Bill to fix $25M budget error passes; uncertainty over high school assessment remains

Published: Wednesday, June 20 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

The committee also heard testimony from State Superintendent Larry Shumway and voted to recommend a bill to the Senate that would have allowed the State Office of Education to expand a pilot program using the ACT test as a college-readiness assessment for all high school students. A similar bill failed to pass during the legislative session, leaving ambiguity as to what test would be administered in schools.

Shumway said the state office has been looking at solutions for the testing problem. He said they can either revert back to the UBSCT test — which he said would be a "terrible direction" to go — find a way to use end-of-level testing, or move forward with plans to focus on ACT testing.

"I think universally we all agree we don't want UBSCT," Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said. "If we don't act in this special session, we're basically asking the state superintendent and state school board to ignore the law until we can take the time to fix it and I don't think it's fair to put them in that position."

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, said the ACT was a much better indicator of college-readiness compared to the "flawed" UBSCT test. She said it was critical that lawmakers take action on the issue.

"I think everything possible we can do should be done to get this through today," she said. "It's really going to affect a lot of students and that's who we should be thinking about right now."

Lawmakers on the committee agreed about the need to specify an assessment, but some questioned whether the language of the special session agenda allowed the bill to even be discussed Wednesday. The committee ultimately discussed and recommended the bill, but it was not presented to either house.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Provo, said the testing issue is ongoing. She said concerns over funding the acquisition of a new assessment played a role in the decision not to bring the bill before the House and Senate.

Last month, the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees sent a letter to Herbert requesting that college-readiness testing be included in a special session. The issue was not listed explicitly, but committee staff reported that the wording of the special session agenda left open an opportunity for lawmakers to approach the issue.

Ally Isom, spokeswoman for Herbert, said the issue was not included on the special session's agenda because it did not appear that the Legislature had a "sufficient appetite" to address it.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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