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Navigating the CMAS: PARCC Assessments

Dear Arapahoe Ridge Families:

We recently received results from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) on how our students performed last spring on the new state assessments in English language arts and math called CMAS: PARCC, and I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional background on how to understand the results of these new tests.

These assessments are often referred to as “PARCC tests” because they were developed by a consortium of states called the Partnership for Assessments in Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). These tests are part of the state’s overall assessment system, the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), which also includes tests in science and social studies.

Individual Student PARCC Results

Individual student results will be sent home by early January and will include information on how to understand the new PARCC score report, as well as how to use the results to support your student’s academic success.

Remember that these tests were given at the end of the previous school year. They represent a single point in time, and are just one of the many factors that can be used together to provide a complete picture of your student’s progress. They are one measure of how well your child is performing academically. Other information, such as grades, teacher feedback and scores on other tests will help determine your child’s academic strengths and needs.

School PARCC Results

When looking at results, it’s important to keep in mind that these scores cannot be compared to old test scores. Because these scores and previous years’ scores reflect performance on two different types of tests, direct comparisons are not valid. It would be like comparing, as the saying goes, apples and oranges.

The new tests are, for the first time, fully aligned to the new Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) which set higher expectations for students and are designed to provide a roadmap to help all students prepare for success in college and career. Given this, districts and schools will not be able to provide growth data for the CMAS: PARCC tests until after the 2016 tests are scored.

As a result of raising expectations for what students need to know and be able to do, the percentage of students meeting expectations on these new tests is lower than the percentage of students who scored Proficient and Advanced on the old TCAP tests. The drop in scores is typical as seen in other states where the PARCC tests have been given. This lower percentage of students meeting expectations can be seen across all levels, including the state, district, school and individual student level.

Lower scores don’t mean our students aren’t progressing; they just mean we’ve raised the bar for our students. These online tests are designed to measure a more complex set of skills including critical thinking, persuasive writing, and problem solving using tools not available with paper tests. These results are our new baseline and mark the point from which we will grow.

I’ve seen first-hand at Arapahoe Ridge that when we set high expectations and provide the necessary supports, our students not only reach those expectations, they can exceed them. We have focused on whole group reading instruction the past four years as a school. We currently have a strong focus on differentiated small group reading instruction and whole group writing instruction that includes the genres of narrative, persuasive/opinion and information. I trust that we will see the same success with CMAS: PARCC as we gain experience with these new, higher standards that prepare our students to navigate and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Additional Resources
If you would like to learn more about the CMAS: PARCC tests, please visit the Adams 12 Five Star Schools website at Here you will find information about why we have new state tests, when they’re taken, how long it takes for students to take the tests, and more. You can also experience the test yourself by taking a practice test.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Thank you for your continued engagement in your student’s learning and for your partnership with our teachers and school staff. When we combine the engagement and support of our parents with the talent, skills and commitment of our teachers and support staff, the possibilities are endless.


Kate Vogel


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PDF icon Mythbusters.pdf641.71 KB07/30/2018
PDF icon Parent'sGuide.pdf777.18 KB07/30/2018