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Smarter Balanced opt-out supporters aim to push bill past governor's veto

Delaware Public Media

Despite news that the state will drop the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment from 11th grade requirements, the legislative session will begin next week with another fight over standardized testing.

Lawmakers and parents are gearing up to overturn the governor's veto of a bill allowing students to opt out of Smarter Balanced.

State PTA president Terri Hodges says their message about Smarter Balanced hasn't changed since the Legislature first approved the opt-out bill last year:

"No one's really been able to clearly demonstrate with research that this test actually is indicative of college and career-ready standards," she says, "which was the whole premise of the assessment to begin with."

She says the PTA has heard from hundreds of supporters ahead of a rally for the opt-out bill, set for 1 p.m. next Thursday outside Legislative Hall.

"Parents have this right to opt their students out of state assessments," Hodges says. "This bill simply codifies that right and protects them."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) calls that right "sacrosanct." He says if legislators support the policy, they'll push it through over Gov. Jack Markell's opposition.

"I think it's very important that we reinforce the attitude of parents that they do have a right," he says. "When there is a rather useless, ridiculous, unproven test being foisted upon their kids, wasting a lot of school time, hours and effort, putting undue stress on them -- they have a right to consider opting out."

Kowalko sent a letter to legislative colleagues this week, letting them know he planned to introduce an override bill for the governor's veto and asking them to vote for it.


He notes the last override attempt was in 1977, but writes, "I hope that I can count on each and every one of you to support this override and cement the rights of all Delawareans in law."


Meanwhile, opt-out supporters are also concerned about other testing-related efforts they say are distractions from issues surrounding Smarter Balanced.

Markell announced Wednesday he'll grant House Democrats' request to remove the test from 11th graders' testing load. Kowalko calls that change "an inadequate solution."

"I think it's a poorly disguised attempt to sort of say, 'We've done something about this over-testing; therefore, let's move on.' And that's just not the case," Kowalko said Wednesday of legislators' request, shortly before the governor announced he would approve it. Markell says the state will still administer Smarter Balanced in third through eighth grades -- which means Kowalko says there's still work to be done.

And Terri Hodges worries an effort to inventory all state tests, mandated by the legislature last year, could threaten ones that parents support.

"The problem is that those tests are the ones that are meaningful. They have the most impact," she says. "Those are the tests that are giving parents and teachers the most valuable feedback in terms of where the students are performing academically."

She's hoping success with the opt-out bill would set the tone for more focused work against Smarter Balanced this year.

Rep. Kowalko will introduce an override of the governor's veto in the Legislature next Thursday, after the PTA rally outside.



Letter from Rep. Kowalko on opt-out veto override

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