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Test results require a closer look

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On Sept. 1, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) posted school and district results from 2021 statewide assessments, including the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessments in English language arts and math. The CDE also posted PSAT (Preliminary SAT) and SAT results.

In early March, Colorado legislators introduced a bill that would pare down the usual spate of CMAS tests administered for third through eighth graders. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill requesting a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

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In late March, the federal waiver, granted by ED, allowed Colorado to drop all social studies tests and cut all science tests, except for students in the eighth grade. The waiver allowed the state to test students in grades three, five and seven in literacy and administer math tests to grades four, six and eight. Parents also had the opportunity to have their child take both math and literacy exams.

Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the state’s largest teachers union, said that educators were apprehensive about administering standardized tests in a year of learning disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Baca-Oehlert said discrepancies in student learning experiences — within school districts and even within schools — were not uncommon. She has three children and said, “They had three very different experiences, with the number of quarantines, when they were actually in in-person learning, etc. So that happened everywhere across the state.”

Parents could also choose to have their children opt out of the exams entirely. According to Baca-Oehlert, when CEA staff talked with parents, educators and students, their number one priority was learning. They did not want classroom time taken away to administer assessment tests. As a result, she said, “We knew there would be various rates of participation.”

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For students who took the test, Baca-Oehlert said the results should be reviewed with some discernment and to avoid making comparisons to test results from previous years. She explained, “It is a snapshot of a moment in time of a very disruptive and challenging school year. And so, we need to apply many more data points and much more information to draw any conclusions about learning and what happened. We certainly should not be using this as the sole indicator of what learning looked like during the COVID-year.”

The CDE offered this consideration for interpreting test results, “Spring 2021 results can be used as a temperature check to identify where the pandemic may have differentially impacted learning across Colorado student groups and as a baseline to support the evaluation of future COVID-19 recovery efforts.”

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And while it may come as no surprise that 2021 CMAS test scores fluctuated from the norm, Baca-Oehlert suggested that school districts can discern important information about the year of disrupted learning. She said, “In the end, this should be about what we are looking at to get a better picture of where our students are at and what we need to do to support them moving forward.”

For complete state, district and school-level CMAS, PSAT and SAT results, visit: cde.state.co.us/assessment/cmas

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Tags: #Amie Baca-Oehlert #CMAS #education #Jeanne Souldern #schools #testing
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