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'Opt-out' efforts may come to a head in March

Delaware Public Media

The movement to allow kids and families to opt-out of state standardized testing could spark a full review of how Delaware tests its students.

Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow), head of the House Education Committee, says he’s talking with the Markell Administration to comprehensively review all state testing, which he says makes up about 70 percent of all testing.

It’s in response to a bill supporting the “opt-out” initiative that takes direct aim at the state’s new Smarter Balanced annual assessment.

Jaques calls the bill “premature” and that pruning any unnecessary tests would lower the burden on students and teachers alike.

“That one little test would not be a big deal added to what we would barely have. I think [the opt-out bill] is just a quick reaction to an issue that really, we’re not sure there’s an issue,” he said.

The Smarter Balanced test has garnered opposition due to its alignment with the Common Core standards.

That bill is sponsored by devout liberal Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) and staunch conservative Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel).

Kowalko says he appreciates Jaques's idea, but he disagrees with that approach.

“That’s oversimplifying the reality," said Kowalko. "The Smarter Balanced assessment is an end of the year test – that’s unproven – that’s going to measure the achievements of children, the achievements of a school, the achievements of educators.”

The Capital School District Board of Education has stated its support for parents who decide to opt their children out, but noted the resolution it passed was only a indication of support and not a change in policy.

Brandywine School District superintendent Mark Holodick issued a letter stating his support for Smarter Balanced, but that his schools will be assessing opt-out requests.

The bill will be filed later this month.