English scores down, math up for Roaring Fork Schools
Roaring Fork Schools are being careful not to overreact to a surprising drop in state test scores from last year for English language skills, while cautiously celebrating some gains in math.
The Colorado Department of Education recently released the results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing that was done for grades three through nine last spring.
Similar outcomes resulted from the newly administered PSAT and SAT tests for 10th and 11th grades. The SAT exams, which are also used for college entry purposes, were introduced for the first time last school year as the state’s academic assessment for high school sophomores and juniors, replacing the ACT exams.
Starting this year, freshmen will also be taking the grade-level SATs, rather than the CMAS exams.
The Roaring Fork District includes schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
For the testing done last spring measuring English language skills, the district’s third-, fourth-, fifth- and ninth-graders scored below the Colorado average. They also fell below the average for the multistate Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), which administers a common test across the participating states.
Area third-graders in particular scored significantly lower, with just 28 percent meeting or exceeding grade-level benchmarks, while 40 percent of third-graders in Colorado and across the participating PARCC states met or exceeded expectations.
The exception for Roaring Fork Schools was in seventh and eighth grades, which saw 51 percent and 44 percent, respectively, meeting or exceeding the benchmarks, which was several percentage points above the state and cross-state averages.
“For the past several years, we have consistently been as strong or better than the state performance, and this is the first time that hasn’t been true in English Language Arts,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said.
“We definitely don’t want to take that one spot in time and suddenly get alarmed and start changing direction,” he said. “But we do want to try to better understand why that happened.”
Year-to-year growth for district seventh-grade students, compared with when they were in sixth grade, was also at the 70th percentile, which is cause for celebration, Stein said.
While the English test results were disappointing, Roaring Fork Schools were consistently higher than the state and cross-state average for math scores at the upper grades.
The percentage of students who met or exceeded the benchmark in grades 7-9 was above average as compared with the state, and the district’s growth results in math were also better than the statewide average in most grades, the district noted in a press release.
However, while the district appears to be growing students from year to year, there remains a big gap between minority and nonminority students, both in English and in math, Stein said.
That’s especially true for students from primarily Spanish-speaking families who are still learning English and are being tested in English. When those gaps exist, it normally takes five to seven years before those students catch up with their peers, noted Rick Holt, chief academic officer for the district.
“Given what we know about our English language development students’ learning trajectories, we can expect to see them peak in performance and growth in grades 6-7,” Holt said.
The district saw many of the same trends at the upper grade levels, based on the PSAT10 and SAT results from last spring. The district’s sophomores and juniors scored below the state average on the evidence-based reading and writing portion of the respective exams in terms of both performance and growth.
WORK TO DO
However, the district had pockets of higher scores and more growth at the individual school level. That can help inform the district as a whole about what is working and what needs fixing on a broader scale, district officials also noted.
And, despite these positive results, there are still notable portions of students not ready for college per the College Board guidelines, especially within the English learner subgroup, Stein also pointed out.
“This gap is not too surprising given what we used to see in our ACT results,” he said.
Because the use of PSAT and SAT assessments are new for the district, a baseline is also still being established.
“Given its newness, we are not ready to speculate, but we know we absolutely have work to do to get all students ready to succeed at a college level,” Stein said.
The same is still true of the CMAS tests for the lower grades, which is only now in its third year, pointed out Lindsay Cox, data analyst and assessment coordinator for the district.
“It will be interesting when we get a third year of data, and a fourth year’s data,” she said. “Then we will have a better idea of trends over time with growth. Right now, we only have two data points, so it’s hard to see those trends.”
In response to latest testing results, the district plans to examine its current practices, share information between schools and look at growth opportunities in each of the testing areas, district officials said.