Emily Anderson
Free Press Staff Writer

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April 10, 2008
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Some District 51 school board members wary of CSAP bills

GRAND JUNCTION -- Although School District 51 Board of Education members see alterations to Colorado Student Assessment Program testing on the horizon, most agreed this week the CSAP administration changes mentioned in Colorado House Bills 1186 and 1357 should die before the close of this year's legislative session and wait until other education reforms have passed before a resurrection.

The bills, which are active but have not made their way out of the Legislature, would restrict CSAP testing to reading and math tests for third through eighth graders, science CSAPs for fourth and eighth graders and ACT tests for 11th graders (HB 1357) and prevent schools and school districts from penalizing kids for missing CSAP tests (HB 1186).

The timing of the bills is off, said School Board President Leslie Kiesler. Education needs to come one step at a time, said Kiesler. She said she sees passing a Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K) in Senate Bill 212 this year as the first, or at least next, step. The plan would task the State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education with defining education standards that would prepare K-12 students for work or college, create or realign assessments (like CSAP) and allow high school diplomas to reflect a student's proficiency instead of how many classes they took.

Bills like 1186 and 1357 may be further up the stairs, but aren't right for now, said Kiesler.

"What we're trying to do is make sure we get those standards in alignment first before looking at assessments," she said. "It's kind of attacking the assessment before we have the standards straightened out. It's not that there's anything wrong with the bills, the timing is more the issue. Let's get the bigger picture first."

School Board member Diann Rice compared abandoning current CSAP procedures because the tests have recently come under fire to riding a horse for awhile, then shooting it the second it gets a stone in its hoof.

"We've just started to get good data where we can talk about individual kids," Rice said. "If we get rid of CSAP, even at certain areas, we've shot that horse because it got a stone in its hoof."

School Board member Ron Rowley said he wouldn't mind giving up CSAP testing for high schoolers, but he doesn't want to abandon the CSAP writing test.

"I doubt that's a good idea," he said.

Board Vice President Harry Butler said he'd prefer not to comment until he's looked at the bills more thoroughly. Board member Cindy Enos-Martinez could not be reached for comment.

Rice and Rowley both said they'd like to see CAP4K pass this year. The plan would require school boards to re-evaluate their Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade standards based on definitions from the state board and CCHE.

"I don't know that their changing would mean more work or less work, but it would mean our work is more relevant to the teachers and the students," he said.

Former School Board member and candidate for the state board of education Marcia Neal also supports CAP4K and opposes the house bills.

"I just though they shouldn't mess around with the pick little things with CSAPs. Let's wait 'til the big one is introduced," she said. "CSAP is far from perfect but its the only assessment we have."

Reach Emily Anderson at eanderson@gjfreepress.com.

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