School districts across the State of Colorado will be administering state tests in the next few months, including Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), PSAT or SAT. The Boulder Valley School District is once again encouraging students to Take the Test, knowing that the data collected during these exams can be a powerful tool in helping BVSD schools refine instruction, ultimately supporting students’ growth.
“There are a lot of benefits to having the data,” explained Angevine Middle School Principal Mike Medina, whose rate of student participation increased from 76 percent to 93 percent in one year. “Our teachers use [CMAS results] to track the progress of students and how much growth students are making in the classroom. Without the highest percentage of the students taking the test, you don’t have solid data to inform instruction.”
At the Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies (BCSIS), where participation rates grew from 84 percent to 99 percent, Principal Phil Katsampes says his team’s focus is using the data to shed light on each child’s performance.
“It really helps to design learning programs for students based on their detailed needs and our ability to use data in order to understand the strengths and areas where they need more practice. We need to continually refine instruction to really support kids, as individuals,” Katsampes said.
While the tests also help schools to gain a sense of how students compare to peers across the state and the country, the principals we to spoke fully understood the concerns that prompted a wave of opt-outs a few years ago, locally and nationally.
“We appreciate the ability to design rich, meaningful instructional plans for each child, but we also respect that there is a spectrum of beliefs around standardized testing,” Katsampes said.
While the state’s assessments still aren’t perfect, the principals say the state heard parents and has made some big adjustments.
“For a while there we were assessing everything. We had so many tests. We were spending so much time testing,” Medina said. “I think it has been scaled back quite a bit and it is a lot more manageable now.”