Information released in Colorado has revealed that fewer than 90% of 7th- through 10th-graders in the academic year 2015-2016 took the Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests in math, English language arts, social studies, and science — but it's too early to tell much about what the exam results indicate.
Of those students, 88% of 7th-graders took the exams last school year, which is slightly less than the 88.7% who sat for them in 2014-2015. And 83.5% of pupils in the 8th-grade did the same, which was down from 85% from the previous year. Seventy-three percent of 9th-graders were present for testing, up from 70% and 88.3% of 10th-graders showed up for the exams, up from 61%, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Sophomores took the pre-Scholastic Assessment Test (pre-SAT) but did not take the language arts and math tests for 10th- and 11th-grade students, says Monte Whaley of The Denver Post.
Colorado has been leading the pack in the action to opt-out of standardized tests, which critics declare do not accurately measure progress in the realm of academics. The Centennial State grants parents the right to have their children opt out of the exams without any negative consequences.
The students who did not show up for exams at the end of the 2015-2016 school year were "disproportionately white, economically better off and more likely to be native English speakers," noted the CDE.
Convincing black and Latino families that the exams are necessary to indicate their children's academic progress is a challenge, said Director of Assessment Joyce Zurkowski.
"We are trying to make sure students and their parents are well-aware of the relevancy of this testing to their children," she said.
The results from the state's second round of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in English language arts, as well as from testing in science and social studies (CMAS), that are state-developed, did show some growth. It is too early, say education officials, to identify any trends.
The standardized tests, writes Ann Marie Awad for KUNC Public Radio, are aligned with Common Core standards which set touchstones for achievement in the subjects for each grade level.
"While we're seeing some improvements, two years of data isn't really enough to say we're seeing a trend. Still, it's clear that we all have more work to do to ensure that all students are ready for college or careers and that we are closing historic gaps in achievement," said Interim Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes.
The release of the exam scores also showed that a majority of students in the state continue to underperform in math and language arts.
Colorado's 4th-graders led all other grades in language arts proficiency with almost 44% meeting or exceeding the PARCC expectations. Last year 41.7% of 4th-graders showed the same achievement last school year.
High school freshmen performed most poorly on the English language arts tests this past year. Only 37.8% of the ninth-graders reached the defined expectations compared to 37.8% last academic period. The average proficiency level for all grades on English tests was somewhere around 40%, according to the Aurora Sentinel's Quincy Snowdon.
All students did a little worse overall in math, but elementary pupils fared a little bit better on the math exams than they did in the 2014-2015 school year. Third-graders came in at first place in math proficiency in 2016 with 39.9% meeting or exceeding expectations.