Changes to state tests coming as Colorado education officials take control of math and English tests | MyWindsorNow.com

Changes to state tests coming as Colorado education officials take control of math and English tests

James Redmond
jredmond@greeleytribune.com

Colorado students will have new math and English tests over the next few years with Colorado Department of Education officials' decision to leave the multi-state PARCC testing consortium and begin developing the assessments locally.

Since 2015, third- through eighth-grade Colorado students took annual Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, commonly referred to as PARCC, tests for math and English language arts. The tests, developed by a multi-state team of educators from participating states, were used in measuring student and school success.

The news of a change came in the announcement Wednesday of a new contract between the state of Colorado and test developer and administrator Pearson. The new contract calls for Pearson to administer Colorado's state tests — which it did previously — and to assist Colorado educators in developing new math and English tests for Colorado students.

Exactly what that means for District 6 educators and students isn't known yet, said District 6 assistant superintendent for academic achievement Stacie Datteri in a phone interview Thursday. The change is still new and District 6 officials are still looking, and waiting, for more information about how changing the tests might impact the district.

"What (we know) it means for not only District 6, but all districts across the state, is that we'll be in transition over the next few years until they finally decide what new assessment system they'll go with," she said.

According to Colorado Department of Education Chief Communications Officer Dana Smith, this first year of tests won't differ much from this past year's PARCC tests, with perhaps a little more Colorado-specific influence on the test's design.

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The results from the 2018 CMAS assessments are expected to be comparable to prior years' results, creating little disruption to the accountability system in 2018, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Education.

"The (state board of education) directed us in December to maintain more control over our assessments, so that means that over time we are going to be building our own Colorado test questions for the assessment and getting away from using so much from PARCC," Smith said in a phone interview Thursday.

It's a huge effort. It usually takes years to develop a standardized test, she said.

"This change in Colorado will be a bit of an evolution as we build our own Colorado developed items over time," Smith said. "The goal is to have some Colorado-developed parts of the tests as soon as testing in 2018."

The earlier years of that process will have a foundation rooted in the PARCC tests, which they need to ensure continuity so officials can compare student scores year over year.

"For this coming year, the tests in 2018, there may not be drastic changes," she said. "But in future years, and especially as we align the test to any revisions in the Colorado academic standards, you will see more Colorado specific ownership in the test."

When it does come time for the assessment to change more, the District 6 officials will need to be ready to adjust the curriculum to meet the assessment, Datteri said.

Changes to the assessment also will probably mean a bit of a setback to the district's ability to use the tests to track student growth data.

State officials say the 2018 test data will be comparable to previous tests. But with future tests' comparability remain uncertain.

"The value to us is to look at that growth information and see if students are making progress like that should across the system," said District 6 spokeswoman Theresa Myers. "When there are changes like this, that information isn't as valuable to us because it's not comparing oranges to oranges and apples to apples; it's a whole new ballgame."

It takes about three years worth of data to see trends in terms of student academic growth, Datteri said.

"So any time they make significant changes, which it appears they will be soon, it's going to put us back a little in terms of being able to use state results to measure growth," she said.

That makes it more incumbent on school districts to have other measures in place that can monitor growth and ensure progress — and District 6 does, Datteri said.

Myers said the state Board of Education has been unhappy with the assessment system for some time, so the change was no real surprise.

"They've been making changes every few years," Myers said. "It's not our first rodeo."

What are PARCC tests?

Colorado will move away from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — commonly referred to as PARCC — tests for math and English language arts that students begun taking in 2015.

The tests, developed by a multi-state team of educators from participating states, were used in measuring student and school success.

To learn more about the PARCC consortium, go online to http://www.parcconline.org.

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