Some parents, seniors want to skip standardized tests
This week, as high school seniors tackle new standardized tests in social studies and science, some students and parents are worried that the class of 2015 can’t afford another test while they’re working on college and scholarship applications, advanced placement courses and other demands.
This is the first year seniors have been expected to take standardized tests that benchmark how their schools are performing.
Some families believe students can simply choose not to take the tests.
When the Colorado Student Assessment Program was introduced in 1997, the state gave parents the opportunity to opt their children out of the tests. No such option exists for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests which debut this year.
“There have always been those students and parents who question the very concept of standardized testing,” said Glenwood Springs High School principal Paul Freeman.
Right now, a Glenwood senior who doesn’t take the test will receive an unexcused absence — which doesn’t warrant major concern until a student has 10 of them. Eventually, a policy may allow for an excused absence if an abstaining student remains in class.
“We’ve tried to be firm but friendly,” Freeman said. “We’re under tremendous pressure from the state.”
Last week, Colorado Department of Education Executive Director of Assessment Joyce Zurkowski reminded districts by email that schools participation of less than 95 percent in at least two content areas will have their ranking reduced. Glenwood Springs High, which generally scores well into the top level, called “Performance,” could be reduced to “Improvement.” Less successful schools could risk “Priority Improvement” or “Turnaround” status, with the potential for eventual closure if things don’t improve.
Although most of the 600 registered Colorado voters interviewed in a recent SurveyUSA poll said they would like to see less standardized testing, schools rarely see a turnout below 95 percent.
Federal law mandates assessments in math, reading and science at least once in 10th grade or later, but previous Colorado requirements have confined them to sophomore and junior year.
“They’re testing these kids to death,” said Carrie Hill, whose daughter, Madison, is a senior at Glenwood Springs High School. “I prefer not to have my children learn to pass a test that has no basis on her future or college entrance. She’s a busy kid. She doesn’t have time to mess with this stuff. She wants to get done, do well, and move on.”
Hill said she understands the district is obliged to administer the test, but noted that the school is allowed to appeal any rating reduction.
Freeman would rather not reach that point. Quite aside from potential state sanctions, he sees value in the tests.
“There are very good reasons for having standardized tests,” he said. “If you really want to make sure that children are treated well, you really ought to test the work their schools are doing.”
And according to the U.S. Department of Education, standardized testing is here to stay. In a response to a letter from the Colorado Board of Education, Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle wrote, “A high quality, annual statewide assessment system is essential to provide critical information regarding student achievement to parents, teachers, principals, and administrators at all levels.”
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