Timecapsule edition: An Open Letter to Jack Markell, our Governor. #SignHB50NOW


Dear Governor Markell,

Any reader of this blog knows there is no shared vision between the two of us on public education except that I choose to believe that each of us deeply respects that passion we both have for the subject. If I were to place myself in the role of personal political adviser on the issue of the Opt Out movement here in Delaware… and could go back 3 months, I would give you one piece of advice your closest advisers failed to give you: support Opt Out.

My advice is not based on you agreeing with the movement, but rather the political capital you will spend opposing it AND the likely effects of opposing it compared to supporting it. A quick pro/con list of opposing Opt-Out

Pros: it’s what you believe, it allows you to oppose John Kowalko which you like to do, it keeps you aligned with the state’s business interests and “non-profits” like Rodel, et. al., demonstrates support for “accountability”, get to enlist bullies like Sokola and Jaques to lift for you against parents

Cons: draws attention to an issue you are concerned about, alienates parents, disrespects parents, draws battle line with your own party’s legislators who are listening to parents, pitches you against the PTA, gives light and space to the discussion in the paper and other news media in such a way that more parents get to exercise this right(one they already have)

If you support Opt-Out here’s the pro/con:

Cons: appear weak to big monied interests, betray your own beliefs, let down Sokola and Jaques

Pros: support parents, make the news cycle go away almost a year before the next testing window (fighting now all but guarantees a vicious, pitched battle next Spring with more awareness…again on a right parents ALREADY have), build bridges with PTA and teachers unlike what your DOE does now.

Remember, if the test is as awesome and necessary as you and your supporters believe it to be, then the parents of this state will follow your lead and NOT Opt-Out, right?  Stand up for what you truly believe: believe in the power of SBAC, and let parents have their say without fear, bullying, and intimidation.

It makes the most political sense to just sign the bill. I know me saying it probably pisses you off some, but my advice is to sign it in a closet in Woodburn and post it to the bill tracking website. No press conference, no signing ceremony, no fanfare.

Just do it. Let us find it. We’ll celebrate…

and for the most part, this then just goes away…like you need it to…because if you don’t sign it, the political ramifications in your ultimate lame duck year will be significant and likely twice as unacceptable as now. #SignHB50NOW

BREAKING NEWS: Oregon Passes Strong Opt Out Bill

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Despite the pressure exerted by the U.S. Department of Education and threats to cut off federal funding, the Oregon legislature passed a strong opt out bill, protecting parental rights.

From: Oregon Education Association

Oregon Senate passes HB2655–first step on path to a better way

Senate Passes “Student Assessment Bill of Rights”

Today the Oregon Senate overwhelmingly passed HB 2655 (24-6) — one of the strongest bills in the nation to support all students and parents on statewide standardized assessments. The bill establishes the Student Assessment Bill of Rights which requires assessment transparency by giving students:

the right to know the purpose of statewide assessments and how the results will be used

when exactly the assessments will be administered

the amount of class time required for the assessment

the learning targets that make up the assessment

how students can self-assess and track their own progress

when the results will be made…

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DDOE asks for SBAC feedback, and only gives choices that are positive towards the test. Folks, these people are in charge of teaching and learning and allegedly providing direction to schools on how to best yield critical thinkers for our society. #facepalm


DOE is at it again…..

Here’s why it sucks:



An open letter to Delaware Senators regarding House Bill 50: Opt Out.


In today’s world of policy making, it often a facile and easy technique to challenge those that wish to move the needle on an issue by challenging them to “offer a solution”. In Delaware, some of our elected leaders, who are elected to lead and solve problems, will sometimes fall prey to turning constituent concerns back onto their constituents using this logic. It’s their right, but sometimes they are just wrong. Take House Bill 50, a simple bill that identifies a clear problem and offers a clear solution.

  • Problem: schools and districts challenging parents’ right to opt out with letters and conversations designed to bully and intimidate parents into not exercising their rights. Often, these threats use tactics like declaring loss of federal funds (has not happened from opt out ever) or attempting to suggest that supporters of this right are seeking, without any evidence, the total elimination of standardized tests. The worst is this unproven sense that policy makers would lose data they claim allow them to properly assign funds (this is the most pernicious, duplicitous, and irresponsible of lies): policy makers know where the gaps are from EXISTING data and still fail to equitably fund our schools or support school seeking such funding.

  • Solution: A simple bill, that if passed, would have the following effects: support parents, defend parents from retaliation from their schools (CSD has done this with our resolution, but only 2 other districts have joined officially), and respect their decision making and role in their child’s education…a holy grail of policy makers.

There are opponents. They are literally making up arguments that have no basis in fact. For example, the idea that failing to test children is a threat to civil rights. We have been testing, identifying, shaming, and labeling schools using standardized tests for almost 20 years non-stop. These same folks are also arguing that schools are failing yet want to perpetuate this status quo   by oddly suggesting the tests that have so persistently used to solve the problem but have actually widened it are the solution?   Strange I say.

At the end of the day, to use an overused phrase, HB 50’s brilliance is its simplicity: it deals with a problem directly and succinctly by codifying an existing right.

How many bills to members for the GA get that are this clarion, this simple? All the other concerns like: SBAC good/bad, federal funds loss threat, and civil rights violations are either trumped up or need different solutions like funding action or proof of efficacy to be demanded by policy makers.

All this problem needs is a Senate committee to agree to the following premise: we support parents and their rights. Punishing parents for DOE promises or threats just feels like the wrong idea to me.

Please support HB 50 in committee on 6/3/15.

I Don’t Think You Get It

Originally posted on Minding My Matters:

My decision to prevent my child from taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not about the anti-testing movement.

Now that THAT’S out of the way, let’s talk.

This particular test serves zero purpose in the education of my child. This test will not in any way inform the instruction of my child. It will be taken at the end of the school year and its results will be available well after her teacher could potentially use them to address her learning needs.

I just used truth to debunk the largest rationale for why students should take this particular assessment.

My child is already taking numerous other standardized tests, the results of which are available immediately and highly useful for informing her teacher of her needs. Could she benefit from taking fewer of those tests? Certainly. Do I have a major issue with her taking those other tests? Not really, no…

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Christina referendum NO voters are NOT cowards. #netDE #eduDE

Wednesday, the Christina residents who chose to vote in the operating referendum, elected to reject our request for $0.37 per $100 assessed value. At first this made me sad, then mad, now I am in “fix what’s wrong” mode.

In my six years on the board we have allowed the state to demonize us and tell the world who they think we are. We have been the cowards. We have refused to stand up for ourselves with the conviction necessary to sell Christina’s successes and have refused to confront our own ineffective areas with viable solutions.

Contrary to some advice offered to me recently, defending yourself from a vicious, sustained policy attack is not doing nothing or not offering ideas. It’s actually the epitome of leadership, particularly when the policies are so poorly conceived, designed , and implemented that the HARM children.

Policies that disrupt schools, policies that deploy failed methods of improving teaching like merit pay, policies that shame and label schools crippled by poverty into a place where they are so undesirable that no school could possibly deliver a stable environment for young children, are just a few of the unrelenting attacks of idiocy offered by our DOE that have earned our deserved opposition.

We have tried to fight. But in the end, we seem to just undo ourselves. It’s hard to fight the DOE. It’s enervating. While I may personally have the stamina to keep telling the DOE to take a long stroll on a short pier, none of that matters right now.

Our classrooms are going to be difficult next year. All because we have been the cowards. We failed to message ourselves, over time. As a result, we will CONTINUE to manage the finances responsibly and our classroom sizes will rise as a result.

Those who voted no did not want this. They were told it would happen, yet they voted no anyway. Why? Why would they do this to kids…I’ve been muttering to myself? Well, I’ve decided that the NO voters have simply reached their limit.

Well, there’s my common ground.

Our referendum committee Co-chair, Christy Mannering, whom I shared a  WDEL  radio segment with recently (http://www.wdel.com/features/christina-referendum-fail-recap01.mp3), has been saying this phrase lately: let’s build bridges.

We need our NO voters. As much as I could not have disagreed more with their vote, we need them. More now than ever.

Let’s win them back. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m all in.

Let’s do this. Whatever it takes.

Budget Me Some of Your Time

Originally posted on Those In Favor:

By now, everyone knows of the failed second attempt at a referendum by the Christina School District and its supporters.  In the last 6 months we have had many, many more residents beginning to look into the way our public schools are funded.  Even with the referendum failures, one silver lining is the renewed public interest in public school finances.  On a personal note, I am absolutely thrilled that anyone is taking even 5 minutes to look at a financial report for the District because that is 5 minutes more than they were spending on it prior to the referenda.

What I’d like to do going forward is use this blog (and anyone who might share my posts) as a platform to start bringing public school financing, particularly CSD’s, in to the spotlight and transforming it into “the real world”.  Let’s be honest, a 25 page financial report is going…

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