WILMINGTON, Del.- Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Thursday launched a review of tests administered by the state, districts, and individual schools, according to his office.
The goal is to decrease the testing burden on students and teachers and increase the time available for teaching.
Markell announced the effort at William Penn High School.
“Our educators, our students, and their parents all deserve the benefits of effective assessments that show when students are excelling and when they need extra support,” Markell said. “At the same time, tests that don't add meaningfully to the learning process mean less time for students to receive the instruction and support they need. We are committed to finding the right balance, and this initiative is an important part of that process.”
The governor noted that some local tests may repeat the purpose of statewide exams, while others may have outlived their usefulness, but continue to be offered because administrators haven't had the time or resources to fairly gauge their effectiveness.
Markell's office says each school district will receive financial and technical support from the Department of Education to take an inventory of all assessments given in each school, including paying someone to lead the review over the next four months.
Mark Murphy, Delaware secretary of education, weighed in on the issue.
“This is a particularly timely moment for us to discuss the role of assessments in our schools as we shift to an improved and less time-consuming statewide test this year," Murphy said. "We must also provide our districts with the support they need to evaluate all of their exams so we can assure teachers and parents that we are tracking students' progress while maximizing instructional time."
The state's new assessment, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, will be given only once a year, compared to the previous assessment, which was offered up to three times a year. Markell's office said that while the new Smarter Balanced test is more thorough, it will still cut total testing time by up to seven hours and take well under 1 percent of school hours per year.
For the first time, Markell's office says the state will test critical thinking and writing ability – two of the most important skills students will need to succeed in their futures – instead of asking only multiple-choice bubble questions.
“Is there too much testing? Absolutely,” said Rep. Earl Jaques, who chairs the House Education Committee. “This effort to look at the 70 percent of the tests that we control as a state is a great start to address this issue. We know there are good tests that are necessary but also need to identify which ones are redundant and can possibly be weeded out. I look forward to hearing back from the group on their findings.”
Emphasizing the value of continuing to support high quality assessments during the statewide review, Markell referenced his support for Professional Learning Communities during which teachers meet in small groups to review student data, identify struggling students, and review which lessons are most successful. He also addressed the small, but vocal group of advocates in the state pushing to opt students out of required tests.
“Opting out would deny our schools a full picture of their students' progress, and those who don't take the tests would be denied the opportunity to receive additional support. Students will fall through the cracks and be left behind. That's why the teachers, principals, and administrators I speak with, along with civil rights groups in Delaware and across America, are strongly opposed to this movement, and support universal, statewide, annual testing to make sure our students are learning and getting the help they need to succeed.”