DENVER - Leaders of two Colorado Springs charter schools came to the state Capitol Wednesday requesting lawmakers support a bill that would postpone implementation of new education standards and testing for a year.
"It's causing tremendous concern to watch my ability and other educators in our state slowly losing their privilege to choose what is best for our children," Lis Richard, principal of Monument Academy, a charter school in the Lewis-Palmer School District 38.
Richard said that while Monument Academy will not implement the Common Core standards the state adopted in 2009, she is concerned about the state-mandated tests she must administer to students and what effect that will have on students and classroom time.
Common Core standards were drafted through the National Governors Association and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, by late 2011, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards for math, reading and writing.
Each state then adopted its own testing system to correspond with the standards, and Colorado is on the verge of implementing those tests, known as PARCC tests or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
While Common Core has been implemented at schools across the state that have selected or adapted their own curriculum, PARCC began a soft rollout at select sites in the fall of 2013. It's those tests that have renewed vocal opposition Common Core.
Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said concerns over Common Core and PARCC are important and the state will listen, but he emphasized they are two separate issues.
"The standards say nothing about curriculum and nothing about assessments," he said. "There's some misconception that all three of these things are linked. There is still 100 percent local control over curriculum always has been and in fact the new Colorado standards give more flexibility to school districts than the old ones. The old ones were far more rigid."
Johnston said he doesn't think stopping in the middle standards transition is the way to go because it would hurt districts who have already begun implementing the standards.
"It's been five or six years of preparation for these assessments," Johnston said. "I think we've been very gradual. It was piloted for two years and another year of hold harmless assessments."
Senate Bill 136, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, would delay the PARCC assessments for one year and create a task force to study implementation of the Colorado academic standards.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear the bill at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Our charter school does not fear standards or testing, and we have proven that fact in the results our students have achieved in our 17 year existence," said Wes Jolly, academic services director for The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs. "We do not view this issue in political terms, but rather in terms of what is best for our children."
Jolly said the new tests are administered to students on computers, and that will force some schools to move from classical-education approaches to one that begins teaching keyboarding in kindergarten.
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