Breakthrough

House passes testing compromise bill

Testing bill sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner (left) watches as House takes a standing vote on an amendment.

The House late Monday gave preliminary approval to a compromise testing measure designed to break the assessment stalemate that has dogged the 2015 session.

The vote came after a full evening’s worth of debate, two party caucuses to discuss the bill and some tense moments for sponsors. But in the end sentiment seemed noticeably in favor of the measure.

Two proposed amendments, one to put stronger opt-out language in the bill and another to give districts more flexibility in choice of ninth grade tests, were defeated on recorded votes.

Earlier in the evening the House and Senate education committees each approved the testing compromise. The Senate won’t hold preliminary floor debate on the second bill until Tuesday, the second-to-the-last day of the legislative session.

Here are the key features of the new plan:

  • CMAS/PARCC testing in language arts and math would continue in grades 3-9. (This would require federal sign-off because grade 9 doesn’t meet federal requirements for giving the tests once in high school.)
  • Statewide science tests would continue to be given once at each level – elementary, middle and high school.
  • The proposal includes no requirement for social studies testing.
  • A college-and-career readiness test like ACT Aspire would be given to 10th grade students. (Such exams take a lot less time than the PARCC tests.)
  • The main ACT test would continue to be given in the 11th grade.
  • Districts would be required to give the 10th and 11th grade tests but students wouldn’t have to take them. (Such tests aren’t subject to federal requirements for student participation.)
  • Parents would have to be notified about their rights to opt students out of tests, and districts would be prohibited from punishing or discriminating against students who don’t take tests.
  • Pilot programs under which districts could experiment with different kinds of tests would be created.
  • There would be limits of use of state test data for educator evaluation in 2014-15 and in future years when such data isn’t available for timely evaluations.

The plan retains language from earlier testing bills that would streamline school readiness and READ Act literacy assessments. It also requires the availability of paper tests if districts request them.

Read a draft of the proposal here.

The compromise came together quickly. “It is the result of some serious work between the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats over the weekend,” Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillion told House Education. Hamner, chair of the committee last year, was named Monday morning by House Democratic leadership to carry the compromise bill.

Procedurally, the new plan was amended into two different bills, making them identical. House Education rewrote Senate Bill 15-257 with the new language and passed it 9-2. Senate Education did the same with House Bill 15-1323 and passed the new version 5-4.

The compromise appears to satisfy education leaders from both parties in both houses, as well as Gov. John Hickenlooper. But the plan definitely does not satisfy activist parent groups and the Colorado Education Association, who had pushed for more dramatic changes. And it didn’t satisfy

Education reform groups have questions about the testing pilot program, which likely will be subject to floor amendments.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.