A4PEP's Advocacy on Bills 2023
Bills supported by A4PEP:
SB23-061, Eliminate State Assessments in Social Studies
(bill was lost "on the calendar" at end of session)
Advocates for Public Education Policy supported SB23-061 to eliminate the state’s Social Studies CMAS test.
The main reason for A4PEP's support is that the test is not federally mandated. In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama. ESSA delivered a much-needed fix to the outdated policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by “rejecting the overuse of standardized tests and empowering states and school districts to develop their own strategies for improvement.” At the signing ceremony, Obama said, “It is time to get rid of unnecessary standardized tests so that teachers can spend more time engaging in student learning.”
Although we all can agree that Social Studies is an important part of the curriculum - just like Art, Music, and Physical Education - we assess students on these subjects without costly and time-intensive standardized tests. A4PEP believes in an assessment system which evaluates student thinking and abilities using tools which lead to deeper learning, such as performance assessments, portfolios, projects, research papers, and essays. Evaluating student learning in Social Studies works well with this approach.
There is another reason to eliminate the standardized Social Studies assessment. Students who do well on the standardized Reading assessment generally do well on the Social Studies assessment. And vice versa, students who do poorly on the Reading assessment generally do poorly on the Social Studies test. Why? Because the Social Studies assessment requires a lot of reading. The results provide little meaningful information about student achievement unless the student is proficient in Reading.
This leads to an equity issue. The recent audit report of Colorado’s accountability system revealed that schools with high percentages of students of high-poverty, minority students, those learning a second language, and students with disabilities “generally had poorer academic outcomes.” Our classroom resources should be spent leveling the playing field for the most vulnerable students. There’s a better, more equitable way to invest our education dollars than the overuse of standardized tests.
SB23-071, Education Accountability Act
(bill was lost in first committee hearing at sponsor's request)
A4PEP supported SB 071 to allow judicial review of the State Board of Education's decisions in education accountability.
In 2009 the Colorado General Assembly passed the Education Accountability Act of 2009, which held public schools and public school districts accountable for student learning. The Act requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to apply the act in a fair, balanced, cumulative, credible, and useful manner. Since 2009, communities and school districts across the state have complained that the Act has been applied by the SBE in an unfair, unbalanced, and punitive manner.
Judicial review is a process under which executive, legislative, and administrative actions are subject to review by the judiciary. It is one of the "checks" that the Constitution puts in place against the overreach of other branches of government. The General Assembly failed to allow public schools and school districts the right to judicial review if the SBE violated its responsibilities under the Act or if the SBE intruded on public school districts’ Constitutional right to local control.
SB23-071 was designed to allow Colorado public school districts to protect their local control powers and to challenge the SBE's decisions issued under the Accountability Act. If the bill had passed, public school districts would be able to have Colorado courts review these decisions through a declaratory judgment action or through the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act.
HB23-1239, Local Innovation for Educational Assessments
(bill was lost in first committee hearing at sponsor's request)
Advocates for Public Education Policy supported HB23-1239 to enable school districts that are piloting alternative assessments to continue their work, as well as to extend the pilot program to other districts.
As school districts in Colorado investigate accountability systems that support our special education students, English language learners, and students living in poverty, data from this practical application pilot program could inform the next steps. The state would be able to determine what works and what does not.
While the pilot schools will continue to administer federally mandated standardized tests, we believe it is vitally important to honor local innovations. We think it is important for teachers and practitioners to continue exploring innovative methods of assessing competency and mastery-based education while adhering to federal requirements.
These are the aspects of the bill that are especially important:
There would be no fiscal impact because it would allow CDE the opportunity to access a federal grant of $3 million.
The additional funding would be vitally important for piloting districts to realize their good work and long-term gains of innovation.
Innovative assessments would be developed by educators, district administrators, administrators, parents, communities, and students - ensuring involvement at every level.
In most of the pilots, parents have been part of the development of the dashboard model, which has enabled parents to be fully informed about student progress. This is an important aspect of the program.
According to superintendents using the existing pilots, parent involvement has increased, and graduation rates have improved.
The pilot programs have shown success in improving school performance; for example, one elementary school that was “on the accountability clock” completely turned around in two years.
The pilots could work side-by-side with proposed investigations of the accountability task force being created in HB 23-1241 and could inform recommendations.
Reviewing successful Colorado models would help guide proposed task force decisions.
HB23-1241, Task Force to Study K-12 Accountability System
(bill passed House & Senate)
Advocates for Public Education Policy, supports HB23-1241 to create the accountability, accreditation, student performance, and resource inequity task force.
We are pleased to see that the purpose of the task force will be to study academic opportunities, inequities, promising practices in schools, and improvements to the accountability and accreditation system. After 25 years of an education accountability system built primarily on the scores of standardized tests and punitive consequences, the data is clear - the current system has not lived up to the promise of improving student learning.
What it has revealed is what we have known all along, that generally, students of privilege do well on the tests, and English languagelLearners and students of poverty do poorly on the tests. Schools and districts that serve the lowest-performing students are also the ones that are most impacted by the current system. It is no different today than it was 25 years ago. It is time to explore better ways of assessing student performance. It is time to embrace authentic learning and teaching.
In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reduced federal authority and allowed each state the flexibility to design its own accountability system. Yet Colorado has not fully acted upon the opportunity to re-evaluate and redesign a more comprehensive, equitable and meaningful accountability system... until now.
With this bill, Colorado is taking the first steps to study what is working to improve student learning and what is not. It is our hope that recommendations brought forward will lead to an accountability system that is equitable and just for all children.
We are pleased to see teachers, parents, and superintendents represented on the task force, as well as a balance of rural and urban representation. We are also pleased to see organizations of equity and inclusion, workforce development, special education, and English Language Acquisition represented on the task force. What we feel is missing on the task force is the voice of the students.
We hope those who have the privilege to sit on the task force will listen to those who have boots on the ground...our teachers, principals, superintendents, and especially our students.
Bills opposed by A4PEP:
Advocates for Public Education Policy opposed House Bill 23-1188, which would have created yet another school choice option.
The bill does not have a well-thought-out plan for creating this whole new bureaucracy, the Individualized Learning Entity (ILE).
HB 1188 would have resulted in the loss of vitally needed funds from district-run and charter schools when students left to attend an ILE. The requirement that district administrative staff assist in the creation of contracts for ILEs and take on the responsibility for general supervision of the ILEs would be a big workload increase, and thereby a likely increased cost. It would also place a large burden on teachers to provide and implement individualized contracts.
In the option for an ILE to be authorized by a charter school, HB 1188 ignored the directive in the original charter school law that the proposed charter be economically sound for both the charter and the school district.
There is no substantive proof that the ILE model would be successful. The two schools cited by the proponents as models for replication have shown mediocre results at best due to insufficient data and poor participation on CMAS.
The plan to create ILEs has many other drawbacks, because it:
Lacks a robust process for application and approval, unlike charter schools.
Proposes no public procedure for the decision about where an ILE will be located or how a site might be paid for.
Doesn’t require that teachers be certified, potentially allowing students to be taught by unqualified people.
Fails to acknowledge that blended “remote and in-person learning” during the pandemic, the supposed inspiration for the creation of ILEs, resulted in teacher burn-out and loss of learning for students.
Creates a privatized entity with no public oversight by allowing the ILE to contract out for services, including to a for-profit education management provider (EMO).
Doesn’t clarify how funding would be apportioned in this complex relationship between the ILE and the local public school.
Lacks input from the local school board, teachers, parents, and the community about the desire for or interest in an ILE.
Lacks attention to what the impact would be on neighborhood schools, especially in declining enrollment districts.
The bill does, however, make it clear that the proposed ILE can appeal to the State Board of Education if its proposal is delayed or denied by the local school board, potentially overriding local control.
With every new choice, the core of our public education system is weakened. This new bureaucracy is untested and unnecessary.