by Brian Washington
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Some Colorado state lawmakers are trying to show that the huge outcry regarding the over-reliance on standardized tests in public education has not fallen on deaf ears.
Lawmakers have introduced a bill some say will go a long way in allowing teachers and education support professionals to focus their time on meeting the instructional needs of the whole child.
It’s called Senate Bill 5, which is based on changes contained within the recently approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). SB 5 would allow 9th graders in the state to forgo federally-mandated standardized tests.
“ESSA doesn’t require high school students, 9th graders, to be tested and so this bill would put us in line with the federal minimums,” said Lawrence Garcia, a 9th-grade Algebra teacher in the Denver Public School System. “Teaching 9th grade is about giving students what they need to move forward to the next level. It’s not about teaching them how to do well on a test.”
Parents and students say there’s too much testing and not enough learning going on in the school system. This (Colorado) legislature is taking steps to say, ‘You’re right. Let’s work on educating our students and not just testing them.
Educators were hoping this bill would move through the legislature along with another bill they believed, if approved, would further back the state away from high-stakes tests. Senate Bill 105 would have reduced the role state tests, like the PARCC exam, play in rating teachers. It would have given local communities more of a say in how student growth should be evaluated. Instead of making test scores 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, local school districts would have decided how much they should count, anywhere from zero to 20 percent of an overall rating.
“And it doesn’t have to be standardized test scores anymore,” said Garcia. “It could be locally developed assessments. It could be performance-based assessments or a wide variety of things. And it would also allow for more collaboration between individual communities and educators in deciding what those measures should be.”
Unfortunately, SB 105 was killed in committee last week. However, SB 5 is still alive and Garcia is already making plans to contact his lawmakers about the legislation. He says his message to lawmakers will be simple: We have to do this for our students.
“Because of all this testing, my students are not receiving as good a quality education as they could receive,” said Garcia. “There too much pressure. It starts in elementary school and by the time it reaches high school, it’s like a pressure cooker that’s ready to blow. This has got to stop.”