The People Speak On House Bill 50, And The Vast Majority Want Governor Jack Markell To Sign It

In Delaware, there is one place folks can visit to get a true barometer on the overall feeling about an issue, and that is the Delawareonline Facebook page.  This website for the News Journal draws a crowd, and some of the commenters aren’t so nice.  Now that House Bill 50 is sitting on Governor Markell’s desk, I have to wonder if he is bothering to see the state mood on this subject.  These are the comments I was seeing on Delawareonline’s Facebook page based on their June 26th article on the Senate vote, but without the actual poster names for obvious reasons of privacy:

Education needs to be brought back to the classrooms. My kids do not need to go to school everyday to be taught how to study for these state tests. To much focus is on them.

I agree with this measure mandatory standardized tests have taken the creativity out of the classroom. Teachers are now forced to teach to the test.

Teachers will still have to do this

Unfortunately I know. I think they need to reevaluate this system for all students

Exactly..totally agree..most teachers I know hate these tests now!

Those of you that don’t agree with opt out should be in my classroom with the kids who are crying, stressed out, and feel defeated when they have to take a test that is full of flaws. Seriously. I am not against testing. Many give great information. I am against kids who barely speak English being forced to take a test. I am against kids with special needs being denied accommodations they get everyday that they can’t have on testing day because it isn’t on an approved list. I’m also against a test that does not give me results until AFTER my class is gone. How does that help anyone? Before you judge, come talk to the children.

My experience of state standardized tests in school were stress inducing nightmares…

If you ask the frontline teachers what they think about this year’s standardized test, you’ll see why why we fought for the right to opt our children out. Doesn’t mean we will in every case, but my kids won’t be subjected to a test that was predetermined to have a 70% failure rate. Can you imagine the pressure the schools will be under to produce good numbers? There is just too much incentive for schools to exclude low-scoring students and fudge numbers. I trust the teachers who told me about SBA test and until the come out with a better version, my child won’t be taking it. Go ask the teachers…you trust them with your children; trust their opinion of this current testing.

Too much time spent teaching for tests vs teaching how to be productive in life.

The Common Core-associated standardized tests do nothing for the student or, in most cases, the teacher. It’s not really a question of dropping new standards – it’s a question of testing with purpose.

The Feds need to get out of education and return it where it belongs….and where it excelled…to local control

Standardized testing, in its present format, Smarter Balance is a nightmare. I speak as a mother of both a LD and non LD child. Weeks of times wasted on pre-tests, post tests then the actual test. And common core, don’t get me started…Nothing more stupid then taking simple math and trying to turn it into rocket science. Education in DE is a train wreck. My kids didn’t take the SBA this year, and I will exercise my right to opt them out again next year if the same test remains. 

it’s been a train wreck ever since the state seized power from the local school boards, and started dictating what’s best for us.

Standardized testing is horrible. It’s quite clear that it benefits nobody and stresses kids out because teachers pretty much have to drill the information in. There a very specific way things have to be taught to pass that test. I was in Indiana for majority of my school career. I took the standardized state testing in 1st, 3rd, 5th, 9th, and finally 10th which by the way the 10th grade IStep is the test that determines whether you graduate on time as if students at that grade level aren’t already stressed out enough. Curriculums are fine. Tells teachers what they need to teach now how they need to teach it. Not everyone learns OR tests the same. Standardized testing is only beneficial for the student with the brain that understands everything right away. They suck. Get rid of them. 

It started with NCLB, rolled into RFE, now SBA. They’re all just throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks. Guess what, it’s not sticking.

They want us to differentiate instruction but then turn around and give the same test to everyone. I don’t get it! Just let me teach!

I’m a conservative libertarian and a teacher, (non-union, thanks for asking!) The theory that using excessive, arbitrary testing improves education is ridiculous. All it does is poke at a symptom, it doesn’t solve the problems you think need solving (quite the opposite.) As in, teachers tenure and, ‘inability to be fired regardless of performance’ is another symptom. Schools that are not performing is a symptom of a much greater set of problems. Testing the bejeezus out of kids with different strengths, different learning styles, etc. to try to prove that a teacher is bad, is useless in the grand scheme, as it would be if a manager of a large company assumed that every worker under his care did everything exactly the same way. It only measures one VERY finite, tip of the iceberg skill: do these children take this particular test well? That’s it! Want to raise the standards? Let teachers TEACH! Which clearly the woman quoted in this article doesn’t think is possible, because apparently the only way one knows of a child is struggling is low standardized test scores…. otherwise, oh no, they’ll, “fall through the cracks!” Apparently, teachers are incapable of knowing when students are having a hard time otherwise. To clarify: this doesn’t mean allowing unions to dictate, (or the state to dictate, or the fed to dictate.) It means allowing TEACHERS in their classrooms to guage the abilities, strengths and weaknesses of the kids, and go from there. Otherwise, homeschool for goodness sake!

Follow the $$$ and see who sells the tests to the state and what politicians they support

I opted my children out. For four weeks my daughers were to either sit in the office or library and read. They do not give opted out children assignments or instruction time. When I found out after the first day, I put together things for them to do. My oldest needed help strengthening her math skills so I had her do that and my youngest her reading. Both significantly improved which would not have happened if they were testing. These test aren’t days, they are weeks now that expand half the day where nothing is being taught.

So then what’s the point of enforcing Common Core?

Common Core is terrible.

Make your voices heard! Tell Markell how you really feel about the standardized tests!!!

Standardized testing is a joke. Kids past first or second grade know it doesn’t count towards their grades so they don’t take them seriously.

Look at U.S. on a global scale people.. making excuses about why kids are failing isnt gonna help.. yes all kids are different but the knowledge should be the same.. more and more kids focus on social lives instead of education for the future.. maybe just maybe its not the tests fault they fail.. it rest on the teachers and parents to teach and the kids to learn if any of those aren’t doing their part of course they will have trouble where others don’t

stop making excuses for children that cant keep up with the standards,, you are only lowering the standards of our education system.keep dumbing down our children and we will have the next generation of Burger King fippers…

Why would anyone want their kids to opt out? That is so stupid. I took all the tests I could. They were fun!

There are a lot more test now than before, some taking weeks out of instruction time. If you have children be grateful that they aren’t disabled. I opted out my disabled daughter because she has struggled taking these tests. Her learning style is different than her peers. They do not cater to children that need certain accommodations.

And I understand that. Obviously they are catering to your disabled daughter due to her special needs. I have two step daughters who are also disabled. They are grown now, so I do know what you are talking about. I just think it is not right for “normal” kids to opt out. Where will that leave them when they are required to test for positions later in life?

This is for opting out of the yearly standardized testing. They still have to take all the regular classroom tests and exams. A standardized test prepares them for nothing and is a waste of classroom time

The results for the smarter balanced won’t even be out until mid-summer sometime. How is that helpful? And kids aren’t allowed to brag anymore. My son couldn’t be given his honor roll award in class because other kids might feel bad…

Here is all I can say. The school does not cater to children who have a learning disability by automatically opting them out. My daughter has taken them before and it took me to contact the superintendent to finally get her to stop. Even after several IEP meetings I still had to go above the school. Like **** states, regular classroom test are the best way for teachers to see how each individual student is doing. I opted out my other child who is not disabled. While her peers spent weeks taking a test she took the time to strengthen skills that she struggled with. She now excels and may not have if she had stopped to take a test that puts even more unneeded pressure on her. Kids are learning more advanced skills earlier than when I was in school. I understand we have different perceptions, as your children are now adults, but with children currently in elementary trust me, things have seriously changed. I think if you did a bit of research you will be surprised about how much it has.

My daughter is in the Autism Spectrum. High functioning. The state tests stressed her out unnecessarily. Her mainstream teacher said she felt it was an ‘insult to her dignity’. I opted her out.

the tests don’t lead to any success for the children. There is no relation between this type of testing and the required testing later in life. Those types of tests are more like you and I took in our school years. Just take a deeper look is all I ask. 

Veto the bill, Governor. Let’s stop letting the losers win.

Markell is for himself not DE (Delaware) be glad when he is gone.

We need to get back to teaching.

NBC 10 news just reported that Markell would veto the bill. (Editor’s Note: No they didn’t.  If fact I reached out to their Delaware reporter Tim Furlong who thanked me for letting him know the bill passed but he was on vacation.  There has been zero reporting of Markell even speaking out on House Bill 50 since it passed on Thursday.)

It’ll come back to haunt him if he does. I want to know who has him in their pocket and what is he getting for supporting a sub-par test. The truth will come out when some investigative reporting shows the money trail.

Our kids can’t be standardized so why should we use a standardized test to judge them, their teachers, and schools?

Isn’t that what their grades are for? Requiring an honor roll student to take a standardized test is a waste of time

Like law makers don’t have better things to do. Parents have known the test is crap and has controlled teaching for 30 years.

State tests were a waste of time in the 50’s & 60’s, let the teachers teach, the students study and get rid of at least 50% of the useless so called administrators!!!

This (is) dumb. It lets the teachers know where the kids stand!

Actually, most teachers I have talked to are against these new tests.. its all politics now..and the teachers have to teach to the test instead of having the creative freedom they used to have

As a teacher my classroom assessments tell me way more than any standardized test will. These standardized tests are written knowing that 70% of students will not be proficient. And kids don’t have any incentive- they are not tied to grades, grade promotion, or graduation. So they click through and randomly answer questions. This absolutely does not tell me what they know!!!

Let the people speak

Why bother, kids can fail every class and still get promoted to next grade. Why even go to school??

Oh thank you dear masters and overlords for allowing us to have the teensiest say in our childrens’ lives.

I took those dumb test and they did nothing for me. Except give me stress of if I was going to pass or not. It didn’t help for anything outside of school. Honestly who looks at these test scores? Any place I’ve tried to go to college at hasn’t asked me about these dumb tests. So why take them?

As it is plain to see, people don’t want this test, agree with opt-out, and a rising number of voices in Delaware don’t want Common Core either for their kids.  If you listen to the News Journal (who survives on advertising revenue from many of the same groups who opposed House Bill 50) and commenters over on Kilroy’s Delaware, it is a “handful” or “some” parents who support opt-out.  They have always wanted to lessen the impact of opt-out because of their own vested interests with these matters.

Markell has three choices: Veto the bill, sign it, or allow it to become law after ten days (legislative days which would bring it into January).  I say this:

SIGN THE BILL JACK!

If Markell Signs House Bill 50, What Will The Actual Opt-Out Law Be?

The engrossed version of House Bill 50 is now available on the Delaware General Assembly website.  I am really hoping Governor Jack Markell does the right thing here and honors parents.  It could be a matter of days folks.  Keep in mind that even if the Governor does veto this, the General Assembly can override it.  They may not be able to do it by June 30th, but they can certainly do it by January 2016.  The next year of Smarter Balanced Assessment won’t even start until well after that, so we would be okay.

Delaware’s House Bill 50 Landslide Vote Hits The Washington Post & The Associated Press

Randall Chase with the Associated Press wrote an article that appeared in The Washington Post about Delaware’s Parent Opt-Out legislation, House Bill 50.  Chase reached out to Governor Markell who said:

“I don’t think it’s a good bill,” Markell said, who touted recent improvements in state schools, including higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and more students taking and passing advanced placement tests.”

“Markell also noted that members of the civil rights community in Delaware and other states have supported annual assessments as an effective way to identify and address the needs of minority students.”

I commented on the article, which can be found here.

“Sadly, Governor Markell is mistaken with his opposition of this bill. His own Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy, publicly told the House of Representatives there was no current growth model established for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He also publicly stated parents aren’t allowed to opt students out of the state assessment. As Mercedes Schneider recently pointed out, 28 national civil rights groups stated their opposition to opt-out. Today, only 12 of those groups are speaking in opposition.

Of course Governor Markell would think this is bad bill. I believe he mistakenly attributes the progress made in Delaware schools to standardized testing, when the reality is Delaware has many effective and great public school teachers who are doing more with far less due to cuts Markell instituted years ago and never reinstated. This bill passed the House with a 36-3 vote with 2 absent. This sends a clear message to Delaware parents that state legislators understand parents fundamental rights and they do not believe in this assessment.

The very discussion of this bill has people all over Delaware talking about education like they never have before, from the most effective way to educate our inner-city students to what the best way to determine student outcomes is. Many in the state are fast realizing the Race To The Top and high-stakes testing have been nothing but a severe disruption and a money pit for our schools and students. Governor Markell could veto the bill, but the Delaware House and Senate could override that veto with a 60% vote in both.”

Markell has been utilizing the positions of civil rights groups in Delaware for months to bolster his opposition of the opt-out movement.  Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana educator with the very popular Deutsch29 education blog, wrote on Wednesday about 28 national civil rights groups that petitioned the U.S. Congress during discussion about the ESEA reauthorization back in January.  When asked to declare a formal position on opt-out, only 12 of those groups participated in this statement, according to Schneider.

While Delaware State Rep. Stephanie Bolden was not present for the vote, she did have some very strong concerns in regards to inner-city students and opt-out.  I have decided to get this conversation started here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/wilmingtonschools/

The Key Moments For House Bill 50 Opt-Out Victory In The Delaware House

There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware.  I’ll start at the beginning:

1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014.  It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.

2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled.  Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.

3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out.  The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly.  It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective

4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.

5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February.  Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off.  What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.

6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.

7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March.  DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.

8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.

9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.

10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents.  Jaques quickly apologizes.

11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence.  A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents.  Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.

12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.

13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware.  Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.

14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out.  Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.

15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.

16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.

17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.

19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.

20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.

21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.

22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges.  The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.

23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques.  Kowalko successfully fends him off.  After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill.  Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas.  After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.

24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.

25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.

26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.

27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.

28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.

All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent.  At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change.  This could not have been done by one individual at all.  It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.

What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell.  And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques.  He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing.  Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.

While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation.  Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill.  Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes.  Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock.  But the others are a mystery for now.  I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.

Even If Governor Markell Vetoes House Bill 50, The General Assembly Could Override The Veto

Governor Markell announced today he would veto House Bill 50 if it is passed by the Delaware House and Senate and comes to his desk.  However, in Delaware law, it could be overturned by the Delaware General Assembly.  Here’s how, taken from the Delaware Constitution:

§ 18 Approval or veto of bills, orders, resolutions or votes; repassage over veto.

Section 18. Every bill which shall have passed both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the Governor; if he or she approves, he or she shall sign it; but if he or she shall not approve, he or she shall return it with his or her objections to the House in which it shall have originated, which House shall enter the objections at large on the journal and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, three-fifths of all the members elected to that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent together with the objections to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by three-fifths of all the members elected to that House, it shall become a law; but in neither House shall the vote be taken on the day on which the bill shall be returned to it. In all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the Governor within ten days, Sundays excepted, after it shall have been presented to him or her, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he or she had signed it, unless the General Assembly shall, by final adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not become a law without the approval of the Governor.

For purposes of return of Bills not approved by the Governor the General Assembly shall be considered to be continuously in Session until final adjournment and the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate shall be deemed proper recipients of such returned bills during recess or adjournment of the General Assembly other than final adjournment.

No bill shall become a law after the final adjournment of the General Assembly, unless approved by the Governor within thirty days after such adjournment. The Governor shall have power to disapprove of any item or items of any bill making appropriations of money, embracing distinct items, and the part or parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items of appropriation disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills, over the Executive veto. Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of both Houses of the General Assembly may be necessary, except on a question of adjournment, shall be presented to the Governor, and before the same shall take effect be approved by him or her, or being disapproved by him or her, shall be repassed by three-fifths of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill. Every order and resolution to which the concurrence of both Houses of the General Assembly may be necessary, except on a question of adjournment and those matters dealing solely with the internal or administrative affairs of the General Assembly, shall be presented to the Governor, and before the same shall take effect be approved by him or her, or being disapproved by him or her, shall be repassed by three-fifths of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.

In a nutshell, if House Bill 50 gets to the point where Markell vetoes the legislation, the House of Representatives (who originated the bill) would record Markell’s objection, and if they decided to revote on it, and if 3/5 of the House says yes (25 out of the 41), it would then go to the Senate.  They would vote, and if 3/5 of the Senate says yes (13 out of 21), it would become law.

So this means everyone needs to call, email, post on their elected officials Facebook, Twitter and any other social media they have, and publicly and loudly request their support for House Bill 50.  I will be posting information that will make this very easy for everyone shortly.