Colorado test scores dip below 2019 levels as effects of COVID linger

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock CO) Participation rates for the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), the PSAT and SAT last spring improved year over year – but scores dipped lower than 2019 levels, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).

Approximately 94% of Colorado students in grades 3 through 8 tackled the full year-end assessment of English language arts (ELA), math, science, and social studies in 2022 vs. approximately 76% in 2021 and 97% in 2019.

While math and ELA scores improved for most grades from 2021, the CDE notes that those scores declined from 2019 in almost every grade and subject. “There is still more work to be done to fully recover from the lost learning opportunities over the last couple of years,” according to today’s release by the CDE.

Students meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations in ELA range from 40.7% for third graders to 45.9% for fifth graders and 43.9% for eighth graders. Those numbers represent from 0.6 to 4.7 percentage points lower than in 2019.

The percentage of students in grades 3 through 8 meeting or exceeding expectations for math is even less, with a low of 26.3% of sixth-graders and a high of 39.4% of third graders. Those scores range from 0.8 to 6.5 percentage points lower than in 2019.

The CDE also noted that the biggest drop was on the PSAT math test. The percentage of ninth graders who met or exceeded expectations fell 8.8 percentage points from 2019.

Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said, “Today, we celebrate the fact that student scores were better in most cases than they were in 2021, but we continue to face the challenge of fully bring kids back to the levels they were before the disruptions of the pandemic as well as closing the historic opportunity achievement gaps."

The hard work from teachers, parents, and students over the past year has been remarkable, and with support from the COVID relief funds targeted at addressing lost learning opportunities, I’m confident we’ll continue our rebound."

State, district, and school-level results are available on the CDE website.

Participation rates increase

Because participation rates were low in 2021 (76.2%), it’s difficult to make accurate comparisons across the past three years. The good news is that 2019 and 2022 participation rates are much closer, separated by an average of 3.2%.

According to CDE, “across all state tests, the tested population of students mirrored the enrolled population of students reasonably well, providing confidence that the overall results provide a reasonable indicator of student achievement at the state level.”

The state also notes that for CMAS, Black students participated at lower rates than other racial/ethnic groups and that students with disabilities took part less than students without. Black and Hispanic groups also had lower participation rates than Asians and whites for the PSAT/SAT.

English learners took the tests at lower rates than non-English learners.

Individual scores

CDE says districts and schools received student-level results in June and CMAS hard copy and performance results in July. Parents will get their students’ individual reports from the district.

Parent resources, including translated material in Spanish, guides to understand score reports, and FAQs, are available on the CDE website.

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