Archives for category: Colorado

According to the Cherry Creek News, Colorado parents are trying to beat back another high-stakes testing bill by State Senator Michael Johnston. This one is aimed at kindergarten children. They would be required to pass a reading test or take remedial instruction.

Maybe kindergarten kids will stage protests or their parents will.

The last education reform bill by Johnston made test scores 50% of every teacher’s evaluation. He called it “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” all accomplished by the magic of standardized tests. That was 2010. How did that work out?

Colorado students are rallying to demand testing reform. This is THEIR issue. They have been subjected to test after test after test. They lose instructional time. They lose time for the arts and history and foreign languages to make more time for testing. Their scores can get their teachers and their principal fired. They are genuine patriots. Despite 12 years of testing, they have not been turned into robots. They are standing up for their right to a real education. They refuse to be crushed by the standardization machine. These students can teach the nation what matters most.

 

On Saturday, March 7th, from 11 am to 12 pm, high school students from schools around the state will join on the West Steps of the Denver Capitol.

 

They aim to have their voices heard on the issue of standardized testing in Colorado. The Colorado Measure for Academic Success (CMAS) test proved to be the uniting factor that prompted these students to raise concerns regarding the corporate ownership of tests such as the CMAS, as well as the ways in which they feel these tests are misaligned with curriculum design.

 

Other grievances regarding these tests include the fact that teachers cannot see the tests their students take, and that depending upon the school district, they feel teachers and schools can be unfairly jeopardized based upon the students’ scores. After contemplating this myriad of complaints and concerns, a group of high school seniors in Fort Collins began an organization known as ‘The Anti-Test’, a group which seeks to peacefully protest certain aspects of standardized testing for the sake of testing reform. They have organized this rally in Denver so that the voices of civically engaged students may be heard in what they ultimately believe is a student issue.

 

I hope they bring a special message of dissent to State Senator Michael Johnston, who wrote Senate Bill 191, which made high-stakes testing the focus of “reform” in Colorado. Johnston is a former member of Teach for America. He insisted that 50% of educators’ evaluation should be based on test scores. Making testing so important, he claimed in 2010, would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.” How has that worked out?

Last night, I posted an appeal to support Peggy Robertson, who is under fire for her bold advocacy of opting out of mandated testing.

 

The story in the Denver Post said that the Colorado Education Association was ambivalent about standing by Peggy. Its story said:

 

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the state’s largest union has a legal duty to represent its members but also recognizes Colorado law requires standardized tests.

 

She said: “It may be difficult to defend those who don’t comply,. We absolutely will do our best to defend our members who are acting in the best interest of our students. “

 

There can be no doubt that Peggy Robertson is acting “in the best interest of our students” by defying the state.

 

In a comment sent to this blog, Kerrie Dallman, president of the CEA, says the Denver Post story was erroneous. The union will support Peggy.

 

She wrote:

 

There is no ambivalence, CEA will support Peggy if there is any job action take against her. We will do all that is within our power.

Clearly Denver Post writers did some picking and choosing from my comments provided to them.

Check out my guest commentary in the Denver Post on the same issue:

http://www.denverpost.com/guestcommentary/ci_27612734/education-reformers-denial?source=infinite

Peggy Robertson, the leader of United Opt Out, is under attack. In this article in the “Denver Post,” administrators warn that she might lose her job if she doesn’t give the test. Even union leaders express ambivalence about supporting her.

Peg has Ben a hero of the Opt Out movement. She has been fearless and outspoken. She belongs on the honor roll of the blog as one of the indispensable voices who support children.

Please write letters and tweets to the Denver Post and tweet your support for Peg.

The Denver Post is @denverpost

Peggy Robertson is @pegwithpen

United Opt Out is @UnitedOptOut

Stand with Peggy and UnitedOpt Out!

#IsupportPeggyandOptOut

Douglas County, Colorado, has a school board controlled by supporters of school choice. Normally, school boards see themselves as stewards of public schools. Not this one.

One local parent has been watching the money. She wonders, “Quid Pro Quo or Coincidence?”

A watchdog website has blown the whistle on a study of the cost of new testing in Colorado. Critics say the study far understates the cost of testing.

 

Joshua Scharf of Watchdogwire writes:

 

A $74,000 commissioned report by Augenblick Palaich and Associates (APA), detailing the costs and time of statewide school assessments is coming under scrutiny for data analysis, key omissions, and potential conflicts of interest….

 

The APA Assessment Study Report analyzing the cost and time of Colorado assessments, was formally presented to Colorado’s HB14-1202 Standards and Assessments Task Force on Nov. 17, but critics charge it omitted outlying data, failed to account for necessary capital expenses, and is unclear in its calculation of student- and district-level averages.

 

Of 179 districts in Colorado, APA surveyed only 5 and excluded capital costs associated with new assessments. Here was one big omission: APA’s HB1202 report does not include costs incurred by schools for computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth necessary to take the state-mandated online PARCC and CMAS tests. Ah! So the contractor calculated the cost of testing but did not include the cost of computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth! Parents–and even some members of the state’s Task Force are calling for an investigation.

 

Scharf writes:

 

Technology costs associated with online testing are steep. This Pioneer Institute report shows average testing costs $1.24 billion pale in comparison to technology costs $6.27 billion, nationally. Many Colorado districts have already spent millions just to meet the technological demands, and although the HB1202 APA survey did collect “some information” on technology costs to schools, again, they refused to show it. Task force members have repeatedly asked to see the quantitative data collected by the APA survey both on reported testing time and cost.

 

APA’s private Draft report records significantly different numbers from its public report. The “Private Draft” reports testing costs for state, federal, and local tests to range from $55 million to $130 million while the study that the public sees reports the weighted average cost of testing as $61 million, and doesn’t explain that the range was double that….

 

Despite the competition placed by the CDE for study, APA’s was the sole proposal received. While 109 other bidders expressed interest, some demurred, commenting that the $74,000 budget was too small for a study of proper scope.

 

In addition, according to this CDE document, the task force itself expressed many concerns on APA’s proposal, including conflict of interests stemming from APA’s previous work with the Bill Gates-funded Colorado Education Initiative (CEI). CEI paid APA to do a similar assessment study just two years ago. The task force worried this prior work with CEI “could slant the focus and, consequently, the results of the HB1202 study”. They also cited APA’s tendency to not use quantitative data, resulting in reports based mostly on “perceptions and opinions, rather than actual school and district budgets and expenditures.”

 

Even more fascinating than the report were the public comments, most of which expressed strong opposition to the time and costs of new testing. Read them here.

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Colorado has one of the very worst, most punitive educator evaluation laws in the nation, called SB 191. It was written by ex-TFA member State Senator Michael Johnston.

Please sign this petition to repeal 191.

In typical corporate reform fashion, the bill has a deceptive title,”like “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” but the mechanism of “greatness” is to tie 50% of teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. In 2010, when the bill was passed, value-added-assessment was new and promising. The Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education promoted it. To be eligible for Race to the Top funding or for a waiver from the impossible mandates of No Child Left Behind, starred were required to evaluate teachers by their students’ scores.

Now we know that VAM doesn’t work. It is inaccurate , unreliable, and demoralizing. It says more about who is in the class than teacher quality.

It is time to get rid of VAM.

John Merrow notes that 5,000 students in Colorado opted out from state tests. Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will there be an. “Education Spring” in 2015?

Leaders of the anti-testing movement want to place two large billboards on major highways. informing parents of their right to opt out. They need only $300 more to meet their goal of $3,700.. Can you spare $10?

 

“Here at revolutionary headquarters, thanks to recent contributions from Colorado Springs, Denver, Loveland, and Washington State, our account at the Weld Schools Credit Union has grown to just shy of $3,000. We have come a long ways from the $700 we started with just after Labor Day. If you have yet to donate to the campaign to inspire parents to exempt their children from the fraud of the testing regimen, now would be a great time to contribute and help us reach our goal of $3,700.

 

“As you know, we have absolutely zero administrative costs. All contributions go toward our two billboards. (I’ll attach the board from last year, and the proof of this year’s board.)

 

“Please send your donation to:
The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.
2424 22nd Avenue
Greeley, Colorado 80631

 

All donations regardless of amount are greatly appreciated. Now more than ever we can see the wheel of history begin to turn toward more humane educational policies. Let’s keep raising our voices. The billboard campaign is one outstanding way to do just that.

 

In solidarity,

 

Don Perl
The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.
http://www.thecbe.org

Department of Hispanic Studies
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado 80639
don.perl@unco.edu
970-351-2746

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COLORADO COURT DENIES STATE’S MOTION TO DISMISS SCHOOL FUNDING CASE

November 14, 2014

On November 12, 2014, the Denver District Court brought the State of Colorado one step closer to fulfilling the promise of increased per pupil education funding that Amendment 23 in the Colorado Constitution requires.

In Dwyer v. State of Colorado, the Court denied the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means the Court will now hear and rule on the merits of whether the State has violated Amendment 23 by cutting K-12 education by $1 billion each of the last four years. Added to the constitution by the voters in 2000, Amendment 23 requires the state to adjust annually the statewide base per pupil funding proportional to the rate of inflation.

On hearing the news, lead plaintiff Lindi Dwyer said, “This is a good start and a good day for Colorado. The voters made a promise in 2000 that the state would increase funding and provide educational opportunities to all students. The promise is in our constitution and today takes us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.”

Judge Herbert Stern, III ruled that, “Amendment 23 prescribes minimum increases for state funding of education.”

As explained by the plaintiffs’ counsel, the Dwyer suit “alleges that the General Assembly violated Amendment 23 by slashing education funding by over a billion dollars through a gimmick the State calls the Negative Factor.” In 2010, the legislature adopted the negative factor in a statute in an attempt to override its Amendment 23 responsibilities.  

Related Stories:

Keep the Promise” to Fund Schools as Colorado’s Constitution Requires

Press Contacts:
Kathy Gebhardt, Children’s Voices:
(303) 588-8804
Timothy Macdonald, Arnold & Porter, LLP:
(303) 863-2334

Education Justice Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19
http://www.edlawcenter.org
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