concerns the development of local policies concerning…the opportunity for the parent to opt the student out of participation in certain specific activities…

A case could certainly be made for this if parent opt out ever became an issue in a Federal court.  My beliefs certainly don’t agree with standardized testing in a high-stakes one-size-fits-all environment.  Read the below document and let me know your take on this!