As the author and primary sponsor of Delaware’s “opt-out” bill, I was hard-pressed to understand the position in the Jan. 9 editorial “Opting out of accountability,” supporting Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) veto of a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.
The governor is not “standing up for accountability” in vetoing the bill but rather standing firmly against parents’ wishes and rights. The legislation does not suggest or give “an imprimatur of state approval,” leading or even encouraging parents to think “it’s okay, even desirable, for children to duck these tests.” In truth, the legislation reaffirms the rights of parents to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment without fear of academic or disciplinary repercussions. It provides an organized process and time frame and mandates “alternative educational activities during testing times.”
This bill is about parental and, of course, children’s rights. Who ensures the rights of children? Parents. Children are entitled not to be fearful and not to be humiliated and to go to school and learn. This bill ensures those rights. It says children may be excused from the test and engage in an alternative learning experience.
John A. Kowalko Jr., Newark, Del.
The writer, a Democrat, represents the 25th District in the Delaware House of Representatives.
The editorial on opting out of standardized testing gave a hint as to why many educators feel strongly about the proliferation of mandated testing in the schools. Many parents who are having their children “sit out” are doing so not because a test “seems too hard,” as the editorial asserted, but because the tests are being misused to evaluate teachers, because the school year is being hijacked by endless test preparation, testing and retesting, and because the tests reward fact-regurgitating and the “covering” of huge amounts of material at the expense of learning skills, which are much more important but not easily assessed.
The editorial mentioned Delaware’s “bragging rights in improving education,” which represents the mind-set of competition that has been enormously destructive to education. It has given rise to Race to the Top and the absurdity of ranking schools on the basis of how many Advanced Placement tests their students take — as if education were some sort of sport. If schools have anything to brag about, it ought to be the extent to which they have been able to excite students about ideas, to help students figure out what to do when they don’t know what to do and to understand that an attempt that doesn’t work is as valuable to their progress as one that does. None of these is easily testable.
Joan Reinthaler, Washington