Saturday, January 31, 2015

The task force report & more...

The 1202 Task  Force presented its findings to the legislature's Join Education Committee last Wednesday. The full report can be read here.

This sentence really stood out to us:
[F]indings from research studies and public input made it clear that Colorado’s current system of State and local assessments has created far too many demands on time, logistics, and finances that are impacting the teaching and learning process in schools and undermining public support for the assessment system as a whole.
There are several positives that we take away from the report:

1) The Task Force recommended completely eliminating the state-mandated CMAS tests for 12th graders. They also recommended making the CMAS English and Math exams optional, to be decided upon by districts and schools.

2) Per the report, the Colorado legislature should "hold all schools and districts harmless from the consequences associated with School and District Performance accountability frameworks (including for low participation rates) through the 2015-2016 school year." Essentially, the Task Force recommends no punishment for schools and districts, such as our own, that failed to meet participation rates on standardized tests.

3) The Task Force recommends that schools be allowed  to administer paper-and-pencil versions of exams. This will help schools, such as our own, that find it difficult to have enough technology for every student.

However, the Task Force did not reach consensus on several key issues. In particular, they were split on whether state-mandated 9th grade Math and English exams and 4th and 7th grade Social Studies exams should be made optional.

We commend the Task Force for the work they have done, and we are thankful they have recognized the need to reduce standardized testing in Colorado.  That said, we believe there is more work to be done. The Task Force seemed to recognize this:
Task Force members recognize that the short-term actions recommended above neither fully address the depths of public concern about the current State and local assessment system nor fully capture the potential of a balanced and aligned system.
Testing, particularly in lower grades, it a still time-consuming and stressful process. Colorado students will still spend many days taking both the PARCC and CMAS exams in Math and English. School funding, including for technology, it still an issue at all levels.  We hope that education policymakers going forward will use the 1202 Task Force as a start point, but will also recognize that its recommendations are only a single step in the right direction to strike the balance between testing and education in Colorado.

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