CSAP, TCAP and CMAS — the alphabet soup of assessments
It certainly can get confusing for teachers, parents and students alike. All too often I have caught myself saying, “This year’s CSAP scores, er, TCAP scores …” and now they will be CMAS scores.
What do all of these acronyms mean, and which ones do we really need to be paying attention to this year?
Colorado State Assessment Program or CSAP was Colorado’s first student assessment program. The CSAP was designed to measure how well students are learning material from the Colorado Model Content Standards, the established content standards that all Colorado public school students should learn. The CSAP tested four (mathematics, reading and writing, and science) of the 13 subject areas in the Colorado Model Content Standards. This test was discontinued in 2011-12. No more CSAP.
After nearly 20 years, Colorado modified their state education standards (or the classroom learning expectations) to the Colorado Academic Standards. These new learning expectations were designed to help prepare children for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs. The updated learning expectations challenge students in new and different ways and expect more from them than ever before. The new standards, however, needed a new way to measure how well students were learning. Until those tests could be developed, Colorado used the TCAP or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program. This assessment helped bridge the gap between the old and new standards. TCAP assessed students in reading, writing and math through 2013-14. Going forward, no more TCAP.
(You can certainly see how it can get confusing.)
In the spring of 2014, Colorado started with the new assessments in science and social studies. These content areas, as well as mathematics and English Language Arts, are all under the umbrella called CMAS or Colorado Measures of Academic Success. Teachers are working very hard in Garfield Re-2 to develop regular check-ins that make sure their students are being successful in each content area and at each grade level. They are working together to develop common assessments so that they can share data and learn from one another. These common assessments that Garfield Re-2 teachers are designing, align to the new state assessment that students in grades 3-12 will take in either the spring or the fall. These new assessments use more advanced questioning and performance tasks to provide a snapshot of what students know in relation to the standards.
The CMAS tests are given toward the end of the year in the following content areas and grades: Science in grades 5, 8 & 12, social studies in grades 4, 7 & 12, English language arts in grades 3-11 and math in grades 3-11.
There are a couple of big changes here. First, social studies is now being tested in grades 4, 7 and 12. We have never tested our students in social studies before. You will also notice that seniors (grade 12) now have to take two tests — a social studies and a science.
The other big change is that the new CMAS assessments will be given online, which is more engaging for students than paper and pencil formats. With students more engaged in the work, we are more likely to accurately assess their true knowledge and skills. Adjusting to online assessments is a change for our students, but it is an important step in the right direction for them. Students today are digital natives, and the jobs of today and tomorrow require using technology in one facet or another.
New assessments mean new assessment scores. The CMAS will be more rigorous than we’ve had in the past. The new scores will serve as our baseline, and lower scores are anticipated because we raised the expectations, and the new assessments are more difficult. The new standards and assessments are putting students on a track to perform at higher levels and be better prepared for the workforce and college.
If you have any questions about the contents of this column, contact Theresa Hamilton, Garfield Re-2 director of districtwide services, at 970-665-7621.
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