Last night, the Kent County League Of Women Voters held a public debate for the Kent County candidates running for office in the election on November 4th. The event was held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, DE. Several candidates declined the debate, and some were unable to attend. Under debate law, if one party in a particular race does not show up, the other party is unable to debate.
For the Delaware House Representative candidates, the parties that debated were District 30 candidates Libertarian Gordon Gene Smith and Republican Jonathan E. Gallo (current Democrat House Rep. William Outten declined the debate) and District 11 candidates Democrat Lynne Newlin and current Republican House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman. For the Senate, the only attending candidates were from the 17th Senate District, current Democrat State Senator Brian Bushweller and Republican candidate Dr. Kim Warfield.
A two-part question asked of the candidates on their position on standardized testing and allowing parents to opt out of standardized testing. Senator Bushweller said he does not believe parents should have the option to opt their children out of standardized testing because he felt students need to be measured for their proficiency. He also added his belief there have been too many changes in the tests in Delaware, and when the Smarter Balanced Assessment comes out “in a couple years” this will be the third test. House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman felt there should be a consistent set of standards for the country, but parents should have the right to opt their children out of standardized testing. Both of these elected officials voted for House Bill 334 which allowed the Smarter Balanced Assessment to replace DCAS as the state standardized test.
After the debate, I had the opportunity to speak with House Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, and I asked him why he voted for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He said his wife is a teacher, and most teachers hated DCAS because it was administered to students three times a year. I explained to him that I believe the Smarter Balanced Assessment is worse than DCAS. He replied that for House Bill 334, it was a choice of the lesser of two evils, and what made it very difficult for the vote was the fact that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy had already bought the test for the state. He felt it put the legislators in a no-win situation. He gave me permission to publish this opinion.
As for Senator Bushweller’s statement about the Smarter Balanced Assessment during the public debate, where he said it was coming out in “a couple years” it showed an ignorance of the current education climate in Delaware based on the fact that the test will first be administered in the Spring of 2015, not two years from now. It really makes me wonder based on the two current legislator’s comments how much information they were given about the test before the vote. Neither of them served on the Education Committee for their respective branch.
I posed a question in an article last month in regards to the testing schedule, but I was given some confusing information about the possibility of interim tests and the DOE document I first saw did not indicate it was optional for the school districts. As well, two Delaware House Reps, who wished to remain anonymous, informed me they were not aware of an interim test at all and didn’t recall even an option being presented to them. Neither of them served on the Education Committee for the House either. In comments on that article, someone who seemed to have insider knowledge of the legislative process behind this bill, and was present, wrote this:
This was passed out at the House and Senate joint education committee meeting in May- that was (t)he first place I saw it, thus legislators had this graphic before voting on the bill as well.
But this commenter assumed the legislators had all information available to them prior to voting on the bill. Was this the case? Does anyone in Legislative Hall who was NOT on the education committee want to give an official comment about what exact information was given to them before their vote?