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“Data gap” bill sails out of House Education

A bill intended to ensure the state’s school-and-district rating system makes a smooth transition between the old TCAP and new CMAS state tests passed the House Education Committee on a 13-0 vote Wednesday.

House Bill 14-1182 is “necessary in order to deal with the situation caused by the change in our state testing system,” sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, told the committee.

New state tests in English language arts and math – based on the Common Core Standards – will be given in the spring of 2015. But, because of the challenges in analyzing new test results, the results for schools and districts won’t be final by early fall, as is the case with the TCAP tests.

The state’s performance ratings of schools and districts are based significantly both on test scores and on student academic growth over time as measured by those scores. Those ratings usually are issued every November or December and go into effect for the next school year, which starts the following July 1.

Because results of the new tests won’t be available on the usual schedule, HB 14-1182 proposes that ratings issued next fall, which will be based on 2013-14 tests results, apply to both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

The issue is of particular importance to schools and districts that are on the so-called “accountability clock,” which applies to schools and districts that remain in the two lowest accreditation categories for five years. Such schools and districts are subject to specified State Board-ordered intervention after five years.

The accountability clock would continue to tick under HB 14-1182. But affected districts and schools that believe they’ve improved student achievement could provide additional evidence to the Department of Education in an effort change their 2015-16 ratings. And the bill would give the state board additional flexibility in deciding what improvement measures to impose on districts and schools for which the clock has chimed.

A relatively small number of schools and districts would be affected by the bill. Only two districts, the Aurora Public Schools and Weld Re-8, would go into the fifth year in 2015-16, unless they improve their performance before then. Some 31 individual schools in multiple districts are in the same situation.

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