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State Board endorses anti-Common Core bill

The State Board of Education Friday voted 5-2 to a Republican-sponsored measure that would pull Colorado out of the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC testing group, reduce state assessments, and give districts more testing flexibility.

The measure would also require periodic updates of state content standards.

House Bill 15-1125 was introduced Jan. 16 but won’t be heard in committee for a few weeks. During past legislative sessions the state board has tended to monitor bills until later in the process. But the current board, with two new members, is taking an active stance on testing, and the bill endorsement fits in with that.

New board member Steve Durham said the bill “seems to fit some of the previous board actions in terms of trying to reduce testing. … It seems to me to fit our basic criteria, and I think we need to make statement on what the board feels is appropriate for the state.”

Member Jane Goff suggested that board only “monitor” the bill until members have a better understanding of its provisions and its sponsors’ intentions.

Goff and Durham are the two board members delegated to follow legislation and make recommendations to the full group. They were split in this case. Durham is a Republican and Goff a Democrat.

Durham argued that the board might have more influence if it took a position. “There’s no reason to go over to the Capitol and tell people we are monitoring the bill.” He also acknowledged, “This bill will have a very difficult time passing” the Democratic-controlled House Education Committee.

Democrat Valentina Flores of Denver joined Durham and Republicans Marcia Neal, Pam Mazanec and Debra Scheffel in endorsing the bill. Democrat Angelika Schroeder voted no along with Goff.

One of the bill’s prime sponsors is freshman Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, former chair of the State Board. (Read the bill here.)

The board unanimously agreed to monitor several other bills, including testing measures that would reduce assessments to federal minimum requirements, a proposed scaling back of social studies testing, and a second omnibus Republican bill that also would change the educator evaluation system.

Last spring the board (with a slightly different membership) voted 4-3 for a resolution asking the legislature to withdraw Colorado from the PARCC testing group (see this story).

In November the board issued a unanimous letter suggesting that the amount of state testing be reduced (see story).

And earlier this month the board shook up the statewide testing debate with 4-3 approval of a resolution allowing school districts to seek waivers from part of this spring’s PARCC tests in language arts and match (see story). The legality of the resolution is in question, but five districts already have applied for waivers. They are Merino, Steamboat Springs, Weldon Valley, Wiley and Wiggins.

Those and any additional waiver applications – plus a formal legal opinion from the attorney general on whether waivers are allowed – are expected to be the top agenda items at the State Board’s next full meeting Feb. 18. Friday’s meeting was a conference-call session only for discussion of pending legislation.

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