Delaware Public Media

Brandywine School District seeks to change state student testing

Jan 7, 2020

One Delaware school district proposes changing the current state testing system.

The Brandywine School District’s Board unanimously passed a resolution last month saying the current Smarter Balanced test is not the correct assessment for students.

The board sent the resolution to the Delaware Board of Education and the state’s Department of Education.

Brandywine School Board President Ralph Ackerman says the test’s length is problematic, and produces anxiety for both students and staff.

"Kids spend virtually a week of school testing each year, it literally consumes every piece of student available technology during that time, it stresses kids dramatically in anticipation of this test," said Ackerman.

Ackerman says the board believes a well-designed test can measure student achievement in an hour or two, and provide valuable information to help instruct students.

A Deparment of Education spokesperson says DOE agrees, noting the estimated/suggested Smarter Balanced assessment times for the various English language and Math tests are each between 1 and 2 hours.

The Brandywine board suggests the state design its own test or use one proven successful elsewhere.

Ackerman notes NWEA, a nationally recognized test organization, is meeting with other states to develop an assessment. He would like to see Delaware go that route. 

Brandywine's resolution also proposes cutting back the grades tested, returning to the state’s previous practice of testing specific grades such as 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th grades instead of every grade each year.

A Dept. of Education spokesperson says the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires testing in every grade between 3-8 and once in high school.

Ackerman says the resolution will be discussed with other districts at Wednesday night’s Delaware School Boards Association meeting.

"I did advise other districts back in November that we were moving towards a resolution on testing and did encourage them to go back to their boards and discuss possibly doing the same," said Ackerman. "This time we can discuss it with our resolution in front of them and give them the opportunity to go back to their boards and see what they think."

Delaware moved to the Smarter Balanced assessment starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

Department of Education officials said after last school year's testing that scores have been generally trending up since the state transitioned to the Smarter Balanced.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium currently has 15 members: 13 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the Department of Education's response to the Brandywine School District resolution.