Third-grade reading scores dropped this year across Colorado, with several Pikes Peak region districts seeing the largest decline in scores they’ve had in years.

Officials from several districts said they were disappointed in the preliminary results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests that were released Tuesday. Third-grade reading scores are released earlier than other CSAP scores to comply with the Colorado Basic Literacy Act.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Nicholas Gledich, superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11, which saw an 8 percent drop in its score.

The results put D-11, the region’s largest district, at 69 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced, one point below the state average of 70 percent. Last year, 73 percent of third-graders statewide were proficient or advanced in reading — and D-11 was above that mark at 75 percent.

At the other end of the scoring, D-11 matched the state’s 11 percent of students with unsatisfactory marks. Overall, 7.8 percent of the Pikes Peak region’s third-graders — 676 of 8,562 students who took the test — scored at the low end.

Third grade reading scores are important because if students aren’t reading at grade level by then they’re likely to have trouble keeping up in all subjects. Statistics show that once students fall behind it becomes increasingly difficult for them to catch up.

The early-release reading scores also generally have been an indication of how well schools and districts performed on the full range of CSAP tests. Those scores will be released this summer.

Academy School District 20 was the only area district whose scores did not tumble, but they remained flat at 86 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced.

“Given the three percentage point drop statewide, staying constant is a positive,” said Todd Morse, director of assessment for D-20. “But we’re always shooting for 100 percent.”

Morse pointed out that the scores released Tuesday represent only 4 percent of the grade-level data the district gets annually.

Officials also cautioned that since testing begins in third grade, watching how this group of students does in future years will be key.

“That’s why the state’s growth model is so important, because we can compare how a class is doing year after year,” D-11 spokeswoman Elaine Naleski said.

All districts evaluate test data to spot trends or weak spots, but much of that work can’t be done until the full CSAP data is released, including which skills were needed for which questions.

Widefield School District 3, for example, relies on more regular assessments and detailed student information to drive instruction throughout the year, spokesman James Drew said.

“This summative assessment test tells us what our students know at that point in February, but we still have three more months of instruction, during which we can accomplish a whole lot more,” he said.

In Ellicott School District 22, which had the biggest drop — 36 percent — Superintendent Terry Ebert said the district’s statistics are often skewed because of its small number of students.

This year, 62 Ellicott third-graders took the reading test. Of those, 29 scored proficient, 20 were partially proficient, and 13 were unsatisfactory. None scored in the advanced range. That gave the district a score of 47 percent proficient or advanced, compared to last year’s 73 percent.

Ellicott plans to provide summer school for those with unsatisfactory scores, said Jeri De’Amour, curriculum and instruction coordinator.

Several school officials said external factors also can impact test scores, including financial problems that forces families to move often and the stress of having parents deployed.

“Like this year, is it the economy? You’ve got to look at the environment at school and at home,” Naleski said. “You can’t separate that from how well a child does on a test. And you can’t attribute success to that one intervention.

“It’s hard to isolate one variable as having made a difference either way because there are so many variables.”

D-11 also is looking at what impact its closures and consolidations may have had on scores, but it appears to be a mixed bag, Naleski said.

“Some schools that had no impact from closures went down, and some that did went up,” she said.


High Performing Schools

The five Pikes Peak region elementary schools with the highest percentage of student scoring proficient or advanced in third-grade reading are:
• Scott (D-11): 97 percent
• Academy International (D-20): 96 percent
• Woodmen-Roberts (D-20): 96 percent
• Mountain View (D-20): 95 percent
• Chipeta (D-11): 95 percent

The five schools that saw the biggest single-year gain in third-grade reading scores are:
• James Madison Charter (D-3): 51 percent gain
• GLOBE Charter (D-11): 50 percent gain
• Stratton Meadows (D-2): 22 percent gain
• Colorado Springs Charter (state): 17 percent gain
• Bates (D-11): 16 percent gain

Low Performing Schools

The five area elementary schools with the lowest percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in third-grade reading are:
• Monroe (D-11): 38 percent
• STAR Charter (D-11): 39 percent
• Monterey (D-2): 43 percent
• Queen Palmer (D-11): 45 percent
• Centennial (D-2): 45 percent

The five schools with the biggest single-year decline are:
• Ellicott (D-22): 36 percent drop
• Peyton (D-23JT): 34 percent drop
• Ute Pass (D-14): 32 percent drop
• Scholars to Leaders charter (formerly Cesar Chavez North): 31 percent drop
• Oak Creek (D-2): 29 percent drop

Call McMillin at 636-0251 or McGraw at 636-0371.