CEA Media Release: Colorado Education Association lauds House Bill 21-1161 becoming law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2021

Colorado Education Association (CEA) lauds House Bill 21-1161 becoming law
Bill gives some relief to students and educators in 2021; more work to do

DENVER – On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill (HB) 21-1161, Suspend Statewide Assessments For Select Grades, into law. Spearheaded by the Colorado Education Association, the bill will allow educators to focus their limited time and resources on instruction and interventions to put students’ learning and mental health needs first. Specifically, the bill will direct the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to formally request a waiver from the US Department of Education to suspend standardized testing for certain subjects and grades for 2020-21. It also prohibits a school district from using student academic growth measures or student performance measures when evaluating licensed personnel or for school accountability for the 2020-21 school year.

The 39,000 educators of the CEA along with 15,000 Coloradans who signed a petition were clear in their desire to cancel CMAS this year, but ultimately fought for a bill that would meet the federal guidance and preserve as much as possible instructional time for students.

“HB 21-1161 is the direct result of our elected officials listening to our members and taking action to provide relief to our students and members during a school year that has been anything but ‘standard’,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association. “CEA members have been clear that we need to ease the burden that CMAS testing will put on students, educators, schools and districts, and we want to thank bill sponsors Rep. Emily Sirota, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, and Sen. Don Coram for standing with Colorado students and educators.”

“Students, parents and teachers have been through a lot this year,” said Rep. Alec Garnett, Colorado Speaker of the House. “I’m proud of the way everyone in the education community came together for our students to lessen the testing burden while still complying with federal requirements. Reps. Sirota and McLachlan led the charge to find a meaningful and responsible solution that will allow teachers to focus on teaching, and I am grateful for their efforts.”

The need for Colorado to prioritize direct instruction time over standardized testing this year has been clear for some time. After two recent CEA public polls showed just 4% of Colorado parents favored standardized testing, the Colorado Education Association and Colorado legislature worked together to prioritize student learning in a year of pandemic turmoil.

“I applaud the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado State Legislature for working together and putting the needs of students first,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. “All students deserve to have the ability to demonstrate knowledge in many ways that are measurable by those who know them best – their educators. I hope Sec. Cardona and the Department of Education will work with Colorado to tailor assessments that can actually determine where students are and help design an educational experience that fully supports their academic, social and emotional needs.”

While the Colorado Education Association lauds the passage of HB 21-1161, the work of providing Colorado students and educators with relief during the pandemic is not over.

“Our goals are unchanged: Protect the precious remaining classroom time to focus on instruction and intervention, meet students’ social-emotional and mental health needs, and use existing data that educators use every day to assess and meet the current needs of our students in ways that help them thrive,” said Baca-Oehlert.

About the Colorado Education Association

The Colorado Education Association is the voice of 39,000 educators, working together in a strong union to ensure all students get the exceptional public schools they deserve, in every neighborhood across the state. As Colorado’s largest labor union, CEA works collectively with all education stakeholders to ensure Colorado’s standing as an excellent state in which to learn, live, work, and raise a family.

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