Aug 17, 2022 - News

Colorado's students lag behind pre-pandemic learning levels

Change in share of students at or above grade level in CMAS scores, 2019 to 2022
Data: Chalkbeat; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Pandemic learning loss in Colorado is real.

Driving the news: Colorado students posted lower scores in most grades and subjects on statewide standardized tests compared to 2019, according to an analysis by our partners at Chalkbeat.

  • The decline is most evident in math scores on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success and SAT and PSAT tests given each spring.
  • Significant gaps exist for Black, Hispanic and low-income students, CMAS test results released Wednesday show.

Why it matters: The 2022 scores are the first full test results issued since 2019 after standardized testing was canceled in 2020 amid the pandemic and saw less participation last year.

  • The results help state and local education officials identify low-performing schools and give parents the opportunity to look at their children's strengths and weaknesses.

Be smart: See how your school and district performed. (Searchable table at bottom of page.)

State of learning: A majority of Colorado didn't meet statewide learning standards in 2022 β€” which was also true before the pandemic.

  • About 29% of students statewide who took CMAS math tests met or exceeded expectations, down from 33% in 2019.
  • A quarter of seventh graders met the marks in math, down from 31.6% in 2019.
  • And ninth graders posted the largest decline in math, 8.8% below the 50% levels pre-pandemic.

Yes, but: One silver lining is the literacy scores for third graders, where the state is particularly focused on improving results. 41% met or exceeded grade-level benchmarks β€” on par with the 41.3% who did so in 2019.

  • Still, other grade levels didn't rebound in reading. In fifth grade, 45% were proficient, a point lower than 2019.

What they're saying: Educators say parents are more likely to encourage their children to read, particularly in virtual learning settings, but struggle with how to help students in math.

  • "A lot of my students struggled with basic math facts … I think the pandemic affected the way we taught those things and people went about addressing them in different ways," said Marty Gutierrez, a middle school math teacher in Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

Zoom in: In Denver, the state's largest district, test scores improved from 2021 but not to pre-pandemic levels, except in third-grade reading.

  • High school students posted lower PSAT and SAT scores compared to 2021 and 2019, struggling most in math.
  • Denver also showed the largest gap between Black and Hispanic students in literacy and math compared to their peers. 72% of white students met proficiency on literacy tests, but that number fell to 26% of Black students and 24% of Hispanic students.

Context: Colorado gives CMAS tests in literacy and math to grades 3-8, as well as science and social studies. High school students are evaluated on PSAT and SAT scores.

  • This year's scores won't lead to state improvement orders because the school accountability system won't entirely resume until 2023.

Go deeper ... more on CMAS test results and SAT scores from our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat

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