Chalkbeat reports that Colorado will no longer give PARCC tests, but how much will change?
Nicholas Garcia writes:
Colorado will begin shifting away from standardized tests developed as part of a controversial multi-state effort and toward tests developed mostly by Colorado educators.
The move, one consequence of a contract announced Wednesday by the state education department, will end Colorado’s membership in PARCC, one of two multi-state testing collectives that were supposed to allow for easy comparison across states but have fallen short of that promise.
However, Colorado will likely keep using some PARCC questions in the math and English tests given to students in grades three through eight, said Joyce Zurkowski, the Colorado Department of Education’s executive director of assessment. Doing so would ensure the state could track student academic growth data and continue rating schools without pause.
“We’re not tossing everything out and starting from scratch,” Zurkowski said. But “we are expecting that Colorado educators will be much more involved throughout the development process — and we’re going to need more Colorado educators to be involved in the process.”
Well, of course, they’ll still use some PARCC questions as Pearson developed the PARCC assessment.
Pearson, the company that has administered Colorado statewide tests for four years, was selected by a committee of educators from throughout the state and CDE staff to remain as the state’s assessment contractor for Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests. Students take CMAS tests in math and English language arts (ELA) in grades three through eight and in science and social studies once each in elementary, middle, and high school.
“Because Pearson has been already providing the testing services for CMAS for a number of years, the transition to the new contract should be seamless for educators and students,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner. “Educators and students are familiar with Pearson’s systems, so this will allow them to continue to concentrate on teaching and learning the Colorado Academic Standards, which is the content assessed by the tests.”
The results from the 2018 CMAS assessments are expected to be comparable to prior years’ results, creating little disruption to the accountability system in 2018.
A new request for proposals (RFP) was required by state law because the current contract for the state’s CMAS science and social studies assessments is expiring. In addition, at its December meeting, the State Board of Education directed the department to issue a RFP for math and ELA assessments that would result in reduced operational testing time for students and faster turnaround of results. The board also required that CDE have decision-making authority over math and ELA test design, form development and test administration policies. The department in March issued a RFP for all of the CMAS assessments, and both Pearson and Questar submitted proposals.
“After a thorough review of the proposals, demonstrations and interviews, Pearson was selected as the successful offeror for a variety of reasons,” said Colorado Department of Education Assessment Executive Director Joyce Zurkowski. “The committee determined that Pearson’s online test management and test administration systems better met Colorado’s assessment requirements and district expectations. The committee also emphasized that of the two proposed potential contractors, only Pearson’s systems are currently capable of protecting student demographic data and personally identifiable information in accordance with Colorado’s requirements.”
The contract will also require a review of all of the CMAS assessments following the adoption of the revised standards in summer 2018. The new contract may be renewed annually through 2023-2024.
The administration of the CMAS assessments in science and social studies will fall under the new contract starting in spring 2018. The math and English language arts assessments remain under the existing contract with Pearson for one more year and transition to the new contract in the 2018-19 school year. However, the department has already begun the planning necessary to implement the board’s directives for shorter tests and faster turnaround of results.
The only real change is that Colorado will have more control over the test questions. I have to laugh about the claim that only Pearson’s systems “are currently capable of protecting student demographic data and personally identifiable information in accordance with Colorado’s requirements.” The fact the state is collecting data through a third party tells me they are not serious about student privacy.
Fortunately, not all are happy with Pearson being given the new contract as Chalkbeat reports:
Board member Steve Durham, a Colorado Springs Republican who led the effort to abandon PARCC, was critical of the decision to continue using Pearson as the state’s testing administrator.
He pressed the department to ensure Pearson could deliver on the board’s directive, especially limiting testing time to eight hours and delivering results quickly.
“It simply can’t run on for days or weeks as it did,” he said, referring to the amount of time some schools needed to complete the tests.
Angela Engel, a leader in the testing opt-out movement and founder of the nonprofit Uniting4Kids, said the change did little to alleviate her concerns about the role of standardized testing in schools.
“This new direction by the State Board of Education is simply another version of a bad idea,” she said in a statement. “Colorado has already changed test vendors, test names, and test styles – all with the same failed outcomes. Innovation and equity require an entirely different approach than administering a test.”
The silver lining is a reduction in the volume of tests in Colorado and Pearson’s contract is renewable on an annual basis. Also, this decision leaves PARCC with just six remaining members. How long will this consortium survive? That said, it is still a Common Core-aligned assessment using the same developer so in reality what Colorado will have is a PARCC-lite assessment that they control.