High school students get one-year pass on social studies tests

Colorado high school students won’t have to take the statewide social studies test this year, the Department of Education announced Thursday.

Interim Commissioner Elliott Asp broke the news to the State Board of Education, saying the department needed another year to set up the new rotating schedule of social studies exams required by a new testing law.

The tests will be given to some elementary and middle school students this year, as scheduled.

The statewide social studies exams first rolled out in the spring of 2014, when all 4th and 7th graders took the tests. High school seniors took the exams and state science tests the following fall, marking the first time 12th graders had to take any statewide test. There was significant boycotting of those assessments, and the statewide participation rate was 83 percent.

Because of that backlash, the omnibus testing bill passed by the 2015 legislature, House Bill 15-1323, banned any statewide testing of high school seniors.

A companion bill changed the system for social studies testing, creating a rolling schedule under which students in a third of the state’s schools would be tested every year. The law left it up to the education department when to give the test in high school.

Asp told the board that the department decided “to forego the high school social studies assessment this year,” a decision he said was supported by district leaders, social studies educators and legislators. He also alluded to the possibility that the 2016 legislature will make further changes in testing law.

The social studies tests will be given in a third of elementary and middle schools next spring. The list of schools will be announced in November. To meet the law’s requirement that all schools be tested on a three-year cycle, the high school tests will be given in half of schools in 2017 and the other half in 2018.

Learn about the 2015 social studies and science test results, including a searchable database, here.

The board also was briefed on other testing developments, including:

Federally required science tests will be given to 11th graders this year. The law left this decision up to CDE.

A bid proposal will be ready by the end of September for vendors who want to provide the new 10th and 11th grade college readiness tests required by HB 15-1323. Asp said he expects ACT to bid and perhaps the College Board, which runs the SAT test. Board chair Steve Durham of Colorado Springs said the vendor should be subject to strict data privacy standards. “That’s what we plan on doing,” Asp said.

Statewide results of last spring’s PARCC language arts and math tests will be released at the Nov. 11-12 meeting. Results for individual districts and schools will be released later in the month. Asp warned the board that some PARCC states will release results earlier but that CDE decided on a later release to ensure the data is complete and error-free. “We’ve always been particular about giving you results that are final.” Full opt-out data also will be released in November.