Thursday, April 17, 2008

Senate Gives Preliminary OK to CAP4K, Adds English Proficiency Requirement

Gov. Bill Ritter's signature education initiative gained preliminary approval in the Senate Thursday after lawmakers decided to require school districts and charter schools to assure that all students are proficient in the use of the English language.

The measure, which has bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers, would require schools to track the readiness of students entering high school, mandate that credit be given by means other than "seat time" in a class, and update the state's curriculum standards.

The Senate adopted an amendment by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, that would add to the curriculum standards a requirement that all students show proficiency in spoken and written English before receiving a diploma. However, it leaves the mechanism for achieving those standards and verifying that a student has achieved them to local school districts and charter schools.

"The goals in SB 212 are not enough--we need to hold districts accountable for reaching and teaching students to speak English," Mitchell said. "If a student spends days, weeks, months and years, in a public school and is eligible to receive a diploma but hasn’t been taught to speak English, its not the student's fault, it's the system's fault. We are failing those students."

SB 212 also phases out the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) for ninth and tenth graders over time, replacing it with the American College Test (ACT).

The bill faces one more vote in the Senate before moving on to the House. Its primary sponsors are Reps. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, and Rob Witwer, R-Genesee, and Sens. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Joshua Penry, R-Fruita.