Some school districts have grave concerns about a $65 million plan to revamp the state's student-testing process, as is proposed by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Assessment.

Superintendents and testing officials with Jordan, Salt Lake and Granite school districts oppose many aspects of the proposal.

"We are not pleased," said Darryl Thomas, director of research, assessment and evaluation for Granite district.

The districts believe the proposal will increase exams for already over-tested kids. They say it will also cost too much, the funding has yet to be obtained and schools lack the technological infrastructure to support it. Further, the plan could endanger the approximate $110 million the state receives for the federal mandate No Child Left Behind.

"How will this benefit the students of Utah?" questioned Salt Lake Superintendent McKell Withers.

Members of the panel say their recommendation would eliminate not-as-valuable testing time, such as end-of-year exams that tell the teacher too little too late. Instead, energy would be put toward formative testing — ongoing exams in the classroom that give teachers immediate feedback so educators can take quick action to help students improve.

This type of testing is "so much more valuable," said Patti Harrington, state superintendent of public instruction.

Jordan and Salt Lake districts wrote documents opposing the proposal and sent them to the panel.

Salt Lake District's letter states: "It is clear that if the recommendations were implemented as currently outlined, costs would dramatically increase, instructional time would decrease, and school, district, and state accountability measures would be compromised."

The proposal calls for eliminating three tests: the Criterion-Referenced Test, which is an end-of-level exam used for supplying data for NCLB; the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test, which students are to pass before graduation; and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which shows educators how Utah kids are doing as compared nationally.

Instead, according to the proposal, students would be assessed with a variety of tests, including EXPLORE, PLAN, Accuplacer and the ACT.


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