So, CAP4K, the governor’s education reform brainchild is still in production backstage while the audience impatiently waits for the curtain to come up. (Or who knows — maybe they’ve grown bored and walked out to get a bite to eat?) Criticisms raised from an earlier dress rehearsal apparently have prompted some significant changes to the script. The problem is the longer the delays the more tension grows between the cast from the two major companies.
How long will the bipartisan coalition stick together? Colorado’s ironclad education triangle is not exactly enthusiastic. CEA and CASE have withheld endorsements and have criticized the initial proposal as “an unfunded mandate,” while CASB seems to be silent. Will one or more of these groups surgically alter the plan behind closed doors and weaken its reform impact or — even worse — find a pretext to undermine accountability by rolling back CSAP with no replacement?
The Denver Post cites some “progressive” remarks from the bill’s Republican co-sponsors:
“We’re in a new century, and it’s time for our thinking to evolve,” said Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Genesee. “This could be the end of CSAP and the beginning of something much better. It really is an evolution.”
Lawmakers have debated the relevance of the Colorado Student Assessment Program for a decade. But momentum to change it is mounting this year as Gov. Bill Ritter pushes a revamping of course-content standards and testing from preschool to college.
It’s typically Republicans — demanding accountability of the education system — who stick up for CSAP. Yet Witwer and Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, are leading the fight for a new age in exams.
“This emphatically isn’t a step backward on assessments,” said Penry, who is sponsoring legislation on Ritter’s education initiative. “What we’re talking about is the living, breathing evolution and modernization of CSAP.”
This passage in particular is a microcosm of the silent problem underlying the CSAP / CAP4K debate. Where is the emphasis on student assessment, and where is the emphasis on school accountability? What do we want these tests to do? And if we want to achieve both ends — which we would be wise to seek — how do we make these tests work for everyone involved? And when there’s a conflict between the needs of students, parents, teachers, and administrators, who wins?
With all these constituencies up in the air, it’s easier to see why the cast and crew of CAP4K might have to overcome a little stage fright, or at least work a little harder to get their act together. In this election year, lawmakers are seeking applause from all corners of the audience. Here’s hoping that the show has a long, successful run as long as it serves the kids first.
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