From the Desk of Pamela Bisceglia
Periodically AdvocacyDenver forwards concerns to the Colorado Department of Education regarding their policies, rules/guidance, including the state assessment Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS). The requirement for academic standards and a method to “measure” student progress was first defined in No Child Left Behind and remains in place under the Every Child Succeeds Act. It is said that if a state does not comply that they could lose federal funds. Some time ago California Department of Education weighed the loss of instruction time, the social emotional toll that “high states assessments” take on their students, did away with their state assessment and said keep the pennies of federal funds.
AdvocacyDenver asked about the state assessment and whether CDE would ask for a waiver for the 2020-2021 school year. CDE leaders said the state cannot waive the state assessment. A motion was put to CDE Board of Education to forward a request to the U.S Department of Education that the state assessment be waived this year; the majority vote was to stay the course. AdvocacyDenver is disappointed that State Board of Education elected officials seem to have lost sight of our Colorado communities; this decision is clearly not focused on the best interest of our students. If the CDE Board of Education will not take action, we must ask our representatives at the State Capitol and Governor Polis’ office to direct Colorado Department of Education to request a waiver.
Our children, our students, were sent home almost one year ago. For the first time, school districts were called on to provide technology and hot spots for remote learning. The pandemic turned our world upside down. One day our children were members of a community of learners in a brick and mortar school and for those with technology and internet access, two weeks later instruction was provided on-line, at-home, isolated from familiar school staff and peers and void of the rituals they knew as school. Please be reminded that there was a large community of learners where it was months before they received technology, a hot spot and for some internet was, and is, spotty at best. As a community, state, nation we must focus on making up for the academic instruction, but more important we must understand the trauma, the harm that this pandemic has caused in relation to the social/emotional development of our children.
Some of our children continue to participate in remote instruction, some children have just returned to school. Just as teachers are reintroducing their students to in-person instruction and the new rituals of being a student during a pandemic, Department of Education leaders believe it is appropriate to interrupt instruction for 2 weeks to perform a state assessment; by the way – don’t expect the results to be released until late fall of the 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, the results of the state assessments are likely meaningless given the absence of testing in 2019-2020 and the lack of access to meaningful instruction to measure student outcomes. In classrooms across the state and nation, teachers use nationally recognized screeners (not state assessments) to track student performance in content. Screeners, work samples, myriad of tools take only a few minutes to administer and provide immediate results to inform instruction for that student.
What can parents do?
Parents have until February 26th to opt out of the state assessment at this website: https://assessments.dpsk12.org/cmas/
Opting Out of Assessments
Families who wish to excuse their student from participation in one or more of the state assessments may do so by filling out the district’s opt-out application in Parent Portal from October to February. You may still opt out by scheduling an appointment with your principal or AP and request the Assessment Participation Exemption form to be printed off for you to sign (if your student has not begun taking tests). You may also write a letter and bring it with you to the meeting. If you have more than one child, you will need to fill out the form or write a letter for each child to opt out.
Your child will still attend school over the weeks that the assessment is scheduled, but rather than taking the state assessment, a teacher will actually be able to provide academic instruction and related service providers such as social workers and psychologists and counselors might have time to forward activities that support social and emotional development.
What else can parents and community do?
Call or email your representative: https://leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator and Governor Polis’ office: https://colorado.gov/governor/contact-us and ask that that they require CDE to ask for a waiver from state assessment for 2021.