Who Is In Charge

State Board unconvinced on new tests

Sen. Mike Johnston made a conciliatory pitch, but the State Board of Education still voted 4-3 to oppose his Senate Bill 12-172, which essentially would commit Colorado to use future multi-state tests for language arts and math.

State Board of Education meeting
Education Commissioner Robert Hammond (left) and State Board of Education members Bob Schaffer and Angelika Schroeder listen to Sen. Mike Johnston (lower right).

Johnston and cosponsor Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, met face-to-face with the board Friday, a little more than a week after introduction of the bill rekindled a smoldering legislative-board disagreement over the future of state testing. Also attending was Republican Sen. Keith King of Colorado Springs, who leans more towards the board’s views.

The smooth-talking Johnston, a Denver Democrat, did his best to be conciliatory. “This was not in any way an attempt to usurp the control of the state board,” he said, calling the bill “in fitting with the historical role of the legislature [on education] and deferential to you. … We’re highly optimistic we can find a way to work together.”

But Johnston also drew a line in the sand, saying Colorado-only English and math tests are “not the direction we’re heading.”

The board last year requested $26 million to develop a full battery of new state tests to replace the CSAPs, which are obsolete because of new state content standards. The Hickenlooper administration opposed the request, and the legislature finally decided to provide some $6 million for development only of new social studies and science tests, plus Spanish language and special education tests.

National English and math tests are being developed by two national consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Colorado is participating in both but it isn’t a governing member of either. States that join a group’s governing board have a greater say in test development – but they also commit to use that group’s tests. The bill would require SBE to join one or the other governing board.

Johnston and the Hickenlooper administration favor the second group, known as PARCC. Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he also leans toward PARCC if Colorado ultimately uses multi-state tests.

Several board members were concerned about whether Colorado could back out of a consortium if state leaders don’t like the tests that are ultimately developed. Board member Angelika Schroeder, D-2nd District, said, “If this is what the legislature wants us to do I think there should be some sort of escape clause.”

Johnston said he’d be open to adding an escape clause to his bill.

There also was extensive discussion about quality of the national tests, potential cost savings and state flexibility in setting passing scores and using customized questions.

Johnston, as he has done in several other presentations, used an automotive analogy, calling the consortium tests a “Ferrari” and Colorado-only tests a “Ford Pinto.”

Paul Lundeen
State Board of Education member Paul Lundeen / File photo

Board member Paul Lundeen, R-5th District, said, “We don’t really need to build a Ferrari. What we need is a really good serviceable four-by- four because we’re in Colorado.”

“I’m not persuaded in the quality,” said board chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District.

But for some board members, there’s a bigger issue than all the others.

Schaffer said he fully expects consortium membership will become a condition for future federal grants, just has happened with adoption of the Common Core Standards.

And Schaffer said a future national curriculum “is what this is clearly all about.”

Lundeen said federal control of education is the “overriding issue.”

After the lawmakers left, board member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, made a pitch for Johnston’s bill, saying, “They clearly want to work with us; they’re willing to build into the bill maximum flexibility.”

Elaine Gantz Berman
State Board of Education member Elaine Gantz-Berman / File photo

She added, “If we don’t support this … then we’re treading water.” Before leaving Johnston had warned, “I don’t think we are going to have a different result next year” if the board again asks for full funding to develop Colorado-only English and math tests.

But in the end, the board voted 4-3 to oppose the bill, with fellow Republicans Debora Scheffel of the 6th District and Marcia Neal of the 3rd voting with Schaffer and Lundeen. Berman, Schroeder and Jane Goff, D-7th District, voted no.

While Johnston probably can get the bill through the Senate, passing it may be tougher in the Republican-controlled House, where Schaffer, a former lawmaker and congressman, may have some lobbying sway. Johnston also doesn’t yet have a House sponsor, and the legislative session has to adjourn by May 9, making it possible for House leaders to let the bill “die on the calendar” without coming up for debate.

Regardless of what happens at the Capitol, Schaffer noted, “We’ve got to come rather quickly to some conclusion as to where we think the state should go with assessments.” The board could choose to join a consortium without legislative action.

Colorado currently is using transitional tests but needs new permanent tests to both fully assess students on new state content standards and to implement the educator evaluation law.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.