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More Time to Study the K-12 Testing Issue Would Be Greatly Beneficial

I’m not sure whether to breathe a grateful sigh of relief, or to sit on the edge of my seat in curious anticipation. Maybe I can do both. Several weeks ago I told you about a possible approaching education reform collision, as the outside-the-box thinkers in Douglas County pushed a bill to give high-performing districts waivers from certain state tests.

Well, a little negotiation and compromise later, and I’m relieved to say that House Bill 1202 was transformed from a head-on policy change to a sit-down study. Given that there are a number of conflicting claims and questions about the state of testing, the time to examine and analyze would be greatly appreciated.

With the collision avoided, let’s hope we can get ready to learn. You know, learning about learning. According to Chalkbeat Colorado, HB 1202 as it stands now would create a 15-member task force “to report on essentially all of the ins and outs of the state’s testing regimen as well as the feasibility of allowing districts and parents to opt out of it.” The group would start meeting in July and have six months to sort out the facts and issue final recommendations.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports that the Boulder Valley school board will decide a March 11 resolution to back HB 1202. Potentially, that could align the state’s most liberal and most conservative large school districts — the kind of broad philosophical diversity that should add more credibility to the task force’s findings.

Still, it’s important to note that the legislative proposal has only cleared one committee in one house thus far. Yet with the quickly growing number of testing anxiety cases, due to an overheated Common Core debate, the modest proposal stands a strong chance of seeing the light of day.

Lest anyone be confused, I wish to emphasize some important points on the topic at hand:

  1. The public needs a rigorous, comprehensive, and transparent measurement tool to fairly compare the performance of schools and districts
  2. Educators need an assessment tool that enables them to identify student needs and inform instruction of students in a timely manner
  3. Students and schools ought not be overburdened by an excessive testing regime that unduly interferes with a core educational program
  4. Local school districts should be afforded reasonable flexibility while retaining the highest possible standards to maximize student achievement

Now that I’ve laid my guiding principles on the table, frankly, this little kid has a lot of learning to do. There are important competing concerns at work we can’t lose sight of. I’m fine with HB 1202. Where it takes us next year will require further watching.