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News Release - Colorado's 2019 State Assessment Score/Growth Release

Aug. 15, 2019

Colorado's 2019 State Assessment Score/Growth Release

In the fifth year of the CMAS assessment, students show continuous improvement in English language arts

DENVER – Overall state-, district- and school-level results from the 2019 administration of statewide assessments were released today along with academic growth summary information, showing some areas of improvement throughout the state and steady participation. 

Results for all 178 school districts and approximately 1,900 schools can be found on CDE’s Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) webpage.

About 550,000 students in third through 11th grade took the assessments last spring in the fifth year of CMAS. 

  • Third- through eighth-graders took CMAS assessments in English language arts and math. 
  • Fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders took CMAS science assessments. 
  • 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.

State assessments are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and remain the only common academic measurement for students in Colorado. To protect student privacy, results are not publicly released for schools or districts with fewer than 16 students who took the tests. In some cases, performance data are suppressed within specific performance levels to protect student privacy. For growth, results are not reported with fewer than 20 students. However, districts, schools and educators receive all results for their students, while parents receive score reports with results for their student, school, district and the state. 
Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said the tests showcase the hard work being done in classrooms across the state by students, their teachers and administrators but acknowledged that  many of our historically disadvantaged students continue to struggle.
“It is gratifying to see such accomplishments in the performance of so many students across the state, but it is still difficult to see large groups of students who are not advancing as they should,” Anthes said. “This was the fifth administration of CMAS ELA and math, and still the achievement gaps remain. Students from historically disadvantaged groups are not making the gains necessary to catch up. I know districts are working hard on this, and the reality is that there is no one answer to these persistent challenges that every state across the nation is facing. Our mission here at CDE is to ensure equity for every student, every step of the way. And for that, we must continue to make it a top priority to raise the achievement level for all students.

“This year we are implementing many steps to hopefully begin to reverse that trend by fully funding full-day kindergarten, offering incentives to encourage more teachers to work in rural areas and prioritizing efforts to improve reading for our youngest learners. With these initiatives, we are working toward ensuring that all children get access and opportunity to a great education.” 

Highlights from the 2019 assessment results

  • Continued Improvement on CMAS English language arts assessments: The percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations (the top two levels) in CMAS English language arts has improved at every grade level since the first administration of the tests in 2015 – with increases ranging from 3.1 percentage points in third grade to 7.9 percentage points in fifth grade over the five-year span. This year, all grades but seventh improved over 2018’s results. Unfortunately, still more than half of the test takers in each grade did not meet or exceed expectations in English language arts. The highest percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations were fifth-graders at 48.4 percent.  
  • Third-grade math improves: Third-graders showed nearly a 2 percentage point improvement from 2018 of students who met or exceeded expectations on the CMAS math assessment -- 41% in 2019 compared with 39.1% in 2018. However, more than half of the test takers in each grade did not meet or exceed expectations. And there has been a slight annual decline in proficiency on the sixth grade tests since 2015 from 31.7% meeting or exceeding in 2015 to 29.5% in 2019. Results for 2019 seventh and eighth grade math tests should not be compared with previous years because the testing populations have changed. Increases in performance in the seventh and eighth grade are due, in part, to higher-achieving middle school students taking grade-level tests who in the past would have taken one of the advanced math tests that are no longer offered. 
  • Slight improvements in fifth- and eighth-grade science: Both fifth- and eighth-graders improved slightly over 2018’s science scores with 35.9% of fifth-graders meeting or exceeding expectations (.4 point increase) and 31.5% of eighth-graders meeting or exceeding expectations (.3 point increase). Compared with 2015, scores improved slightly in both lower grades with fifth-graders improving 1.1 percentage points over the five-year span and eighth-graders improving by 2.4 percentage points. Approximately 21% of 11th-graders met or exceeded expectations; however, the low participation rate of 61% of 11th grade students makes interpretation of high school science results difficult. 
  • More students take the SAT than ever before:  In Spring 2019, 57,973 11th grade students took the SAT, which sets a record high for Colorado public school student participation in a college entrance exam since the state sponsored school day administration program’s inception in 2001. Similar to 2018, approximately 37% of Colorado students scored at or above the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks in both math and evidenced-based reading and writing. In math, 39% of students scored at or above the benchmark, and 58.6% scored at or above the evidence-based reading and writing benchmark, which represents a decline of less than 2 percentage points from 2018 to 2019. 
  • PSAT scores similar to 2018: Colorado 10th-grade performance on both the evidence-based reading and writing and math sections of the PSAT showed a slight drop of 3 points when compared with 2018, a decline of less than 1%. Tenth-graders scored an average of 476 on evidence-based reading and writing compared with 479 in 2018 and 462 on math compared with 465 in 2018. Colorado ninth-graders scored an average of 457 on the evidence-based reading and writing PSAT - a 3-point improvement from 2018 - and an average of 448 on math, which was the same as 2018.
  • SAT results show modest decline, continue to outperform national cohort: 11th-grade SAT scores declined compared with the 2018 SAT. In evidenced-based reading and writing, 11th-graders had an average score of 505, compared with 513 in 2018 -- a difference of 8 scale points on a 600-point scale. In math, Colorado’s 11th-graders had an average score of 496, compared with 501 in 2018 -- a difference of 5 scale score points on a 600-point scale. Across the United States, the national cohort who took the SAT school-day exam this April scored had an average score of 491 for evidence-based reading and writing and 482 for math.
  • Persistent Achievement Gaps in CMAS: Large disparities in academic performance continue to exist between races and ethnicities, males and females, economically disadvantaged students and students designated for special education services and their peers.
    • Poverty: Achievement gaps of about 30 percentage points across all grades persist for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch benefits -- an indication of poverty -- compared with students who don’t receive the benefits. The largest difference was a 32.3 percentage point gap on the sixth-grade English language arts assessment. 
    • Special Education: Large achievement gaps also remain between students with disabilities and those without disabilities. In some grades, the difference was as large as 44 percentage points, such as on the eighth-grade English language arts exam, in which only 7.2% of students with disabilities met or exceeded expectations as compared with 51.2% of students without disabilities.
    • Races and Ethnicities: Smaller percentages of blacks and Hispanics met or exceeded expectations in every grade on the CMAS math and English language arts tests when compared with their white peers. For example, a total of 60.1% of white fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations in the 2019 English language arts assessment compared with 31.5% of Hispanic students and 31.6% of black students. Those gaps have remained relatively unchanged for five years. 
    • Gender: Consistent with previous years, females outperformed males in English language arts tests with the gap increasing to 19.2 points in the eighth grade from 7.1 percentage points in the third grade. In math, males held a slight advantage over females in third through sixth grade tests with gaps ranging from 1.1 percentage points (sixth grade) to 4.8 points (fourth grade).   
  • Achievement Gaps on SAT:  While the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch who scored at or above the college readiness benchmark remained similar to 2018, students with disabilities had a slightly higher rate of scoring at or above benchmark with 15.3% achieving that mark in evidence-based reading and writing and 7.1% in math. English learners had a slight increase in the percentage meeting the benchmark in math with 3.8% meeting the mark compared to 2018. Only the Asian and black racial/ethnic subgroups saw slight increases in reaching the math benchmark. When exploring gender differences, females continue to outperform males in evidence-based reading and writing, while males continue to outperform females in math.

Participation improves
Participation in the 2019 CMAS assessments continues to show improvement with grades three through five all above 95% participation. There was relatively no change in participation in the middle school years of six, seven and eight grades compared with 2018. But all grades have shown increases in participation from 2015, ranging from 1.6 percentage points in grade five English language arts to 4.3 percentage points in grade seven math.

The 61% participation of 11th-graders on the CMAS science test was the lowest among the grades and tests and a 2 percentage point drop from 2018’s participation. However, 57,973 11th-graders or 92.6%, took the SAT, a record high for Colorado public school student participation in a college entrance exam since the state sponsored school day administration program’s inception in 2001. 
In 2019, ninth-graders took the PSAT for the second time with 93.4% participation. This is compared with 76% of ninth-graders who took the CMAS ELA test in 2017. A total of 92.3% of 10th-graders took the PSAT, compared with 92.7% in 2018.

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. 

Growth results
Today’s release also includes academic growth summary data from the 2019 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. PSAT and SAT growth result calculations will be released to districts with the 2019 preliminary frameworks.

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.