SB 172 Testing Consortium Dispute Colors Last Days of Legislative Session

Phew! There are only a few days left in Colorado’s legislative session, but there are still education bills left that deserve our attention. My new grown-up friends at Parent Led Reform today have their sights set on stopping Senate Bill 172, one of the shortest pieces of legislation you may ever lay eyes on:

The bill directs the state to join as a governing board member a consortium of states that is developing a common set of assessments. For assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics, the state board will rely upon assessments developed by the consortium.

What’s the big deal, you say? I thought you’d never ask. There’s a reason why the State Board of Education voted 4-3 to oppose the legislation. The majority is committed to Colorado developing its own tests and maintaining control within the state rather than from outside agencies.

Education Week reporter Catherine Gewertz explains the increasingly lonely position the Centennial State occupies in this process, and what exactly the proposed legislation would do to make us a “governing board member”:

Colorado is one of a dwindling number of “participating” states—five, at the moment—that still belong to both consortia. That role allows the state to be in on conversations about test design without having voting power. It also doesn’t commit the state to using the tests. “Governing” states have voting power but must also promise to use the tests when they become operational in 2014-15.

As a February Pioneer Institute white paper notes, the two federally-funded entities developing the assessments — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Consortium (PARCC) and the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) — are working to develop supplemental materials that directly inform school-level curriculum and instruction. The report’s authors note that the U.S. Department of Education is on:

a road that will certainly cause it to cross the line of statutory prohibitions against federal direction, supervision or control of curriculum and instructional materials – upsetting the federal system.

Why yes, it does sound upsetting. Which is why you just might find me Tweeting about it at this afternoon’s House Education Committee hearing. The action is moving quickly. Only a few days left before the end of the session, but Colorado parents and other citizens need to stay alert.