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Polis signs bill suspending school assessments for some grades, US Dept. of Ed must OK

Colorado students will take one state standardized test this school year after Gov. Polis signed into law House Bill 21-1161.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday signed into law a bill that would suspend statewide assessments for selected grades, according to an announcement made by the governor's office. The bill is contingent on a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.

The bill partly suspends the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing scheduled to begin during the first weeks of April for English language arts, math and science. 

> Above video: Parents divided on if the state should cancel standardized testing.

The following CMAS are suspended for each of the following grade levels:

  • Science for students enrolled in grades 5, 8 and 11
  • Math for students enrolled in grades 3, 5 and 7
  • English language arts for students enrolled in grades 4, 6 and 8.

This means half of the grades — third, fifth and seventh — would take the English exam while the other half — fourth, sixth and eighth — would take the math exam.  

According to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), CMAS "provide valuable information for students, parents, districts, taxpayers and policymakers about how well students are meeting Colorado’s grade-level academic expectations." 

CDE listed what they expect this year's CMAS will reveal: 

  • The assessments will provide information to parents about their students’ learning this year. 
  • Spring 2021 CMAS data can help provide a baseline for measuring the differential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and inform the allocation of federal, state and local resources and supports students need. 
  • In combination with local information, districts can use CMAS data to evaluate the magnitude of recovery efforts needed and identify where adjustments to curricula, scope-and-sequence, and instructional approaches should be made for the 2021-2022 school year. 
  • These data will support the evaluation of future recovery efforts with an eye to potential differential impact across Colorado student groups. Without sufficient data this year, it will be difficult to separate performance issues influenced by the pandemic from those influenced by recovery efforts. 
  • It is exceedingly unlikely that growth data will be provided in SY22 for students without 2021 scores.

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The bill also allows the parent of a student enrolled in a grade for which administration of the English language arts or math assessment is suspended to request the student participate in the suspended assessment.

Other key provisions of this bill are:

  • CDE can't use this year to measure teacher performance
  • Schools on performance watch can omit assessments for the 2020-2021 school year

In February, supporters of the cancellation rallied in the parking lot of South High School.

"It won't be fair, it won't be uninformed, and it won't be safe," parent Nish Ashley said over a microphone. An elementary school student's mother was one of more than a handful of speakers whose speeches were met with applause via a car honk.

The Colorado Education Association (CEA) announced it, too, could do without the assessment and hoped legislatures apply for a federal waiver to cancel the test this year. 

"Let's not disrupt student learning any more than it has been," Amie Baca-Ohlert, president of the CEA, said. "All the feedback we’re hearing from parents is that they don’t want this for their kid this year. We have other ways of measuring other students' success; let’s do that and let our kids just get through this year as best as they can." 

But parents like John Johnson feel differently. His son is a sophomore in high school. 

"If we're not going to standardize, what gauge do we have to measure our student body?" he told 9NEWS last month. 

Johnson stands behind the group Transform Education Now, a Denver-based educational group that believes the CMAS tests should be postponed to the end of the year, not canceled altogether. 

"We've already graduated a class in the pandemic and I question and wonder if those students that graduated, are they really prepared?" Johnson said. 

RELATED: Students in Clear Creek Schools offered twice-a-week COVID-19 testing

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