As you have no doubt heard, there is a movement afoot in Delaware whereby parents of students are opting their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some of you have already taken a stand for or against parent opt out, or your respective school boards have done so for you. I write to you today on the eve of the bulk of the standardized assessment season.
Some of you I’ve had contact with in the past. Some of you don’t like me. I get that completely. But I think we all have one thing in common, and that is wanting the best for the children of Delaware. Our methods and ways of going about that vary in great degrees, but at the end of the day, we want students to be successful.
I will be very frank with all of you: The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not an accurate gage of student success. It is a horrible assessment, and I know many of you feel that way. One of you, in a very public forum, recently said “I’m not hear to debate if the test is good or not.” Why not? Why would we subject the students of Delaware to this? Why are so many of you bowing down to the Department of Education in Delaware and taking all the abuse they have inflicted upon your schools, your teachers, your staff, and your students? If you don’t agree with the test, why would you publicly accept praise and acclaim based on a flawed test?
This is a test that Secretary of Education Mark Murphy publicly stated he expects 70% of students to not meet proficiency on in the first year. State Assessment Director Brian Touchette said he expects that trend to continue for the next few years. So what is all of this meant for? How much true and valuable instruction time is being spent in your schools on test preparation and “teaching to the test”? Each of you know the answers to these questions. Many of you may mumble under your breath, “It will all go away, and then they will come up with something new.” How does that help the students of Delaware? Because we have gone from DSTP to DCAS and now to Smarter Balanced. The testing has not gone away. And let’s face it, some schools have had exemplary gains with test scores. But is that truly because the students are learning a varied curriculum or because some of your teachers are better at teaching to the test?
Now the DOE wants to judge not only our teachers, but also our schools on how well our students do on these tests. They want to give them letter grades, from A-F. They want to pass waivers that continue this madness. They want to replace our teachers, our educators, with “new” teachers who come into our schools with 5 weeks of training. They want to develop “leaders” out of these individuals, to slowly take over our public education system. I have seen the DOE emails between each other where they slam regular teachers and pump up these “new” teachers.
It all comes down to this one “little test” as the Chair of the House Education Committee, Earl Jaques, recently wrote in an article. Now Governor Markell wants to form a committee to take a look at all the other tests, but not the test that has such huge ramifications for our schools, teachers, communities, and educational outcomes of all the students of Delaware. Our Governor and our DOE are very frightened by parent opt out. They knew it would happen to a small degree by a few outspoken parents. But they had no idea it would become as big as it has.
You may be thinking, who is this man, daring to email us as if he knows more than we do about what is best for these children. I dare, because I know who all the players are, from the top down to the bottom. Some of you are on that list. Some of you would use children to manipulate data to further your own agendas as part of this game. I know how you do it and how the DOE and the Governor present this to the media. I say to any of you on this list, you need to leave education immediately because you should not be around children. Children are not a “market”. Children are not a “test score”. Teachers are not “Human Capital”.
Parents have the right to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Even the Delaware DOE has publicly stated this at the Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall. Yes, there may be consequences for those actions. But guess what, our children are paying the price every single day this supposed “education reform” continues. It is not in the best interest of the children you have been hired to do the best for. Perhaps some of you have seen the joy of education disappearing from these children’s eyes. They have become less than what they are capable of being because of this. Education in Delaware has become test prep. This is not education. It is a business, a corporate strategy developed by “leaders” who have never taught in a classroom. Every single time you allow these “foundations” and well-meaning “coaches” into your schools, you are taking more time away from the students. These entities are making a lot of money, and they are thanking you every time you let them in. These are funds that need to be going back to the students. We need smaller classrooms. We need more resources for our most vulnerable of students.
This is where all of you can make a crucial difference. You all have the ability to change the conversation. If you want the status quo and things to remain the same, then by all means, do nothing. But for those of you who want to take back your districts, take back your schools, and give these students the education they truly deserve, then speak up. Speak for those who are unable to: Your students and your teachers. Stop the madness and insanity driven by data and rigor. Tell your schools you stand for them, not a Department of Education that has lost the confidence of nearly every educator in our state.
I would respectfully ask that you do NOT do the following: Do not tell parents they need your permission to opt their child out. They don’t. Do not tell parents you need to meet with them to discuss this. They have already given this matter a great deal of thought, and it is insulting. Do not attempt to bully, intimidate, or harass any parent about this test. They are going public with this all over social media, and they are naming each and every one of you or your principals that do this. Do not tell parents they are breaking the law by opting their child out. There is no law when it comes to this, except those granted by the U.S. Constitution. We can argue the semantics of the law and different court cases, but do you want it to be YOUR school that causes the right parent to take this all the way up to the United States Supreme Court? Because it will happen in our country.
In conclusion, Governor Markell will most likely give some sort of speech in the very near future addressing this issue. It has become too big for him to ignore. He has a lot invested in this, so whatever he says will be some sort of attempt to downplay the issues. He will bring up all these “other” tests, he will ask parents to just give it a chance, or he may try to show some backbone and play the tough guy. Whatever he does, remember who you are there for. You aren’t there for him, or the DOE, or the companies that are going cha-ching every time a new waiver is passed or the DOE gets their panties in a bunch over teacher effectiveness. You are there for OUR children, the future of this state and our country.
It doesn’t matter what background our students come from. They may be special needs, minorities, low-income, English Language Learners, talented and gifted, or just a plain old regular student. They will ALL suffer from this test. Over 70% of them will be told “your best wasn’t good enough” or “you need to buckle down and do better”. But if you value these children at all, recognize the failure here. It is not the students. It is not their teachers. It is the test, plain and simple.
I would like to publicly salute Dr. Michael Thomas and the Capital School Board, Dr. Freeman Williams and the Christina School Board, and Dr. Dolan Blakey and the Colonial School Board for supporting the rights of parents.
Last night, at the Christina Board of Education meeting, board member John Young said “If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” To echo Mr. Young’s sentiment, if you can’t stand for your students, what the hell can you stand for?
This email was sent at 9:08pm this evening to every single superintendent and charter head of school in Delaware.
Today at 9:08 PM
Fitzgerald Kevin (K12)
Ring David (K12)
Gehrt Vicki (K12)
Zych Deborah (K12)
Lathbury Aj (K12)
Williams Freeman (K12)