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Opponents block bill to reduce testing in Colorado schools

Senator Rachel Zenzinger represents District 19 in Colorado
Senator Rachel Zenzinger represents District 19 in Colorado
Kathryn Poindexter

A bill to reduce the amount of standardized testing in Colorado public schools was rejected in the State House of Representatives May 5, 2014, despite best efforts by Senate sponsors Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) and Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) to move it forward into law.
Senate Bill 14-221 called for a reduction in standardized social studies tests administered at various grade levels, with estimates that the law would have saved $335,000 per year in administrative costs. The bill was also an acknowledgement of criticisms that Colorado students are currently subjected to an excessive number of standardized tests during their careers, and that those tests often detract from the time that students could otherwise spend learning new material.
“We spent months listening to advocates on both sides of the standardized-testing issue, in committee hearings, in our office, on the phone and elsewhere; and this was our measured response,” said Sen. Kerr.
Both Senators Kerr and Zenzinger have had classroom experience as social studies teachers.
While SB 14-221 passed through the Senate, it died in the House, after critics expressed concern that it might decrease schools’ emphasis on social studies. Sen. Kerr noted that schools can emphasize the subject as much as they like; and in fact the proposed bill made an allowance for schools to retain the same amount of standard social studies testing that they had in place prior to the new law.
Sen. Zenzinger said she was highly disappointed by the outcome in the House, and she thought this bill was a good start toward a compromise between two factions – one that is passionate about the need for standardized testing and the other that wants to eliminate those tests entirely.
“This discussion is not done,” she said. “I expect to return next year to find a reasonable way to address the concerns about over-testing, within parameters that are acceptable to both sides of the issue.”