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2016 State Assessment Score Release - Participation stabilizes, improvement seen but more work to be done

August 11, 2016

GRAND JUNCTION – State-level results from the 2016 administration of the PSAT 10, ACT and the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests in math, English language arts, science and social studies were released today, showing areas of improvement and stabilization in test participation rates.

In addition, district- and school-level results from the PSAT 10, ACT and CMAS science and social studies tests were also released.

Speaking at the State Board of Education meeting in Grand Junction, Interim Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes said that while there are areas of improvement over last year’s tests, two years of data isn’t enough to signify a trend.    

“I’m pleased we are releasing the results of CMAS tests as well as the PSAT 10 and ACT at the same time because together they give parents insight -- every step of the way – into whether students are on track to be ready for college and careers,” Anthes said.  “While we’re seeing some improvements, two years of data isn’t really enough to say we’re seeing a trend.  Still, it’s clear that we all have more work to do to ensure that all students are ready for college or careers and that we are closing historic gaps in achievement.” 

These tests are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and are the only common academic measurement for all students in Colorado, Anthes said.  However, she also said parents should keep in mind that these tests are just one measure of student achievement.

“Only when the tests are considered together with classroom grades and teacher feedback can parents have a complete picture of a student’s academic achievement,” Anthes said.

Highlights from 2016 results:

  • Students in grades 3 through 5 improved in math over the previous year.
  • Hispanic students showed improvement in five grades in English language arts, with three grades showing a greater than two percentage point increase of students meeting or exceeding expectations.
  • Black students saw slight increases in the percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations at five grade levels in English language arts.
  • While the gaps slightly narrowed between black and white subgroups and Hispanic and white subgroups on English language arts tests, the results were more mixed for math.
  • Science results are stable since 2014. Grade 4 social studies had 6.6 percent more students meeting or exceeding expectations in 2016 compared to 2014.
  • All students had their highest marks in five years on the ACT, and Hispanic students also had their highest marks in five years on the ACT.
  • Tenth-graders boosted participation rates. Spring 2016 was the first time Colorado students took the PSAT 10, which replaced the CMAS English language arts and math exams for Colorado’s 10th-graders. The 2015 participation rate for the 10th-grade English language arts test was about 62 percent. The 2016 participation rate on the PSAT 10 was over 88 percent.

Participation rates

More than 408,000 students in third- through ninth-grade took the standardized tests in English language arts and math, while a sampling of students in fourth- and seventh-grade took social studies tests, and students in fifth, eighth and 11th-grade took science tests.

Overall, participation stabilized between 2015 and 2016:

  • State-level results in the lower grades can be interpreted with confidence. As participation rates decrease, achievement data must be interpreted carefully.
    • At the state level, participation rates at grades 3-5 remained close to 95 percent, grades 6 and 7 remained close to 90 percent, and grade 8 remained close to 85 percent.
    • At the state level, grade 9 saw a slight improvement, approaching 75 percent participation.
  • Non-participants were disproportionately white, economically better off and more likely to be native English speakers.
  • The shift to PSAT 10 in 2016 was accompanied by a significant increase in participation, nearing 90 percent compared to about 70 percent in 2015.

To view all of the scores, please visit

CDE has created resources to help parents understand what their student’s test results mean and how they can be used to support their student’s academic success.