Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Support S.B. 257!

Over the last few months, we've frequently expressed concern that Colorado's legislature, despite the 1202 Task Force report, despite student protests and opt-outs, and despite the promises we've heard to reduce testing, would not act. Consequently, we were pleased to see the development of Senate Bill 257, which passed committee last week. This piece of legislation, proposed by Senators Mike Merrifield and Owen Hill:
  • reduces testing to federal minimum levels (every year in grades 3-8, once in grades 10-12, but keeps the state-mandated ACT intact)
  • postpone the use of standardized testing as a significant part of teacher and school evaluation for three more years- this way, standardized tests won't be used a major measurement while the system is still being sorted out
  • allows districts to choose standardized tests other than PARCC, so long as they still meet federal requirements
This third point is particularly crucial from a student perspective. We've frequently expressed concern about the content as well as the cost of the PARCC tests. (The tests this spring cost roughly $37 million, according to the Denver Post. The state spent a similar amount last fall.) Under S.B. 257, districts would have the opportunity to pursue cheaper, less time-consuming tests. We believe this would lead to the development of better standardized tests, which would lead to better standardized testing system as a whole.

The issue, at this point, is whether S.B. 257 bill make it through the legislature. The bill will likely be up in the Senate chambers toward the end of April. Meanwhile, the House is considering House Bill 1323, which, as we wrote last week, wastes taxpayer money and doesn't do nearly enough to alleviate our concerns about standardized testing.

S.B 257 is a decent solution to the complicated problem of standardized testing in Colorado. We encourage Colorado legislators to take this opportunity to create meaningful reform.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

S.B. 215 and H.B. 1323

We wrote last week how Senate Bill 215 ignored much of the task force report and made only cosmetic changes to Colorado's standardized testing system.

The good news is Senate Bill 215 was pulled from committee. The bad news is, House Bill 1323 was introduced and does virtually the same thing. The recent bill also legalizes parental opt-out: we wrote last week why such a measure misunderstands the opt-out movement.

Neither of these bills are awful; they also aren't solutions to Colorado's current failed standardized testing system.

House Bill 1323 would renew the task force on standardized testing for another year, even though the bill (like the rest of the Colorado legislature) does not implement the recommendations the task force already made.

Furthermore the bill does not address several issues of parent, student, and teacher concern, including:

  • privatization of testing and education
  • finances devoted to standardized testing
  • students' data privacy
  • over-testing in grades 3-10
  • the continued reliance on standardized testing for school and teacher performance assessment

A solution to Colorado's standardized testing failures needs to be actual reform, not surface level changes that only affect a minority of Colorado students. House Bill  1323 falls short.