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Group wants kids to opt out of state test

Susan Notes:

Three hundred cheers for a
group of Colorado teachers, parents,
professors, and concerned citizens who don't
sit around whining about high stakes testing.
Instead, they organize and resist. Actively.

Don Perl is more than the group's leader. He is
also the hero who, as an 8th grade teacher,
refused to administer the test.

by Sue McMillan

Last year, 98.9 percent of Colorado students
who were supposed to take state assessment
tests did so.

No one can say why a few hundred students
didn't take the test, but Don Perl would like
to take credit for at least some of the no-

Perl heads the Coalition for Better Education,
a Greeley-based nonprofit started in 2004 by a
group of aspiring teachers to push for the
elimination of the Colorado Student Assessment
Program (CSAP). Its primary emphasis these days
is to let parents know they can choose to have
their child opt out of the CSAP test.

"We've been successful if even one parent sees
the light in what this high-stakes testing is
doing to their child," Perl said Friday. "We
want parents to know that they have the last
say in their children's education."

To call attention to its mission, the coalition
put up a billboard Jan. 19 on East Platte
Avenue, urging parents to opt out of testing
and do "something about this injustice." Other
billboards are in the Denver area. The
organization sells bumper stickers and buttons
and takes donations to support its cause.

Perl, who teaches at the University of Northern
Colorado and was a former public school
teacher, believes the emphasis on testing puts
unneeded stress on students and isn't a valid
indicator of achievement. The millions spent on
administering tests could be better used by
schools, the coalition's Web site says.

The Colorado Department of Education disagrees.

"It's a solid test and it provides an accurate
picture of performance," CDE spokesman Mark
Stevens said. "It's part of our accountability
system, and part of being a Colorado student."

States are required to measure student
performance under the federal No Child Left
Behind act. Under those rules, if fewer than 95
percent of eligible students fail to take the
state assessment, the school does not make
"adequate yearly progress." For schools that
get extra federal aid, that means less money
and possibly a forced restructure of the

Colorado is in the process of evaluating its
content standards and assessments, with a
report due in December. There also has been
some push at the federal level to modify No
Child Left Behind.

Perl said he's not hopeful that significant
change will come out of those actions

— Sue McMillan
Colorado Springs Gazette



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