By June 30th this year we will all know what is in the final report from Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee. This is when it is due to the General Assembly. I have made predictions in the past about the end result: that district assessments will go the way of the dinosaur in favor of more interim assessments for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. When Senate Joint Resolution #2 was announced, it was at the height of the 2015 opt-out movement. Governor Markell spoke about it at Howard High School last March. I immediately saw it as a response to opt-out.
A week before the legislation hit the General Assembly, I had the opportunity to see a DOE email stating that Senate Joint Resolution #2 was the answer to opt-out. The House and Senate Education Committee Chairs in Delaware sponsored the legislation. During the Senate Education Committee meeting in June, it was brought up before House Bill 50, much to the consternation of several people. Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, Lindsay O’Mara, when asked at the meeting, said the Smarter Balanced Assessment could be a part of the assessment inventory but it depends on state and federal regulations. The Assessment Inventory Committee officially began in November.
To date, no minutes have been posted on the General Assembly website or the DOE website. The group first met on November 16th and then again on December 16th. The only place it shows up is on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar and it must be put there seven days before the meeting as per Delaware state code. In looking at that website, there are no scheduled meetings showing up anywhere in 2016. In fact, on the list of committees and task forces in a different section of the General Assembly website, there is no listed Chair of this committee. No meetings show up on the Department of Education calendar part of their website either.
I am going to predict now that the Smarter Balanced Assessment will definitely be a major topic of discussion at this task force. It will not be a part of the assessment inventory to be kept or removed. But someone will say something to the effect of “We need to do an evaluation of this test.” It may even be one of the few members on the task force who has vocally opposed it. Politics is often suggesting something to someone and making it seem like it was their idea. Someone will whisper it into their ear and they will think it is a great idea. When it comes to education, great ideas can seem like a good thing but they are loaded with snares and traps. Like I said before, this committee is top-heavy with Markell sympathizers.
There will be some other carrots in this final report. One teachers will love will be a recommendation that standardized tests not be used for the purpose of teacher evaluations. Teachers will support this emphatically and will then support anything the committee recommends. If Governor Markell doesn’t sign an executive order or no legislation passes prior to this report, there will be a very strong recommendation that high school juniors not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This is something ten Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote to the Governor about three days ago. The reduction in district assessments will not specifically say “get rid of this or that”. There will be a recommendation that no student receives any type of “interim assessment”, whether it is the Smarter Balanced Assessment or something like SRI, SMI, MAPS, DIBELS, or any of the other assessments districts use in Delaware more than once in any given marking period. There may be certain assessments ditched, but for the most part it will be up to the local districts. There will most likely be language either requiring or strongly suggesting the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment be given at least once during the first or second marking period.
The evaluation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be done by a third corporate cousin of one of the many vendor companies the DOE utilizes for pretty much anything that generates a report. The evaluation will come back and find that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is effective. Bloggers and teachers will rip it apart and say the report is not valid. The state will most likely pay this vendor anywhere from $50-$100,000 for this report which will show some issues with the test but not enough to render it invalid. When all is said and done, we will pretty much have what we’ve always had but a little bit less of the district assessments. Smarter Balanced will still be here. Parents will still opt-out. The big question on everybody’s mind will be if our legislators honor that right by overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 or if they side with the test and punish corporate backed privateers who are hell-bent on continuing their agendas.