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Two Colorado colleges move toward making PARCC results count

Campus of Adams State University in Alamosa
Campus of Adams State University in Alamosa

A pair of Colorado colleges have announced they will evaluate the use of scores on PARCC language arts and math exams as a way to determine whether students are ready to take college courses.

Adams State University in Alamosa, a part of the state system, will allow students to use PARCC scores to demonstrate readiness, with scores of 4 or 5 signifying eligibility to enroll in college course for credit. (Those are the top scores in the PARCC system.)

Aims Community College in Greeley, which is locally governed but receives some state funds, has committed to collecting PARCC scores for evaluation to see if they are valid in predicting student readiness for college classes. (Adams is reserving the right to use other tests to measure readiness.)

“We’re proud to be the first state with institutions making a bold step toward relying on PARCC assessments to determine college readiness,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia in a prepared statement. “This marks a significant shift toward streamlining the testing process for students and helping them identify earlier whether they are prepared for higher education success.”

Garcia also is executive director of the Department of Higher Education.

Up to now Colorado colleges typically have used scores on the ACT test, which all high school juniors have to take, or scores on shorter exams such as the Accuplacer to determine if students need to take remedial courses. Those cost extra and don’t carry credits. Some colleges are moving toward allowing students to sign up for credit courses but requiring them to also have tutoring or take refresher programs that are shorter than full remedial classes.

One of the criticisms of giving standardized tests in the last two years of high school is that students don’t see any relevance for their futures and are more focused on entrance exams like the ACT and SAT. A commission that advised the legislature on testing reform recommended rolling back state tests in 11th and 12th grade. Those tests started only last year.

It’s possible that ending tests after the 10th grade might make them less useful to evaluating students who are entering college two years later.

Guidelines being developed by the Department of Education and State Board of Education may include PARCC test results in the menu of choices school districts can use to set local graduation requirements.

The online PARCC tests, based on the Common Core State Standards, are being given to all Colorado students in grades 3-11 this winter and spring. Testing in several districts started Monday.

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