State releases pandemic-era assessment scores; some PSD data dip

Recently, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released 2021 Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) and Colorado PSAT and SAT scores. Although the assessments given in 2021 still measure the same skills and concepts as previous years, the grade levels and numbers of students tested look much different from previous years, making comparisons challenging.

Both the CMAS and SAT tests assess student mastery of Colorado Academic Standards. In typical years, tests for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics are given to all students in grades 3 through 11. PSD typically has participation rates of 98% at elementary, 90% at middle school, and 89% at high school.

This past year, the pandemic shifted and disrupted learning opportunities. Students learned through a variety of models, including in-person, remote, and hybrid instruction with models changing throughout the school year due to quarantines, wildfires, and other factors. Due to the pandemic, instructional time may have been adjusted.

To maximize instructional time, the state reduced the impact of testing on students. ELA assessments were given only in grades 3, 5, and 7; mathematics assessments were given in grades 4, 6, and 8; science assessments were administered only in eighth grade; and high school PSAT and SAT were given in grades 9, 10, and 11. Both PSD and the State of Colorado saw dramatic reductions in student participation.

  • Elementary participation, normally 98% in PSD, dropped to 86% of students taking the test,
  • Middle school participation, normally 90%, dropped to 75%,
  • High school participation dropped to 78% from its typical level of 89%, and
  • Science participation dropped from 83% to 62%.

The lower the participation rate, the less representative the data are of the entire district.


Data highlights and trends

Although it is important to note that the data do not represent all students, the trends for the available data show that:

  • PSD exceeds the state in the percent of students who meet grade-level expectations in all CMAS content areas, and
  • PSD exceeds the state in the percent of students who meet state benchmarks for PSAT9, PSAT10, and SAT in both Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Mathematics.

Much like the state, PSD showed lower percentages of students meeting grade-level expectations, more notably in mathematics than English Language Arts.

Based on local data, last summer, PSD instituted a new summer program called Connect and Engage. This summer program was created to help strategically bridge gaps in key critical standard concepts. As teachers support our students in the 2021-22 school year, they are responding to students learning needs regularly to ensure all students are learning appropriate grade-level material and addressing any learning gaps by providing scaffolds to help accelerate learning.

District data may be found on the PSD Achievement/Growth Dashboard. State data, including PSD, will be available in September on the CDE 2021 Assessment Data and Results web page.

How are data used?

In typical, pre-pandemic years, CMAS data provides families a snapshot of whether their children are achieving grade level standards. Families also receive growth data in typical years, which communicate the amount of growth between years relative to a student’s academic peers. PSD expects students to make typical or higher levels of growth each year. Growth data are not yet available from the state. Educators use CMAS and other local data to inform instructional decisions in supporting students’ grade-level achievement.

“These data reinforce our drive to make sure students have what they need once they walk in our doors,” said Robert Beauchamp, director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Although CMAS data are an important piece of each child’s academic story, they do not paint the entire picture. PSD uses actionable, local data for every child. District staff also rely on multiple test scores, and a body of evidence, to best determine a student’s progress against the grade-level standards.

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and other local assessments started at the beginning of the school year. Using these results, teachers will be able to adjust instruction for each student. PSD will continue to focus on our students’ academic and social emotional needs.

As teachers support our students in learning, they are responding to individuals’ needs in the moment while ensuring they learn grade-level, key skills, bridge gaps and continue to connect with their interests and passions.

“While test scores don’t tell the whole story, we know there is work to be done to accelerate learning for all students. We’re looking forward to working with every child, helping to foster their sense of belonging and connection to learning,” said PSD Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Scott Nielsen.