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Standardized statewide testing kicks off this week with some tweaks

April 10, 2018 Updated: April 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm
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Most Colorado students now take standardized tests on computers or other electronic devices.Photo by Debbie Kelley

The PSAT is like a practice instead of a game, said 15-year-old Kathleen Hagar, a Coronado High School freshman who stopped to chat Tuesday before heading out to play in a soccer match.

She and other ninth-graders will take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test for the first time Wednesday - instead of the English language arts and math assessments, as in previous years.

That cuts the time freshmen will spend on state assessments from nearly 10 hours to less than three hours.

It's part of continued streamlining intended to ease what had become a painful process.

"Testing has started across Colorado, and everything is going well so far," said Jeremy Meyer, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Education. "We haven't heard of any issues whatsoever about the platform or anything else."

Legislators have been redesigning Colorado's testing for several years, after parents and students objected that the tests had become too high-stakes in measuring school quality and teacher performance, took too much time and collected too much personal student information, among other things.

A new directive by the Colorado State Board of Education has public schools transitioning this year to assessments mostly developed by Colorado educators, instead of the English language arts and math tests designed by a controversial multi-state consortium, PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

One goal is to cut testing time, which is about 13 hours for seventh- and eighth-graders.

Legislation passed last year instigated the changes for freshmen.

Like her classmates, Coronado freshman Grace Hanlan has been using an online tutorial to prepare for the PSAT. And like many other students, she opted out of state testing in seventh and eighth grade.

"I didn't think there was any reason to do the actual tests," she said.

Tenth-graders also are taking the PSAT again this year, and 11th-graders the SAT.

Coronado junior Skyler Ward said he was tired after finishing the SAT on Tuesday.

"I know it's what colleges are looking for, but I don't really care about it," he said. "They also look for other things besides test scores."

The state's official window for English and math assessments for third- through eighth-grade students opened Monday and continues through April 27.

Also, statewide social studies tests are being administered to one-third of fourth- and seventh-grade students, and science tests to fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders.

As for Colorado students' achievement compared with that by students in other states, scores released Monday for the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the "Nation's Report Card," showed flat performance from Colorado students in 2017 over 2015.

In English language arts and math, the scores remained largely stagnant, except for eighth-graders, who performed better than their peers in other states in both subjects, with statistically higher average scores and higher percentages at or above proficiency.

Colorado students who were eligible for free or reduced-cost school meals, students with disabilities, black and Hispanic students, and English language learners all continued to have lower average scores than their peers. Colorado's achievement gaps were not significantly different than they were in 2007 but were significantly larger than the national averages.

Individual student results from the statewide assessments this month will be sent to school districts in June, Meyer said.

School, district and state-level summary results of students' performance in English language arts, math, science, social studies, and the PSAT and SAT will be released in August, he said.

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