The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a $20 million bill to help schools pay for technology to implement online testing.
SB97, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, would allow school districts and charter schools to apply for matching grants to implement online testing by helping them pay for additional software, computers, technical support and teacher training.
The Senate passed the bill Tuesday after amending it to make it clear the tests would have to align with academic standards developed and adopted by Utah rather than Common Core standards developed as part of a states-led initiative. The change gives Utah the option of using the Common Core standards, but it doesn't necessarily tie the state to them, said Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who added some of the changes.
"This gives a comfort level to me because it specifically says we will make our own core and we are not capitalizing or connecting in any way with a federal program," Dayton said of the changes.
State education leaders are hoping to move to computer-adaptive testing based on the new Common Core standards, which Utah has already adopted, by the 2014-15 school year. Proponents of Common Core standards say they'll better prepare kids for college and careers. Some, however, remain wary, seeing the standards as a blow to local control, though it was up to states whether to implement them. The Common Core was developed as part of a states-led initiative, not a federal one.
SB97 is a companion to HB15, which would replace Criterion Referenced Tests (CRTs), now given to most Utah students once a year, with computer-adaptive tests at a cost of $6.7 million. HB15 passed the House Monday and is now awaiting hearing in the Senate.
SB97 now moves to the House.