LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Opt-out ends the madness of high-stakes testing

As a proud advocate of parent opt-out, I watched in horror as Gov. Markell vetoed legislation created for parents and their fundamental rights. It’s about honoring a parental right that already exists, an attempt to codify that right and stop schools and the Delaware Department of Education from punishing schools over parent opt-out.

This week, the State Board of Education will have their monthly meeting, and they will discuss Regulation 103. To give some quick back-story here, Regulation 103 covers school accountability. Born out of Race To The Top, Delaware won in the first round partly because we already had this regulation in place.

Race To The Top was an abject failure. But the DOE and the state board are attempting to further legitimize this program under the guise of the Delaware School Success Framework. This “school report card” is nothing more than federal mandate plus the many layers of complexity the DOE added to it.

This regulation will put any Title I school in jeopardy if the students don’t perform well on Smarter Balanced. This week, we will hear about the creation of 10 new so-called “Focus Schools” and four “Focus Plus Schools.” The DOE will attempt to sell this as yet another way of “fixing” these high-need schools. The truth is, these labels are punitive in nature and are just another step before they become “Priority Schools.” We all know how that went a year ago.

The transparency around Regulation 103 and the “school report card” is suspect at best. I filed a large complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice over several issues last week. As well, for the second time this year, I filed a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE. The first complaint showed the DOE overcharging me nearly $7,000.

It seems the DOE wants accountability for everyone but themselves. In conjunction with Delaware Liberal and my own blog, Exceptional Delaware, we have been writing articles on the true impact of high-stakes testing in Delaware.

The schools with very small populations of low-income students do great on Smarter Balanced, whereas the opposite occurs in high populations of poverty. The DOE would have us blame the teachers in these schools. How about we blame the DOE and Gov. Markell?

Instead of focusing on the true needs of students, such as smaller classrooms and more special-education training, our schools continue the failed experiment of Smarter Balanced.

When House Bill 50 appeared, I was contacted by parents throughout the state asking me about opt-out. I told them it was their decision and choice. I didn’t push it on any parent, but I did advise them to do research and do what is best for their child. When the governor vetoed House Bill 50, I was upset and launched a Refuse The Test campaign.

Today, a coordinated effort across the country called “Parent Strike” will occur.

For Delaware, I strongly encourage every single parent in the state to opt their child out of Smarter Balanced if they have not already. The misuse and abuse inflicted upon our schools because of this test needs to stop. The only way to stop the insanity is to effectively shut it down. The federal-funding threats self-destructed when Arne Duncan backed off. The scores in our highest-need schools show how much minorities do not need this test.

If every single parent opts out, we are essentially calling the DOE’s bluff and pulling the plug on Smarter Balanced.

Our legislators acted, our PTA acted, and now, we must act as parents. Whether your child attends a traditional school or a charter, we all need to do this. We need to act now for our children and say “no more!” We don’t need the business community telling us how to run our schools. Opt your child out and let’s take back education.

For Parent Strike today, Delaware parents will have a brief press conference at 12:30 p.m. in front of Legislative Hall in Dover, followed by an invitation for every single parent in the state to give public comment at the State Board of Education meeting at 1 p.m. in opposition to Regulation 103.

Kevin Ohlandt
Exceptional Delaware

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