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Fact Sheets and FAQs
2021 Statewide Test Update:
In March, the legislature passed and Gov. Polis signed House Bill 21-1161 and the U.S. Department of Education accepted the state's waiver, allowing for changes to the administration of the 2021 statewide assessments.
This year, third, fifth and seventh graders will take the English language arts Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests; fourth, sixth and eighth graders will take the CMAS math tests; and eighth graders will take the CMAS science tests. Parents and caregivers who want to know how their children are progressing in both English language arts and math may have their children take both exams.
The plan for assessments is for this year only and will provide some relief for students, families and educators after a challenging year for education amid a global pandemic.
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- Information about the PSAT and SAT in Colorado (PDF)
The PSAT and SAT exams, taken by Colorado’s ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders, are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and offer free, high-quality practice tools and scholarship opportunities. Ninth-graders and 10th-graders take the PSAT and 11th-graders take the SAT as the state college-entrance exam.
- Official SAT Practice (PDF)
Khan Academy offers free and personalized test preparation for students.
- Official SAT Practice (PDF)
Frequently Asked Questions
The frequently asked questions are grouped into categories for easier navigation. This section continues to be updated. Please check back often for additional information!
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What are the Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessments?
The Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) are the state’s common measurement of students’ progress at the end of the school year in English language arts, math, science and social studies.
In a typical year, students in grades three through eight take CMAS tests in math and English language arts. Students in fifth, eighth and 11th grade take the CMAS science assessments. And students in fourth and seventh grade take the CMAS social studies exams.
Will assessments be administered in 2020-21?
Yes, the assessments will be given in the spring of 2021. However, changes were made by the state legislature and later approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Third, fifth and seventh graders will take the English language arts Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests, and fourth, sixth and eighth graders will take the CMAS math tests. Parents can opt in for their students to take both tests. Eighth graders will take the CMAS science tests. No social studies CMAS tests will be given. Ninth and 10th graders will take the PSAT tests and 11th graders will take the SAT.
Who developed the CMAS assessments?
These assessments are developed collaboratively by Colorado educators, the Colorado Department of Education and Pearson (the assessment contractor).
What grades will be assessed in 2021?
Due to complications from the COVID pandemic, the number of required tests this year has been altered so that students will take fewer tests than usual. Students will only be required to take one test in either the English language arts or math. Parents can opt in for their children to take both the English language arts and math tests. Students in eighth grade will take the CMAS science test. Here is the breakdown of who will take which test:
- English Language Arts: Students in third, fifth and seventh grades will take the test in English language arts.
- Math: Students in fourth, sixth and eighth grades will take the math test.
- Science: Students in grade eight will take the science test. Students in fifth and 11th grade will not take the science test.
- Social Studies: No tests will be given in social studies.
- PSAT: Students in ninth and 10th grade will take the PSAT
- SAT: Students in the 11th grade will take the SAT.
Why do we need new assessments?
As part of a balanced assessment system, statewide assessments provide valuable information to students, families, schools, districts, the state and taxpayers. A balanced assessment system is one that contains formative assessment practices (quick checks for learning conducted by teachers throughout their class), interim assessments (more formal progress monitoring often conducted several times throughout the year to see how students are progressing), and summative assessments (end of year assessments to find out what students know and can do based on the Colorado Academic Standards).
The state assessments are summative. Where formative, interim, and classroom-based summative assessments inform classroom instruction on a regular basis, state summative assessments are designed to be point-in-time snapshots of what students know and can do in core content areas at the end of the school year. They help students and their families know if they are meeting grade-level expectations in the Colorado Academic Standards and how they are performing compared to their peers across the state. They enable teachers to see how their students are performing on the standards and identify areas they may need to adjust in their practice for the future. They also provide school/district leaders, policymakers, and the public with information on how well the system is meeting the goals of helping every child attain academic proficiency. The data are used to inform continuous improvement of the system at all levels.
Are states required to administer state-wide assessments and what are the minimum requirements?
States that accept federal funds to support the education of children in poverty, English language learners, and students with disabilities are required to administer statewide assessments to all students.
However, this year the federal government is allowing states flexibility when it comes to testing, allowing for shorter tests or a longer testing window. Colorado received a waiver to allow students in third through eighth grade to take only one test (ELA in grades three, five and seven, and math in grades four, six and eight). The other ELA and math assessments are optional. Parents may choose to have their students take both ELA and math.
PSAT/SAT will continue to be administered to students in grades nine through 11.
Colorado law also has assessment and participation requirements and includes provisions regarding parent excusals from required state assessments and parent opt-in into optional state assessments. Click here for more information about participation and parent excusal. There are also some required assessments specific to certain populations of students (e.g., language screeners for English language learners).
How much time will the tests take?
English language arts tests take an average of four hours and 30 minutes.
Math tests take an average of three hours and 15 minutes.
The PSAT in ninth grade takes two hours and 35 minutes.
The PSAT in 10th grade takes two hours and 55 minutes.
The SAT takes three hours and 15 minutes.
In 2021, Colorado extended the state testing window for CMAS by two weeks, from April 12 to May 14, to provide districts with additional flexibility. Districts were able to begin online testing as early as March 22 if they cannot complete testing within the allotted time-frame. Schools administering only paper-based tests will complete testing during the official window.
Districts may choose April 13, 14, 15, or 16 as their PSAT test date for ninth- and 10th-grade students. The test window for students needing accommodations is April 14-21. The PSAT makeup window is April 27-30.
Eleventh grade students will take the CO SAT on April 13. The test window for students needing accommodations is April 14-17. The SAT makeup dates are April 27 and May 18.
Are students able to practice with the tests before actually taking them?
The most important way for students to be prepared for the state tests is to have been engaged in strong instruction based on the Colorado Academic Standards throughout the year. With that said, districts are encouraged to give students time to interact with the CMAS online testing environment before testing begins. Colorado Practice Resources that help to familiarize students with the testing environment can be accessed here. Additional guides and resources for educators can be accessed through this page. Mac users will need to be sure that the device has Java updated.
The College Board has partnered with online education provider Khan Academy® to provide free online SAT practice to all students. By creating a free Khan Academy student account, 10 official full-length SAT practice tests are available, including practice for the SAT with Essay Students are able to access thousands of practice questions, video lessons, and hints, and receive study and test-taking tips. In addition, students can personalize their SAT practice by taking diagnostic quizzes or seeing personalized practice recommendations based on the student’s PSAT results by linking their College Board and Khan Academy accounts.
Creating a College Board and/or Khan Academy account is optional and voluntary for students. The Colorado Department of Education recommends that students and parents review and discuss the terms and conditions and privacy policies of these organizations prior to creating an online account.
Are the CMAS tests given on a computer?
The assessments are designed to be administered on the computer, and they feature a variety of interactive questions that are more engaging and aligned with 21st century teaching and learning practices. However, in 2015, the state legislature passed a law allowing districts to request paper versions of the tests.
Can parents excuse their children from taking the state tests?
Yes. Colorado law allows parents to excuse their child from the required state assessments (CMAS ELA in grades three, five and seven; CMAS Math in grades four, six and eight; CMAS Science in grades 5; and PSAT/SAT in grades nine through 11. This law requires districts to have policies that explain how parents may excuse a student from participating in one or more of the required state assessment and notify parents of those policies. Your district can share its specific policy with you.
According to state law, districts cannot impose negative consequences on students or parents if a parent excuses his or her student from participating in a required assessment, including prohibiting school attendance, imposing an unexcused absence, or prohibiting participation in extracurricular activities. Likewise, districts cannot impose unreasonable burdens or requirements on a student to discourage the student from taking an assessment or to encourage the student’s parent to excuse his/her child from (or not have his/her child participate in) the assessment.
It is important to note that non-participation in state assessments means parents will not have information about their child’s attainment and growth on the state standards compared to other students in their school, district and state. Also, there is a chance that comparisons between schools and districts won’t be available as common state assessments are the most consistent way to compare performance.
When will students, families and educators receive the scores?
Individual student scores for CMAS tests completed in the spring of 2021 are expected to be provided to all school districts in July 2021 and hard copy student performance reports are expected to be delivered to school districts later in the summer.
Individual student scores for PSAT/SAT will be released through students’ College Board accounts, if they have them, starting in May.
School-, district and state-level scores for all state assessments are expected to be publicly released at the August meeting of the State Board of Education.
What do the score reports include?
The score reports are designed to provide educators, families and students with information about students’ mastery of grade-level academic standards and an indicator of readiness for college and career at the high school level. Score reports offer an overall measurement of performance in a particular subject, as well as how a student compares to other students in the school, district and throughout Colorado, when data are available. The PSAT/SAT reports also allow for national comparisons.
How will the test scores impact other measurements of students’ performance?
The test scores do not determine grade promotion (ex. Moving from grade three to grade four), grade point average or class ranking. With student direction, SAT scores may support college entrance and scholarship opportunities.
Are students with disabilities required to take state assessments? If so, are adjustments made?
State and federal law require all students to be held to the same standards and participate in the state assessment program. There are three ways that students with disabilities can participate in the state assessments:
- Take the general assessment without accommodations;
- Take the general assessment with accommodations; and
- Take the alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
What are accommodations and what are some examples?
Accommodations are changes in how the test is given without changing what is being assessed. Students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), 504 plan or English Learner (EL) plan, can use specific accommodations allowing the student better access to the test as long as there’s alignment between the accommodation and the student’s educational plan. That plan may also indicate the student is eligible to participate in Colorado’s alternate tests. Accommodations can be divided into four categories:
- Presentation accommodations – changes in the way test items are presented to a student (i.e., large print, braille, oral presentation, translated oral presentation, etc.);
- Response accommodations – changes in the way a student responds to test items (i.e., uses scribe, responds in Spanish, uses assistive technology device, etc.);
- Setting accommodations – changes in the test environment's setting (i.e., small group or individual administration); and/or
- Timing accommodations – changes in the scheduling of the assessment (i.e., allowing multiple breaks, providing extra time, testing at specific times of the day, etc.).
What is the CoAlt?
A small number of students, approximately 1% of the student population, take the Colorado Alternate (CoAlt) assessment. These are students who have the most significant cognitive disabilities. Special accommodations are built into the CoAlt specifically for these students.
Financial information on schools and districts throughout Colorado. Learn more about financial transparency.