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Opinion: 1202 Task Force recommendations on student testing

Dan Dougherty
CHALK TALK
Free Press Opinion Columnist

Last November the community of Grand Junction turned out in large numbers to visit with the state-appointed 1202 Task Force on State Assessment. The task force visited eight cities across the state to collect feedback and input on state-mandated testing requirements for K-12 education. Mesa County had the highest turnout and provided the most verbal and written feedback — thank you for coming out to support us and share your voice!

On Jan. 28, the 1202 Task Force presented its findings to the State General Assembly. The task force made specific recommendations to reduce testing and recommended establishing an advisory board to study more complex issues. For ease of discussion, I’ll call these short-term and long-term recommendations, and start with the short-term recommendations. There are five sets of short-term recommendations.

Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS, which replace TCAPs) for grades 3-8 and high school



Eliminate 11th- and 12th-grade CMAS tests;

Allow ACT test to stand as 11th-grade capstone state-mandated exam;



Consider eliminating 9th grade ELA and Math CMAS exams;

Consider eliminating 4th and 7th grades Social Studies CMAS exams;

Administer 10th grade ELA and Math CMAS exams to fulfill state and federal requirements;

Hold all schools and districts harmless on Performance Accountability Frameworks through 2015-16 school year;

Provide paper and pencil options for all tests; and

Proactively address parent and student opt-outs.

READ Act (Reading to Ensure Academic Development)

Kindergarteners should take the first READ Act test within 90 days from the start of school instead of immediately;

Exempt students who score on grade-level from additional READ Act testing for the rest of the year; and

Students who score below grade-level should be tested again within 60 days before being designated as having a significant reading deficiency.

School Readiness tests for kindergarten students

Only test the six domains of SB 08-212: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and math;

Only administer once in the fall instead of three times per year;

Administer either School Readiness or READ Act to Kindergarten students (not both) for literacy;

Eliminate requirement for both a School Readiness Plan and a READ Act plan for the same child; and

Allow school and district choice of School Readiness Exams from pre-approved options.

ACCESS Exams (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State)

Exempt first year English language learners from mandated ELA exams until their second year in a school; and

Exclude first and second year ELA results from accountability measures for schools.

Technology

Continue to allow paper and pencil tests in grades K-3 and for the READ Act;

Allow non-technology (paper and pencil) options for all tests; and

Consider state funding of technology infrastructure for assessments.

Establishment of Advisory Board

The long-term recommendation was to form an advisory board to contend with nuanced issues around testing. These included:

The appropriate balance between state and local assessments;

The extent to which state tests should focus on accountability, student growth, and proficiency;

The amount of flexibility afforded to districts while retaining principles of accountability, comparability, growth, and equity;

How districts manage parent opt-outs and how opt-outs factor into accountability results; and

The extent to which future tests should be technology based or paper and pencil based.

Clearly, the complexity of their recommendations illustrate just how complex and time-consuming state-mandated testing has become in Colorado. The complete 25-page report is available at our website, http://www.d51news.org.

As a process of public deliberation, the 1202 Task Force effort represents a new approach to community engagement that we hope to do more of in Mesa County Valley School District 51. They came, they listened, they incorporated feedback into their recommendations. As a community, we said, “there is too much testing, the testing doesn’t shape instruction, there is too much redundancy, and technology-based testing is premature without adequate funding for infrastructure.”

In short, the 1202 Task Force is recommending that schools meet the Federal guidelines for assessments, eliminate redundancies, and have traditional paper and pencil assessments available as options. Now, the big question is — what will the State General Assembly do with the recommendations?

Free Press columnist Dan Dougherty is director of communications for School District 51: Mesa County Valley Schools. Comments and feedback are welcome at dan.dougherty@d51schools.org.


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