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Colorado State Board Votes to Let Districts Opt Out of PARCC

In a move that might prove to be illegal, the Colorado Board of Education voted yesterday to let school districts opt out of giving the first phase of the PARCC assessment, which is scheduled to begin in March.

Chalkbeat Colorado reports that the board voted 4-3 to approve district waivers.

But it doesn't look like districts can jump on the opportunity any time soon. A top official from the attorney general's office warned the board that it doesn't have authority to grant such waivers, and Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said he won't grant them unless the attorney general says they pass legal muster.

"Should this motion pass it probably wouldn't have legal effect," Senior Assistant Attorney General Tony Dyl told the board before it voted, according to Chalkbeat. "This is a part of the law you do not have the power to waive."

As you probably already know, the PARCC exam in mathematics and English/language arts comes in two parts: performance tasks, given after about 75 percent of instruction, and a short-answer section that's given after 90 percent of instruction. The motion passed by the Colorado board would allow districts to skip the performance-task portion.

The state's assessment chief, Joyce Zurkowski, told board members that the test can't be divided; you need both parts to obtain a valid, total score.

The Common Core State Standards and its accompanying tests have been the subject of intense argument in Colorado. The state board passed a resolution last spring asking that the state drop out of PARCC. (It hasn't.)  A couple of months ago, the board—echoing rising national sentiment—issued a letter asking the state to cut back on testing.The state legislature is also expected to debate testing when it reconvenes. The report of a task force looking into state assessments is due at the end of this month.

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