October presentation explains complicated, controversial issue of assessments
“Why do we have new tests?” “How many tests will my child take?” “How much time does testing take?” “How do test results affect my children, their teachers and their schools?”
Those are just some of the questions parents have about so called “high stakes” testing, which is mandated by federal and state governments and includes the new Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), which will replace TCAP tests.
|Dr. Judy Skupa|
Assistant Superintendent of Performance Improvement
Director of Assessment and Evaluation
At the October 13 Parents’ Council meeting, the Cherry Creek Schools Performance Improvement Leadership Team answered those questions and more.
Dr. Floyd Cobb, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, explained that federal and state laws require assessments to measure students’ mastery of academic standards. In 2009, Colorado adopted new Colorado Academic Standards, which set the bar higher as far as what students must know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready. To learn more about the Colorado Academic Standards, visit http://www.cde.state.co.us/standardsandinstruction/coloradostandards.
There are two sets of tests that measure students’ mastery of the standards and also provide valuable information for teachers, schools and parents to support student learning. Those tests are:
Cobb said there are pros and cons to the new tests. On the positive side, they measure college and career readiness, which is essential to student success after high school. They provide valuable information and allow comparisons with other schools and districts in states across the nation. On the negative side, they take up precious instructional time and the results are not always timely. For example, results from end of year assessments aren’t available until after the school year has ended.
Dr. Holly Porter, Director of English Language Acquisition, shared examples of TCAP and CMAS questions, to show parents how the rigor has increased and how students have to analyze and interpret information, rather than just picking the right answer in a multiple choice question. (To see sample questions, visit www.pearsonaccess.com/co or www.parcconline.org/practice-tests).
Norm Alerta, Director of Assessment and Evaluation, explained that parents will see new performance categories when they receive their children’s CMAS results. Instead of Advanced, Proficient, Partially Proficient or Unsatisfactory, the categories are Distinguished, Strong, Moderate and either Limited (Science and Social Studies) or Partial or Minimal (English Language Arts and Mathematics).
Because the TCAP and CMAS are two different sets of tests, it will not be possible to compare 2014 and 2015 results. Parents may also see what appears to be a drop in scores next year, which doesn’t mean students know less than they did before. It means that the higher expectations of the new standards will set a new baseline in the percentage of students who are meeting the college and career readiness benchmarks.
Alerta said that the new assessments will make it possible to identify at all grade levels what supports and interventions students need to ensure that they are ready for college and careers by the time they graduate from Cherry Creek Schools.