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One-Man Drive to Eliminate Colorado Tests Attracting Attention

Susan Notes: Three cheers for Don Perl, not only a man of principle but a man who gets out and works for what he knows is right for kids. Note that those opposed to Perl's campaign don't claim the tests benefit children. They whine that they need the NCLB money the tests bring.

After weeks of campaigning at local restaurants, fairs and on the University of Northern Colorado campus, Greeley educator Don Perl is drawing attention to his push to abolish the statewide CSAP test.

The former grade-school teacher who made headlines in 2001 when he refused to administer the Colorado Student Assessment Program test is trying to get an anti-CSAP measure on the Nov. 2 ballot. He wants to replace the statewide test with a program that relies on local measures - such as tests that are designed specifically for local students- or to let local educators judge whether a student is proficient.

Some educators are concerned that Perl may collect the 67,829 signatures needed by the Aug. 2 deadline even though he said he has collected only about 3,040.

State Board of Education member Evie Hudak said she has seen more and more parents - from Colorado Springs to Boulder and Grand Junction - wearing anti-CSAP buttons and fears that Perl's zeal and parents' frustration with the test will help get the measure on the ballot.

"There's so much anti- CSAP sentiment out there," Hudak said. "It could potentially become a problem."

Mark Wallace, president of the Colorado Association of School Boards and president of the Weld County School District 6 school board in Greeley, said Perl is "very active in the community."

Perl "goes to every fair ... to convince (citizens) of the evils of CSAP," Wallace said.

Wallace and Clair Orr, a member of the State Board of Education, are creating a video they hope will provide a more positive glimpse of the test that Perl calls "elitist." Orr said the video is not a counterattack on Perl's campaign but acknowledges that Perl prompted them to act.

"What Perl's campaign does is say, 'Hey, we have to do a better job explaining to the public what the CSAP is about,"' Orr said.

He said the roughly 30- minute video - which will feature a history of CSAP as well as appearances from students, educational officials and teachers - should be available for viewing at an education standards and assessment conference in Copper Mountain today and Saturday.

Perl, a professor of Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado, said he is happy his campaign has "stirred up some action."

The Colorado Student Assessment Program is a statewide test that measures how well students meet state reading, math, writing and science standards.

Perl said the CSAP - which the state and federal governments rely on to keep schools accountable - has created a culture in which principals reward students with free lunches for showing up on testing days, children from poor-performing schools are labeled inferior, and teachers are forced to abandon their lessons to focus on CSAP preparation.

"The education community is selling itself out for those superficial values" instead of educating kids, Perl said.

But state officials said eliminating CSAP would cut the state off from millions of federal dollars provided under the No Child Left Behind act.

The federal accountability act requires states to measure student proficiency in math and reading. The CSAP is the "federally approved system" for doing that in Colorado, said William Windler, an assistant state commissioner of education.

"If the state doesn't have the system in place, we're not going to have the money," he said.

Last year, the state received at least $105 million in Title 1 money, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

Education Commissioner William Moloney said the CSAP tests identify which schools are not meeting standards and prompts schools to make changes to help students improve academically.

— Karen Rouse
Denver Post


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