The candidates for State Senate District 8 say Colorado's student standardized testing programs are valuable but need to be adjusted.
State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, and Democratic challenger Jay Fetcher think the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests could stand some fine tuning.
"Nobody likes tests, but they're necessary. The CSAPs are too expensive," Taylor said.
Fetcher thinks it takes too long for CSAP test results to be returned to educators.
"The CSAPs are an effective way to hold schools accountable," Fetcher said. "I think that's needed, but we need to adjust how that's done."
Fetcher and Taylor were speaking Thursday at a candidates' forum hosted at Centennial Hall in Steamboat. The event was hosted by the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley and the Western Slope Congress.
A question about the effectiveness of the CSAP tests came from the audience of about 150 people. Colorado is spending $14.85 million this year to give CSAP tests to more than 450,000 elementary school students.
Some educators say that's too much money for the kinds of results the tests produce. Other state officials say the price of the testing is worth the more than $100 million in federal funding tied to Colorado's willingness to formally assess the effectiveness of public education.
Taylor said the Legislature should be able to find ways to cut down on the costs associated with the testing program.
Fetcher said the superintendent of schools in the Eagle County School District told him that CSAP results, which come back at the end of July, arrive too late to make adjustments in staffing and curriculum for the coming year.
"I'd rather they measure the progress of individual students and teachers," Fetcher said of the tests.
In response to another question, the candidates agreed they would not approve of the active reintroduction of wolves in Colorado.
Fetcher, who raises cattle on his family ranch near Clark, said he wants to have the ability to remove a wolf that is harming his livestock.
Taylor agreed that the reintroduction of gray wolves would be a hardship for ranchers.
"We deal with wool-growers and we deal with cattlemen," in Senate District 8, he said. "There are better things we could do than reintroduce wolves in Colorado. They're pretty tough on little calves, and they're pretty tough on little lambs."
Fetcher said although he's opposed to reintroducing wolves near human activity, he thinks they will arrive without help from wildlife managers.
"The problem we face is the natural migration of wolves," Fetcher said. "The wolves are coming folks -- they're not far away."
Taylor added that he's not comfortable with the use of Interstate 70 (within Senate District 8) as an arbitrary line of demarcation between two approaches to wolf management in Colorado. Although wolves likely will migrate into the state from the north, wolves in northern New Mexico are deemed less likely to venture north on their own. The idea is that southern wolves might be reintroduced to Colorado through human intervention.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife has established the Wolf Management Plan Working Group, which is due to produce a written proposal on the subject this month. Taylor and Fetcher say they are satisfied that the group has broad representation from livestock operators and local government, as well as wildlife biologists.
Fetcher said he has too many elk on his property, and if wolves could be encouraged to feed more selectively, he might look on their impending arrival differently.
"If they could be taught to eat elk and not beef, I would be thrilled," he said with a smile.
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