Aug 17, 2023 - Education

Colorado student tests scores show slight improvements, but pandemic learning loss persists

Illustration of answer bubbles on a standardized test answer sheet filled to form the shape of an upward arrow.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Many Colorado students aren't prepared for the grade they're entering this fall, as they continue to struggle to rebound from pandemic learning loss.

Driving the news: State standardized test results released Thursday show some signs of improvement, but 2023 scores still lag behind 2019's in most grades and subjects, according to an analysis by our partners at Chalkbeat.

  • Significant gaps persist for students of color, from low-income backgrounds, learning English or with a disability.
  • PSAT and SAT results also fell short of pre-pandemic levels.

The good news: Strides have been made, and the state's education department reports academic progress is on a pace resembling 2019, contrary to much of the country.

  • Elementary school students are performing better in math — a subject Colorado kids have struggled with for years and lawmakers have sought to address.
  • Plus: More students met or exceeded expectations in language arts this year compared to 2022.

Yes, but: Recovery is uneven, and many disparities exist.

  • The share of white and Asian students scoring at grade level ranges between 24 and 30 points higher than for Black and Hispanic students.
  • Meanwhile just 18.7% of third graders statewide who tested in Spanish met or exceeded expectations — nearly 9 percentage points below 2019 levels.

The intrigue: Male students are recovering faster in math and English, and state education officials aren't sure why.

  • "When we look at the national level, there's been significant research that suggests young women have struggled more during the pandemic with depression and anxiety," Colorado Commissioner of Education Susana Córdova noted during a media briefing Tuesday.

The big picture: "I would love to say, 'We're back,' but we have a lot of work to do," Anthony Smith, chief of equity and engagement for Denver Public Schools, told the Denver Gazette.

Be smart: See how your school and district performed.

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


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