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Testing task force report, recommendations released

Students taking tests Chalkbeat

Here are highlights of the recommendations made by the Standards and Assessments Task Force to a meeting of the House and Senate education committees on Jan. 28. (Read the full report here.)

Summary

Task force members agreed that testing has several values and uses. “However findings from research studies and public input made it clear that Colorado’s current system of state and local assessments has created far too many demands on time, logistics, and finances that are impacting the teaching and learning process in schools and undermining public support for the assessment system as a whole.”

The panel’s conclusion “is that, where possible, changes must be made to the type, frequency, and use of various assessments.”

The report noted that the state’s ability to change the testing system is “severely restricted by the current federal testing requirements.” In the short term, “the state must adhere to these federal requirements in order to avoid the fiscal and other consequences of non-compliance.”

High school

  • Eliminate state-require tests in 12th grade
  • Eliminate 11th grade tests except for a college entrance exam like ACT. Make language arts and math an option for districts
  • Fulfill high school science testing requirement with an augmented college entrance exam
  • Consider whether to continue 9th grade testing (task force split)
  • Consider whether to continue social studies in 4th and 7th grades (task force split)
  • Continue language arts and science tests in the 10th grade, as well as in 3-8
  • Schools and districts shouldn’t be held accountable for test results in 2015-16 school year

READ Act

  • Kindergarten students should be able to take the first literacy assessments within 90 days of start of school, rather than immediately
  • A student who’s proficient on first test shouldn’t have to take further tests during the school year
  • A student who doesn’t show grade-level proficiency on the first test should be tested again within 60 days before being designated as having a significant reading deficiency

School readiness

  • Reduction to six in the number of learning domains assessed
  • Assessment should be given only at beginning or year, not three times
  • Kindergarten students shouldn’t have to take both readiness and READ Act tests
  • Schools shouldn’t have to develop separate readiness and READ plans for the same child
  • State should continue to expand choices for readiness and literacy evaluations

ACCESS tests

  • English language learners in a Colorado school for less than a year shouldn’t have to take English language arts tests
  • Their second-year test results shouldn’t be used for accountability purposes

Technology

  • Availability of pencil and paper tests at all levels beginning in 2015-16
  • Consider additional funding to districts for costs of test-related technology

Future changes in testing

  • The task force recommended creation of a long-term advisory board to work on testing issues. The report suggested that group should consider:
  • Balance of state and local testing
  • The use of state tests for accountability and student growth and whether local testing can be used for part of these purposes
  • The amount of flexibility local districts should have in choice of tests
  • Handling of parent opt out and how should it affect accountability
  • The extent to which paper and online tests can be balanced in the future

One of the 15 members, parent representative Bethany Rosendahl of Colorado Springs, dissented from the report. She told committee members she believes districts and schools should have greater flexibility in choosing tests and that parents have the right to opt out of testing.

Get more information on the task force and its work here.

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