Senate agrees to compromise on standardized-testing reform

“Members, I know this is difficult,” Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said late last night.

“But some of us have turned our focus to how much relief we can provide, how many hours per year are really required to get through these assessments, and yes, we’ve heard from parents they do not like, trust, appreciate or enjoy PARCC.”

This was the stage from which bipartisan duo Holbert and Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, made their collective pitch for the grand bargain: a standardized testing reform bill that won’t put the state afoul of the feds, that Governor John Hickenlooper will sign, and that offers activists a carrot, a legit pathway out of the state’s new set of required standardized tests.

But senators, both left and right, are grumbling about the House bill.

They wanted a measure that went straight to the federal minimums — that’s one test a year in grades three-through-eight and a single ACT-style test in high school. They wanted immunity for schools and districts with high opt-out rates.

What they succeeded in getting, so far, was the following: not one, but two years of teacher, school and district relief from test-based performance assessments; competitive bids from existing test providers to replace the PARCC tests slashed from 10th and 11th grade; and a better process for innovating, vetting and selecting a single, Colorado-born alternative to the Common Core PARCC test.

Kerr closed out the argument by comparing this latest test reform bill to the recommendations made at the beginning of the session by a bipartisan task force that spent all of last year drilling down on the issue of over-testing. This third or fourth iteration ends just about where the conversation started, achieving nearly every one of the task-force recommendations.

HB 1323 still needs final passage in the Senate before the two bills can either be paired down to one through conference committees or sent directly to the Governor to make the ultimate decision.

Image by Jared Rodriguez via Truthout.

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