Schools begin newly-reduced testing season

9NEWS at 6 p.m. 03/15/16.

DENVER - DENVER - For teachers like Ryan McKillop, time is a valuable commodity when it comes to teaching students. Last year, that time was taken away.

"The standardized testing completely changes our schedule," McKillop said.

She teaches social studies at North High School in Denver. in 2015, the state administered new PARCC and CMAS tests including added assessments for high school students.

"Kids are in class and they're learning and you have to stop for a week or two for testing," McKillop said.

At schools around Colorado, students protested the amount of testing and thousands of students opted out of the taking the exams. Some high schools had a participation rate below 10 percent. The state average for juniors take the PARCC English tests was listed at 50.4 percent. The state wants a 95 percent participation rate.

"We definitely had more opt out last year than we did the year before," Scott Wolf. North High School principal, said.

Wolf says the standardized tests disrupted a whole month of school. But, this year will be much different.

"Our instructional time will not be compromised to the same degree that it was last year," Wolf said.

The state legislature passed a law to cut back on testing and reduce the number of students taking standardized tests. The Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS will be reduced by 90 minutes in English and math. Sophomores will only have to take the PSAT and juniors will only have to take ACT instead of taking CMAS tests. Schools will only have to give tests during one testing window instead of two.

"When we had to have the March-April window and then the May window, it was essentially that we never got out of testing," Wolf said.

Dana Smith with the Colorado Department of Education says the state listened to the concerns of students and parents.

"The tests are shorter and fewer students will be required to take them," Smith said. "So, we are hopeful that we will see an increase in participation this year."

The standardized tests are used to assess how well schools are performing. 9News is partners with a free website ColoradoSchoolGrades.com which uses testing data to assign a letter grade to every public school in Colorado. 

"If not enough students take the test, then we lose a quality picture. We won't be telling the full story of what's happening at that school," Luke Ragland, ColoradoSchoolGrades.com spokesman, said.

Ragland hopes that the new changes will keep students in school taking the tests.

"I think (the state) really responded to what parents and families and schools were saying," Ragland said.

The state will also take a random of sampling of students in fourth and seventh grade for the social studies CMAS test instead of making everyone in those grades take it. One school will participate in the social studies test just once every three years.

"They tend to get burned out by hour after hour of tests," McKillop said.

She is just happy that this year she will get her instruction time back.

"I feel like this year, I feel a lot more comfortable and excited about the schedule," McKillop said. "Last year, it was sort of like, I had to pause instruction."

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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