MEEKER I On Dec. 23, when virtually no public school or administrative offices in the state were open, Colorado school superintendents were notified by email that the New SAT and the PSAT (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Preliminary SAT) had been chosen by an independent selection committee to serve as the Colorado college entrance and 10th grade assessment exams.
Thus, starting this spring, the districts are to replace the 11th grade ACT and 10th grade PARCC exams, respectively.
The ACT (American College Test) has been provided for all Colorado high school juniors since 2001. PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams in English language arts and math have been part of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessment system.
The Colorado Legislature last spring passed hard-fought public school testing reform law that requires the sophomore exam to be aligned to the state’s academic standards and to the state’s college entrance exam given to juniors. Juniors under that law no longer have to take the PARCC exams. The PARCC exams, new last year, were not well liked by students.
It’s reported that the SAT will take significantly less time than the PARCC tests. For example, less than three hours versus the more than 11 hours sophomores spent taking PARCC tests last spring.
The other major provision of the 2015 legislation was that the 10th grade (sophomore) and college entrance (junior) exams be competitively bid every five years.
The request for proposals was put out by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) in November. Proposals were received from two vendors, the PSAT/SAT provided by the College Board and the ACT provided by American College.
According to CDE, the selection committee chose the PSAT/SAT, in part, because of alignment to the “content knowledge and cognitive complexity” of state’s academic standards and because they have a reporting system more useful to students.
The latter allegedly “connects students to resources and activities designed to help identify next steps for extra support or possible acceleration.”
CDE explained that the 15-member selection committee was a diverse group of educators and administrators from urban, rural and suburban districts across the state. As well, they said, “Content matter experts, assessment experts, special population professionals, guidance counselors and higher education professionals were represented.”
In a press release, interim Colorado Commissioner of Education Elliott Asp said, “We realize this is a big shift for students and that this decision is coming later in the school year than any of us would like. We are committed to exploring options for flexibility that make sense for this year’s juniors, who need to use this spring’s exam for their college applications.”
The state procurement process requires a seven business day “protest period” between the announced “intent of award” and making the award decision official. The seven business days school districts and others have to respond now were Christmas Eve, Monday through New Year’s Eve (today) this week, and Monday and Tuesday of next week.
Superintendents from across the state have expressed surprise, particularly because the announcement came during the holidays, when schools are closed.
Durango School Superintendent Dan Snowberger, said, in the Durango Herald, “I was definitely caught by surprise. This is a major shift at the 11th hour.” Snowberger added that there’s no comparability between the ACT and the SAT.
Other superintendents have expressed concern that the ACT was really the only longitudinal data, comparable over time that districts have had in the face of multiple other testing changes.
Meeker School Superintendent Chris Selle said, “I am frustrated the state is making this decision mid-year. I think that could create a situation that could make it difficult for our teachers and students to be successful on SAT when all of our preparation has been focused on ACT. I hope we will be able to exercise some flexibility in the college readiness [tests] we give, at least for this year.
“As with any change, we need some time to adapt and implement the change,” he said. “It is not realistic to expect that implementation and adaptation to occur when the assessment is changed only four months before the test date.”
Selle added that in the longer term he’s “not particularly concerned with the change to SAT because it is still a widely accepted college entrance exam.”
Meeker High School Principal Amy Chinn said “The students and staff at MHS have had a great first semester. It is hard to believe it is already over.”
Chinn added that “the students have worked hard to improve their attendance. We are happy to announce that 13 students had perfect attendance. We also had many students who had near-perfect attendance
“All of the students have worked hard and deserve a break,” she said. “We will all be refreshed and ready to come back for another great semester on Jan. 4.”
The high school students with perfect attendance are Ellie Anderson, Shelbi Blazon, Andrew Kracht, Briar Meszaros, Allison Moon, Logan Hughes, Hunter Mathe, Trapper Merrifield, Mariela Rosas, Dade Heck, Nishiko Thelen, Austin Bradford and Lisa Lombardi.
Barone Middle School Principal Jim Hanks reported to the school board on Dec. 14 that the middle school had 15 students with perfect fall attendance. Rangely and Meeker school districts have placed extra emphasis on attendance this fall semester.
The Meeker District attendance numbers have improved, comparing the current attendance percentages with those from the 2014-2015 school year: elementary school is 94.37 percent vs. 92.74 percent; middle school, 94.47 percent vs. 92.61 percent, and the high school, 93.45 percent vs. 89.29 percent.
In other state level K-12 public education news, the CDE has announced that a former moderate Republican lawmaker from Arizona, who briefly served as chief of Wyoming public schools, is in line to become Colorado’s next education commissioner.
The typically divided State Board of Education voted 6-0 earlier this month to name Richard Crandall, 48, as the sole finalist for the position.
Colorado Chalkbeat, an education blog, reports that Crandall expressed openness to moving Colorado away from a strict Common Core curriculum and the PARCC multi-state testing effort, but stressed the importance of high standards and the value of being able to compare test results between several states
Crandall is to officially start his new job just after the first of the year when a state-required 14 day “waiting period” is over.