Sussex County Delaware

Text of Carper's
Speech on

From the Governor's Office ...

WILMINGTON -- Following is the text of Delaware Governor Thomas R. Carper's speech at a news conference on Friday, Nov. 12, 1999, announcing his support for delay in the implementation of Student and Educator Accountability measures.

"Two weeks have passed since the General Assembly met to consider educator accountability legislation. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I want to make clear my views -- not so much on educator accountability -- but with respect to issues widely discussed relating to student accountability.

First, it is clear to me after conversations and town meetings with hundreds of parents and teachers that a number of schools and school districts are not yet ready to move forward with the mandatory consequences resulting from the Delaware Student testing program next year. Despite the availability of four years of preparation, we have too many students in too many school districts who still may not be prepared to do their best on these tests next spring.

"For that reason, and others, I do not believe we should move forward with student accountability next June. I would support delaying for one year the mandatory consequences of testing in grades 3, 5 and 8 and delaying for an additional two years the graduation requirements from 2002 to 2004. An additional benefit of the delay will be to better align student accountability with educator accountability, which is scheduled to begin in 2001. It is absolutely imperative that during this period, school administrators redouble their efforts to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to teach to Delaware's academic standards, and that students are being taught what they need to succeed in meeting those standards.

"Second, allowing some additional time for students to meet the standards also will provide more time for school districts and the Department of Education to develop additional indicators besides a single test. Parents and teachers have both been clear that they do not believe that one test, a single indicator, will always be sufficient if we are to be fair to kids. While I believe that other tests should also be available to measure student performance, I also believe that another excellent indicator can be a student's work over a school year, which clearly demonstrates an ability to meet Delaware's standards. I support the development of student portfolios that can be used by teachers to help establish that students have met Delaware's academic standards when the test results do not. I have directed the Department to have these portfolios in place before the mandatory consequences of the testing program go into effect.

Third, I am also concerned over the frustrations and confusion felt by many parents of special education children about how their students will be treated. While we are required by federal law to test every child in our public schools, I believe parents and teachers of special education students should be given the flexibility they need to determine how and at what level their children are tested. I support the off-grade assessment of special education students when it is appropriate for the child. For example, by that I mean if an eighth grade student is reading at the fifth grade level, he can be tested at the fifth grade level. That decision, and how to use the results of these tests in determining student placement and achievement, should be left to those who best understand the needs of the individual student, including their parents.

Fourth, for students in our special education programs and others who do not meet the new Delaware standards for graduation, I agree that the certificate of attendance that has been proposed does not adequately recognize what they have accomplished in school. At the same time, I think it is critical that we very clearly differentiate the diplomas of students who meet Delaware's standards so that colleges and employers will recognize their achievements. I have asked the department to come up with new recommendations to meet both objectives.

"Finally, I believe it is the responsibility of the legislature and the governor to work out these issues and others in the coming weeks to keep Delaware's education reform effort on track. The legislative leadership has indicated a willingness to do that and I look forward to meeting with them next week to begin that process."

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