READ Act reform bill advances with full support from Colorado House

The Colorado House of Representatives on Friday unanimously approved a bill that would end a requirement that some of the state’s youngest students be tested for reading in a language they are still learning.

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Volunteer Cindy Stechmeyer reads with two second graders during reading club at Lumberg Elementary in Edgewater. (Yesenia Robles/Chalkbeat)

Volunteer Cindy Stechmeyer reads with two second graders during reading club at Lumberg Elementary in Edgewater. (Yesenia Robles/Chalkbeat)

By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat

The Colorado House of Representatives on Friday unanimously approved a bill that would end a requirement that some of the state’s youngest students be tested for reading in a language they are still learning.

House Bill 1160, sponsored by state Reps. Millie Hamner, a Frisco Democrat, and Rep. Jim Wilson, a Salida Republican, now heads to the Senate. The bill has bipartisan support in that chamber as well.

Currently, school districts can choose which language — English or Spanish — to test students in. Last year the State Board of Education added a requirement that schools that choose to test students in Spanish must also test them in English.

If this bill becomes law, districts that test English learners in Spanish would not be required to monitor the students in English as well. Parents would have the option to request dual testing.

The State Board of Education is expected to take a vote on whether to formally oppose the bill at its next meeting on Wednesday. It’s unlikely the board’s position could sway lawmakers.

Hamner and Rankin’s bill is the latest twist in a multi-year effort to enact the 2012 READ Act, a law that requires Colorado schools identify students in kindergarten through third grade who aren’t reading at grade level. Those students are in turn supposed to receive intense intervention to help improve their reading skills.

“This test is meant to demonstrate how well a student can read, and when it’s given to students in their language of instruction, it gives us better indicators of reading ability and gives teachers the information they need to help their students improve,” Hamner said in a statement. “This bill cuts testing time and increases instructional time for the very students who need it.”

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.