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After ‘chaos,’ State Board denies testing waivers

Nicholas Garcia

In an about face, the State Board of Education denied dozens of waivers from mandatory state testing school districts filed this spring after the board directed the education department to grant them.

The board also rescinded its original direction to the department to open up the waiver process.

Board chair Marcia Neal pointed out the waivers were moot after the attorney general’s office ruled that the neither the board nor the Colorado Department of Education had the authority to grant the requests.

“What this has done has caused chaos in local districts that have applied for the waivers and of course not received it,” Neal said.

The motions were the second retreat from a series of controversial moves the board, reconfigured after the November election, has made this year. Earlier Wednesday, the board dropped action to change how students participated in a health survey. However, the board tabled action on setting cut scores for science and social studies tests taken by seniors last fall.

Earlier this year, the board refused to set performance levels on the tests because a majority of members said they had philosophical concerns with the tests and how the data would be used. The board’s action has delayed release of the results to students and school districts.

Cut scores are the benchmarks that sort a student’s results into one of four achievement levels. In March, CDE had recommended cut scores that would have put only 1 percent of seniors taking the social studies test in “distinguished command,” the highest level of achievement. Only 9 percent would have been rated with “strong command.” The percentages for science were 2 percent distinguished command and 17 percent strong command.

Part of Wednesday’s discussion on the cut scores included options that moved more students into higher achievement levels.

The board is expected to spend 30 minutes Thursday trying to hash out a compromise that would release test results to students but not set cut scores.

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