March 20, 2015
Dear BVSD Weekly Legislative Update reader:
This past week saw the introduction of Senate Bill 215, "Changes To Assessments in Public Schools" by Senators Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs & Senate Education Committee Chair) and Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood & Past Education Committee Chair). The House sponsors are Representatives Jerry Buckner (D-Aurora & House Education Committee Chair) and Jim Wilson (R-Greeley & former school administrator). Given that the Colorado General Assembly is split this session in terms of partisan control (Senate by Republicans and House by Democrats), S.B. 215 is likely the bill that holds the most hope of passage and getting the ultimate approval of Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. State associations representing Colorado's locally elected school boards, district and school administrators, and teachers are not sold on the bill as introduced and will be seeking amendments strengthening it from their point of view.
The perceptions of these organizations is well expressed in a lead article by Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) Executive Director Bruce Caughey which he wrote for CASE's March 19, 2015 legislative bulletin. It is reprinted below in its entirety.
BVSD Director of Communications and Legislative Policy
Who Decides the Path Forward? (Reprinted from March 19, 2015 CASE legislative bulletin)
Debates rage about the quality and quantity of assessments in Colorado and across the nation. The most vexing question remains: who decides the path forward on assessments as well as other pertinent K-12 matters? Take a look at the graphic above to see the locus of accommodation for many key decisions. The stakeholder(s) who gets to decide emerges from the chart depending on the issue.
As you have seen in our Public Education Landscape diagram, there are also dozens of special interest groups that vie to be heard and to influence K-12 education. And of course, we believe that school and district leaders have a special vantage on this conversation, and their voice should be reflected in whatever changes are debated.
For the moment, the result is ambiguity. Or “messiness” as one East Central BOCES [Board of Cooperative Services] Superintendent said this week about the conversations regarding assessment in his community. I would imagine it is messy in your community as well and that you might have some difficulty in answering all of the questions coming your way from the many stakeholders in your schools. The rules are in flux due in large measure to recent State Board of Education decisions, resulting in new CDE guidance on assessments.
On Tuesday, Governor Hickenlooper held a press conference designed to support SB 215, a bill focused on assessments that simply does not go far enough in the minds of CASE members. Hickenlooper was surrounded by several representatives of special interest groups (such as the Metro Denver Chamber, Colorado Succeeds and the Colorado Children’s Campaign), but nobody representing CASE, CASB [Colorado Association of School Boards] and CEA [Colorado Education Association]—the professional associations whose members walk the walk and talk the talk to their students, parents and community members.
While it does move the dial slightly downward on testing, members of the CASE Legislative Committee believe that SB 215—in its current form—does not go far enough to reduce the assessment overload. Nor does it have enough support to get out of the Senate Education Committee, so it is being delayed. Of course there are other avenues to pursue and we are doing just that…as the negotiations on SB 215 continue.
While imperfect, we appreciate those representatives and senators, some Republican some Democrat, who are listening closely to school and district leaders. Some key leaders in both chambers have shown the willingness to take a stronger stand on reducing the testing burden while giving districts additional flexibility to use local—and more useful—assessments to meet state accountability and accreditation rules. We need enough of a change that we can keep a reasonable system of measuring performance and maintaining the public trust—and thus stemming the tide of opt-outs.
Oh, and the students should absolutely have “skin in the game” as it relates to their grades, transcript or college entrance or readiness determination.
The assessment issue is one that deserves the attention and voices from all stakeholders in order to right the current system, a system that required a special task force to tackle the problems. The solution involves more than special interest groups.
Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE)
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This week, BVSD Communications draws your particular attention to a March 19 story by reporter Todd Engdahl entitled, "First draft of 2015-16 school funding bill starts circulating."
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