Below are my prepared comments from the Delaware Parent Opt Out press conference
We have a proud tradition of standing up for ourselves in Delaware. As the First State, we take special pride in leading when it comes to important causes. Parental Opt Out is just one such cause.
Our schools deserve the best of everything because they hold the promise of all we hold dear: our children, our dreams and our collective future. Sadly, in the last thirty years, we have decided to implement policies of accountability that while well intended have become embedded in our approach to labeling, shaming and punishing schools: the bedrock institution of our democracy.
Using, or should I say, misusing tests is now how we conduct business in Delaware. The state bureaucrats in the Townsend Building and in Legislative hall have successfully crafted our current status quo. It’s a status quo of constant change and failed reform after failed reform, some of which may have actually worked had our attention span or dedication to allow them to work had not been trumped by our seemingly insatiable desire to label, shame, and punish schools with reckless abandon.
At the cornerstone of this status quo has been the ultimate tool of institutional destruction: the standardized test. I know that sounds like a hyperbolic sentiment, but for 20 years plus, Delaware has seen the DSTP, DCAS and SMARTER deployed with amazing controversy and almost zero return…and that’s using the metrics of the status quo supporters in the DOE! Why don’t they work? Two simple reasons: the DOE intentionally misuses the data and the system they are trying to move has an inertia that is immense and does not react favorably to the force of misused test scores. If our DOE could actually grasp that, many of our problems would disappear and this press conference would perhaps not even be necessary.
Why does the DOE misuse the data from the tests? To fit the ideological narrative that students who don’t or can’t succeed in DE schools are the victims of soulless teachers and administrators who wake up every day with the exclusive goal of making excuses for poor performance. This approach breeds deep and resentful mistrust that only further locks up the system. DOE’s predictable response, take that bad data to the group of people who work in that building, (point at Leg Hall) and ask them to pass laws to force the schools to comply. Well, what these status quo protectors fail, every time, to recognize is that the work environment that these laws and policies create in our schools drives high turnover and low morale that proves to those in the system that what they just saw, or did, or cared about, will just change again and therefore to not invest emotion and time…not because they don’t care (DOE’s constant erroneous conclusion), but because they are sick and tired of being duped by this pernicious status quo. And that work environment happens to by my son’s learning environment. Maybe that’s why the dedicated professionals that work with my son have personally thanked me for opting my son out.
What can we do to break through the status quo of test and punish?
Well, that’s why we are here today: take away the ultimate tool of institutional destruction: the test itself.
Without this data, the DOEs ideology starves and teachers can teach. As I have noticed recently, this also dovetails with a new campaign nationwide: Time to teach, Time to learn.
As parents we need to do both: Learn why opting out is not only your right, but why it is right so we can teach our children why opting out serves them not only today, but the rest of their school career. I strongly recommend parents consider taking advantage of a basic, inalienable parental right and Opt Out of the state “mandated” standardized test. Thank you Representative Kowalko and Senator Lawson for sponsoring such a common sense approach to making sure parents can safely do what they already have the right to do. I also thank all of the other co-sponsors and supporters of this important legislation as well.