Gov. Jared Polis signed HB-1161 — a bill that reduced the number of standardized tests Colorado students have to take this year — into effect on Tuesday, but it’s now up to the federal government to determine just how many CMAS tests Colorado students will take this year.
The bill requires the Colorado Department of Education to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that would suspend CMAS testing this year for:
- Science for students enrolled in grades 5, 8, and 11
- Math for students enrolled in grades 3, 5, and 7
- English language arts for students enrolled in grades 4, 6, and 8.
Social studies exams for elementary and middle school students are canceled, as well. They are a state requirement, not federal, so they do not require a federal waiver.
Jeremy Meyer, director of communications for CDE, said the state will submit its waiver this week, but doesn’tt know a timeline for approval. He said that, as of last week, the Education Department hasn’t responded to any waivers it had received.
The Biden administration announced on Feb. 22 that there would be no federal waiver for standardized testing this school year, unlike what was done in spring 2020 when COVID-19 was first impacting schools and testing across the country was waived.
“To be successful once schools have reopened, we need to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need,” read the announcement.
The Colorado bill moved through the legislature quickly; it was introduced less than two weeks ago. The quick lifespan of the bill was likely due to the fact that CMAS testing is set to begin soon.
CMAS tests are scheduled to run from April 12 to May 14, but districts can begin to administer online math and English tests as early as March 22 to “compensate for technology capacity,” according to the CDE website.
“The timing is challenging,” said Meyer in an email. “Districts are aware of the legislation and that the state is submitting a waiver. We have encouraged them to plan accordingly in a way that best meets their needs.”
In Fort Collins, education leaders have been outspoken about canceling CMAS tests this year, saying they will take away valuable in-person teaching time and not provide new information about learning loss.
A previous bill had been introduced that proposed canceling CMAS testing in whole, but it did not garner bipartisan support and led to the compromise that is HB-1161.
Another notable stipulation of the law is that a school district cannot use “student academic growth measures or student performance measures when evaluating licensed personnel for the 2020-21 school year.”
Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.