School Views: Measuring the impact of COVID-19 on learning |

School Views: Measuring the impact of COVID-19 on learning

Philip Qualman
School Views

As the school year heads into April we are normally preparing to administer the annual Colorado Measures of Academic Success exams in language arts, math, social studies, and science. CMAS testing is administered each year across the state to help us understand if students have mastered the content they need to know according to grade-level and subject-matter standards.

This year, CMAS results will provide one data point to help evaluate how the pandemic has impacted student learning so we can adjust appropriately to meet the needs of students next year.

Recognizing the trials and tribulations that school districts and their students have faced this year, Colorado legislators passed a bill to reduce the amount of testing this year. Once passed, a waiver was submitted to the United States Department of Education seeking its approval for the reduced schedule.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education granted the waiver, reducing the number of assessments required this year. Students will only take the language arts or math exam, depending on what grade level they are in. Only students in eighth grade will take the science exam this year. The social studies exam will be skipped. Students in ninth and tenth grade will only take the PSAT, with eleventh graders only taking the SAT.

  • Grades three, five, and seven will be administered the language arts CMAS exam.
  • Grades four, six, and eight will take the math exam.
  • Grade eight will also take the science exam.

While this still sounds like a lot of testing, it is greatly reduced from a normal year. Parents do have the ability to request that their child also take the math or language arts exam by making the request to the school of attendance. Also, students who are enrolled in full-time remote learning are required to take the exams in person at schools as the testing process is supervised.

Normally, the results of these exams are used to rank schools and districts in relation to state averages and expectations by grade level and content area. Due to the pandemic, results from this exam period will not be used for those purposes. Everyone agrees that the importance of the exams this year is in measuring learning loss due to the pandemic so districts can develop more precise interventions and learning recovery strategies for next year.

Our school district will likely see some lower results this year, but we have had significantly more in-person instruction in the grades being tested than many districts in the state. Encourage your student to do their best and take the exams seriously and confidently.

Also, when we get the results back in early fall, remember to celebrate and praise your child regardless of their scores. They are in the continuous process of learning and the results of a single exam do not tell the complete story of their knowledge or experience.

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at

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