High-Stakes Tests Delayed

K-12 Testing

Responding to public concerns, three more states have postponed high-stakes testing requirements.


While some legislators sought to delay high-stakes consequences indefinitely until after a comprehensive review of the state tests, lawmakers settled on a two-year delay. They also created a committee which will examine the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) and report by March of 2001.


Under the plan signed by the governor, the state would issue three types of diplomas, including one for those who meet course requirements but do not pass the test. When the testing requirements come into force, students who do not pass the reading test at grades 3, 5 and 8, and math at grade 8, can be promoted only if parents and the school agree on a remediation program.


The legislation also will tie educators’ evaluations to student test results. At least 20 percent of the ratings given to teachers, administrators and other instructional staff will be based on DSTP scores. Factors such as student poverty and attendance will be considered.


When the legislation was debated, members of the House observed that the tests may be flawed, unfair to students and impractical for use in making high-stakes decisions. “How did we get here today?” asked Representative William Oberle, after hearing that the state’s first trial test resulted in a 40 percent failure rate for 10th grade students. “I cannot support, under any circumstances, a test that will be the be-all and end-all of a student’s (getting a diploma).”


Alabama’s delay came after the first practice exams showed surprising low scores from 10th grade students in the state’s top performing schools and the Alabama Education Association threatened a lawsuit over the impact of the exam on minority students. Some state lawmakers warned they might move to kill the test were it not delayed for further review this year.


As a result, Alabama students have to pass English tests beginning this year in order to receive a diploma, but test scores on the math and science portions will not count until next year. State school superintendent Ed Richardson, a strong supporter of the test, pledged there would be no further delays in implementing the plan.


The state Board of Education voted to postpone requiring new statewide high school exams for diplomas until at least 2007. The Board decided to rank students in comparison with other Maryland students and put the rankings on high school transcripts. Lack of funds to adequately prepare students for the tests was cited as a major reason for not requiring the test for graduation, a reason reiterated by Board members who also opposed the rankings.