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Testing, Data Issues around Common Core Alive and Kicking in Colorado

Four weeks ago I posed the question: Are the wheels starting to come off Common Core in Colorado? It seems no less to be the case now than it did then. As I’ve stated before, the real concern comes down to limiting federal influence in our K-12 schools. On the other side of the equation, we need a reasonable, equitable, transparent, but minimally intrusive system of testing and accountability.

The current trajectory has some parents, educators, and others upset, and at least in some cases, for very good reasons. The problem is the term “Common Core” has become so inclusive of so many issues, and it’s so difficult even to get agreement on some basic facts, that a little guy like me sometimes just throws my hands up and sighs.

The content of the Common Core standards doesn’t represent a big departure from what Colorado drafted for its own academic standards back in 2009. Imposing standards by itself doesn’t offer much promise of helping results for students, and as long as the control is not ceded beyond the state, there is better hope of remedying any weaknesses in the content quality.

But a pair of closely related issues have seen important and potentially promising developments here the last few days:

First, testing. On Wednesday the State Board of Education voted 4-3 to send a message to the state legislature to withdraw from the PARCC testing consortium and governing board. I really like what one board member had to say:

“From my perspective, as a long time educator, when we have a federally-funded entity like PARCC, we’ve just legitimized a huge federal influence on what students are taught,” said board member Debora Scheffel. “It’s the wrong the way to influence student achievement.”

I’ve laid out my thoughts about why a careful study of the K-12 testing issue could be greatly beneficial. So it’s with some satisfaction that I report that House Bill 1202 is set to move on to the Senate:

The $142,750 testing study bill would create a 15-member Standards and Assessments Task Force to review how the state student assessment system is administered, how data are used and the impact of state tests on local testing, instructional time and administrative workload. The panel also is supposed to review the feasibility of waivers from testing.

The same Chalkbeat story also highlights the second issue related to the larger Common Core motif: data. You know how big a fan I am of preserving student data privacy, so I’m certainly not disappointed to see HB 1294 move forward through the House. But more remains to be done in order to ensure adequate student data protection.

Some steps are being taken in the right direction. Not quickly enough for some, and understandably so. But one thing is sure: given the events of this week, key issues surrounding Common Core will be on the Colorado scene for awhile yet to come.