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Pandemic continues to impact Garfield Re-2 student test scores

Testing scores at the Garfield Re-2 School District are seeing a decline despite being on the uptick prior to 2019, according to data presented by secondary and elementary curriculum directors Jacob Pingel and Simone Richardson.

Since 2019, all academic measures of success — with the exception of elementary and middle school math — slightly dropped.

“Our trajectory has been very similar to the state,” Richardson said.



Standardized test scores and achievement levels over the past five to six years reveal that 2019 was a bit of a sweet spot for both the Colorado average and Garfield Re-2 School District.

PSAT scores and achievement levels for elementary and middle school math and English Language Arts were rising. The only decline in 2019, in fact, was junior SAT scores.



Following no testing in the 2019-2020 year because of the pandemic, many test scores for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 both showed declines.

For instance, PSAT scores dropped from an average 867 in 2021 to 836 by 2022. PSAT dropped slightly, but scores for SATs went from 961 to 942 between 2021 and 2022.

On a positive note, math levels for grades 3-8 rose from 13% to 16% between 2021 and 2022. ELA, however, dropped from 33 to 30%.

The percentages mean how many students are either meeting or exceeding academic expectations.

The district is responding by seeking ways to better intervene when a student begins to exhibit declines in performance. Ideas include increasing the amount of practice tests, while better connecting with incoming freshmen and their families.

This also includes using special coaches, implementing 30-day academic improvement cycles and more.

The Colorado Measurement of Academic Successes is used by the Garfield Re-2 School District to gauge academic progression within its student body. Its standardized tests are sanctioned by the Colorado Department of Education but developed by a contracted party. 

Grades taking the standardized tests are 3-8, while grades 9-10 take the PSAT (practice SAT). Juniors take the SAT, with the highest score being a 1600. Many universities across the nation admit high school students based on SAT scores.

Right now, Re-2 juniors for the 21-22 school year averaged an SAT score of 942. In 2017, local juniors averaged 965. Another example, 10th-grade average PSAT scores increased from 881 in 2018 to 903 in 2019. That average has now decreased to an 880.

Potential contributing factors discussed by the district stems from COVID-19. When 2020 rolled around and caused an early closure of schools, it also prompted the state to place standardized testing on hold, Pingel said.

“We don’t know how much that contributes to the regression in the percentages, but we can only assume it’s a contributing factor,” he said.

Meanwhile, when school returned to in-person learning, at least 10-15% of students were still taking online courses, and some didn’t physically appear to take the test. 

“I think that had an interesting effect because I don’t know how many of them ended up making it into the building to do the tests,” Pingel said.

Richardson said a new ELA curriculum was also implemented at Re-2 in 2018, and, after about a year, students grades 3-8 began acclimating and responding well to the new lessons.

“The real celebration comes in the next year (when) we started to close that gap,” she said, referring to 2019’s increase. “Now, we had a year under our belts with that new curriculum, and, you can see, it was working great.”

Garfield Re-2 school board members also spitballed suggestions on how the district could better intervene with students in order for them to achieve at higher rates. 

Garfield Re-2 school board members Christina Maness and Jason Shoup suggested a return to a five-day school week from a four-day school week, a practice implemented since 2012 at Re-2, could perhaps help.

“How many schools in the state are actually five days a week versus four?” Shoup said. “I would only venture a guess that having that extra fifth day of schooling would help that situation.”

THE TRENDS

  • District juniors dropped from composite scores of 965 in 2017 to 942 in 2022. 
  • Trends in junior SAT composite scores have closely followed statewide scores. The statewide composite score of 1015 in 2017 dropped to 985 in 2022, resulting in a fairly steady local and state achievement gap. In fact, district juniors actually tightened that gap from 50 points to 43 between 2021 and 2022.
  • PSAT scores Garfield Re-2 sophomores show achievement peaked in 2019. Scores rose from 879 in 2016 to 903 in 2019, resulting in a district-to-statewide achievement gap of 34 points. PSAT scores for local sophomores have since then declined to 880 in 2022, and the gap is now 43 points.
  • PSAT composite scores for Garfield Re-2 freshmen see similar trends. They too have seen a decline from 2019 to 2022, dropping from 878 to 836 and thus widening the district-to-statewide achievement gap from 27 points to 49.
  • Re-2 students either meeting or exceeding expectations in grades 3-8 show positive and negative fluctuations since 2017. The percentage of Re-2 students meeting or exceeding expectations in math rose from 18% in 2017 to 35% in 2019 before dropping down to 16% in 2022. The latter is a 16% student achievement gap between district and state average numbers.
  • Achievement data for English and Language Arts shows better results for Re-2 students grades 3-8. In 2019, 36% of this contingent of Re-2 students were meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA, resulting in just a 10% gap compared to the state average. By 2022, however, Re-2’s achievement dropped to 30% in ELA, resulting in a 13% gap compared to the state.

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