Thousands of Colorado 12th Graders Opt-Out of New Assessment

colorado-flag.jpgMore than 5,000 Colorado 12th graders opted out of a new state-mandated science and social studies assessment last week.

Here are some excerpts of local coverage:

Chalkbeat Colorado:

Instead of taking the state’s science and social studies tests, seniors at Fairview High School (in Boulder) braved below-zero temperatures to rally against a testing system they believe is burdensome and unnecessary.

As part of the protest, they waived signs at passing cars that read “legislators listen to the educators,” ate doughnuts, and drank hot cocoa. They also collected canned goods for a local food bank, did jumping jacks to keep warm, and fired off a string of letters to lawmakers explaining why they opted-out of new tests that are supposed to measure how proficient they are in social studies and science.

Colorado Public Radio

The Colorado Department of Education’s chief test officer Joyce Zurkowski says state officials knew the first administration of 12th grade tests was going to be, “new, different and challenging.”

Despite discussion in local school board meetings and the media, “I’m not sure 12thgraders knew this was coming until it happened this fall,” she says. Zurkowski adds the department could have done a more effective job communicating to students why law requires them to take the tests.

Given that 11th graders take many tests, including the college entrance exam the SAT, districts, surveyed two years ago, decided to administer the science and social studies tests in 12th grade.

Zurkowski acknowledges this first group of 12th graders won’t get the results until after they graduate, but the information she says will help the state and their district and school.

The Denver Post:

The no-shows in some of the state’s highest-performing and wealthiest districts come amid growing anxiety about overtesting, uniting families in liberal Boulder and conservative Douglas County.

Supporters of the state’s academic standards and testing can take comfort in one thing: This is not an uprising against testing fourth-graders in math, but instead involves tired, disillusioned high school seniors thinking about college.

At nine Douglas County high schools, nearly 1,900 students did not take the tests, more than half of students, according to preliminary data.

Boulder Valley School District said more than 1,500 high school seniors did not take the tests. Only 16 percent of students district-wide did — including just two of 414 students at Boulder High.

In Cherry Creek School District, nearly 1,500 students were no-shows, or 37 percent of students, also according to preliminary data. At Cherry Creek High School, only 24 of 877 seniors took the tests.

NBC 9 News:

Students say the CMAS test is an unnecessary stressor placed on students and it does not reflect what the students have learned in school. Jun says the tests ask questions about classes some students never even took in school.

“Economics is an elective at this school and it’s not even offered at Centaurus High School and many other schools like that,” Jun said. “But, it is still on the test.”

If enough students skip the CMAS test, it can have a negative impact on a district’s accreditation rating it receives from the Colorado Department of Education, according to Zurkowski. School Districts still have through November 21 to administer the tests. She says the state overall has been on track with CMAS participation until Thursday’s protests.

“I am hoping that schools will respond in a way to get the information that they need, the information that the Colorado Department of Education needs,” Zurkowski said.

The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Parents are refusing to let their kids take the mandatory assessments for a variety of reasons.

“I felt he didn’t need the testing – it wasn’t preparing him to go to college,” said Patrick Blackburn, whose son is a senior at James Irwin Charter High School.

Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said in a statement issued Thursday that he knows it has been challenging for schools.

“I hear the concerns raised about the quantity and timing of tests. I understand the frustration,” Hammond said. “I am fully committed to evaluating how the testing goes and working with districts and policymakers to identify ways to improve.”

In the past, only third- through 11th-graders had to take state assessments.

This fall, high school seniors are required to take science and social studies tests. The window for schools to administer the new Colorado Measures of Academic Success in science and social studies opened Nov. 3 and continues through Nov. 21.

In the spring, other grades will take math, English, science and social studies tests. However, the plan has been for 11th-graders to take only two tests in the spring and the other two the following fall, when they are seniors.

As per state law, schools and districts that don’t have 
95 percent participation on standardized tests face penalties, including reductions in state accreditation ratings and possibly losing accreditation and, therefore, state funding.

It seems like the primary concern from education officials is whether the Colorado Department of Education will get the information it “needs.”

Yes this is *exactly* why we should test students who won’t even get their test results until after the graduate.  That makes perfect sense.