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April 07, 2015 09:21 AM UTC

Something Stinks On The State Board of Education

  • by: Colorado Pols
Val Flores, Colorado Board of Education.
Val Flores, Colorado Board of Education.

Several local organizations including Planned Parenthood and One Colorado, the state’s major LGBT advocacy group, sent out action alerts to their members yesterday warning about an upcoming vote by the Colorado Board of Education that could do major harm to a program known as the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. From Planned Parenthood’s alert yesterday afternoon:

Every two years, Colorado middle and high schoolers take an important, anonymous, voluntary survey that provides our state with vital information about their health and well-being. The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) determines the prevalence of health-risk behaviors and trends related to this behavior, including: physical activity & nutrition, school & family, injury & violence, mental health, alcohol & drug use, and sexual health. And the data is used for creating important policies and programs to better serve Colorado’s youth.

This year access to that survey is being obstructed. Our opposition is trying to change the survey by creating a difficult process for youth. This process could significantly decrease Colorado youth’s access to the survey, and lower response rates by up to 30%.

Meanwhile, the current process already has several opportunities for parents and students to opt out of the survey. Changing this process will only reduce the data that helps the state allocate resources, and most damagingly, could result in negative impacts for our vulnerable youth.

Conservatives on the state board of education, led by GOP lobbyist and appointed board member Steve “Prince of Darkness” Durham (actually his nickname under the Gold Dome, we didn’t make it up) of Colorado Springs, want to substantially reduce student participation in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. This anonymous survey asks a range of questions about behavior and lifestyle that Durham claims could be “self-incriminating,” and therefore wants parents to affirmatively opt in students to the survey instead of the current opt-out system. That seemingly small change would have the effect of greatly reducing response to what advocates say is crucial to understanding and providing the right services for at-risk students of all kinds. With their bills dying in the split state legislature, supporters of the “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” legislation and other similar proposals are now looking to this vote on the state board of education for a victory.

What we’ve heard about the dynamics of the current board suggests that this vote is very much in doubt, with at least one member of the conservative majority not on board with hobbling the HKCS. Attention appears to be focused on the would-be “safe” Democratic representative on the board for Denver, Val Flores–and there’s a problem. Since winning the CD-1 seat on the state board of education last November, Flores has apparently manifested as a tool of Durham and the far-right wing of the board: voting repeatedly following Durham’s explicit lead, and severely straining her relationship with her former supporters. In the case of the Healthy Kids Survey, the “opposition” consists almost completely of manufactured controversy from the same Tim Neville conspiracy theory types that backed the attacks in the legislature this year against immunizations. To say that these actors do not have the best interests of a diverse urban population like Denver at heart is a considerable understatement.

So why the hell is Denver’s voice on the state board of education wavering? We haven’t heard a good answer for this, but we’re told that a vote to gut the Healthy Kids Survey could be the last straw for Flores politically. She may be voting like a Colorado Springs Republican, but that’s not who she answers to at the ballot box.

Stay tuned, we’ll update this story after the vote tomorrow.


22 thoughts on “Something Stinks On The State Board of Education

    1. I don’t know where she stands, but I wouldn’t assume Neal is reasonable. She has made Common Core out to be a prelude for a commie takeover.

  1. If the teacher’s union lobby and the conservative critics would look for common ground in their critiques of common core standards, we could make the educational environment better in Colorado.

    Of course, conservatives demonize the teacher’s unions.  But we have so much in common when it comes to Common Core!

    1. We both say that kids are over-tested (we just spent two weeks on the PARCC test, will spend three days on CMAS tests next week, and another 3-4 days on the end of the year PARCC tests). 

    As one colleague commented, “We have two weeks left in the year to teach.” School is out in late May. 

    2. And we spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing student score data, and trying to “teach to the test” – I don’t care what anyone calls it.

    3. And it’s a fundamentally unfair test of English learners and kids with special needs – if they fail a test that is 5-10 reading levels higher than their present English reading level, how exactly is that data useful?

    I don’t have a problem with standardized testing, with everyone seeing where they measure up to a common standard. The Common Core standards themselves are fairly well written, and more or less aligned to what we teach.

    4. But the high stakes aspect of it, where schools can be “reorganized” into charter schools, where staff loses their livelihoods, where communities lose their schools – that has to be fixed. 

    1. Mamajama55 nails it!  

      I could not agree more.  If presented with Common Core standards, and Colorado Academic Standards, as being irrevocably tied to the high-stakes accountability applications of the standardized testing that goes with them, then I cannot support Common Core.

      Val Flores, up to this point, has represented my views very well.  I would encourage her to vote to support the HKCS.  

      1. puppy,

        Policies are wildly inconsistent, in Colorado and across the nation, on whether homeschooled and charter-schooled students must take PARCC and CMAS. The Charter School institute has decreed that all charter school students must take these tests, and their schools are also judged for improvement on the the tests.

        However, some schools are “opting out”, and there is no penalty for it. Many students are also “opting out” and again there is no penalty. Since many college admissions boards do look at these test scores, or will, we’ve been told, it’s not really to the student’s advantage to opt out.

        Religious schools that think that standardized testing is a Communist conspiracy can opt out with no penalty, except possibly, for their students down the road, that won’t be able to show progress or how they measure up to accepted standards. 

        Online schools have to send their kids in to a regular school to take the tests. Tests are all computerized now, but obviously we don’t want Mom or Dad helping the student with the answers on a home computer. 

        1. “…college admission boards do look at these test scores, or will, we’ve been told”

          Puh-leeze.  I’m calling BS.  We had better inform all those Boulder Fairview students and their families that they’re not getting into the schools of their choice because they took a courageous, informed, principled, and rational stand in opting out.  It’s not that they haven’t worked hard, and earned a spot in a quality university.  It’s that they delined to take one or two tests in their senior year that will not even be scored for their admission boards to consider. And even if they were, you think the college admission boards need more tests to decide whether to offer admission to a student?  ACT, SAT, transcripts, recommendations, essays, extracurriculars, etc — those aren’t enough? Not good enough?  

          I suspect that the stated reason by two post-secondary institutions in CO to use PARCC and CMAS in college admissions is to lend legitimacy and political cover to supporters of the testing industry and the misguided reformers. 

  2. Val Flores sure has morphed into a right wing crusader since sayingitlikeitis wrote this diary about her. Or we debated Flores vs. Taggert Hansen here.

    Or when Flores proclaimed on her website:

    “I oppose big money and corporatization in our public education system. I oppose high stakes testing that takes away valuable classroom learning time. I opcpose a “reform” model that is slowly privatizing our public education system. We cannot allow free public education to be traded on NASDAQ and sold to the highest bidder.”

    The Healthy Kids Healthy Schools survey gathers valuable data about the real lives, fears, hopes and struggles of Colorado students – more so than any standardized test.

    If gay teens have a suicide rate 5x that of their peers, why would we not want to know that and put trained counselors in place in secondary schools?

    If teens are worried that they’ll get beat up on their way home from school, or are getting bullied in school, why would the school not want to alert their school resource officers and PTA about the problem?

    If it turns out that teenage cigarette smoking is way down, why would the school nurses NOT want to know that, and to celebrate their efforts at health education?

    If teens say that they know how how to access birth control, and there is a corresponding 40% drop in teen pregnancies (and in abortions), how is this NOT something to be grateful for?

     The HKHS surveys are anonymous – teachers take great pains to make sure that they can’t be traced back to individual students. It is not a big brother attack on privacy.

    I just do not understand where Dr. Flores is coming from on this, and she needs to explain herself.

    1. I agree that the Health Survey is important, but not sure why we think Val Flores is not supportive of it.  Any articles, links, anecdotes, statements — anything??? (Testimony is going on right now, so we’ll find out soon where she stands. Absolutely, I would like to hear her comments re: HKHS survey after the vote.  

      1. I have heard Val Flores state that she does not support HKHS. Has anyone on this blog actually had a conversation with Ms. Flores? The woman is virtually incoherent.

        Whoever wrote this story is spot on, Val Flores is in lockstep with Steve Durham and that is very concerning to me. I live in Ms. Flores district and she does not represent my views.

  3. Denver “2015” Auditors Election

      O’Brien was approved by the Colorado Legislator to be the State Auditor 12 years. He has guided a large department of people to conduct 750 State audits. Saving the state $200,000,000. He has been a licensed CPA in the state since 1974.  Look at his web site, seeing all of these facts, O’Brien has the leadership and experience for the best  auditor for our city.                                                                                                I don’t see any Auditing or Accounting experience in the background of Nevitt.He keeps saying “none of the others have”.  Noting Nevitt has been on the City Council for 8 years, how can he conduct an audit of the Council with out it being a conflict of interest? He has accepted money from devlopers that are chosen by the Council.   

      Watching the two debates, Nevitt stumbles his way with his answers to the questions. He clearly has no idea how to run this office.

  4. She doesn’t represent your views on ANYTHING?  

    I haven’t had a conversation with Val Flores–I will be watching her a little more closely now–, but i was happy that she triumphed over Taggert Hansen in the primary — I was excited to have a representative from Denver that wasn’t a Democrat for Education Reform. A voice of dissent from my Party was refreshing –I believe the DFER agenda has been extremely divisive and destructive to public education and within the Democratic Party, and it’s hard to argue with that perspective in the current shit-show we’ve got going now with opt-outs and seemingly impossible legislative fixes.  DFERs have certainly shaken me out of my naive partisanship.  If Val’s crime is ruffling DFER feathers, I’m okay with that.  If she’s in over her head, I’m willing to hold her accountable.  If she is playing politics with good policy, like the HKHS survey, again — electoral accountability would be appropriate.  Yes, there are strange bedfellows in the testing debate.  “Lockstep with Steve Durham” — I’m not ready to go there, yet. 

  5. Chalkbeat Colorado has information on key votes. I think the reference to Val Flores being in “lockstep with Steve Durham”  refers to her voting with Republicans to endorse HB 15-1125, 

    a Republican-sponsored measure that would pull Colorado out of the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC testing group, reduce state assessments, and give districts more testing flexibility.

    I haven’t read 15-1125 yet, but I’d like to see more testing flexibility for sure, and reducing state assessments sounds good.

    However, pulling Colorado out of the Common Core standards completely would be counter-productive. As far as PARCC testing, I’m not a huge fan, but we seem to be committed now. It sounds as if pulling out would involve reinventing the wheel and allowing people’s political agendas to influence curriculum, as Jeffco and Dougco have done or tried to do.  

    We still need to have a unified set of standards by which all students are measured; and a common curriculum would increase consistency for highly mobile students. I kind of hate the common core math procedures, but that’s only because I learned it the old-fashioned way. Plenty of teachers and students seem to be thriving on the math matrixes – it really is all about what you’re initially taught. 

    So there’s certainly a pro-teacher, pro-student critiquet to be made about how common core and other standardized assessments are implemented; if that’s what Dr. Flores is trying to get to, this diary may be premature (including my own comments above). But it does seem like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to opt out of testing completely. 

    1. Voyageur, haven’t you been following the freedom agenda.  No more tests, no sex ed, no evolution, no derogatory stuff in American history,  no world history, no vaccinations, no common core.

    2. OK, but I would like to see some concrete evidence that all that testing as well as the focus of common core is leading to concrete results. For as long as I can remember we’ve been expected to buy whatever new educational theories are floated, whether by the education establishment or by reformers, without an iota of empirical evidence to support those theories. I’m not saying I’m against common core. I just don’t know enough about the results to make a judgement.

      1. The things that make a difference in test scores over time:

        1.smaller class sizes

        2. more adults in the classrom, more adults per student in general

        3. parental and community involvement

        4. orderly building up of knowledge, from simplest to most complex tasks, no “hit and miss” random curricula.

        5. right-size technology which allows self-paced learning in conjunction with classroom teaching.

        6. Teachers and Principals have flexibility to tailor instruction, policies, and programs to fit their students. Teachers are paid and respected as professionals who can decide how best to teach.

        Only #4 is aided by the Common Core standards – the rest are all a function of school finance formulas, tax bases, and thoughtfully implemented programs by districts and principals and teachers.

        Poor kids tend to start school behind in vocabulary, and never quite catch up as fewer resources tend to get allocated to high-poverty schools. It’s the elephant in the room that the GOP Elephants don’t want to see or talk about.


        So I don’t think that you, Bluecat, or anyone else, is going to see any evidence that all of that testing leads to better educational outcomes, because testing doesn’t happen in isolation. It happens as part of an economic, maybe ethnic and racial, certainly political environment.

        The schools that get tested the most, where the outcomes of the test are the most nerve-wracking and stressful for all, are the high-poverty schools which started out 3 or 4 years behind. It’s stressful because everyone knows that this is their last chance to improve before their school is “reorganized”.

        There are high poverty schools that make quantum leaps in graduation and attendance rates, and, yes, test scores. They have high community and parental involvement, and the Principals have leeway to make policies in their buildings that fit their students. Teachers have the ability to adjust teaching to fit the students they have in class that year, instead of being penalized for not following the latest corporate script.

        But school swings on that three year insane educational fashion pendulum, fed by curriculum and test manufacturers, and they really don’t want to talk about poverty or 1-3 above.

        If you want to see some links showing all the above, I can provide them, but most are available through

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