Capital school board restates support for testing opt-out

DOVER –– By unanimous vote  Capital School District’s board of education formally restated its support Wednesday for House Bill 50.

Capital is just one of many organizations and individuals that supported the bill that would have allowed parents to opt their child out of standardized testing, most notably the Smarter Balanced Assessment, if they believe it was in the best interest of their child.

Last June, HB 50 passed the General Assembly with overwhelming support –– 86 per cent in the House and 71 percent in the Senate. Despite the widespread support, Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, vetoed the bill.

The legislation, vetoed on July 16, was brought to the forefront again at Legislative Hall on Jan. 14 when a veto override attempt failed.

A school board resolution included a letter addressed to senators and representatives drafted by board president Matthew Lindell.

Although Capital was the first district to publicly support HB 50 last summer, after the failed veto override the board felt it was necessary to make it known their support remains unwavering.

“Although I agree with the spirit of the letter, I think it’s important to go back to ensure it represents the voice of us as a board and not an individual,” said board member John C. Martin, Jr.

Aside from standing strongly in support of opt out, Mr. Lindell applauded the Department of Education in the letter for allowing high schools to move away from the Smarter Balanced Assessment and focus instead on the 11th grade SAT which is more important for students perusing further education.

In the resolution, Mr. Lindell questioned the Board of Education as to how the elementary and middle schools can be helped. The move away from the Smarter Balanced Assessment would only remove pressure from the high school while younger students still feel the heat.

“The pressure that is placed on students to perform on the test due to school accountability ratings takes away from meaningful learning opportunities,” the resolution states. “In other words, students are treated more as data points than human beings.”

The second point made in regard to moving away from standardized testing is the impact income impacts the scores.

Capital school district serves a large high-need population and the board pointed out that students in the district have more to worry about than how they score on a standardized test.

“If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests or for that matter school is made even more difficult,” the resolution stated.

“We have no problem with being measured, but it’s the way we are held accountable that isn’t fair,” Mr. Lindell said at Wednesday’s meeting.

The board hopes to revise the letter and sign off on it at a special board meeting to be held no sooner than Jan. 28 and no later than the next board meeting scheduled for Feb. 17. The letter will then be issued to the public and legislators.

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