Colorado Senator Michael Merrifield

The Peoples Voice

Senate approves new balance of more schooling, less testing in K-12 education

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2015-MerrifieldDENVER — Protests over standardized testing in K-12 education have led to calls for change in the system, but some of the proposals to date have been too extreme for the mainstream.  This evening, the Senate approved a balanced, bipartisan, and comprehensive fix through the Educational Standards and Assessments and Flexibility Pilot Program (SB 15-257).

The bill, as approved today, is the product of the original version, a number of substantial amendments, and a lengthy hearing in the Senate Education Committee.  The bill that reduces the quantity of testing, enhances fairness for all involved, and increases involvement in the process, includes:

  • English Language Arts and Mathematics state testing being administered yearly from grades 3-8, and only once in grades 10-12 with the local education provider (LEP) selecting the single high school year of testing.
  • Science statewide testing only occurring once in elementary school and once in middle school, with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) selecting the year.  There would be one test in high school, with the local education provider selecting the year that test is administered.
  • Reducing some required early education literacy testing.  If a student is reading at grade level at the start of a school year, the student is not required to take additional tests, as current policy dictates.
  • Allowing local education providers to design and implement alternative accountability and testing systems, in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education, and in compliance with federal law or a waiver.
  • Moving the deadline forward for the State Board of Education to review and revise the state’s academic standards, from 2018 to 2016.
  • Allowing computerized tests to be completed using pencil and paper.  Also, the bill allows the state to administer tests in languages other than English, if the student has not participated in an English language proficiency program for more than three years.
  • Parents having access to the testing schedule – including the specific hours of the day that testing will take place – and whether each test is required under federal or state law.

“Testing is important, and we need it to understand the effectiveness of our schools, but we are over-testing our kids and not focusing on learning,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of SB 15-257.  “This bill reduces the overwhelming amount of time we spend on testing, which is what teachers, students, and parents of all stripes are telling us they want.  We heard their concern, and I am pleased that we came to strong bipartisan agreement in passing this piece of legislation.”

The bill passed the Senate this evening on a second reading voice vote, and could go to a third and final reading as soon as this week.  If it passes third reading, it would go to the House of Representatives for its first committee hearing.

-Jessica Bralish, Communications Director

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