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Summit School District’s spring test scores dip amid pandemic

State, national scores lower as well

Summit Middle School is pictured on Nov. 12, 2020. Middle school students took different state tests based on the grade they were in with new rules from the pandemic, but most Summit students still underperformed.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

The Summit School District’s state test scores were lower than state average last year for the most part, but district Data and Assessment Coordinator Ross Morgan said the numbers have to be looked at within the context of the pandemic year. State and national scores were lower as well, but trends can still be seen among groups of Summit students.

Colorado Measure of Academic Success tests, or CMAS, are typically given to all students in third through eighth grades for math and English language arts. Morgan said the state received a waiver allowing districts to nix some of those assessments. For Summit School District students in the spring, the third, fifth and seventh grades took the language arts tests while the fourth, sixth and eighth grades took math. Eighth grade students were tested in science, too.

“As we’re looking through this data, it is going to look incomplete, because it is,” Morgan said at the district board meeting Thursday, Aug. 26.



Colorado put its school accountability system on pause for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the clock is paused for schools on the state and federal performance watch lists, such as Silverthorne Elementary.

“What that effectively means is wherever our schools were in terms of their performance ratings in 2019 is where they stayed,” Morgan said.



The district has yet to receive its growth data from the state, so Morgan’s presentation was based solely on achievement data for CMAS and SAT/PSAT scores.

“We have to think about how we’re teaching our students and making sure that even though there’s this pandemic still going on, how do we make sure that all of our students are growing every single day?” Morgan said. “And so what this data looks like is a departure of what we’ve seen in the past. It is not meant to be a continuation for the most part, it is meant to say ‘This is where we’re at. How do we do better?’”

Colorado gives PSAT and SAT tests to all of its high school students as a standardized test, using the scores as its accountability measure. Summit High School sophomores who took the PSAT and juniors who took the SAT were all above the state average, while freshmen who took the PSAT slipped just below average. Scores were all relatively consistent with the past four years.

Looking at CMAS data, the picture is different for Summit School District students.

In mathematics, Summit students who took the CMAS were “substantially” below the state’s average. Morgan said the district recently hired a math coordinator to look at and tackle these trends.

Similar trends were seen in the district’s English language arts scores. The district is currently implementing a new literacy curriculum at the elementary levels to push for improvement in this area.

For science, eighth graders saw a substantial drop in scores from 2019. Summit School District was above the state average in 2019 and this year it fell below the state average, which also took a dip after the pandemic year.

However, Morgan also noted that Summit School District tested about 90% to 95% of its students while the state as a whole tested about 70% of its students. This means the district has a strong understanding of how its students are doing.

Morgan took the board through the district’s growth as seen from its Northwest Evaluation Association scores. The scores look at the difference in risk scores from fall to spring, and Morgan said it is not a linear scale, so growth is expected to be higher among younger grade levels than it would be for older students. Morgan also said the association’s norms were established before the coronavirus pandemic.

Compared with the national evaluation norms, Summit students in grades first through fifth performed better than expected in math, but students in sixth through 11th grade all were below the norms, with ninth and 11th grade dipping into negative numbers.

“It’s basically saying that from the fall of 2020 to the spring 2021, students decreased their skills in terms of mathematics,” Morgan said.

Similar trends were seen in the district’s English language arts scores for the association, with ninth, 10th and 11th grades all dipping into the negatives.

Morgan noted that not all students in the district took these tests, so this is only representative of a portion of the population. He said these students were all testing remotely, too, which brings in questions about the validity of the data.

Morgan also worked to calculate three-year growth metrics for Summit students when looking at the district’s English language learners. He said more than 60% of the district’s English language learners did not meet their growth expectations last year, which is more than the district historically has. Yet, he noted that the district’s two dual language schools — Silverthorne Elementary and Dillon Valley Elementary — both saw more than 50% of their students grow in English language skills.

“Silverthorne and Dillon Valley are showing some positive steps that we as a district can learn from and build from,” Morgan said.

The district and school accountability kickoff will be on Sept. 2, and Morgan said the accountability committees will work to provide actionable feedback to make sure the district is working to enhance its performance.

Superintendent Roy Crawford said the district needs to work smarter, not harder, in order to improve student performance. He said district leaders need to be unified in how to attack the problem and put systems into place that will make it happen.

“From my point of view, this isn’t OK,” Crawford said. “These scores aren’t OK and we all know that. … We know we can do better.”


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