A bill that would have eliminated mandatory ninth grade language arts and math tests — the only PARCC tests that remain for Colorado high schoolers — died Monday on the Senate floor.
The measure, Senate Bill 16-005, was one of a handful of testing bills introduced this session. It faced long odds, but it was a bit of a surprise that it died as quickly as it did.
The bill was backed by five Republicans and one Democrat who felt last session’s compromise testing law didn’t go far enough. But it appeared from the start of the 2016 session that most lawmakers didn’t have an appetite to revisit statewide assessments.
Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, argued against the bill, saying it “undoes that work” done last session.
“Compromise doesn’t always mean you get the best legislation,” responded Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs.
He and fellow sponsor Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, argued that because federal testing requirements have eased, Colorado should cut assessments even more.
Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, argued against the bill, saying elimination of the tests would leave too little data to track the academic progress of high school students. (The PARCC tests are not given in the 10th, 11th or 12th grades, although students take college readiness tests in the 10th and 11th grades.) Marble criticized the quality of the ninth grade tests.
Hill, however, said, the state should find a replacement for PARCC rather than eliminate all state tests in the freshman year of high school.
The bill failed on a standing vote, so no individual votes were recorded.
The measure was the second testing bill to die on the floor of the Republican-controlled Senate. A measure proposing a new high school civics test, Senate Bill 16-148, failed by a single vote April 6.
The original version of SB 16-005 would have prohibited the ninth grade PARCC language arts and math tests. It was amended to allow districts to give the tests if they chose. Controversial amendments added in the Senate Education Committee also would have made changes in teacher tenure laws. But those were removed on the Senate floor before the bill died.
Earlier in the session, a House committee killed House Bill 16-1131, which would have given the State Board of Education flexibility to make changes in state testing. A minor measure, House Bill 16-1234, would request the Department of Education to study ways for districts to develop their own tests. It’s sitting in the House Appropriations Committee.