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Ranks of testing bills culled as session’s days dwindle

Four testing bills were killed by the House Education Committee Monday, including measures that would have repealed the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC tests.

The committee did approve a measure that would impose new data privacy requirements on vendors who provide services to schools.

All four testing measures had Republican sponsorship and had been expected to die in the Democratic-majority House, although the committee didn’t split along party lines on two of the four bills. The measures have been hanging around on the calendar while lawmakers have been trying to reach agreement on the issue.

The bills died after a hearing of more than six hours that featured now-familiar testimony from testing critics and from interest-group representatives who want only minor changes in the system.

The committee’s action leaves six testing-related bills alive in the legislature, which has only 16 days before adjournment. The two major assessment measures, House Bill 15-1323 and Senate Bill 15-257, are on the House and Senate floor calendars Tuesday, but they may or may not be heard then.

These are the bills that were killed Monday:

House Bill 15-1105 – The main elements of the bill would have ended Colorado’s participation in the Common Core and PARCC and required creation of new state standards. 9-2 bipartisan vote.

House Bill 15-1123 – The key feature of the bill would have given districts flexibility is choosing their own tests rather than having to give the statewide assessments. 8-3 bipartisan vote.

House Bill 15-1208 – The measure originally would have taken Colorado out of the Common Core State Standards, required adoption of new state standards and new tests and given districts some flexibility in choice of tests. Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, offered a successful amendment to trim the bill down to just pulling out of PARCC. Then the committee killed the bill. 6-5 party-line vote.

House Bill 15-1125 – Its provisions were similar in many ways to HB 15-1105, but it also provided district and State Board of Education flexibility and created a schedule for periodic updating of academic content standards. Sponsor Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, made a last-minute plea to have the bill laid over, but chair Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, declined to do that. 6-5 party-line vote.

Republican Reps. Kevin Priola of Henderson, Jim Wilson of Salida, and JoAnn Windholz of Brighton voted with committee Democrats on some of the four bills. Only GOP Reps. Justin Everett of Littleton and Lundeen supported all four of the bills.

A 9-2 majority of House Education members passed HB 15-1323 on April 13 (see story).

The two bills pending on the House and Senate floors don’t touch the Common Core or PARCC but would reduce high school testing and streamline early literacy and school readiness assessments. The major difference is ninth grade testing, which the House bill would continue but the Senate bill would eliminate. The Senate bill also proposes some district flexibility in testing.

One testing-related measure, Senate Bill 15-233, doesn’t propose changes in the assessment system itself but codifies parent rights to opt students out of tests and clarifies what happens to schools and districts when test participation levels fall below required levels. That bill currently is scheduled in House Education on April 27.

(Get more details on the measures decided Monday and all other assessment bills in the Testing Bill Tracker at the bottom of this article. Learn more about HB 15-1323 and SB 15-257 in the chart below the Tracker.)

Privacy bill still in play

The data privacy measure, Senate Bill 15-173, has been the subject of intense negotiations since it passed the Senate more than a month ago.

Technology industry lobbyists have been promoting amendments to soften some of the bill’s requirements, particularly the amount of disclosure companies would have to make about contracts with school districts. Parent activists have been fighting to keep the bill in the form it left the Senate.

House Education Monday approved two amendments, one intended to meet some of the industry concerns and a second that adds further limits on the types of student data that vendors can’t use for commercial purposes.

The main thrust of the bill prohibits educational data companies from sharing, mining, selling or using personally identifiable student data, and from compiling such data for commercial uses. The bill also would ban direct marketing to students based on their individual data.

The committee sent the bill to the House on a 10-1 vote.

For the record

The House gave final approval Monday to these education bills:

House Bill 15-1317 – The bill would authorize the state to set up “pay for success contracts” under which private investors and philanthropists could fund social services such as early childhood programs and recover their investments from savings in other programs such as special education. 52-11

House Bill 15-1326 – The measure would prohibit state colleges from discriminating in admissions and financial aid against graduates of high schools in unaccredited school districts. 35-28

The House also gave preliminary approval to House Bill 15-1334, which would create a legislative study committee plus a technical advisory group with powers to review the state’s school finance system and makes recommendations for changes to the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions.

Prime sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, told her colleagues, “This is a really important bill. You’ve probably been under a rock if you haven’t heard we have some issues in our state regarding school finance.”

Testing Bill Tracker

Click the bill number in the left column for more a more detailed description, sponsors and other information. Click the link in the Fiscal Notes column at the right for a bill’s description and an estimate of potential state costs.

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