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Anti-CSAP campaign pops up -- again -- on benches

Susan Notes: I've watched the Coalition for Better Education grow in numbers and influence. They are an impressive group. It has been inspiring to watch them grow from a handful to 600 strong.

One critical statement of Don Perl's was left out of the article. Perl noted that CBE would have no objection to CSAP if it were to be given once or twice or three times in a child's educational career for some general measures, but these are high-stakes standardized tests in which important funding decisions are made based on the results of one test.

by Chris Casey

A Greeley-based education group is again taking its anti-standardized testing message to the streets, buying signs on six Greeley bus benches and another 20 in the Denver area.

It's become an annual campaign for the Coalition for Better Education Inc., encouraging students to opt out of the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests given each spring.

The bus signs say: "Parents we CAN do something about this injustice." Their main feature is large CSAP lettering with red circle and line through it. Below the circle it says, "Opt-out letters are available at www.thecbe.org."

The coalition spent $690 for the six Greeley signs and $1,500 on the Denver-area benches. The signs will be up for a month.

Coalition leader Don Perl of Greeley says the CSAPs are high-stakes, standardized tests that are costly -- about $16 million annually -- and "reduce our children to numbers on a grid." The tests create a one-size-fits-all approach to education while reducing teacher influence and student learning, argues Perl, a former Greeley-Evans District 6 teacher who is now an adjunct Spanish teacher at the University of Northern Colorado.

William Moloney, commissioner of the Colorado Board of Education, said while Perl is entitled to his opinion, the bus bench campaign, in its third year in Denver and second year in Greeley, has not been successful.

"Participation last year (in CSAPs) was the highest in history -- 98.8 percent (statewide)," Moloney said. "That leads the nation in participation on state accountability tests. No doubt, there are some people who share Mr. Perl's viewpoint, but these other trend lines are not being kind to him."

Moloney said the CSAP, in its 11th year, is the longest-running accountability test administered in the nation. They are Colorado's primary method to measure the annual accountability of public schools -- a requirement under the national No Child Left Behind Act.

"It's simply a matter of common sense," Moloney said. "If we don't know how youngsters are doing as a state, it's hard to make informed judgments" about education policy.

When students don't take the test, it is calculated as a negative 0.5 score, bringing down the overall performance of their school.

The Coalition for Better Education, which has 600 members, is battling state and federal laws that require the assessment test to prove schools are meeting standards. Material on the group's Web site cites revised statutes and Constitutional articles that give parents freedom to allow their children to opt out.

The Colorado Department of Education Web site, meanwhile, lists a revised statute that states public school students are required to take the annual assessments.

Last year, the city of Greeley crews began taking down the signs soon after they appeared, saying political messages weren't allowed on bus benches. Perl's group raised First Amendment rights, and the signs were restored.


Visit the Coalition for Better Education online.

— Chris Casey
Greeley Tribune


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