Scaling back the testing cycle

Scaling back the testing cycle

(Colo.) High school students in Colorado could see a significant reduction in statewide testing following the passage of a bill that would make a number of other sweeping changes.

HB 1323 would postpone the use of assessment data for district and teacher evaluations for one year, allow districts to pilot their own assessment tests, guarantee parent opt-out rights and simplify early literacy assessments in addition to cutting approximately 35 hours in testing from kindergarten through grade 12.

It is unclear if Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign the bill that continues to generate some criticism, but many agree that the bi-partisan effort still hits many of the right notes.

“It lightens the load where appropriate,” Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson said following the passage of the bill, “(and) it still maintains transparency and accountability.”

Colorado legislators are attempting to accomplish in one bill what many states are struggling to do bit by bit. States including California, Mississippi and New York have been working to restructure assessment policies for graduation requirements.

Many states are still determining the best way to evaluate teachers and have debated the merits of student assessment scores as a viable measure. And this year, without much guidance at the state level, schools faced a wave of opt-outs by parents who did not want their child to participate in Common Core-related assessment tests.

The Colorado bill would eliminate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests for juniors and seniors, but would retain the ninth grade tests in math and English language arts. Testing in grade nine had been a major source of contention throughout the process.

Students in grades 10 and 11 would take the ACT Aspire, a college and career readiness test that only takes about three hours to complete compared to the 11 hours it would take to complete the federally approved math and English PARCC tests.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that students be tested in English and math in grades three through eight and once more between grades 10 andh 12. And because legislators want to offer the high school PARCC exam in grade nine instead of 10, the state will have to seek federal approval if the governor signs the bill.

A second part of the bill would allow a district or group of districts to pilot tests other than the PARCC exam upon state approval. If the state Department of Education and the Legislature both approve a pilot, and if the federal government also signs off, then a pilot exam could become an alternative statewide test.

The bill would also reduce the amount of literacy assessments in kindergarten through third grade by about 50 percent, and would guarantee that a parent could opt their student out of an assessment without fear that their child may face consequences at school.

“I’m pleased our legislators moved on the public outcry to dial back the amount of testing for Colorado educators and students,” Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said in a statement. “This bill doesn’t satisfy our goal to bring testing for Colorado students down to federal minimum requirements, but we’ll be much closer to that level after it’s signed into law.”

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