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.