House Democrats seek to ease Delaware students’ test burden

DOVER — Ten House Democrats, including leadership, want the governor to replace the Smarter Balanced standardized test with the SAT for 11th graders.

Currently, Delaware students in grades three through eight and grade 11 take the Smarter Balanced test. The test has been criticized for being too difficult and part of a curriculum overly focused on standardized assessments.

Objections reached a peak with a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of the test. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Jack Markell in July.

However, the bill could be brought back as early as the first week of the legislative session in an effort to overturn the governor’s veto.

In a letter to the governor Thursday, the group of 10 lawmakers said high school juniors were overburdened.

“Many of these students are preparing for college or other post-secondary schooling and are taking a variety of other exams, including Advanced Placement tests, SAT and ACT entrance exams, not to mention final exams for their classes. Adding Smarter Balanced to that list simply burdens juniors with what many of them and their parents deem a superfluous test, which is why 10 percent of juniors did not take the Smarter Balanced reading test and 11 percent did not take the math test last year,” the letter reads.

“In light of these facts, we are formally requesting that your administration remove the requirement that high school juniors take the Smarter Balanced Assessment in lieu of an exam that virtually every student takes — the SAT.”

The letter notes the SAT is taken in four hours over one day, whereas Smarter Balanced requires eight hours and is spread out over several days.

The letter also cites a resolution that required districts to deliver a list of all their standardized tests to the Department of Education by Dec. 31. The results will be presented to the public and the General Assembly by the end of this month. The legislation is intended to lead to eliminating some tests.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Markell said the governor and Education Secretary Steven Godowsky “look forward to working with legislators to determine how best to reduce unnecessary and duplicative testing to best serve students.”

The 10 Democrats who signed the letter sent to the governor are: Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf of Rehoboth Beach, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst of Bear, Majority Whip John Viola of Newark, Rep. David Bentz of Newark, Rep. Trey Paradee of Cheswold, Rep. Debra Heffernan of Edgemoor, Rep. Earl Jaques of Glasgow, Rep. Paul Baumbach of Newark, Rep. Stephanie Bolden of Wilmington, and Rep. Quinn Johnson of Middletown.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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