Colorado performance measures released for Summit School District highlight areas of growth, need for improvement

Amid positive signs of learning growth, academic achievement continues to lag post-COVID, with gaps remaining for those not proficient in English

The Summit School District has retained its accredited status, according to a preliminary ranking by the state education department. Still, district leaders say more work must be down to boost test scores and close achievement gaps.
Tripp Fay/Summit Daily News archive

The Summit School District will remain accredited, according to a preliminary decision by the Colorado Department of Education, following the release of 2022-23 test scores that showed both growth and stagnation in students’ academic performance

The department will make a final decision in December on what it calls school performance frameworks, which assign accreditation status as well as performance ratings to state districts. Summit School District officials have until then to submit additional data that can potentially change a performance rating or overall accreditation. 

District officials said growth metrics paint a positive trend for where students are headed following years of struggle since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, in both math and English language results for CMAS — which tests students in grades third through eighth — students sit above the 50th percentile for growth, meaning they are slightly above the state average. 

“Our current students, the students that tested last spring, are showing better growth than our students pre-COVID,” said Summit Middle School Assistant Principal Ross Morgan, during a Sept. 7 Summit Board of Education meeting. “And that’s huge, that’s a real testament to the work that our teachers are doing and the dedication they have.” 

Since the pandemic, the state has compared academic growth from 2022 to 2023 to that of 2017 to 2019 to assess pre- and post-COVID growth rates. Between this year and last, officials found that students jumped from the 47th percentile to the 52nd in CMAS language arts and from the 52nd to the 55th in math. It puts their growth rate above 2017 to 2019, which is considered the 50th percentile or the average.

Though year-over-year growth analysis can provide a more systemic look at performance, academic achievement offers more of a snapshot within a given year. Ranking students on whether they met or exceeded expectations, the most recent achievement results show a slight decrease in all third to eighth-grade students for CMAS language arts and a slight increase for math. 

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The district went from 41.1% of students meeting or exceeding language arts expectations to 40.9% and from 27.7% meeting or exceeding math expectations to 28.1%. A further breakdown of the data shows some demographics experiencing growth while others saw decline. 

For example, in math, all students besides gifted and talented saw improvement. In language arts, however, multilingual and special education students saw a decrease in results from last year. 

Hispanic students, though improving their test scores from 2022, continue to underperform compared to White students. In language arts, 22.6% met or exceeded expectations while in math it was 8.7%. That’s compared to 63.2% and 41% for white students, respectively. 

“We recognize, as we have I think been pretty open about, that we have some work to do to support our multilingual students better and our special education students as well,” Ross said. 

Other test score data, such as for the standardized SAT test taken by eleventh graders, were also mixed. In reading and writing, SAT scores that met or exceeded expectations were up by 9 percentage points, rising from 43% to 52% last year. In math, scores were down 3 percentage points, dropping from 38% to 35%.

But Ross expressed optimism based on growth data that he said shows children are rebounding from learning loss during the pandemic, adding, “Next year, I’m really excited to think that we’re going to start seeing those achievement scores go up as our growth scores go up.”

Ross compared it to driving a car. 

“You don’t go from 0 to 60 instantly,” he said. “You get there by accelerating, and acceleration is our growth. And when we see that acceleration going up, we start to see our achievement following it.” 

Ross and district leaders acknowledged there remains work to do if the district is to shore up its test scores to pre-COVID levels, an issue they said plagues the state and the county. 

Data from The Colorado Sun and Keystone Policy Center shows Summit is far from an outlier when it comes to CMAS results. A majority of districts are at or below 44% when it comes to students meeting or exceeding expectations in language arts and at or below 33% when it comes to math. 

I’m “super encouraged by our growth scores,” said board member Julie Shapiro. “You can still look at our achievements scores, and anyone across the state could pretty much do this, and be like, ‘yea, but we’re nowhere near what supposedly is the indicator for a high-functioning system.”

Board President Consuelo Redhorse said these test scores should not be considered the be-all-end-all of measuring a student’s performance. Community engagement and meeting the district’s graduate profile, which encourages students to be curious, courageous, prepared, growth-oriented and globally aware, should also be considered hallmarks of success. 

“The academic piece is very, very important. I think that’s where the magnifying glass is on us there,” she said. “We’ve had so much input from our community that that’s not just the only thing.” 

Superintendent Tony Byrd said he remained committed to that end as well as closing the achievement gap between students. Better academic outcomes, he said, can give students more opportunities later in life. 

“When you graduate from high school, your ticket out of poverty often is a career that has math skills at its core, a STEM career,” Byrd said. “So how do we get to a place where there’s a choice there for every kid?”

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