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With testing almost upon us, it is time for our leaders to step up and tell parents it is ok not to have their child take the test.  There is no law requiring parents not to opt out.  Furthermore, there is a law on the floor allowing for parents to have the right to opt out.  School boards across this state are considering measures in all 19 districts on whether or not to “encourage” the opting out of students from taking these tests….

It is time our elected officials do the same.  Parents need to know they will not be punished for opting out. The best way for that to occur, is for elected officials, in charge of deciding state law, to say this test is bullsh/t and all parents should not let their kids take it…

The best and most credible spokesperson to accomplish this is none other than Greg Lavelle.. His switched-vote last June 30th around 9:30 pm, was the deciding factor that allowed this test to go forward….  When he voted against it; the bill was defeated… minutes after getting a phone call from Gov. Markell he voted for it; it passed….

Greg Lavelle actually has children in the category who are hurt by this test.  All exceptional children will be grievously set back by this test.  This test goes against human nature.  When you have children who are flatly unable to meet regular adult standards, forcing them to try fully knowing the outcome, is cruel and inhumane.

Expressed this way it is clear.  Making children who will be playing soccer to run miles in order to build up stamina, may be deemed as cruel by some outside of sport, but it is often done and the children do grow stamina through the routine and develop new muscles.   But….. making children who have no legs be forced to run a mile, with no wheel chair, no artificial limbs, no accessories, is cruel and inhumane.

The Smarter Balanced Test, and this came directly out of the mouths of Mark Murphy and Penny Schwinn, is designed to not use accommodations for children with special needs.  “They want to see how bad they fail”, was the direct quote.

The humane measure of education would be to say:  let’s see where in society we can put these people so they can lead productive lives.  Mark Murphy, Penny Schwinn, Dave Sokola, and all those who voted in support of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, take the opposite tack:  let us see where in society these people can never fit in, by giving them a test they cannot possibly do well upon… like making Stumpy there run miles on his two tiny stumps. Betchu he won’t get two feet?

One philosophy brings out the best of human behavior; the other exposes the worst.

Now Greg has taken his own children at this point, laid them on the cross and bound their hands and feet to the wooden crossbars…. Right now, before the huge railroad spikes get driven in to their tiny hands and tiny feet, is the time for him to scream out:  “STOP!  This is a mistake.  We should not do this to children for any reason….. ”

Greg as the sole person who was first against the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and then was somehow persuaded to be for it, is the perfect human being to now stand up and say… “Wait, I was wrong. I was very wrong. I was lied to.  This is a terrible test… This ruins children including my children!  You all must opt out…”

For someone who has always been against this test to say “You all!  Opt out!” would be welcome but realistically would change little.  Those on the fence would say:  “There he goes again; he’s always been against the test; of course that is what he is going to say”…  But, for someone who was once on record for it in a very public way, to pivot, switch his support, and call for public action to boycott the test being taken, would send giant ripples through the state….

He has special children.  So with what we know from Penny Schwinn and Mark Murphy, we know in heart that both he and his wife have to be against it.

Greg Lavelle has confided to those who asked him what he was thinking last June, that he was told that the DOE was going forward with the test whether he voted for it or not… (Just like it is going forward with the privatization of 6 schools despite whatever policies the two districts came up with) …

Imagine if you are attacked by a bamboozler.  In the struggle you take away his gun.  Everyone cheers… Then he cries tears and complains that is his only gun, and how he needs it to shoot food for his family’s table… So you give it back to him?

Greg needs to decide his future.  Is it being the obsequious servant who sells out the rest of the house to keep in his master’s good graces?  Or is it being the guy who cares little what pompous asses think of him, and only wants to be remembered as the guy who always did what he thought was right?

He may have been wrong before, when the fog was thick.  But it is gone now… One can see clearly as far as the eye can see.  His legacy if left unchanged, will doom every child of every parent in this fair state, unless they choose to opt out and not let their children take the test….

We call on him to save his children.  Not for me.  Not for any group, political or otherwise.  Seriously, none of us matter that much… But children?  There are none like them anywhere else in the world…. They should not be forced to run miles on stumps… This is a cruel test and cruel people are pushing it… It will do no good to any child of Delaware to continue any further with this charade ….

All can see it for what it is. 2011_Lavelle_Mugshot1

Talk about confusion.

“Today kids, this test counts… Do your best…. everything is riding on your results…”.  On to the next day….

“Today kids, this test is practice. Don’t get upset. Do what you can, but don’t worry about what you can’t answer”.  On to the next day.

“Today, kids, this test is for real… It is not like yesterday’s test. This test goes to your moms and dads and you don’t want them to be angry with you and make you go to school all summer, now do you?”

Who is willing to bet that day three’s scores will be abysmally low?  And why do you not know this?  Smart Balanced Assessment’s multi-million contract with the state of Delaware to design the exams, prohibits the state from making the tests public and imposes a gag order on educators who administer them…..

Teachers watched hundreds of children in grade 4 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for one day taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a very poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were….  they were appalled that they had to watch fourth graders take a math test which was testing geometry angled concepts like SAS and ASA or using the Pythagorean theorem to determine length, which were not in the curriculum and which won’t be until 10th grade geometry or 7th Grade basic math! 

Yes.  Teachers are angry. They cannot reveal the test.  But, they are not bound to reveal their feelings about that test, and that is what those teachers whom we have come to count upon to lead the way, now need to do… Be very clear about your feelings towards the test. To all and anyone who will listen.  Furthermore, be very public about those who will try to intimidate and silence you.  They need exposure too.

I think I am speaking for all teachers when I say they are not protesting testing; they are not protesting Common Core standards. Like me they are protesting the fact that they have just witnessed their charges, their children, being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading  or mathematical ability and yet potentially will have huge future stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools.  

Even as an adult,  the tests were developmentally inappropriate, confusing, and certainly not aligned with the rubric of Common Core standards. The ELA questions focused on small details in the passages, rather than on overall comprehension, and many were extraordinarily ambiguous. Children as young as 9 were asked several questions that required multiple  rereadings of four different paragraphs to then decide which one of those paragraphs best connected to a fifth paragraph.  Can you imagine?  Throughout the test more questions addressed structure rather than focused on the meaning of the texts. And all questions were way too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for hours to determine whether a 4th grade child can see through a labyrinth of convoluted adult text to in order delve both meaning and content; that is for college seniors, not 4th grade… For children this young, it is just torture. The test makers themselves are psychologically childish… Like a child would assume that playing charades in order to guess their interpretation of a meaning of a passage would portend intelligence instead of blind luck,  they take a simple message like “Rose went to the store” and purposefully hide it among tons of text to then ask a child to pick out which theme they wanted the child to pick.  To most children, the blandness of “Rose went to the store” doesn’t stick in their heads and they choose the wrong answer, because to them, that was far more exciting and therefore more important…  The right answers appear so random and seriously if taken for high stakes, bring up the scenario of being shut out of getting a good career or ever attending college because in the 4th Grade you guessed heads, and it turned up tails….

For the most part, teachers have implemented the Common Core standards with enthusiasm, and have always supported the idea that great teaching is the best test preparation. But this year’s Smart Balanced Assessment exam has made a mockery of that position…..

It is frightening to think what “teaching to the test” would mean, given the nature of the test….  Seriously… it is.  And Charter schools will try it! Damaging children for their entire lifetimes!

Anyone who has been in the field of eduction over time, knows that over the past few years, as higher and higher stakes have been attached solely to the results of tests,  schools have devoted more time to test prep, leaving less time and fewer resources for instruction in music, the arts, social studies and physical education… This is fact.  This is overly documented. Our students receive a less balanced education than 5 years ago …

Every teacher who has ever reassured a parent, that they would not stress out their children with these tests, that they would not teach only to the test but would cover all the material, that the tests are the best that can be created by Corporate America, now feels “had”.  This test is bad,  It is very, very, very, very, very bad…  It is in one word; pointless.

It will take another Snowden to release these tests… Someone with nothing left to lose, and whose love of children is greater than his desire for self-preservation….

Delaware’s General Assembly must now follow the suit of other states, and jump away from this test… At the very minimum, Delaware’s General Assembly should freeze further testing made by the Smart Balanced Assessments until:  Governor Markell, Mark Murphy, Frederika Jenner, Dave Sokola, Darryl Scott, all sit down in a forum under public television and blindly take this fourth grade test and then have their scores totaled live on line…..

Once all see this test, then all like us who already have, will never doubt again that we are flinging down the wrong path to making our children better educated……..

Parents of 4th grade children!… Ask them today to tell you what some of the ridiculous questions were…. then call your state Legislators.  Their contact info is to the left at the top of this page…..