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Jones: CSAP successor debuts in 2014

The new statewide tests that will replace the CSAP will be given to the students in the spring of 2014, Education Commissioner Dwight Jones said Tuesday.

“CSAP is still here … for now,” Jones wrote in a statement.

But the tests will begin to change in 2012 to reflect the state’s new content standards, which outline the proficiencies students are supposed to demonstrate in various subjects and at different grade levels.

Under the timelines laid out by the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, a new testing system was supposed to start in the 2011-12 school year.

That deadline, and other CAP4K benchmarks, have been in some doubt over the last few months because of cost concerns, the emerging possibility that Colorado can participate in a multi-state testing system and because of uncertainty caused by House Bill 10-1430, which would have phased out and replaced high school CSAP testing starting next school year and repealed the whole CSAP system on July 1, 2013.

That bill passed the House by a wide margin but died on May 12, the last day of the legislative session, after the House refused to accept a much-watered down version passed by the Senate.

A less-noticed measure, House Bill 10-13 did pass and legally extends some CAP4K deadlines. The original CAP4K schedule called for a variety of new tests to be adopted by Dec. 15, 2010. HB 10-1013 leaves that deadline in place but adds this key qualification: “or as soon thereafter as fiscally practicable.”

Jones’ statement, sent to superintendents and other school leaders around the state, sorts out some of the confusion about what happens next.

The test schedule

  • 2010-11 school year: Students will take regular CSAP tests next spring based on the old state Model Content Standards.
  • 2011-12: Students will take CSAPs that include only questions that reflect the new content standards adopted by the State Board of Education in December 2009.
  • 2012-13: Students will again take a modified CSAPs that match the new standards and contain additional items.
  • 2013-14: A brand-new test set, probably a multi-state exam, will roll out.
Education Commissioner Dwight Jones
Education Commissioner Dwight Jones

Jones’ memo outlined some other changes in the CAP4 process:


Although the state board adopted the new standards in 13 subject areas last year, there may be some tweaks this summer if the final version of the proposed common core standards “indicate improvements to Colorado’s new standards,” Jones wrote.

The commissioner said the draft common standards released so far as “noticeably similar” to Colorado’s new set and that “Rumors that these [state] content area standards will be jettisoned for the national ones are, simply, wrong.” (The common core standards are being developed by governors and state education commissioners, not the federal government. But, Washington is urging states to adopt them.)

The state board will have the final say on any changes in Colorado’s standards. School districts have until December 2011 to adopt standards that “meet or exceed” the state’s.

Test development

Six advisory groups have been working with the Department of Education for several months to design a new testing system. Jones said that those groups and the state board intend to complete work on the specifications of a new system (not actual tests) by December.

Those will include specs not only for “summative” tests (like the annual CSAPs) but also formative, interim and school readiness assessments.

The state board and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education also are on track to adopt specifications for a postsecondary and workforce readiness test by December, Jones said.

There has been lots of discussion about making the new testing less time consuming, ensuring quicker turnaround on results and using online tests.

Jones noted that Colorado is participating in two multi-state testing study groups (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career), which are expected to seek federal funding for development of new tests.

While participation in those groups is seen as a way to reduce the costs of new tests, Jones noted that Colorado still will have to acquire or develop some new tests on its own, and that “each state is responsible for funding its adaptation, implementation, scoring, professional development and reporting associated with these tests.”

The potential cost of new tests has sparked anxiety in many legislators, who were forced to make significant cuts and shifts in state spending this year and last and who likely face similar budget challenges in 2011.

A very rough CDE cost estimate of $80 million was made last year. But, more accurate estimates of costs for new tests won’t be possible until after the details of multi-state tests become clearer and until after a required Colorado cost study is completed in October 2011.

This year’s educator effectiveness measure, Senate Bill 10-191, laid a whole net set of timelines on top of CAP4K. That bill calls for the new teacher and principal evaluation systems to be in place for the 2014-15 school year, immediately following the start of the new testing system, as laid out by Jones.

The new evaluation system requires that at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations be based on student academic growth, and 50 percent of principal evaluations be based on student growth and the effectiveness ratings of a school’s teachers.

Of course, as this year’s changes show, lots of things can happen between now and when Colorado schoolchildren sit down to take their tests in early 2014.

Text of Jones’ announcement

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