Lackluster statewide test results don’t signify a trend, says state education commissioner
EAGLE — Colorado taxpayers spend up to $78 million a year on standardized testing, but the state education commissioner says there’s not enough information in this year’s results to show a trend.
The state’s standardized testing alphabet soup simmers like this:
The Colorado Department of Education released district-level English and math results, the second year of Colorado Measures of Academic Success, Colorado’s version of the controversial PARCC test, Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.
The Colorado Department of Education says Colorado Measures of Academic Success and PARCC are supposed to measure CAS, Colorado Academic Standards.
That alphabet soup needs to simmer longer, says Katy Anthes, Colorado’s interim education commissioner.
“While we’re seeing some improvements, two years of data isn’t really enough to say we’re seeing a trend,” Anthes told the State Board of Education in Grand Junction. “Still, it’s clear that we all have more work to be done to ensure that all students are ready for college or careers and that we are closing historic gaps in achievement.”
Test results also arrived too late to be much use to local schools, says Eagle County Schools. The state education department promised data near end of school year, May or June, or early summer at the latest. The first year, 2014-15, the data arrived in late November and was embargoed until early December.
This year, data for local schools arrived in July, but state data did not show up until mid-August, making it impossible to react before the start of school, said Tammy Schiff, the local school district’s chief communications officer.
Moving on, opting out
Then the number of tests and the testing formats changed between 2015 and 2016, dropping from two testing sessions in 2015 to one in 2016, and shifting between something called “performance based assessment” and “end-of-year assessment” — multiple-choice questions.
Families of more than 100 Eagle County Schools students rolled their eyes, threw up their hands and opted out of taking either or both tests.
The highest opt-out numbers were in the eighth grade. More affluent students tend to opt out of the testing, reported Eagle County Schools.
Value still in the future
Eagle County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass says standardized testing is still valuable, just not these tests, not yet.
“Assessment tests such as (Colorado Measures of Academic Success) help us compare and identify trends in student performance over the course of time,” Glass said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the test format and delivery changes from year to year, the opt out rates, and the impact of demographics of our district, all contribute to our challenges in finding meaning in the results this year. We know, for example, that results follow poverty patterns and the lack of adequate technology in the homes of many of our students, and then in the classroom due to lack of funding, exacerbates this issue because the tests are administered to students via computer and online.”
A few good data points
Eagle County school district officials spent the past several weeks evaluating the Colorado Department of Education’s data, and did learn some pretty good stuff including:
• The longer students are in the school system, the better they do.
• Middle schools and high schools, for the most part, are matching and in many cases well-exceeding state results.
• White/native English speaking students outperform Hispanic/English language learners on all the tests. Eagle County Schools has 52 percent Hispanic and 35 percent English language learners. Statewide Colorado’s 854,265 public school students are 33 percent Hispanic and 14 percent English language learners.
• Local schools are seeing big improvements in math at middle and high school levels. Middle schools exceeded the state at every grade level. High schools improved significantly compared to the previous year and also exceeded state averages.
• Middle school science results were outstanding at 41 percent meets or exceeds, compared to 30 percent for the state.
• Elementary results were less than satisfactory and in some cases, declined from last year.
“The bright spots in this assessment data are in our middle schools and ninth-grade results,” Glass said. “We met or exceeded the state in almost every grade level for both ELA and math. This demonstrates that the longer a student is in our schools, the better they do on these tests and other evaluations.”
Results from third-graders remain a concern, Glass said.
“We are concerned about our third-grade results, and are taking immediate steps to determine where the issues are, plan changes going forward, and adapt what we’ve been doing, based on this information. It would have been ideal to receive these assessment results earlier as originally promised by Colorado Department of Education so that we could have done this work before the start of this school year,” Glass said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.