2016 CMAS Scores Show Positive Change in Elementary Math, Participation Rates
More third through fifth graders met state expectations in math in 2016, according to assessment results released this week by the Colorado Department of Education. The Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) are Colorado’s standards-based assessments designed to measure student performance on the Colorado Academic Standards in math, English language arts (ELA), social studies and science. ELA and math CMAS assessments were first administered to Colorado students in 2015, making this the first year we can examine year-to-year changes in student achievement in these subjects using these assessments.
Students in grades 3 through 5 posted gains in math, increasing proficiency rates by more than two percentage points over last year. More students also met or exceeded expectations in fourth grade ELA, eighth grade math, and eighth grade ELA. While state officials caution against drawing conclusions from just two years of data, it is encouraging to see improvement, particularly among elementary students.
With CMAS social studies and science assessments in their third year, trends in student achievement are beginning to emerge. Since 2014, fourth grade social studies scores have grown more than any other grade or subject area, with proficiency levels increasing nearly seven percentage points from 17 percent in 2014 to 24 percent in 2016. Seventh grade social studies and fifth grade science scores have remained relatively flat since 2014, while eighth grade science showed a modest increase this year after a decline in 2015.
While it’s encouraging to see some positive trends across multiple years of data, gaps in achievement by race, ethnicity and income persist in 2016 results. Across all grades tested, students in higher-income families were more than twice as likely to meet or exceed expectations than their peers in lower-income families. In math, although results improved slightly for all students, scores increased more for students in higher-income families than for those eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Similar gaps exist between students of color and their peers, highlighting how much work remains to ensure that all students have the support they need to succeed in the classroom.
Assessment participation rates remained fairly constant from 2015 to 2016 across lower grades. Elementary school participation (grades 3 through 5) remained at 95 percent, while middle school participation dropped slightly, from 89 percent in 2015 to 88 percent in 2016. High school participation improved markedly, particularly in tenth grade, where the PSAT college preparatory exam replaced last year’s CMAS assessment. The change in assessment brought a 27 percentage point increase in participation among tenth graders. CDE noted in their release that non-participants were disproportionately white, economically better off and more likely to be native English speakers than the general student population.
Coloradans agree that clear, rigorous and consistent standards play a critical role in supporting student growth. Assessments serve as a reliable tool to measure the progress of individuals, schools, districts and the state, and to hold us accountable to the high expectations we have for all students. Now that we have the foundational pieces of standards and assessments in place, it will be important to focus energy toward ongoing adjustments to make sure the system supports all students in achieving college and career success.