Testing waiver unlikely for Steamboat Springs School District
Steamboat Springs — The Colorado attorney general has ruled that the Colorado State Board of Education does not have the authority to grant school districts waivers from state-mandated tests.
The formal opinion, sent to the Colorado Department of Education Tuesday, means that Steamboat Springs and 13 other districts, which applied as of Thursday morning, are unlikely to receive waivers.
“I’m not really surprised by it,” said Marty Lamansky, director of teaching and learning for the Steamboat Springs School District.
Lamansky said that because the assessments the district was seeking a waiver from were mandated through legislation, opting out would also be a legislative issue, not something under the jurisdiction of the state board.
Districts were seeking to opt out of the first portion of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — or PARCC — exams scheduled to begin as early as next month.
The state board narrowly voted Jan. 8 to allow districts to apply for PARCC waivers, and the Steamboat Springs School Board voted unanimously Jan. 26 to apply for one, acknowledging that even if the waiver wasn’t granted, the district would be helping send a message to state lawmakers that students endure too much testing.
Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he wouldn’t grant the waivers if the attorney general advised him not to.
In Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s ruling, she said the tests are part of a larger effort to promote academic standards.
“These mandatory assessments are part of a broader effort to define and promote statewide academic standards,” Coffman said. “The [State Board of Education]’s motion is not authorized under state law.”
Despite Coffman’s ruling, Lamansky said applying for the waiver was still the right decision.
“As we said at the board meeting, it’s more of a political statement. We’re going on record that there needs to be more careful examination of the state assessment system,” Lamansky said.
New Jersey lawmakers Thursday also were scheduled to discuss a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of PARCC assessments while requiring districts to provide parents with testing schedules and information about how assessment results will be used.
The Colorado State Board of Education is expected to discuss the waivers again at its Feb. 18 meeting.
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