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Parents, teachers, districts adapt to changes to spring standardized testing

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 20:39:24-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — With the approval of the state's federal waiver to scale back some standardized testing, parents, teachers, and school districts are adapting to new guidelines.

Under the guidance, students in third, fifth, and seventh grades will take the Colorado Measures of Academic Success exams in English language arts while students in fourth, sixth, and eighth grades will complete math assessments. Eighth graders will also be required to take science exams.

Trisha Gorman has two boys in Widefield School District. She decided to opt both of her sons out of CMAS testing for the school year.

"My son came to me and said did you opt me out? Yes, I did. I don't see the point and he said thank you," said Gorman. "If he was to take that test right now, I don't believe what it is judging him on, he would be ready to "pass" at all."

Despite the federal waiver allowing some testing to be scaled back, she doesn't like that some students are still required to take a math or literacy test.

"I've looked them up (mockup tests) and the information I see is not what I see my kid learning on a daily basis in his classes," said Gorman.

Angela Bird with the Widefield Education Association says she was excited to hear testing would be scaled back, but she still doesn't see much value in the testing taking place.

"I'm really excited for my elementary school teachers, instead of having to spend weeks testing all of these poor little children, we get to finally have some relief. Personally, I want to see it continue because I don't know why we have to test small children that much," said Bird. "Unfortunately, that didn't do much for me as a high school teacher. We are still giving the same test that we were giving, we are still losing the same amount of instruction that we were losing. We are still paying for the same amount of tests that we were paying, that money is still going to testing instead of teaching kids."

As a science teacher, Bird was disappointed that students would still be required to take science tests.

"I think science is vitally important, but in a year where there is a pandemic, I don't think it is vitally important to test these children in science. Especially because one of our greatest challenges of teaching science this year is that we haven't gotten to do the interactive pieces that really help it stick in kids' brains. We haven't had the opportunity to do the interactive labs, kinesthetic learning, and all of the things that help kids remember it. We essentially had to go back in education many years, and do more of the sit and remote kind of learning," said Bird.

While she understands testing is important to gauge learning loss from the pandemic, she doesn't think it will provide accurate data.

"My biggest question about the whole process is who is this data helping? Who is it going to help, who is going to use this data? As a teacher in a school, I know where my kids are at, I know my kids aren't where they were last year, I know that they haven't made it as far, I know I'll have to work with them next year to make up these gaps. We aren't getting data from these tests until July or August. By that point, kids are already in classes and we've already decided the schedules. Who is this data for?" said Bird.

The Colorado Department of Education says CMAS is the only test in the state that can gauge learning loss statewide.

"We're going to be able to look at learning loss in a couple of ways, we are going to be able to measure it by the formative assessments that are taken weekly in the classroom or throughout the term. Educators are going to be able to see formative classroom test results, they are going to be able to look at district interim assessments as well as the state assessments. So the state assessments are going to provide school and district results across the state of Colorado, and it's the only test that can offer that view on how kids are doing," said Jeremy Meyer, Colorado Department of Education.

With enough kids opting into testing, Meyer says data from the assessments will provide stakeholders with information on the type of resources that are needed to support students.

"The data will help us better understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning, what grades, and what groups have been impacted the most. It will inform the use of federal funding and potential future initiatives that the state legislature will consider," said Meyer.

While parents will have the option to opt their child out of their designated tests, Meyer says they will also have the option to opt them into both tests.

"By statute, districts have to determine their own opt-out policies and procedures and we expect districts to do something similar with the opt-in opportunities that will be provided this year. So students in third grade are mandated to take the English language arts test however parents can opt-in their students to also take the math tests," said Meyer.

With these new changes, districts are adapting to ensure parents are informed of their options.

"This year, our Board of Education gave us permission to use a survey link for our junior high and high school students because we have so many of them are online. It's just a link for parents to use if they want to opt-out of testing. Our elementary students have been in person since August so our elementary students who want to opt-out would go through the traditional process of writing an email or sending a letter," said Samantha Briggs, Widefield School District 3.

She says it's important the district is notified so they can plan accordingly.

"Parents have the choice to either keep their kids home during that testing schedule and then students can return to school later that day when there is normal instruction time taking place or we can provide a space for students that is supervised for them to do individual work," said Briggs.

Gorman says she still believes the testing should be canceled because of the impact the pandemic has had on learning.

"I think you need to give it even longer than that before these kids are truly back in a normal environment," said Gorman.

Parents are encouraged to reach out to their school to find out the options available.