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Luke Ragland is Vice President of Policy at Colorado Succeeds, a Future Forward coalition member. This blog is a version of testimony he provided before the Colorado General Assembly House Education Committee in February 2014.

Our state’s accountability framework serves as indispensable tool for system-wide improvement.

As business leaders, Colorado Succeeds’ members know that what gets measured gets done.  And the key to accurate and useful measurement lies in the ability to compare actual performance against desired outcomes.

The inability to accurately measure student growth would undermine Colorado’s capability to assess whether teachers, schools, and districts are improving student achievement. Similarly, eliminating the requirement for early literacy assessments would undercut Colorado’s ability to identify struggling readers so that they can receive targeted supports and interventions to get them back on track.

Put plainly, if we stop measuring the progress of our students, we will have no way to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks. Statewide assessments and the related accountability framework are absolutely fundamental tools to ensure that every student, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality school.

Anti-testing proponents say that students spend too much time taking statewide tests.  This is an incredibly important topic, but we need to be sure the discussion is based on facts. So, exactly how much time are students spending taking statewide assessments?  The answer may surprise you:  Under the new statewide assessments, the average student will spend less than 1.5 percent of total instructional time taking statewide tests.

Of course, this fact seems wholly incompatible with the commonly-accepted rhetoric surrounding tests, namely, that our students are being inundated with constant state-mandated assessments. This confusion is likely a result of the confluence of several factors, including how district-mandated tests are administered, testing windows, human resource allocation, and technology capacity.

It is important to be precise when identifying concerns related to testing so that we can address the issues actually at play.  If we need to adjust testing windows, provide training to teachers, or increase technology capacity; let’s figure out solutions to those specific problems.