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News Release - 2018 State Assessment Score/Growth Release

August 16, 2018

2018 State Assessment Score/Growth Release

DENVER - Overall state-, district- and school-level results from the 2018 administration of statewide assessments were released today along with academic growth summary information, showing areas of improvement throughout the state and increases in participation.

Results for all 178 school districts and approximately 1,800 schools can be found on CDE’s Colorado Measures of Academic Success webpage

Approximately 550,000 students were assessed last spring from third through 11th grade. Third- through eighth-graders took Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessments in English language arts and math. Fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders took CMAS science assessments. And fourth- and seventh-graders from sampled schools took CMAS social studies assessments. 

Ninth- and 10th-graders took the PSAT, and 11th-graders took the SAT as the state’s college entrance exam and Colorado’s measure of achievement in high school.

All of the state assessments are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and are the only common academic measurement for students in Colorado. To protect the privacy of students, results are not included for schools or districts with fewer than 16 students who took the tests. In some cases, performance data were also suppressed within specific levels to protect student privacy. For growth, results are not reported with fewer than 20 students.

Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes lauded the hard work of students, teachers and administrators across Colorado but noted that disparate achievement across student groups continues to exist. 

“It is deeply gratifying to see steady improvement for so many students in the state, and we know this is due to the time and effort put in by students, families and educators,” Anthes said. “However, these tests also reveal wide achievement gaps continue to exist. As a society and a state, this is unacceptable. And every effort must continue to be made to reverse this course and increase access and opportunity for all students.

“CDE is discussing additional ways we can support more districts through targeted effective grant programs and connecting districts and schools that have a track record of closing achievement gaps so that we can all learn from one another. We have to find ways to expand successful strategies to make sure the education system is working for all of our students.” 

Highlights from the 2018 assessment results

  • Improvement on CMAS English language arts assessments: At the state level, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations (the top two levels) in CMAS English language arts improved from 2017 at every grade level – with increases ranging from 0.3 percentage points in third grade to 2.4 percentage points in seventh grade. Nevertheless, more than half of the test takers in each grade did not meet or exceed expectations. The highest percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in the English language arts was 47.4 percent in fifth grade.
  • Fifth grade math improves: Fifth-graders showed nearly a 2 point improvement from 2017 in the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations on the CMAS math assessment -- 35.5 percent in 2018 compared to 33.6 percent in 2017. The percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations on the fifth grade math test has increased by more than 5 points since the first time the test was administered in 2015. Third- and fourth-graders held steady with 39.1 percent of third-graders meeting or exceeding expectations and 33.8 percent of fourth-graders – roughly the same percentages as the year before. Results for 2018 advanced math tests should not be compared with previous years as the tested populations have changed. Increases in performance of seventh- and eighth-graders are due in part to higher achieving students taking the grade-level tests who would have in the past taken one of the advanced math tests.
  • PSAT remains steady: Colorado 10th-graders scored an average of 479 on evidence-based reading and writing while ninth-graders scored an average of 454. The national user average was 470 for grade 10 and 445 for grade nine. In math, Colorado 10th-graders scored an average of 465 and ninth-graders scored an average of 448 compared to the national average of 460 for grade 10 and 440 for grade nine.  
  • SAT results: On the SAT, 11th-graders scored an average of 513 in evidence-based reading and writing and an average of 501 on math – the exact same averages from 2017. The national cohort average is 497 for evidence-based reading and writing and 489 for math for students nationwide who took the SAT school day exam on the same date as 11th-grade students in Colorado.
  • Persistent Achievement Gaps: Large achievement gaps remained relatively unchanged between races and ethnicities, males and females, economically disadvantaged students and students designated for special education services and their peers. For example:
    • Races and Ethnicities: The gaps between black and Hispanic students compared to white students ranged from 23.4 points to almost 29 percentage points in students who met or exceeded standards in CMAS math and English language arts tests. Those gaps have remained relatively unchanged since 2015.
    • Special Education: Gaps across the elementary and middle school CMAS assessments between students with and without disabilities ranged from about 28 points to 43.8 percentage points.
    • Poverty: For students who qualify for free and reduced lunch benefits – an indication of poverty – two-digit gaps persisted compared with students who don’t receive the benefits. The most pronounced difference is a 33.6 point gap on the fifth-grade science test.
    • Gender: Consistent with previous years, females continued to outperform males in English language arts tests with the gap increasing from third grade to eighth grade. An 8-point difference existed between boys and girls on the third grade English language arts test with 44.4 percent of girls meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 36.5 percent of boys. By the eighth grade that difference climbed to a 20-point gap with 54.2 percent of girls meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 34 percent of boys. Conversely, in the math test, males outperformed females in grades three through seven with gaps ranging from 0.6 percentage points (seventh grade) to 4 percentage points (fourth grade). However, females outperformed males on the eighth grade math test (3.4 percentage points) as well as on Algebra I (0.2 percentage points) and Geometry (6.8 percentage points).

Participation improves

Participation in the 2018 assessments improved for grades three through 10.  The biggest improvement in the CMAS tests was in eighth-grade English language arts, where participation improved by 3.5 percentage points to 88.7 percent participation. Eighth grade math participation also improved by 3.3 points to 89 percent. While participation on the 11th-grade CMAS science test was slightly higher than in 2017, the test had the lowest participation rate with only 61.4 students participating. 

In 2018, ninth-graders took the PSAT for the first time with 93.8 percent participation. This is compared to the 76 percent of ninth-graders who took the CMAS ELA test in 2017. A total of 92.7 percent of 10th-graders took the PSAT, compared to 91.9 percent in 2017. More than 90 percent of 11th-graders took the SAT in 2018.

Nevertheless, parents and community members should continue to consider participation rates at schools and districts when reviewing test scores. In general, participation rates on CMAS tests tend to be higher in the lower grades. But there can be significant differences across schools and communities. 

More continuity in PSAT and SAT, test resources

Colorado high school students taking assessments this year had more continuity between the high school exams, with ninth- and 10th-graders taking the PSAT and 11th-graders taking the SAT. Students also had access to free resources through the Khan Academy, including a personalized SAT study plan, interactive questions, guided essay practice, a mobile app for daily practice and the ability to scan and score practice tests. All of these are optional resources that students can voluntarily choose to access.

In addition, students who took the SAT had the opportunity to participate in College Board’s free Student Search Service, which provides students with access to more than 1,700 colleges and universities and $180 million every year in scholarship funds. Students also have the option at the time of testing to send their scores to up to four colleges or universities for free. 

Growth results

Today’s release also includes academic growth summary data from the 2018 CMAS assessments in English language arts and math, which provides information on student progress from year-to-year. Looking at growth results in conjunction with the achievement results provides an expanded understanding of a school or district’s performance. The Colorado Department of Education is pleased to be able to release the CMAS growth results at the same time as the achievement results so this broader understanding of performance is available.

A student’s growth percentile (ranging from 1 to 99) indicates how that student’s performance changed over time relative to students with similar score histories on state assessments. For example, a student in the 75 percentile means he or she grew as well or better than 75 percent of his or her peers.  
School and district growth rates are determined by the growth percentiles from individual students, specifically the median (or score in the middle) student growth percentile. As a point of reference, the state median growth percentile for any grade overall is about 50.

Summary growth results for schools and districts, including the growth of disaggregated groups of students, can be found on The Colorado Growth Model in SchoolView.

Data files with results for all districts and schools in the state are available on the Growth Model Summary Data webpage

What's Next?

Preliminary performance frameworks for schools and districts are expected to be released within the next few weeks. 

Parent Resources

CDE has created several resources to help parents understand their students’ scores and also has translated some of the material into Spanish. 

Resources include:

  • Understanding score reports for CMAS tests
  • CMAS sample score reports (also available in Spanish)
  • Frequently asked questions

To access the materials for parents and families, visit CDE’s Resources for Parents webpage.

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