Delaware passed legislation Thursday that allows the parent or guardian of a child to opt out of state-mandated exams in schools.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, and Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, passed in the Senate 15-6 weeks after several amendments sent the measure back and forth between the Senate and the House.
“I’m very happy it passed by such a wide margin,” Kowalko said. “It shows (the legislators) support parental rights.”
Starting in August, the parent or guardian of school children will be given the opportunity to remove their child from the state’s annual assessment, which currently is the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.
The current test is created out of Common Core, a curriculum designed to offer children problem based learning.
There have been several testing systems in Delaware schools over the years. The Smarter Balanced Assessment System was implemented this year for the first time in some schools, and tests children on those skills learned in Common Core.
Kowalko voted against the bill to introduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment into the school system.
“It hasn’t been proven to me this is worthwhile test,” he said.
Lawson said he believes education has fallen short ever since the mandated tests. He said they’re not about assessing the students or the schools, but about giving money to the creators of the tests.
“Every test that comes into our school the vendor gets money and every time the test gets graded a vendor gets money,” Lawson said. “We use children as pawns to get what we want, meaning the State, and that is not right.”
The House approved the legislation in its original form in May, but on June 17 two amendments were included in the Senate.
One of those amendments, introduced by Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, expanded the bill from only applying to Smarter Balanced to also including district-wide tests.
The other, introduced by Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, would allow 11th-graders to opt out without parental consent.
When the bill went back to the House, the amendments lacked support from the Representatives, and it failed. The House then restored Spieglman’s amendment and passed the bill.
Gov. Jack Markell has made clear is opposition to the bill, but has not stated if he will sign or veto it. “The Governor has not said whether he will sign the bill,” said Jonathon Dworkin, a spokesman for the governor, in an e-mail.
“He has made clear that he has concerns about what he’s heard from civil rights leaders and the business community, as well as about a potential loss of federal funds. He understands and agrees that there is too much testing, which is why we launched a statewide effort to review all testing done at the state and local levels and identify opportunities to reduce it.”During the Senate vote Thursday some Senators expressed their concerns about the bill.
“I feel very strongly there’s a better way to address the issues raised by this bill, and I think we’ll make progress outside the bill,” David Sokola, D-Newark, said on the Senate floor.
Lawson said the legislation will benefit students by taking the stress off them and gives parents more say in their child’s education.
“There’s test upon test upon test,” he said. “It speaks to parents rights and that’s what the bill was about.”