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Wednesday Churn: Testing clarity

What’s churning

There’s been a lot of confusion in the 2012 legislative session about new state achievement tests – when they’ll start, how to pay for them and what it will cost.

The last CSAP tests were given in the spring of 2011 because the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids mandated new academic content standards and new tests in 2014 to assess student performance on those standards.

Students currently take Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests, and the state Department of Education had asked for $25.9 million in 2012-13 to create new Colorado-only tests to launch in two years.

That’s a lot of money for a cash-strapped state, and Gov. John Hickenlooper requested no funding for new-test development, although he laid out no detailed program for what Colorado should do about new tests. The administration did indicate it was interested in waiting for multistate language arts and math tests that are supposed to debut in 2015.

The conflict and lack of clarity made the Joint Budget Committee grumpy and looking for guidance from the administration, the House and Senate education committees or somebody on what to do. On Monday the panel finally approved a staff recommendation to give CDE $6.4 million to develop new social studies and science tests.

Sen. Mike Johnston told Education News Colorado Tuesday he plans to introduce a late bill that will lay out a testing program and schedule for the next few years. The Denver Democrat said the bill will state a preference for Colorado joining the PARCC testing consortium. PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and a second group are using federal funds to develop new language and math tests based on the Common Core Standards. Learn more about PARCC here.

A proposed overhaul of Colorado’s school funding system isn’t winning over the lead attorney in the Lobato case, in which a Denver judge found the state’s spending formula violates the constitutional requirement for a “thorough and uniform” school system. The ruling is being appealed.

Kathy Gebhardt applauded the Colorado School Finance Partnership, which recently called for a revamping of the state funding system, for “its work related to school funding inequities.”

But, she said, “their work does not focus on all students in Colorado and, if implemented, would still leave many students with an education that does not meet constitutional requirements.”

On Monday, the partnership – a coalition of education, business and civic leaders – released an eight-page report containing a series of recommendations for a new state system of funding schools. And state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, a member of the partnership’s steering committee, outlined a bill that he plans to introduce to tie education funding to education policy.

Johnston said he saw his bill as the legislature’s response to the Lobato ruling, which leaves to lawmakers the task of creating a new funding system.

“The partnership’s analysis and willingness to see the disparities is appreciated,” Gebhardt said in a press release. “School funding inequities are real and addressing the underlying problems is something that should be done now, not after another year of waiting for the courts. Schools can’t wait and the students are suffering.”

What’s on tap:

The Adams 12-Five Star school board has a 7 p.m. meeting scheduled at 1500 E. 128th Avenue, Thornton. Agenda

Good reads from elsewhere:

AP test aid: Federal budget cuts could reduce the amount of money available to help cover the fees for low-income students to take Advanced Placement tests, according to this story from The New York Times.

Education and national security: The nation’s security and economic prosperity are at risk if America’s schools don’t improve, warns a task force led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City’s school system. Get details in this PBS Newshour video clip or read this Associated Press story published in the Boston Globe.

The EdNews’ Churn is a daily roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

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