Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

Alison May
(302) 735-4006

Published by

Kevin Ohlandt

I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!

5 thoughts on “Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order”

  1. In all your posts supporting the opt- out movement, you’ve not really shared why this movement is so personally important for you and your family. One has to assume this stems from horrible, first-hand experience(s) of parenting a child who has suffered greatly as a result of over-testing in DE public schools. I think your readers would really appreciate hearing the struggles that you and your child have overcome as a result of opting out of the test and how you handled any blowback you received from your school district. As the recognized leader of parents supporting this effort, seems like it’s time to share your personal truth on this opt out issue!


    1. Jessica, awesome question. I have a son w/disabilities. When he was younger, he actually did fairly well on DCAS. He has never taken the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and he NEVER will. Pure and simple. As one of the first “opt-outers” of the Smarter Balanced, my son’s school district was well aware of my stance on the issue based on public comment at their board meetings as well as knowledge of this blog. When I opted him out, in a letter to the editor to the Delaware State News in October, 2014, I received zero blowback from the district. I would like to think they probably knew better and nothing they said was going to change my mind. Let’s not forget, this was the first district in the state where their board passed a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt out.
      My journey with Smarter Balanced comes from an IEP meeting we were at in March of 2014. This was the first time I heard of it. We were told the test was going to be much tougher and accommodations my son received on DCAS may not be available for Smarter Balanced. It was actually my wife who said that night we were going to opt him out. Ironically enough, I argued against it. I told her “You can’t opt out!” She told me again that I could and started showing me what was going on in New York and other states.
      This was what started me on the opt-out road, and I haven’t looked back since. I started researching the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and found all the flaws in it. I took sample questions that were out on the internet and saw how incredibly bad this test is. As I started this blog, the Smarter Balanced Assessment came up for a vote in our General Assembly. Our Senate actually defeated the bill until Governor Markell sent his people in and told our Senate that Markell would issue an executive order if they didn’t reconsider the bill and passed it. Three Senate Dems and one Republic flipped on their original no vote and SBAC was voted into law in Delaware.
      It would take me all night to tell you about the manipulation, fraud, and big corporate money involved with this test. Just search Smarter Balanced Assessment in the search button on here and you can easily find those answers yourself.
      I will not shy away from the fact that I hate Common Core. It was designed without true stakeholder input, no input from parents, and the implementation was rushed beyond belief. So was SBAC, PARCC, and the other state assessments aligned with Common Core.
      My child has suffered greatly in his short life, but not directly because of the Smarter Balanced Assessment at all. I think the whole corporate education reform movement where we allow companies to come in their attempts to “fix” our schools, fully aided and abetted by Governor Markell, the DOE, State Board, and certain members of our General Assembly has directly contributed to what my son experienced. In the insane drive for “proficiency” and “growth”, our schools have forgotten the basic tenets of education. Not all children fit in one box. They are unique and talented in their own ways. We lost sight of that. We have failed our children by allowing Common Core to take the place of common sense. The children who are the most at-risk: students with disabilities, children from poverty, and minorities are the ones who are pushed the hardest in this insanity. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be pushed, but it has gone beyond what is normal. You stretch a rubber band too far, it will always snap.
      I do not consider myself the leader of the opt-out movement in Delaware. Do I get the most information about it out there, most likely. But those who support this movement are a team. The Delaware PTA, they are the true leaders. They are the ones who have the legislative knowledge and membership to really push the envelope on things.
      I know my son will never take this test. But other parents don’t know that, or they think there has to be a law. Some parents have literally been driven to tears over this by districts or charters who refuse to accept their opt-out letter. House Bill 50 is about parental rights and choice. All the crap surrounding it is all creations from Governor Markell and the DOE. No one with opt-out, the parents in the trenches, is even talking about over-testing as the reason for opt-out. It’s about the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Nothing else. If the SAT becomes more like Smarter Balanced in the restructuring of that test, you will see parents opting their kids out of that too.
      In terms of getting into the nitty gritty with my child’s personal issues, that is not going to happen at this point. Not only am I advocating for my own son, but all the students and parents of Delaware. His situation is his own. Those who have followed this blog know what I am about and why I support opt-out. I can say, when I opted my son out of SBAC, a great relief came over me that my son would not have to take this test. I still expected him to do his best in school, and try as best he could, but knowing he wouldn’t have to take, what for him, a 10+ hour test and all the grief and anxiety that came with it, that gave me peace. But I knew it wasn’t just him, it was all of us. Nobody has to opt their child out. It is a choice. I support that choice 100%, and I always will.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a different dilemma with opt-out. I am opposed to SBAC because I recognize it is the foundation of the “reform” agenda which seeks to build public elitist academies while labeling the rest as “failures.” Test, punish, extinguish. My family would likely be on the winning side of that agenda, but I am deeply offended by it as public policy, and I oppose it on behalf of those who are on the “wrong” side of it.

    My daughter took SBAC in the fifth grade, and it was basically a non-event. There was no stress, and I didn’t even know she was taking it. The way I found out was I ask her each night if she has homework, and two nights in a row she said “No,” The second night I asked why and she said “Testing.” She crushed the test and did very well.

    My son is now a junior and is due to take his first SBAC this year. He is taking a heavy load of AP and honors courses, so I’d rather he not spend the time prepping for and taking SBAC.

    I offered to opt them out, but they both declined (so far). They like test week because it means no homework. Also, put yourself in the position of having to go off to a separate room while all your friends are taking the test. Since the test causes no anxiety for my kids, they’d rather take the test.

    When they are older they might wish they had opted out as an act of protest, but for now that argument doesn’t fly with them.

    I have taken sections of SBAC myself at different grade levels in one of the sessions sponsored by (DE-PTA, I think) and seen many examples posted on blogs. I don’t think it is a bad test. I was challenged by some of the questions, but I recognized that if I had just spent the last few months studying that exact thing (like students do) I would have had the answer right away.


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