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Bill limiting excessive testing in Virginia schools likely to move forward

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Members of the General Assembly are considering a bill to simplify how students are tested in public schools.

Students in Virginia are currently assessed using Standards of Learning tests. But teachers are also being asked to use other performance-based assessments.

Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg is a Democrat from Henrico who is also a public school teacher. He says the pendulum is always swinging in the education world between too much testing and not enough testing.

"So we go from a world in which there's no testing and we're leaving children behind and then we go into No Child Left Behind where we're doing too much high-stakes testing," he explains. "And what we need is a policy that threads that needle of less testing but more impactful testing."

He has a bill that would streamline the process to prevent excessive assessments. Republican Delegate Glenn Davis of Virginia Beach is chairman of the House Education Committee, and he says VanValkenburg's bill is a good idea.

"I think it's going to help simplify some of the testing scenarios," Davis says. "Additionally, it's going to allow more of a project-based end-of-the-year testing as opposed to a point-in-time, kind of SOL, Scantron-based assessment."

Davis says VanValkenburg's bill has bipartisan support, and he says it seems likely his committee will send the bill to the House floor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.