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Science, social studies test scores show weakness

Will Grandbois
wgrandbois@postindependent.com

Colorado Measures of Academic Success test results released last week gave schools a chance to gauge their performance in science and social studies, with less than a quarter of students scoring at the highest levels.

It’s the second year for the tests, which are designed to complement Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in English and math. CMAS is administered online, which allows for interactive simulations and real-time adjustments for a more accurate score. It also adheres to a different, more rigorous set of standards than its predecessor tests — Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP). Categories including “proficient” and “advanced” have been replaced with “limited command,” “moderate command,” “strong command” and “distinguished command.”

Although statewide performance generally improved over the baseline year, most students still aren’t making it past “moderate command.”

The percentage of students performing in the Strong and Distinguished Command performance levels increased to 21.8 percent in fourth-grade social studies, to 17.6 percent in seventh-grade social studies, and to 34.8 percent in fifth-grade science, but decreased to 29 percent in eighth-grade science.

Otherwise, local test results mostly followed state trends, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute made significant strides in social studies over last year but lost ground in science and came in behind the state average and other area districts in each category.

Garfield County School District RE-2, which covers Rifle to New Castle, also fared best in social studies, beating the state average in fourth grade social studies by a wide margin. After exceeding the state average in fifth-grade science last year, RE-2 found itself just below the average in 2015.

Roaring Fork School District, which runs from Glenwood Springs to Basalt, found itself even with the state in eighth-grade science and just below in seventh-grade social studies. It trailed by several percentage points in fourth-grade social studies and fifth-grade science

“In only the second year for both the new science and social studies tests, we continue to gain more knowledge and insight into the new standards and assessments,” said RFSD superintendent Diana Sirko. “As we have time to analyze and examine carefully which standards students did well in, and which standards we scored lower in, we will strategically make improvements in our instructional programs in science and social studies so that our students have the knowledge and skills required in each of the grade level standards.”

Statewide, students’ economic status and English proficiency continues to impact test results.

The gap in strong and distinguished performance between students eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who were not ranged between about 28 and 34 percentage point in science and between 19 and 24 percentage points in social studies. The gap for students who were identified as non-English proficient or limited English proficient was between 33 and 38 percentage points for science and 20 to 24 percentage points for social studies.

Both figures are roughly the same as last year.

This year’s data also included a new statistic on the number of parents who refused to have their children participate in specific standardized tests. A number of parents statewide complained that too much time was being spent on testing. Statewide, the rate trended with age, with 2 percent of fourth-grade parents refusing, 2.2 percent of fifth-grade parents, 4.7 percent in seventh grade, and 6.2 percent in eighth grade.

Locally, refusals were even lower. Garfield 16 reported no CMAS refusals. In the Roaring Fork School District, refusals were confined to middle school, with 1.3 in seventh grade and 2.4 percent in eighth grade.

Refusals were highest in RE-2 but still well below the state average, with .8 percent in fourth grade, 1.1 percent in fifth grade, 3.6 percent in seventh grade, and 3.7 percent in eighth grade. The only classes to exceed the state refusal rate were Riverside Middle School eighth-graders and fifth-graders, Rifle Middle School seventh-graders and Graham Mesa Elementary fourth-graders.

Colorado Measures of Academic Success test results released last week gave schools a chance to gauge their performance in science and social studies, with less than a quarter of students scoring at the highest levels.

It’s the second year for the tests, which are designed to complement Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in English and math. CMAS is administered online, which allows for interactive simulations and real-time adjustments for a more accurate score. It also adheres to a different, more rigorous set of standards than its predecessor tests — Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP). Categories including “proficient” and “advanced” have been replaced with “limited command,” “moderate command,” “strong command” and “distinguished command.”

Although statewide performance generally improved over the baseline year, most students still aren’t making it past “moderate command.”

The percentage of students performing in the strong and distinguished command performance levels increased to 21.8 percent in fourth-grade social studies, to 17.6 percent in seventh-grade social studies, and to 34.8 percent in fifth-grade science, but decreased to 29 percent in eighth-grade science.

Local test results mostly followed state trends, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute made significant strides in social studies over last year but lost ground in science and came in behind the state average and other area districts in each category.

Garfield County School District Re-2, which covers Rifle to New Castle, also fared best in social studies, beating the state average in fourth grade social studies by a wide margin. After exceeding the state average in fifth-grade science last year, Re-2 found itself just below the average in 2015.

Roaring Fork School District, which runs from Glenwood Springs to Basalt, found itself even with the state in eighth-grade science and just below in seventh-grade social studies. It trailed by several percentage points in fourth-grade social studies and fifth-grade science.

“In only the second year for both the new science and social studies tests, we continue to gain more knowledge and insight into the new standards and assessments,” said RFSD superintendent Diana Sirko. “As we have time to analyze and examine carefully which standards students did well in, and which standards we scored lower in, we will strategically make improvements in our instructional programs in science and social studies so that our students have the knowledge and skills required in each of the grade level standards.”

Statewide, students’ economic status and English proficiency continues to impact test results.

The gap in strong and distinguished performance between students eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who were not ranged between about 28 and 34 percentage point in science and between 19 and 24 percentage points in social studies. The gap for students who were identified as non-English proficient or limited English proficient was between 33 and 38 percentage points for science and 20 to 24 percentage points for social studies.

Both figures are roughly the same as last year.

This year’s data also included a new statistic on the number of parents who refused to have their children participate in specific standardized tests. A number of parents statewide complained that too much time was being spent on testing. Statewide, the rate trended with age, with 2 percent of fourth-grade parents refusing, 2.2 percent of fifth-grade parents, 4.7 percent in seventh grade, and 6.2 percent in eighth grade.

Locally, refusals were even lower. Garfield 16 reported no CMAS refusals. In the Roaring Fork School District, refusals were confined to middle school, with 1.3 percent in seventh grade and 2.4 percent in eighth grade.

Refusals were highest in Re-2 but still well below the state average, with 0.8 percent in fourth grade, 1.1 percent in fifth grade, 3.6 percent in seventh grade, and 3.7 percent in eighth grade. The only classes to exceed the state refusal rate were Riverside Middle School eighth-graders and fifth-graders, Rifle Middle School seventh-graders and Graham Mesa Elementary fourth-graders.


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