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February 2018

Frequently Asked Questions about State Assessments
Participation counts!  We encourage everyone to test.  

Q: What state tests are required this year?

A: Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) include tests in Science and Social Studies, and tests in Mathematics and English Language Arts based in part on content originally developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium.  The PSAT and SAT, developed by the College Board, are required as well.  

For more information about state testing, visit

Q: What are these tests intended to measure?

A: The following are the assessments required by the State of Colorado and administered by BVSD, as well as their intended purposes:

  • CMAS Mathematics and English Language Arts assessments are intended to assess ability to communicate effectively, apply math to real-world situations, critically analyze literature and informational texts, and demonstrate problem-solving techniques.  (Grades 3-8)

  • CMAS Science tests are intended to assess mastery of skills and concepts in physical science, life science, earth systems science, and scientific investigations & the nature of science.  (Grades 5, 8, 11)

  • CMAS Social Studies tests are intended to assess mastery of skills and concepts in history, geography, economics, and civics.  (Grades 4 & 7, only at sampled schools)

  • SAT measures academic preparation for success in college.  (Grade 11)

  • PSAT (grades 9 & 10) measures achievement of state academic standards and preparation for the 11th grade college entrance exam selected by the state (the SAT)

Q: When are Boulder Valley School District Students taking the test?

A: Click here to view the district’s state assessment windows.  Schools set their own specific administration schedules within these windows.

Q: How will results be used?

A: CMAS assessments are designed to be point-in-time snapshots of what students know and can do in core content areas.  

  • These assessments form a baseline for benchmarking student learning against state expectations, and assist teachers and administrators in knowing how individual students are progressing over time.  Scores on tests contribute to a body of evidence for identifying individualized supports needed for each student.

  • Results are used by schools/districts to inform program, school and district improvement.  Having scores for all students makes results more useful for understanding our challenging achievement gaps and monitoring system-wide progress.

  • The results are also used in the state’s accountability system to rate schools and districts.  Performance on tests will count towards Colorado school and district unified improvement plan type assignments, and towards other ratings in Colorado’s new federally required rating system.  Participation counts.  Low participation can result in decreased ratings.

  • The ratings issued by the state and the data collected are used by, US News & World Report’s Best High Schools and other organizations to compare different high schools in Colorado and across the country. It can impact the the local and national reputation of our schools, especially with prospective parents who often utilize this information in choosing a school.

  • Boulder Valley School District places college entrance examination test scores on student final transcripts, in accordance with state law, but will not place other state test scores on transcripts.   

Q: How do we prepare students for testing?

A: Online practice tests are available to familiarize students with the testing environment.  In addition to providing an opportunity for becoming acquainted with the kinds of questions that appear on new tests, the practice environment should help students use embedded tools such as text-to-speech.

Links to practice tests:

Q: What if I want to opt my student out of testing?  

A: As provided for in state law and district policy, parents may excuse their students from taking CMAS and state college preparatory and college admissions examinations. Contact your principal if you are considering excusing your student from specific state tests, so that you may make an informed decision with regard to the impact non-participation may have on your school and district.  This year, our entire focus will be on supporting students as they take the test.  As a result, families are asked (though not required) to arrange an excused absence from school on testing days and appropriate alternative activities of their own if their child will not be participating.

Q: Could this impact BVSD’s accreditation at the state or federal level?

A: We do not yet know all the potential accountability consequences for schools and the district under the new federal component of the state accountability system.  Initial indications--in a plan the Colorado Department of Education submitted to the federal government--are that students that opt out will receive a lowest performance level score, specifically in math and language arts, which would impact school and district ratings when more than 5% of students opt out.  Under the current state model, students who do not participate but are properly marked as an opt out are not counted against a school or district’s accreditation. Low participation is noted along with a performance, improvement, priority improvement or turnaround designation.  Low participation may lead to a school receiving a designation (e.g., priority improvement) that is not reflective of what the school would have earned if all students had participated.  

Q: Why a deadline of March 5 for opting out?  

A: This allows schools a minimum of 2 weeks to make online testing arrangements.  

Q: Is there less testing this year?  

A: The Colorado Department of Education reduced total testing time this year at every grade level except 10th--which had the shortest testing time last year of any grade with a state test.  The largest reduction was at grade 9, where the much shorter PSAT 8/9 replaced CMAS English Language Arts and Math tests.  The reduction at most other grades is about half an hour if we compare to testing that didn’t include an English Language Arts field test, and closer to an hour and a half when it did.  

Q: Why computer-based test administration?

A: Computer-based tests hold the potential for relatively swift delivery of student results, when compared to paper and pencil tests.  

Q: Where can I find information about data privacy and security?

A: Colorado Department of Education privacy and security information is available at:

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