This year, the state of Colorado begins a new assessment program to provide comparable data about schools across our state.
This battery of tests, called Colorado Measures of Academic Success, includes nationally aligned assessments in language arts and math as well as assessments in science and social studies. During the next three months, students in grades 3 to 11 will participate in 9 to 16 hours of state assessment in these areas and will be engaged in instruction the rest of the time.
Many claim weeks of testing, the hours involved are far less. However, with all assessments being technology-based to expedite scoring, the impact on schools and technology is huge. Schools need to close labs during these testing windows and use the mobile computer labs recently purchased to the fullest. This affects our schools, leading to much public outcry as the stress of schools spill out into the community.
There’s been some controversy about the language-arts and math assessments, as a 14-state consortium developed them. These assessments, known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, align to common standards adopted around the country and return us to the day of comparability across states. I continue to encourage parents to visit the Colorado Department of Education website and analyze the Colorado Academic Standards before anyone rushes to judgment about their quality or conspiracy theories.
There’s also a movement to encourage parents to opt their children out of participating in the state assessment system. While we will honor any such requests submitted in writing to principals according to policy, it’s important to note the consequences to your schools. Federal law requires schools assess no less than 95 percent of eligible students. Sanctions by states are required by the federal government, thus schools that don’t achieve the participation rate will receive one accreditation lower on their overall accountability rating, which will lead to further state sanctions.
Furthermore, students who opt out likely will skew school results, which can have potential impacts on school and teacher performance. It’s important parents recognize the impact on their local schools and districts. While some will want to downplay these issues, they are serious and cause your schools to be painted in very different ways than our staff members deserve.
Since schools need to comply with state and federal mandates, there are no other academic options for students who opt out during these testing windows. Schools will not be providing classroom instruction as usual, so students not participating likely will need to be assigned to other classrooms to do independent work or be kept home during these times.
I encourage parents to allow their children to show what they know on these new, rigorous assessments that set a new bar of excellence for our kids. We continue to do our very best to limit impacts on students, even though employees certainly feel it. The data will help us ensure the effectiveness of our system as we work to prepare all kids for post-secondary college and career opportunities.
DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us. Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.