State lawmaker takes aim at school tests tied to contempt charge
State Rep. Tim Leonard, who spent a couple weeks in jail last month on contempt charges stemming, in part, from his effort to opt his children out of certain state tests, has introduced a bill to eliminate some of those same tests for all Colorado public school students.
The tests are known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS. They are given to students in grades three through 11.
Leonard’s bill would eliminate CMAS testing in social studies and do away with all CMAS assessments for ninth-graders.
Leonard is a Republican from Evergreen. His history of discontent with state testing is both political and personal. He attempted twice, once successfully in the 2013-14 school year, to opt out two sons from state tests even though under the terms of his divorce, his ex-wife has the sole responsibility to make educational decisions for their four minor children. After his second attempt, Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims sent him to jail for contempt of court for two weeks in December.
Leonard’s personal opposition aside, the issue of testing long has been contentious at the state Capitol. House Education Committee Chairwoman Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) says the question of which tests to administer to ninth grade students is particularly prickly. Participation by ninth grade students in CMAS testing tends to be the lowest of all of the grades. Parents are allowed to opt out their children from state testing, and in ninth grade, participation has been about 83 percent.
Pettersen dismissed ideas, proposed by Leonard and others, to eliminate social studies testing, saying it might cast those studies as being less important. And Leonard’s efforts to end all testing for ninth grade won’t get through the process, she said, an indication that his bill is likely DOA in the House.
The bill Leonard introduced is the first education bill for which he has been the chief sponsor, although last session, he signed on as a co-sponsor to a similar bill on testing proposed by Republican Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone. That 2016 legislation made it to the House floor, where it died on a voice vote. Leonard’s bill includes an explanation that the changes proposed to state testing would bring Colorado in line with federal standards. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
House Democrats have not yet made a decision on whether to sanction Leonard for his problems in family court. He was Colorado’s first sitting lawmaker in at least four decades to spend time in jail.
They have, however, protested that Leonard was appointed to the House Education Committee, pointing out that he would be making decisions about public education despite the fact that he is barred by court order from making educational decisions for his own children.
Photo credit: Colorado General Assembly
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