Welcome to the BVSD Legislative Update, which will be provided throughout the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly which convened January 11. Each year, the BVSD Board of Education sets BVSD's legislative priorities for the session. My office directs the lobbying work of BVSD's legislative consulting firm, Policy Matters, LLC. BVSD also works with other PK-12 policy organizations such as the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), the Colorado Education Association (CEA), and Great Education Colorado, a nonpartisan organization advocating for the benefit of Colorado's more than 800,000 public school students. Addressing Colorado's chronic shortfall in school funding is always on our legislative agenda along with other issues that could impact our classrooms. Each week, my office will send you a link to this page with updates from the State Capitol. If you are not yet on the email list and would like to be, please email BVSD Communications at communications@bvsd.org with your email address and you will be added to the distribution list. 

Friday, Feb. 3, 2017

Testing, testing, testing

Slowly but surely the testing bills are starting to pop up at the Colorado legislature.

Three have been introduced so far, and the common focus is ninth and 10th grade assessments.

The testing debate was at its peak in 2015, when 11 bills were introduced. The most important of the two that survived cut back on some high school testing but left the ninth grade exams in place.

Critics say there should be only one test in the high school years, as required by the federal government (Colorado has three.) But others believe a ninth grade test is necessary to benchmark student achievement and growth at the start of high school.

The ninth grade tests had the lowest participation rates for any grade in 2016 – 74 percent.

A proposal to eliminate ninth-grade tests in 2016 died on the Senate floor late in the session.

The three bills on the table so far this year take different approaches.

Elimination – House Bill 1117 would repeal the requirement for language arts and math tests in ninth grade and also axe social studies assessments (those tests are given at one grade level in elementary, middle and high school; as part of the 2015 compromise, tests now are given to only a third of students in those grades each year.) This bill is sponsored by Rep. Tim Leonard as well as nine other House Republicans and by GOP Sen. Tim Neville.

Local option – House Bill 1062 would end the statewide requirement for ninth grade and social studies tests but allow individual districts to continue requiring those tests for their students. It also would make the 10th grade PSAT tests optional for districts. The House sponsor is Republican Perry Buck. Republican Vicki Marble and Democrat Michael Merrifield are Senate sponsors.

A different local option – Senate Bill 101 offers another variation. School districts could choose to give the ninth grade language arts and math test or the 10th grade college readiness test.

The bill would require the Department of Education to choose two tests for 10th grade and two 11th grade tests. (Colorado students used to take the ACT test in 11th grade. They will take the SAT this spring.)

So the bill would create a dual system for 10th and 11th grade, presumably one set of ACT exams and one set from SAT. The state would be required to pay administration costs for whatever tests a district chose.

Democratic Sens. Nancy Todd, Daniel Kagan, Andy Kerr and Merrifield are sponsors, along with GOP Rep. Terri Carver.

It's unclear what will happen with testing this session, but don't expect anything to happen quickly. Testing debates went down to the wire in 2015 and 2016. In the House, education committee chair Brittany Pettersen has said she'll hold onto testing bills until later in the session so they can be considered as a group.