The “education war” turned more dramatic last week. The Delaware House of Representatives decisively passed a testing opt-out bill Gov. Markell opposes. If the State Senate follows suit and passes the bill, the stage will be set for a veto.
After last week’s vote, participants on all sides spoke politely about “issues” and the process, but underneath it was a power play. The governor lost this round.
At “issue” is the demand that parents have the right to exclude their children from standardized testing in Delaware schools. The testing has become contentious on both the political right and the left.
The left, backed by the teachers’ union, does not want teachers, students and schools held accountable for their performances as judged by test results. On the right, the opposition is a response to a perceived federal government takeover of local schools.
“Perceived federal government take over of local schools.” I am not going to go into a deep rant other than say the News Journal is full of shit! Race to The Top a federal grant not federal law was a hook with billions of dollars attached tactfully suckered states, RECA and DSEA into biting. Governor Markell was a willing participant to the Trojan Horse agenda. Markell made an offer that could’t be refused delivered by his pool boy DOE Dan to each and every school board in Delaware.
Now that the Race to The Top is done and over you’ll hear key educators say “we must move on” when reminded of their dance with the devil. Not going to happen at Kilroy’s. Many local school broads approved the Race to The Top MOU at the request of their district superintendents at time local and state education funding was stretched thin due to the recession. It was a game of play now and pay later. Judas sold-out tomorrow’s public school teachers to preserve as many of today’s teachers jobs. I get it and understand backs were against the wall. However, “the time to move on” is nothing more than protecting those with Race to The Top egg on their face! And those who knew damn well what as going on! Judas was rewarded with a DE DOE job that in the end bumped her state pension.
Race to The Top had Common Core Standards and The Smarter Balance Assessment in tow.
The fight has been building for years as Delaware and just about every other state pushed to judge the performance of our schools by measuring what children learn. The testing has become more frequent and the data gathered has become more complicated.
In Delaware the call to end DSTP was because it was a single student assessment indicator twisted into measuring teachers effectiveness with a 20% pay penalty attached. As for students there were consequences such as mandatory summer school, grade retention and those 3-tiered diplomas. Sounds good in theory but based on one indicator it wasn’t so good. Teachers with the support of parents pushed backed and demanded multiple indicators to measure students and teachers. Teachers said “measure us on student growth” So in comes DCAS an assessment that did just that! So now came the time for teachers to pay-up! It was better to go along with Race to The Top which created a diversion and put the Smarter Balanced Assessment in motion aka another can to kick down the road. The only way for teachers to create another diversion is to disrupt the Smarter Balanced Assessment. In comes the “intense” parental and community support for testing opt-out. Once again like with DSTP parents took the ball and ran with it with teachers laying back making it looked like its a parent movement. One of the things parents called for was a growth model test. DCAS was that growth model and even Delaware PTA was on board. But the price to pay was more disruption to learning time with a test taken three times a year. A test that could have been avoided if teacher accountability was based on a local district agreed accountability plan using district driven multiple indicators. HOEVER in defense of good hard working teachers, accountability must be a three-way deal with parents, teachers and administrators all being accountable for their “responsibilities.” Red Clay did take a stab at just that with the parents, school and district contract all signed by parents, school and district. But, it was a no go when Red Clay asked to be cut out of the state’s plan. I KNOW ALL OF THIS FOR A FACT!
The issues are very complex as is the politics within. Parents are pawns in this chess game and there are parents within that demonstrate the ability to understand the issue to a point we they don’t see the true agendas within.
The opt-out is 100% on the mark! Rep Jaques does have a good heart and in his mind he is right and of course loyal to Markell. But in the big picture as I personaly told him and all board members in attendance of the New Castle Combined Board Meeting , from a parents view this testing opt-out is more of a symbolic move to say we’re all tired of federal and state intervention of local control. Enough is enough! We have student in the system today who have been exposed to the DSTP, DCAS and now The Smarter Balanced Assessment. And lets not forget all the pilot test and realignment of curriculum to meet the needs of the new assessments. The data across this time-span is shewed and is pretty much invalid. Does Rep Jaques have the courage to call for legislation requiring charter and traditional schools be funded like votechs? No referendums? Local tax rates set by state legislators? The testing opt-out is an assessment on Governor Jack Markell and pretty much says, Jack Markell has failed our children and educators and let it be known election 2016 is just around the corner.
At the end of the day if the testing opt-out makes it through the state senate and signed by the governor the reality is, students and parents win nothing unless we see the dismantling of Delaware participation in this national political laced agenda such as the Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments. We need to see state education funding be based on needs based funding. Whereas we see more teachers and more paraprofessional not administration, testing and consultants. We need more transparency on the local district school to allow parents and the community to be the watch dogs. Government proved time and time again the can’t be their own watch dogs. Look what is happening to high poverty charter schools! They are being uses pawns, as examples of how Markell can close failing schools. But at the same time Markell continues to allow discriminatory charter admission preferences which are seeded in state.
The current standardized testing regime is flawed and over technical. A solution that would work for all of the children and all of the parents is needed.
And to do so we must end the federal intervention of local control and put a firewall between the governor and education policies that meets the needs of national education political agendas rather than state and local education agendas.