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Testing in Colorado: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2009-2010 Colorado used the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) to test students in reading, writing and mathematics in grades 3 through 10, and in science in grades 5, 8 and 10. The CSAP is a standards-based test, which means it measures specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Colorado. Colorado also requires that all grade 11 students take the American College Test (ACT).

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school quality and visit in person before making any final determination.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles for the CSAP is for the 2009-2010 school year.

Tests in Colorado

The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP, pronounced "SEE-sap") is used to test students in reading, writing and math in grades 3 through 10, and in science in grades 5, 8 and 10. The CSAP is a standards-based assessment that tests specific skills defined by the state. Additionally, the Colorado Student Assessment Program-Alternate (CSAP-A) is given to a small group of students with significant cognitive difficulties who are unable to take the CSAP.

Colorado also requires that all grade 11 students take the American College Test (ACT), a college entrance exam, though no particular passing score has been established.

When is the CSAP given and how long does it take?

The CSAP is given in March or April and takes approximately 12 hours of classroom time each year for third through tenth graders. Each subject area of the test (reading, writing, math and science) is given over three, one-hour testing sessions. Third-grade reading and writing are exceptions, given in two, one-hour testing sessions.

What types of questions are on the CSAP tests?

The questions on the CSAP include both multiple-choice and open-ended written responses. They are based on Colorado's content standards and grade-level expectations for math, reading and writing skills in grades 3 through 10, and science in grades 5, 8 and 10.

How can I prepare my child for the CSAP?

Ask your child's teacher for information about activities that you can do at home to help your child learn the appropriate academic content.

Ask your child to read the directions and each test question carefully. Remind your child to tackle each question one at a time and to skip a question if he or she does not know the answer. She can come back to skipped questions if she has time at the end. Remind her to double-check her answers.

Plan ahead so your child is ready for the testing days with enough rest and breakfast to be able to concentrate, since hunger and fatigue can lower test performance.

The more informed you are as parent about the CSAP and standardized tests, the better able you will be to help your children have confidence and understand how the testing fits into their learning.

Are some students given special consideration?

It is up to each individual school district to determine when it is not appropriate to administer the CSAP to special needs students. In the spring of 2000, the Colorado Department of Education created an alternate assessment program called CSAP-A for special needs students who are unable to participate in the CSAP because of the severity of their disability.

Comments from readers

"Your kids do not have to take csaps! Just send your teacher and principal an opt out letter for your child. The tests are not mandatory!! Do not buy into the political red tape they are associated with! Save yourself, your students, and your teachers some grief. Anyhow, the Colorado of Department of Education is phasing out csaps next year. Tell your school you are aware of this, and want to opt out! We did."