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Do parents want Colorado to give standardized tests? It depends how you ask

Whether to give standardized tests in the middle of a pandemic is shaping up to be one of the key education debates of Colorado’s 2021 legislative session, dividing education advocates and elected officials alike.

But what do parents want? Advocacy groups have released results from competing polls that come to opposite conclusions to argue that the general public agrees with them.

One poll of 600 registered voters commissioned by Democrats for Education Reform, the business-affiliated group Colorado Succeeds, and the conservative education advocacy group Ready Colorado found that 62% of respondents supported giving standardized tests if they wouldn’t be used to penalize schools or teachers for low student performance.

“Parents are very concerned about learning loss this year and the quality of instruction their kids are getting,” said Leslie Colwell of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. The organization wasn’t involved in the poll but cited the results in a press release calling for the state to maintain tests this year.

Another poll of more than 700 active voters commissioned by the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, the Colorado Association of School Executives, which represents superintendents, the Colorado Association of School Boards, and the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance found that 58% respondents wanted to cancel the tests, known as CMAS, this year.

“As a parent and educator, I know that many parents want to know how their students are doing,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association. “But CMAS testing will not give us the answers.”

To suspend testing, Colorado will need a waiver from the federal government or risk millions in federal funding. Whether to issue waivers will be one of the first major decisions facing Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of education. At his confirmation hearing this week, Cardona gave mixed signals, saying both that it doesn’t make sense to bring remote students into school just to test them but also that it’s important to take stock of learning loss.

That’s the same debate playing out in Colorado.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat, plans to introduce legislation directing the Colorado Department of Education to request a waiver from the federal government. Getting that waiver would put the legislature “in the driver’s seat,” she said, and she hopes that her colleagues agree to cancel testing.

“If you dig into the heart of why we want to do this test, what information we’re seeking, the most common answer you’ll hear is people want to know: Was there learning loss?” she said. “But by the time we get that test back, how is it useful to us?”

This article was originally published on Do parents want Colorado to give standardized tests? It depends how you ask

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