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Senate committee to consider standardized test opt-out bill

Delaware Public Media

A state Senate committee is set to take up a bill that would let Delaware students to opt out of a controversial standardized test.

An amendment passed in the House ties the bill directly to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. That test measures Common Core progress, but some parents, teachers and students say it's ineffective and convoluted.

Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South), the bill's sponsor, agrees with them. But he says his bill is more about codifying a parent's right to make their own choices about their child's education.

"If [the Smarter Balanced] is just going to be time-consuming and a distraction to that child's hope to accomplish successfully in these other tests, which are necessary to move forward," like the SAT or advanced placement tests, Kowalko says, "then I think that parent has a legitimate reason to dialogue with their child and say, 'Is this too much of a burden for you?' And if it is, then opt out."

State Board of Education president Teri Quinn Gray says schools already find alternatives for kids who aren't suited to Smarter Balanced.

She's worried too many would skip it, given a choice: "opting out based on the false assumption that the test is harmful from a blanket perspective," she says.

Quinn Gray says despite its flaws, the Smarter Balanced is an important part of a system that measures student progress -- and evaluates how well schools are teaching them.

"I don't think there's any one perfect test anywhere," she says. "But I do think those tests are necessary for us to understand how well we are actually putting the right experiences, the right curriculum in front of students, and how they're actually responding and growing and learning with that."

Some districts have already allowed parents to opt out of standardized tests this year. Kowalko says his bill would make that right explicit for the Smarter Balanced.

The bill saw heated debate in the House, but passed easily. Kowalko hopes it'll make it to the Senate floor for a vote this session. The bill's committee hearing is Wednesday afternoon at 3.

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