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Test scores lag state averages

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"Disappointing" is the word being used to describe results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessments for science and social studies in Delta County. Tests were administered last spring and results were released earlier this month by the Colorado Department of Education.

CMAS assessments, which replaced the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP), focus on student mastery over the concepts and skills expected in state standards at each level. Proficiency levels include distinguished command, strong command, moderate command and limited command. The top two levels indicate a student is on track for being college and career ready.

Science was assessed in grades 5 and 8, while social studies was assessed in grades 4 and 7. Results are as follows:

Science

Grade 5: 34.8% (state) and 34.2% (district) scored in the strong and distinguished command performance levels.

Grade 8: 29.0% (state) and 26.9% (district) scored in the strong and distinguished command performance levels.

Social Studies

Grade 4: 21.8% (state) and 12.5% (district) scored in the strong and distinguished command performance levels.

Grade 7: 17.6% (state) and 10.4% (district) scored in the strong and distinguished command performance levels.

"This is an eye-opener for us," said assistant superintendent Kurt Clay. "Our emphasis in the last year has been on elementary language arts and math. We realize we have to do better with science and social studies components; we can't neglect them."

Participation levels also played a factor across the state, as students whose parents opted out of the tests received no score. Last year, Delta County had 100 percent participation; this year participation dropped below state averages. Participation was lowest among Vision Charter Academy students. As one example, in fourth grade social studies, state participation was 96.8%, district participation was 94.6% and Vision participation was 61.3%.

Many parents opt out because they disagree with the Common Core academic standards that form the basis for the state standards.

Clay said participation levels won't count on the national PARCC tests for language arts and math, but they do figure into CMAS.

Going into the 2015-16 school year, Clay said more resources are being put into science. Anita Evans has been hired for the specific purpose of getting kids excited about science, especially at the elementary and middle school levels.

Emphasis will be placed on test strategies that help students better read and interpret questions. "This is a very different test than they've seen," Clay said. As a result, even some of the district's most academically solid students are not demonstrating proficiency.

Complete results can be found on the CDE website.

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