October 17, 2006
Pair share views on CSAPs, school choice
By Jason Kosena
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Candidates competing for the District 4 State School Board of Education seat swapped points of view on school funding, CSAPs and school choice at a League of Women Voters forum Monday in Fort Collins.
In front of about 50 people sitting in the Fort Collins City Council chambers, Republican incumbent Bob Schaffer and Democrat Tom Griggs answered prepared questions as well as some generated by audience members.
Among topics discussed throughout the debate, which will be aired on Channel 14 up until the Nov. 7 election, was the effectiveness of the Colorado Student Assessment Program.
Schaffer, who has sat on the state board for 10 months, said CSAPs are an important tool for educators and citizens to measure a school's success but that it isn't a perfect system.
"(CSAPs) are an assessment tool that is never going to be perfect, and it can be better," Schaffer said.
"The CSAPs need to go through an ongoing review and improvement each year."
Some changes that could be looked at are the timing of the tests in the school year and the level of standards they test.
Griggs, a University of Northern Colorado professor of education, said he believes the CSAP examinations have created an atmosphere in schools in which too much emphasis is being placed on math, science, reading and writing, taking away from other important education areas.
"There is currently no way that teachers can use the data," Griggs said, referring to the lag time the Colorado Department of Education has before getting results back to schools. "It doesn't provide teachers the feedback they need, and it doesn't help students."
Both men have children attending Poudre School District schools.
Charter schools and school choice were common topics discussed during the debate.
Griggs said he believes too much school choice can be hurtful to the public education system as a whole, but he believes some charter schools have offered parents good alternatives to their neighborhood school.
"I think there are some concerns about the cost of charter schools," Griggs said. "But fundamentally, I think that local communities need to be the ones who make (decisions about whether they want charter schools or not)."
Schaffer, who said he was the only pro-charter-school candidate in the race, said charter schools can be of benefit to local school districts because they can attract back families and students that have left public education to seek educational choices elsewhere.
"I support charter schools," he said. "(They) have been great for Colorado."
Among many areas of dispute, the candidates did agree on one issue: whether Amendment 39 on the November ballot - which would require school districts to spend 65 percent of total funding on classroom resources - is a good educational measure.
Both cited different reasons for their opposition to the 65 percent rule.
Griggs said it would hinder the ability of small, rural districts to fund things such as transportation or other aspects of education they felt were important.
Schaffer, who said he didn't know if 65 percent was enough for classroom spending, didn't like the idea of a constitutional amendment that would dictate decisions that should be left to the Legislature and that at some point could hinder its ability to offer a different solution or percentage.
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