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Testing Reform Bill Is Pulled At The Legislature

Colorado General Assembly

A bipartisan measure to reduce testing for students in Colorado's public schools is not proceeding as planned through the statehouse. Senate Bill 215 [.pdf] was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Thursday. No longer, it was pulled from the calendar before the hearing.

"We just need to make sure we get the policy right," said state Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), a sponsor of the measure along with Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood).

The sponsors are unsure of when SB 215 will get a hearing. The bill would eliminate mandatory assessments in the 11 and 12th grade and reduce redundant tests in the earlier grades. It has been billed as the major school testing reform bill of the session.

Before the bill's delay, Governor John Hickenlooper had held an earlier news conference touting the proposal.

"Student assessments are still important," said Hickenlooper. "We're also saying we don't want our students and teachers burdened with too much testing."

One education lobbyist said as written the bill was losing support and maybe wouldn't have passed its first committee hearing and lawmakers of all stripes are voicing concerns. Senator Mike Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs) has been vocal about his opposition to the measure.

"I don't think it goes as far as those of us who have been in the classroom and have been listening to parents," he said.

Merrifield wants Colorado to go back to the federal minimum standards where students would only be tested in English and Math in grades 3-8 and 11. Some Republicans support that as well, a concept not likely to get the Governor's support.

"You need a statewide assessment that has very high standards, there's no fine line or edge there," said Hickenlooper.

A 15 member state task force met for half a year to try and address concerns from parents and teachers that students are spending too much time preparing and taking standardized tests instead of learning. Many of the recommendations in SB 215 stem from that task force. It's not clear when the bill will get a hearing but the legislative schedule will start to fill up when lawmakers take up the budget – which is the only thing lawmakers are required to get done each session.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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