Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Colorado Dept of Education Shocks State with Un-Wise Shift from ACT to SAT

The battle of the testing companies rages on, and testing/Common Core behemoth David Coleman of the College Board has landed a serious blow in the state of Colorado. If you missed the news - which was easy to do because of the subversive way it was delivered - the Colorado Department of Education announced at 1:00 on December 23 (just as everyone ran out the back door for vacation) that the state was severing a 14-year relationship with the ACT test and switching to the College Board's newly designed (and completely unfamiliar) SAT test for its junior college entrance exam. This decision shocked many in the education world, primarily because of ACT's long-standing history with Colorado and its status as the national benchmark for college readiness.

As an eduator and a parent I am extemely disappointed in this decision, and I have registered my complaints with the state and local legislators. I have also recorded my concerns and criticisms in a blog post that Diane Ravitch was kind enough feature on her blog. Of particular interest to parents and educators is this paragraph:

This decision is a problematic game-changer, and the most troubling part is the “newly designed” nature of the SAT. The SAT given this spring will be a new style and format with no piloting for test score comparison and data. Just like CDE did with PARCC, they are using Colorado’s students as guinea pigs for a new test. I know juniors who took the SAT this fall – which is early – because the test was familiar, and they wanted a score for a test style they knew and for which the scores were already established. They are wary of this new test because there is no data or experience with it, and we don’t really know what the scores will mean or what the cut points would be. Taking this new test for the state is risky. Obviously, many students will take this new SAT, but why would they take it as a school/state test, for which it will become their public record? As an educator, I must administer this test. But if my child were a junior, I would have serious reservations about taking this new test for the state. While I would encourage my child to take the ACT and SAT on a Saturday for which he can choose if he sends the scores, I would be wary of allowing the state to put scores for a brand new and unfamiliar test on his transcript. Colorado parents should be made aware of this concern.

Clearly, CDE's decision to shift testing programs in the middle of the year with little notice was an egregious display of irresponsibility and short-sighted politics. And, this can be infered from the immediate backpedalling that came from CDE after students and educators returned to school this week. In a befuddling manner the state released a statement indicating that - after further consideration - the state may stick with ACT for one more year. Interim head of CDE Eliot Asp said:

“I know that this is a high-stakes assessment for students, with college entrance, placement and scholarships on the line,” Asp wrote. “To require this year’s 11th graders to take the SAT exam this spring – after they have already invested time, money and energy in preparing to take a different assessment – would not be in their best interest.”

Obviously, this shift is "not in the best interest" of kids. The only question is how CDE could have been so clueless to that reality. In fact, it seems in this case that the people at CDE are "not in the best interest" of kids, and it should cause all educators and parents to ask just whose interests CDE is looking out for at this point.


Anonymous said...

While agreeing with much of what you've posted, I'd like to add a comment about the selection committee.

"...the decision being made by “a selection committee” that no one I know following the issue has heard of. When Colorado passed HB1323 which required that the junior level test be put out to bid, there was no talk of a committee."

The State procurement process requires a selection committee to evaluate the bids received. I believe a 15 member committee was chosen that included only one CDE member and the remainder were from school districts. It's unlikely that the metro area Supes had no reps on the committee so it's possible that your district office might be able to provide some info since Ch Crk is a major player in that regard.

I'm assuming that price may have also played a role in a bid contract. CB may be lowballing this round looking to build 'brand acceptance' for a new test but they'll want more next time.

I enjoyed your recent article in the Sunday DP Perspectives and I also read your pieces back when you were a part of the Colo Voices. I'm very interested in educational issues and, no, I'm not a retired teacher. I didn't have the talent to be a teacher...but I did marry one. Take care.

mmazenko said...

Thank you so much for the feedback and the clarification. At this point, many of us are troubled by the apparent anonymity of the selection committee and the lack of transparency during the process. From what I understand their names are not being made public, and that is certainly troubling.

Thanks again for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Just trying to help. No, the names will not likely be released by CDE to spare the individuals the blowback emails that would come their way. From Chalkbeat:

State officials say the selection committee that recommended The College Board included educators and administrators from urban, rural and suburban districts, and included content matter experts, assessment experts, special population professionals, guidance counselors and higher education professionals.

Ask the questions of your district office as to who was representing CC on the select comm. CB realigned their test to 'the standards' while the ACT nibbled at the edges of its test. I'm assuming that CB also came in under the ACT bid since the change could have been made this year since the money appropriated for the current year testing was set prior to 7/1/15 when it was assumed it would be the ACT again.

Just sayin'...