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Delaware Education Chief Rips Extra Testing

Get your state officials to issue similar statements. Get your local school boards, PTAs, service organizations, and so on to do the same.

The state's education secretary opposes a plan by President Bush that would expand a national testing program to high schools, but superintendents had mixed reactions.

"More testing just doesn't make sense to me," state Secretary of Education Valerie Woodruff said Thursday. "We need to help kids, not help them deal with more tests."

The president on Wednesday outlined a $1.5 billion plan that would require students to take annual tests in math and reading through 11th grade.

Bush's plan would broaden the No Child Left Behind law, which requires schools to test students in grades 3 through 8 and one year in high school.

Schools face sanctions if students do poorly on the exams.

Delaware already tests students in math and reading in grades 9 and 10. The plan would add tests for 11th-graders and increase accountability for high schools.

The new federal measures were proposed as Delaware hangs in limbo over its three-tiered diploma system, which would use 10th-grade test scores to determine whether graduates get a basic, standard or distinguished diploma.

The controversial diploma system was delayed while it is studied by a panel of experts.

Unlike Woodruff, Christina School District Superintendent Joseph Wise said he supports increased testing and hopes the state will align its test with the SAT, a college admissions exam.

"I applaud any move to check on each child not meeting high school standards later than 10th grade," Wise said. "There's two years left on the table we're not thinking about. For the ones who can master it, not testing them again is giving them the message: I can coast the rest of my time in high school."

Bush said he would earmark $1.5 billion for the proposal in his upcoming budget, but much of the money would come from existing programs. His plan still needs approval from Congress, and states would put the testing in place.

Woodruff said she would rather get federal funds to create smaller learning communities or hire more counselors.

Harold Roberts, superintendent of Caesar Rodney School District, said one high school test is enough to show whether students meet standards.

"Whenever you increase testing, you cut back on instructional time," Roberts said. "It's already overkill. We've given up a week of instruction a year for testing and it's also very stressful for students."

Judy Pappenhagen, a parent in the Red Clay School District, agrees.

"I think we're doing too much testing and not enough teaching," she said. "We've put all our eggs in the testing basket and really need to re-evaluate what helps kids."

Pappenhagen is a member of Advocates for Children's Education, a parents group that opposes high-stakes testing.

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., chairs the House Subcommittee on Education Reform and has played a major role in shaping No Child Left Behind. Castle said annual testing in high school is the natural next step.

"It's essential to complete the package in terms of what we're trying to do in education," Castle said. "Part of academic progress involves a testing component - manifesting what you have been able to learn. Many students are most motivated when they know they're going to be tested. To suggest testing is too much of a burden is wrong."

Tony Marchio, superintendent of Appoquinimink School District, said increased testing can be a useful barometer for schools to assess their weaknesses. But he has a problem with sanctions for schools based solely on test performance.

"To take the test in isolation, you're not getting the full picture of a school," he said.

Contact Cecilia Le at 324-2794 or cle@delawareonline.com.

— Cecilia Le
The News Journal


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