Colorado’s relationship with student assessment vendor to change

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: June 16, 2017

This week, the State Board of Education decided to continue working with the company Pearson to develop and administer statewide assessments in all four core content areas, known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS). A committee of educators reviewed vendor applications and selected Pearson, which has administered Colorado’s annual standardized assessment for the last four years. The change means that Colorado will move away from test items developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and use more of its own items, especially following the adoption of the revised standards in 2018.

In December, the Colorado State Board of Education directed CDE staff to find a vendor to administer new state tests that would result in reduced testing time and faster turnaround for results. As a result of the board’s directives, Colorado will retain more state ownership over test content and changes. It is likely the state will keep some PARCC questions on future math and English assessments for students in third grade through eighth grade, and develop and incorporate Colorado-specific items designed by Colorado educators for future assessments.

Leaving the PARCC consortium will have implications for cross-state data comparisons, but from a student and educator point of view, the test will remain largely the same. Results from the 2018 CMAS assessments are expected to be comparable to prior years’ results, creating little disruption to the accountability system.

“Because Pearson has been already providing the testing services for CMAS for a number of years, the transition to the new contract should be seamless for educators and students,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner, in CDE’s press release about the decision. “Educators and students are familiar with Pearson’s systems, so this will allow them to continue to concentrate on teaching and learning the Colorado Academic Standards, which is the content assessed by the tests.”

This assessment change comes after the state made a bipartisan reduction in overall testing two years ago and aligned ninth grade assessments with college entrance exams in the 2017 legislative session. Ongoing, thoughtful adjustments made by our State Board, CDE and the legislature have protected rigorous assessments aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and have ensured continuity for our students, educators and accountability system.

2018  Assessments at a Glance

Assessment Grade
CMAS Math and ELA Grades 3-8
CMAS: Science Grades 5, 8 and 11
CMAS: Social Studies Grades 4 and 7 (sampling basis with approximately 1/3 of schools participating)
Grade 11 (all schools currently scheduled to participate)
PSAT Grades 9 and 10
SAT Grade 11
ACCESS for ELLs Grades K-12
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The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit www.coloradokids.org.