March 21, 2014
Colorado schools, students get practice run on new tests
End-of-year tests for Colorado students are improving and students are getting the opportunity to take a practice run on some of the new tests beginning next week.
The tests are designed to match the new, higher levels of academic expectations Colorado established for students. Those standards, called the Colorado Academic Standards, were put in place in 2009 and since then, teachers have been transitioning to those higher standards by updating their instruction, teaching materials and curriculum. Since teachers have updated their instruction and expectations, the more modern tests will measure how well Colorado students can demonstrate the new skills they’ve learned.
Colorado updated its expectations of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Called the Colorado Academic Standards, these expectations are designed to ensure all students are prepared for college and careers.
Colorado’s new tests are called the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) and they include:
• Science and social studies assessments, developed by Colorado (given for the first time this spring for elementary (4th-grade social studies and 5th-grade science) and middle school (7th-grade social studies and 8th-grade science);
• English language arts and math assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and which are being given a trial run with students beginning Monday, March 24.
Colorado is a governing member of PARCC, a multi-state assessment consortium developing high-quality student assessments linked to the new, updated English language arts and math standards. These online tests will replace the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) in reading, writing and math in 2015.
Since the early stages of the test development process, Colorado educators have played a significant role in crafting the PARCC tests. Colorado involvement will continue with the PARCC field tests as students are asked to “test the test” and provide feedback beginning Monday, March 24, 2014.
Testing out the testing system
More than a million students are expected to participate in the trial run of the PARCC assessments across 14 states and Washington, D.C. this spring. This includes about 440 Colorado schools in more than 100 districts (representing about 630 grades/subjects) who have volunteered to participate. The timeframe for schools to give the PARCC performance-based assessment field test is March 24 - April 11 and the timeframe for the PARCC end-of-year assessment field test is May 5 - June 6. Most participating students will take one component of the PARCC field test, not both. Some students will take the field tests on computers, others on paper.
State Department of Education officials caution that, as is the case when testing any system for the first time, there may be some glitches and bumps during administration. That’s why PARCC is testing out the system – to find any challenges and fix them before the tests are ready for full implementation next school year.
Colorado students and teachers have the opportunity be part of the test development process by trying out the test questions and giving feedback through surveys given at the conclusion of the field tests. The field test also gives teachers and schools a chance to practice the administration procedures for online and paper-based testing, check their technology and provide feedback to improve the testing process. Educators across PARCC states, including Colorado, are reviewing PARCC test questions for bias, sensitivity, fairness, rigor, accessibility and other key qualities. The field test is another chance for Colorado educators to provide feedback on the development of the assessments.
The field test results will not count. PARCC and the PARCC states will not generate scores for individual students or classes during field testing. PARCC doesn’t own and won’t release student-level data to the federal government; individual states own their data and set policies around it. There has been no change to reporting requirements of states or the consortia with regard to collecting and reporting student data.
Students can prepare for the field test by checking out some sample items at www.parcconline.org/computer-based-samples. Colorado students, teachers and schools not involved in PARCC field testing can try out the PARCC practice tests once they are released this spring.