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Colorado's Internal Struggle Over Testing

As more states commit to one of two assessment consortia, Colorado is resisting.

According to media reports, the state board of education is digging in its heels against the state legislature, where lawmakers are considering a bill to make the state commit to the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The state board will have none of it, though; the panel voted 4-3 on Friday to oppose that bill, even after a pitch from its coauthors.

The vote furthers a schism between the board, on the one side, and the legislature and governor on the other. Last year, the board lost a bid for $26 million to develop new assessments in all core subjects, but Gov. John Hickenlooper sided against them, and lawmakers provided only $6 million, and only for tests in social studies, science, and other areas that didn't include mathematics and English/language arts, the two subjects targeted by the federally funded, multi-state assessment consortia.

Colorado is one of a dwindling number of "participating" states—five, at the moment—that still belong to both consortia. That role allows the state to be in on conversations about test design without having voting power. It also doesn't commit the state to using the tests. "Governing" states have voting power but must also promise to use the tests when they become operational in 2014-15.

The bill, cosponsored by Sens. Mike Johnston and Nancy Spence, would require Colorado to become a governing state in one or the other consortium.

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