State Board of Education announces move away from PARCC testing

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 5:17 PM
Sixth grader Quincy Stover takes part in a practice session in March 2015 while preparing for the PARCC tests at Fort Logan Northgate School in Sheridan.

DENVER – Colorado’s K-12 students will transition to a new series of standardized tests in the upcoming academic year after the State Board of Education decided to move away from multi-state PARCC testing.

The decision was announced Wednesday and discussed during the board’s June meeting in Denver.

The move is a result of the need for a new contract for the state’s science and social studies assessments, which expires soon.

In December, the Board of Education requested that the Colorado Department of Education solicit a new contract for math and English language arts tests as well, which are under contract through 2018.

In its move away from the PARCC consortium, the CDE will put together its own tests that will draw from PARCC content while questions geared towards Colorado’s students are crafted.

It will be a process over time, with tests administered being very similar to those under PARCC, said Dana Smith, chief communications officer for the CDE.

Colorado has administered PARCC tests since 2015; the state is federally required to administer some form of standardized test.

Both contracts were awarded to Pearson, a textbook publisher and assessment service provider with which the state currently contracts.

The decision to stay with Pearson was made for a number of reasons, according to a release from the CDE, including the increased privacy protection provided by the company’s online testing system.

Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner, said in a statement that staying with the same provider will ease the transition into new tests.

“Educators and students are familiar with Pearson’s systems, so this will allow them to continue to concentrate on teaching and learning the Colorado Academic Standards, which is the content assessed by the tests,” Anthes said.

The new contract requires the Department of Education have “decision-making authority over math and ELA test design, form development and test administration policies.”

Expanded control of the test comes at the expense of being able to compare student performance with six other states that are fully involved in the PARCC consortium.

It was also important to the board that total testing time be reduced.

“It simply can’t run on for days and weeks as it did,” said Board Member Steve Durham, R-Colorado Springs.

Additionally, the turn around on test results was a decisive factor in seeking to leave the PARCC system.

“Perhaps more important than the amount of test time is that getting this information for a test given in May in October and November and December is simply unacceptable,” Durham said.

The Department of Education receives PARCC results in August but they are not released to schools and parents until later in the fall.

In other discussion Wednesday, the board considered the outcome of the Legislative session.

Both bills the board opposed were killed by lawmakers and seven of the eight they supported were signed into law.

This included House Bill 1181, which repeals ninth grade assessments on math and language arts, and instead requires tests that are in line with 10th grade pre-college exams. The change is expected to save the state more than $640,000.

Additionally one bill, HB 1160, was amended at the behest of the board before its passage. The bill allows English language learners to take reading assessment in the language they are most proficient with through third grade. HB 1160 was amended to require students that have at least partial proficiency to take reading tests in English.

The board meets again Thursday and will discuss the awarding of grants for construction projects.

Durango School District 9-R has put in two grant requests, one for re-roofing a portion of Needham Elementary and another for asbestos abatement at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary.