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Ad campaign attacks CSAP: Blitz at bus stops will ask parents to pull kids from test

Susan Notes: Spearheaded by Don Perl, a former classroom teacher who refused to administer the state test, this campaign working for the benefit of children is remarkable. Watching the growth of resisters--from a handful of people to hundreds--has been an awesome experience. These people raised money to buy parental test opt-out ads from bake sales and other person-to-person campaigns. Note that the newspaper both misnames the resister group and fails to give its Web address. The group is Coalition for Better Education.

Three cheers.

By Berny Morson

Appeals on bus stop benches beginning next week will ask parents to yank their children from statewide achievement tests this spring.

The 24 ads will appear on benches in the Cherry Creek, Denver, Greeley and Jefferson County school districts beginning Tuesday.

The ads cost $1,825, said Don Perl, a part-time University of Northern Colorado Spanish instructor who heads the Coalition for Better Schools. The group purchased 20 bench ads last year urging parents to "just say no" to the tests.

School officials said Friday the tests administered each spring are essential in evaluating the progress of students and the effectiveness of the curriculum and teaching strategies.

Keeping kids home "is not a productive way to support children," said Jefferson County school Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. "We don't have data on kids who don't take the test."

But Tim Babbidge of Aurora, a former teacher who is active with the coalition, said the tests take time from instruction and provide little reliable information. He said standardized tests have a long history of cultural bias, since they use words that poor or minority children might not know.

"My professional opinion is that it is an extremely imperfect diagnostic device and we don't need it at all," said Babbidge, who taught in San Francisco and was a substitute teacher in Colorado for 10 years.

The state achievement tests, called the Colorado Student Assessment Program, cover reading, writing and math in grades three through 10 and science in the fourth, eighth and 10th grades.

All public school students are required to take the tests, but no-shows are not penalized.

However, the Colorado Department of Education counts no-shows as zeros in calculating the school's score.

The scores are used to rate schools on annual state school report cards and to determine if schools are making progress toward academic goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The bench ads will show the letters CSAP in a red circle crossed by a diagonal red line. Next to the symbol will be the words: "Parents: We CAN do something about this injustice."

The ad will direct parents to a Web site containing a downloadable form letter for opting out of the test.

Cherry Creek spokeswoman Tustin Amole said parents have to make the final choice for their children on whether to take the test. But she asked them to "bear in mind the consequences for schools that have low CSAP scores."

Denver Public Schools spokesman Mark Stevens said the test is designed specifically to show whether kids are meeting the state's academic content standards.

— Berny Morson
Rocky Mountain News


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