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TCAP Test Scores: Biggest Gains Came From Struggling Schools

Colorado Department of Education

Most of Colorado’s lowest performing school districts posted some of the biggest gains in state standardized tests this year, while scores at many top performing districts stagnated, according to an analysis of scores by the I-News Network.

However, racial and income gaps remained wide, confounding educators.

“We are losing generations of kids,” said State Education Board member Elaine Gantz Berman after the state presented the test results to the board.

The I-News analysis also showed:

  • Minority and low-income students posted stronger gains or smaller declines than white and wealthier students in reading, writing and science. However, the scores for low income and Hispanic and black students remained about 30 percentage points lower than white and Asian scores in all subjects.“This is a persistent and unacceptable achievement gap,” said Jo O’Brien, assistant commissioner for assessment at the Colorado Department of Education.
  • Statewide student scores in reading and science inched up last school year. The percent of students statewide scoring proficient or higher in reading and science rose about one percentage point, to 69 percent and 49 percent respectively from 2011.
  • Students scores fell about one percentage point in writing, to 54 percent. Proficiency in math remained at about 56 percent for both years.
  • Huge drops in scores at Denver Public School’s Beach Court Elementary School, the low-income school involved in a test cheating scandal last year. This year’s scores dropped by up to a half in all subjects. In reading, the scores fell from about 80 percent proficient or advanced in 2011 to less than 50 percent this year. In fourth grade writing, scores went from 75 percent proficient to 16 percent.

I-News analyzed scores from the TCAP testing (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) that temporarily replaces the CSAP testing until new state tests are put in place later this decade. The TCAP scores are directly comparable to CSAP scores from prior years.
I-News calculated composite scores for each district and the state. This score shows what percent of all third through 10th graders combined met or exceeded proficiency in reading, writing and math, and what percent of fifth, eighth and 10th graders do so in science.

The analysis showed that many of the state’s lowest performing and poorest districts made some of the strongest gains this year compared to 2011.

O’Brien said it’s too early to tell what is behind the trend. The state will need to look at next year’s test results to get a better idea of what is behind the gains and stagnation, she said.

In reading, several districts outperformed the state average for gains. The Harrison and Colorado Springs 11 school districts in El Paso County, the Pueblo City district and the Mapleton, Denver, and Westminster districts in the metro area posted gains of two to five percentage points in proficiency, exceeding the average gain statewide.

In math, Harrison, Westminster and Brighton increased the percent of students scoring proficient during a year where scores stagnated statewide.

And in writing, the Denver and Westminster districts increased the percent scoring proficient or better at a time when most districts saw scores fall.

One of the exceptions was Greeley, which saw the percent scoring proficient in math and writing drop. However, reading scores did increase between 2011 and 2012.

Commerce City, one of the state’s poorest districts, saw scores drop in all three subjects.

O’Brien singled out the Harrison and Westminster district for making substantial gains this year.

Traditional top performing districts saw scores stagnate or fall this year compared to last year.

They included Aspen, Poudre in Larimer County, Five Star in Adams County, and Jefferson County school districts.

Durango had no change in the percent of students scoring proficient in math, but saw the percent drop in reading and writing.

The I-News Network is a nonprofit newsroom collaborating with Colorado news organizations to cover important issues. Learn more at iNewsNetwork.org

I-News is the public service journalism arm of Rocky Mountain PBS and works in collaboration with news media throughout Colorado.
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