Delaware teachers’ union wants standardized test nixed

DOVER — Representatives of Delaware’s teachers’ union have unanimously voted to support the effort to eliminate the state’s standardized test.

The test, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, has been criticized by educators, lawmakers and the public, who see it as overly difficult, time-consuming and largely useless.

Delaware is now in its second year giving the test, which is used by 15 states. Taken by students in grades three through eight, it is the third different standardized assessment Delaware has adopted in the past eight years.

At the Delaware State Education Association’s annual Representative Assembly this weekend, nearly 200 delegates from school districts throughout the state voted as one to end Smarter Balanced.

Frederika Jenner

Frederika Jenner

While the administration has control over what statewide exam students take, the vote serves as the latest repudiation of Smarter Balanced and follows an effort by lawmakers to allow parents to opt their children out of the test.

Teachers’ union President Frederika Jenner said the test’s usefulness for teachers is limited, noting only a basic score and a few terse comments are provided to students and their instructors months afterward.

State officials argue the exam allows the Department of Education to measure student progress. But many opponents believe the test is unnecessarily challenging and consumes too much time, forcing teachers to adjust their schedules during testing. The assessment also requires students to use a computer, tying up the schools’ computer labs and libraries.

Last year, the General Assembly voted to allow parents to let their children skip the test without penalty. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat. An override attempt in January failed in the House.

The state announced two months ago that 11th graders can take the SAT instead of Smarter Balanced, a move applauded by many opponents of the assessment.

A Delaware task force of legislators, school officials and others is working to eliminate some standardized tests seen as redundant.

The union, which represents teachers, paraprofessionals, school librarians and others, had opposed the test even before the weekend vote. Ms. Jenner said the unanimous tally shows more than just a few people are speaking out against the assessment.

“Certainly it is important for powers that be at the Department of Education and governor’s office to see it’s not just the organization speaking, but we’re speaking on behalf of the members and the members are saying the same thing,” she said.

Ms. Jenner, who taught science in Red Clay School District before being elected union president, said instructors are not opposed to a statewide standardized exam but want one they believe is useful and less disruptive.

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