By Joyce Rankin
It's spring and with it comes the time for testing. For many this is a dreaded time of year, but for all a time to take sample online practice tests and put on the thinking cap. I remember when I was in school and nervous about taking tests, my mother would tell me, "Wear your Sunday best clothes. You'll feel better and perform better." Somehow it gave me an edge, or so I thought. Here's a little insight into the testing that Colorado students will be involved in this month.
Colorado's measurement of student progress is called Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS. These tests will be given between April 10 and April 28, and include math, English language arts, science and social studies. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)-developed, English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments. This can be confusing to say the least. There is heated controversy about testing for various reasons. Just ask anyone in your community who has a student in school. One of the issues related to testing is a federal law that requires 95 percent of the students to be tested, confounded by a Colorado law that allows parents to opt their students out of taking the tests.
Colorado allows parents to opt their students out by written note, which excuses their student from taking the tests, without penalty. However, parents, if they choose to "opt out" of the test, will not know their child's academic attainment and growth for the year. If their school district doesn't meet the 95 percent participation rate requirement in two or more content areas for reasons such as students that just skip taking the test, without a parent excuse, the school or district's plan type will be lowered one level.
What is a plan type? These are the overall ratings of a school or district. There are five ratings for a district. From highest to lowest: Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Accredited with Improvement, Priority Improvement and Turnaround. Of the 51 districts in the Third Congressional District, 29 were rated Accredited with Distinction or Accredited for the 2015-16 school year. The others had various other ratings including insufficient data and low participation where no ratings were applied. It will be interesting to see how the state and congressional districts do this year with more parents understanding the process and implications. All of the information for schools and districts can be found on the Colorado Department of Education's website.
So students, and parents, it's going to be a serious time in school this month. My advice: "Put on your Sunday best and take the test." Then understand how you're doing in school.
Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District. She writes the monthly column, "Across the Street" to inform constituents in her district. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the capitol. She is also a legislative assistant for Representative Bob Rankin, House District 57.