Students refuse to take new standardized test

BOULDER - This school year is supposed to be a transition year for standardized tests. Out went the old 'fill-in-the-bubble' tests to be replaced by new versions to be given online. Yet, students in Boulder and at various places around the state are refusing to take the new tests.

"I think the main part of the frustration is the fact that there was student input especially from seniors about this testing," Jennifer Jun, senior at Fairview High School, said.

Thursday morning, students at Fairview High School in Boulder chose to brave the cold and protest outside their school instead of taking the Colorado Measures of Academic Success test or CMAS. Out of 538 seniors at Fairview, the Boulder Valley School District reports only seven students total took the test.

"We're a couple hundred out here in very, very cold weather," Rachel Perley, senior at Fairview High School, said.

The CMAS test and PARCC test, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, have replaced the traditional tests formerly known as TCAP and CSAP.

Traditionally, seniors don't take any more standardized tests for the Colorado Department of Education. But, CDE's Executive Director of Assessment Joyce Zurkowski says the state wants to know if students are learning enough before graduation.

"This is intended to be a gauge as to whether or not these students have the skills to be successful," Zurkowski said.

She says it is an issue brought up colleges and employers around Colorado. Zurkowski believes seniors are upset because this online test is new.

"This is especially challenging," Zurkowski said. "I think they were taken by surprise."

Students at Centaurus High School in the Boulder Valley School District also staged a CMAS protest as did students at schools in the Cherry Creek and Douglas County School Districts.

In Cherry Creek, 37 percent of all seniors have skipped the CMAS test including 853 students at Cherry Creek High School. In Douglas County, preliminary numbers show that 53 percent of all seniors skipped the CMAS.

"It's a bad use of money. It's a bad use of time," Perley said.

Students say the CMAS test is an unnecessary stressor placed on students and it does not reflect what the students have learned in school. Jun says the tests ask questions about classes some students never even took in school.

"Economics is an elective at this school and it's not even offered at Centaurus High School and many other schools like that," Jun said. "But, it is still on the test."

If enough students skip the CMAS test, it can have a negative impact on a district's accreditation rating it receives from the Colorado Department of Education, according to Zurkowski. School Districts still have through November 21 to administer the tests. She says the state overall has been on track with CMAS participation until Thursday's protests.

"I am hoping that schools will respond in a way to get the information that they need, the information that the Colorado Department of Education needs," Zurkowski said.

The Colorado Department of Education wants all students to take the CMAS tests to get a better understanding of what students are learning in social studies and science through high school so districts can fix any issues after this year. Students in younger grades are scheduled to take the CMAS and PARCC tests in the spring.

"We're asking them to give seven hours of of the 1080 hours during the year in order to benefit the students that are coming next," Zurkowski said.

Perley says students would rather spend that time standing in the cold.

"I think it's one thing to go in and just (purposefully) do poorly on the test," Perley said. "But, now we can show like we're out here. We're trying to make change positively."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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