DSTP’S replacement gets Senate’s OK

New exam shows promise as a better teaching tool


DOVER – If there’s one thing students, teachers and parents generally agree on, it’s this: DSTP may be the most hated acronym in the state.

And Thursday, the Senate voted 19-0 to approve the student accountability test’s replacement for students from Kindergarten to the Eighth Grade, which is scheduled to go into statewide use during the 2010-2011 school year.

Unlike the current test, which is given once a year, students will be able to take the new exam up to three times a year. That, Education Secretary Lillian Lowery said is a big advantage.

“If students take it at the beginning of the year and they’re already proficient, the teachers can start working on academic enrichment exercises for them,” she said. “If they take it and don’t do well, they have to other times to take it and teachers have time to intervene on the student’s level.”

Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark North, sponsored the bill authorizing the new test and he said the new exam should be able to help districts strengthen curricula and can be coordinated with other states as well. But he too is enthused by its practical classroom potential.

“I think the sky’s the limit with this test,” said Sokola, a longtime champion of education reform efforts. “The results will have diagnostic information with them for the specific areas where students are weak and strong and it will give teachers more immediate feedback so they can quickly make use of that information.”

When it originally came out, Sokola said the original DSTP was considered a strong test, but it didn’t wear well as tests, such as the new one that offer more immediate feedback were developed in response to the federal No Child Left Behind law. The new test, he says should have a better lifespan.

“This is a very flexible design,” Sokola said. “We should be able to adapt it more easily as changes and improvements in testing come along.”

The bill now heads to the House where Lowery said she hopes it will meet with similar support.

“It had a lot of support in the Senate because it makes sense,” she said. “It makes sense for children. It makes sense for our teachers. It’s a good bill.”