Ex-governors have Hick’s back, defend standards and testing

As the legislature prepares for floor debate on key testing bills, two former governors urged lawmakers not to tinker too much with standards and assessments.

Former Govs. Roy Romer and Bill Owens joined current chief executive John Hickenlooper to defend 30 years of Colorado education reform, including standards and testing begun on Romer’s watch and expanded under Owens.

Romer and Owens didn’t mince words on touchy issues that included opting out and continuation of 9th grade testing; they oppose the former and support the latter. Hickenlooper, who will have to decide on whatever testing bill the 2015 session sends him, was non-committal on specific issues.

All three said the testing system can be streamlined and some tests eliminated but didn’t offer specific suggestions.

“We probably have too much of a good thing,” said Owens.

Hickenlooper didn’t commit himself when asked about specific issues like 9th grade testing (an issue the House and Senate currently are at odds about) and possible elimination of social studies tests.

“I want to see what the bills look like. We’re open to looking at each of these issues.”

The governor also said he sees ninth grade testing as an important component, and added that he and the legislature “should be able to work through that.” He said he’s discussed testing repeatedly at his regular meetings with legislative leadership and is hopeful a good bill will be produced.

Republican Owens said he initiated the idea of the news conference and enlisted Democrat Romer. Owens said Democratic former Gov. Bill Ritter had a schedule conflict and couldn’t attend.

Owens said the two “want to make sure we don’t throw away those 30 years” of education reform.

The two ex-governors were unequivocal on two issues.

“I’m opposed to opting out of tests,” Owens said, and Romer said, “Why would anybody opt out? … To opt out is harmful to the system.”

On 9th grade testing, Owens said he supports it, and Romer said, “You need a test in the 9th grade.” Arguing you don’t “is nonsensical and illogical.”

Owens was asked why so many Republicans now are critical of standards and testing when he and past GOP legislators were among the architects of Colorado’s current education system.

“That system is under attack … this is stunning to me,” Owen said.  He said some people have forgotten all the work done in the past. “I’m concerned we’ve gotten away from it.”

Three testing bills are pending on this week’s calendars, two in the Senate and one in the House, but all three of those were laid over Wednesday and may or may not be heard Thursday.