New student assessment results show more Colorado students meeting expectations in English Language Arts, mixed results in math

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: August 17, 2018

More Colorado students are meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations in English Language Arts, but trends in mathematics are less clear, according to 2018 CMAS assessment results released yesterday. 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. The Colorado Department of Education yesterday released statewide 2018 CMAS results, along with district- and school-level data. Read on for more information about this year’s results, and click here to find results for your school in Chalkbeat’s database.

Overall Results in English Language Arts and Math

Overall, the percentage of Colorado students in grades three through eight who met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts improved by 2 percentage points, rising from 42.3 percent in 2017 to 44.5 percent in 2018. Although every grade saw an increase in the percent of students meeting expectations on the ELA assessment, improvement varied by grade, with increases that ranged from 0.3 percentage points in third grade to 2.4 percentage points in seventh grade. These are welcome improvements, but it remains discouraging that fewer than half of all Colorado students are meeting expectations in this critical subject.

Colorado Students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in CMAS English Language ArtsIn math, trends varied by grade, and only a third of students met or exceeded expectations in many grades. The percent of Colorado fifth-graders meeting or exceeding expectations in math improved by 2 percentage points since 2017, while third- and fourth-grade proficiency levels declined by less than a percentage point. Seventh and eighth grade math assessment results, as well as results from the advanced mathematics assessments such as Geometry and Algebra, are not comparable between 2017 and 2018 due to differences in the student populations taking these tests.

Achievement Gaps

The results released yesterday also show that Colorado must do a better job of removing educational barriers for students of color, students in low-income families and students with disabilities. Our state continues to see wide achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity, family income and disability status.

Colorado Students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in CMAS MathematicsIn 2018, the gap between white students and American Indian, black and Hispanic students meeting expectations in ELA exceeded 25 percentage points, and gaps in math were similarly large.

In English Language Arts, the achievement gap between students in low-income families and their peers was more than 30 percentage points, and gaps based on disability status were even wider. In some grades, the gap between students with disabilities and those without exceeded 42 percentage points.

Data Suppression

Colorado Students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in CMAS English Language Arts, by Race/EthnicityIn recent years, new practices implemented at the Colorado Department of Education have resulted in significant data suppression, limiting our ability to understand how many Colorado students—particularly students of color and students in low-income families—are meeting grade-level expectations on the CMAS. Colorado advocates continue to work with CDE on strategies to balance student privacy and data transparency, and we thank the department for the measures it took to improve the utility of the data released this week.

However, the data suppression practices that remain in place continue to limit our ability to examine the performance of different student groups, even when these student groups are fairly large. One elementary school in Denver, for example, had nearly 300 Hispanic students take the CMAS ELA assessment—but due to data suppression practices, it is impossible to see how many of these students met grade-level expectations. We look forward to continuing to work with the department to improve access to these important data, ensuring that Colorado families, policymakers and advocates can understand where to target resources to support kids across our state.

Click here for Chalkbeat’s analysis of the data released yesterday, and stay tuned to KidsFlash next week for more information on how Colorado students fared on 2018 assessments.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Vice President of Research Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data analysis efforts, including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, and provides research and data support to inform and advance the Children’s Campaign’s policy agenda. She also co-chairs the organization’s internal Equity Team. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in communications and spent several years working and volunteering with kids in various capacities. She holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in Advocacy, Leadership and Social Change from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two crazy dogs.