Understanding standardized testing in our schools

By Chris Selle

Superintendent, Meeker School District

Special to the Herald Times

MEEKER | State testing. Those two words invoke strong feelings for many, and much conversation around the appropriate type and amount of state testing has occurred in Colorado in recent years. Over the past few weeks, we have received the final results from the state tests administered during the 2015-2016 school year. To wait nearly six months for these results is unacceptable. I will continue to advocate with our state legislators and the Colorado Department of Education for quicker turnaround on these tests. Nevertheless, the results do give the Meeker School District systemic insight into the learning demonstrated by our students. Summary documents of the results may be found on the school district’s website: www.meeker.k12.co.us. In general, Meeker students showed strong results on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests. When reviewed by grade level and subject area, Meeker students outpaced the state of Colorado for the majority of the tests in both performance and achievement. Performance measures whether or not students met or exceeded expectations. Growth measures the academic growth of students on a yearly basis. A few pockets of lower performance do exist. Because of the small sample size we have in rural school districts, some swings in results should be anticipated between subjects and grade levels. The specific areas where the outcomes were slightly lower are areas in which we already knew we needed to focus improvement efforts, but emphasis must remain on the fact that collective results were strong. Overall, when the results are aggregated by school and for the district as a whole, Meeker students exceeded state averages for performance and growth in every tested area. It is hard to make much sense of PSAT results yet since 2016 was the first year the test has been given to all Colorado 10th graders. However, Meeker students scored on par with national averages. Though this is the last year ACT will be given to all Colorado 11th graders, it is important to note that the results achieved by Meeker students were among the highest for our district in the past several years. Regardless of the varied opinions on this issue, the Meeker School District will ensure compliance with the state laws governing testing and parent’s right to opt out of testing. This decision has been made for two reasons. First, though not clearly defined, the consequences for failure to comply with the law can carry severe penalties for the school district. Second, the information gleaned from the tests do have value for our schools and teachers. CMAS includes the PARCC English/language arts (ELA) tests and the mathematics tests. CMAS also includes the science and social studies tests. The PARCC ELA and math tests are given to every student, every year, in third through ninth grade. Science tests are given to every student in fifth, eighth and 11th grades. The social studies tests are administered to approximately one-third of the students in Colorado in grades four, seven and 11. Additionally, 10th grade students take the PSAT exam. The ACT was administered to all 11th grade students in Colorado for the last time in 2016. In future years, 11th graders will take the SAT. Though required by law, the PSAT, ACT and SAT are not considered part of the CMAS tests. These good test results are a credit to the wonderful work done by our teachers on a daily basis. They are also a function of the high expectations in place by our students and their families. Though we know test results are only one measure of the success of a school, our student’s demonstrated learning on state tests gives me one more reason to state that I am proud to be a Meeker Cowboy!