Testing Overhaul Passes in Colorado


Lawmakers in Colorado have passed an educational overhaul that will reduce student testing across the state in one of the final moves before the 2015 legislation session ended.

The bill is expected to decrease the number of tests for students in the early elementary school and late high school grades, while at the same time offering school districts the ability to implement their own exams if they wish to do so.

“I’m exceedingly proud of the bill that we just passed,” said Democratic House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. “I think it proves that our members listened very carefully to their constituents. I believe we reached a really good compromise.”

The bill will eliminate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, testing in math and reading for students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.  PARCC exams for ninth graders would remain, in addition to social studies exams offered once in elementary, middle and high schools.  Reading proficiency exams offered in kindergarten through the 3rd grade would be streamlined, and there would be no punishments for parents who choose to opt out.  However, there would be repercussions for schools who do not have a high participation rate.

A one year delay would be placed on the use of test results for teacher and principal evaluations, as well as on accreditation ratings for schools and districts, writes Megan Schrader for The Gazette.

A more controversial portion of the bill is a pilot program that would allow schools to create their own exams in place of the PARCC tests.

The session has continually considered the elimination of additional testing for students.  However, annual testing for math and language arts in grades three through nine will remain a requirement, despite a push from testing opponents to decrease their amount as well, writes Ivan Moreno for The Coloradoan.

Sen. Chris Holbert said he wanted Senate Bill 257 to go through, which would have reduced testing to federal minimums.  The bill came through the Senate with only two votes against it.  However, the bill could have been vetoed by Governor John Hickenlooper, who had been pushing for testing in the ninth grade.

“We just a few weeks ago passed a bill that I was pretty proud of,” Sen. Michael Merrifield said. “Federal minimums is what they asked for, and that’s what we delivered, 33 to 2. We sent it to the House and they ripped it up and tore it apart and they destroyed it. We are asking you to help us put something together again.”

An additional bill would require social studies exams to be offered at a sampling of schools each year.  The idea is that the testing burden would be reduced while still providing feedback concerning how schools are preparing their students in the subject.