Colorado K-12 assessment tests paused for school year; CEA calls for more school closures

Officials working to figure out what to do about PSAT, SAT tests
School classroom
Posted at 12:21 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 06:20:58-04

DENVER – Colorado’s end-of-year assessment tests, including the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), will be suspended for the rest of the school year, and officials are working to figure out what to do about PSAT and SAT tests as well, the Colorado Department of Education said Tuesday.

Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes made the announcement Tuesday because of the number of schools in Colorado currently closed – many for at least two weeks – because of the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.

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“With the extraordinary actions we are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s clear that we need to press pause on our CMAS tests this year,” Anthes said in a statement. “Students and educators need to feel a sense of stability and normalcy before state tests can be administered and produce valid results. This also means we plan to pause our school and district state accountability system as it relates to state assessments for a year.”

She said that the CDE will speak with the U.S. Department of Education to determine what implications there might be in regard to federal rules and is willing to fill out waivers if necessary.

The department says it will work with The College Board to find solutions to administer the PSAT and SAT college entrance exams, which often play a big role in students’ scholarships and college options and choices. “Additional information will come from CDE as it becomes available,” the department said.

Anthes said its decision comes in order to allow schools and districts “to concentrate on determining ways to deliver continued instruction to the extent they are able during this unprecedented disruption in education.”

The department said it will keep working with districts and schools that have been identified for improvement to help support instruction.

Gov. Jared Polis said he supported the decision.

"I’m a big fan of accountability and transparency in public education, but we will simply have to forgo incredibly useful data on student achievement for a year to help contain the virus,” Polis said in a statement. “Right now, students, families, and educators need to be focused on doing everything they can to keep families safe and stable. It is clear that COVID-19 will put extraordinary stress on our education system for the coming weeks and months. In order to ensure our schools and educators are able to spend as much time as possible on online instruction in a difficult situation, I support the decision to pause assessments and school accountability for this year only.”

Meanwhile, the Colorado Education Association said some districts’ decisions to keep some schools open – the CEA said about 85 of the state’s 178 districts had closed as of Tuesday morning – was putting people’s health at risk.

“Governor Polis has taken decisive steps to ensure the safety and health of Coloradans by making tough decisions to temporarily close down restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, breweries and coffeehouses. Yet there has been no order or recommendation to Superintendents to close down Colorado's public schools for public health and safety as we have seen happen in other states,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert. “Today we call on the Governor and the Superintendents of schools that have yet to close to put the health and safety of students and educators first in order to help stave off this massive public health crisis.”

The Colorado Department of Education said 117 or 65 percent of the districts statewide were closed as of Tuesday morning.