On March 24, the Colorado Senate Education Committee is considering SB 5, which would eliminate assessments for 9th graders. While there has been a great deal of discussion on the length of time that students should take exams, the 2015 legislature reduced state mathematics and English language arts tests by about 90 minutes for most students. In fact, students now spend less than 1.5 percent of the school year on yearly assessments. Unfortunately, the politically-motivated policies outlined in SB 5 would create serious unintended consequences for schools and students.
Source: Colorado Department of Education: http://www.cde.state.co.us/communications/cmasfactsheet
Why is a 9th grade test important?
As students transition from middle to high school, it is important to gather information on how well they are doing from year-to-year. If 9th grade assessments are suddenly stopped, there will not be an objective measure of how well students are doing until after they have completed 10th grade—at this point, they could be unaware of their progress toward college-and-career readiness until they are half-way through high school. While a state test is only one measure of how a student is doing, it an important one. It is the only way to see how every district and school is doing to help all students reach important academic goals.
In addition, many parents look to a high school’s test scores when determining where to place their child. By eliminating an important year of data, students and parents will not have a clear picture of how well each school is doing, thereby undermining the opportunity for reliable school choice. By incorporating 9th grade figures, families can feel confident that a school is being held accountable for the success of all of its students, and that the information on assessment statistics is dependable.
It is also important to note that in order to receive federal funding, Colorado must assess its students in the primary subjects at least once in high school. Legislation passed in Colorado last year removed tests for 12th graders. If we were to eliminate all 9th grade assessments, the testing burden would be placed disproportionately on 10th and 11th graders, requiring them to spend more time on exams—exactly what proponents of this bill would like to avoid. Keeping the option for some assessments to be administered to 9th grade students helps ensure that no grade is over-tested.
Ultimately, we all want the best for our students. Regrettably, this bill would be a quick fix to a problem that does not actually exist and the unintended consequences could be impactful. In order for Colorado’s kids to be prepared for life after high school, they must know how well they are progressing each year, particularly as they transition between middle and high school. For all the reasons stated above, please join us in opposing SB 5.