Tuesday, March 17, 2015

the issues with S.B. 215

Senate Bill 215, expected to be heard in committee this Thursday, does very little to address the issue of standardized testing in Colorado.

What the bill does do:
  • makes testing in 11th/12th grade optional (except for the ACT). The decision to administer the PARCC and CMAS tests would be left up to districts.
  • renews the state task force on standardized testing

There are a few issues with this:

1. Another task force seems redundant  The state spent $75,000 on the first task force; it's reasonable to assume a similar amount would be required if the task force was renewed. Yet even the supporters of the bill provide no justification for why another task force is necessary, especially given:

2. Senate Bill 215 doesn't actually listen to the recommendations of the first task force. From the task force report:
[F]indings from research studies and public input made it clear that Colorado’s current system of State and local assessments has created far too many demands on time, logistics, and finances that are impacting the teaching and learning process in schools and undermining public support for the assessment system as a whole.
Senate Bill 215  doesn't address over-testing in grades 3-10 whatsoever. The Task Force had recommended making Math and English CMAS testing optional at all levels; Senate Bill 215 doesn't do that.

The bill also doesn't provide a means for parents and students to opt-out of standardized testing without hurting their schools and districts. (This was another task force recommendation.)

This brings us to the question: what is the point in making another task force if the state hasn't even bothered to listen to the first one?

3. Senate Bill 215 doesn't address several other student, parent, and teacher concerns.
  • When we protested last fall, we were concerned about the amount of money the state spends on testing.  Student protests since then have focused on the issue of continued privatization of our education. Under S.B. 215, the state would still pay corporations for these tests. 
  • The bill doesn't address any concerns about data privacy, which a been an important issue for many families.
  • The bill doesn't do anything to address the issue that Colorado's "accountability" system punishes low-performing schools for poor exam scores.

Senate Bill 215 doesn't do anything bad.  The problem is, it doesn't do anything much at all. 

Since our protests last November, we've been repeatedly assured by politicians and other officials they've heard us, that they will listen to the task force, that they recognize standardized testing is an issue. 

Senate Bill 215 doesn't show that. To the students who have been fighting for real change, it shows us that Colorado politicians would rather avoid substantive reform and kick the can down the road while a broken standardized testing system remains in place.

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