Post-pandemic student assessment scores lag for Roaring Fork schools

Roaring Fork Schools
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A significant drop in test scores for Roaring Fork School District students following the pandemic looms as one of the first big challenges for the new superintendent and chief academic officer.

As the 2022-23 school year began Aug. 17, the district received its results from the spring Colorado Measures of Academic Success testing for grades 3-8, as well as SAT results for high school students.

“The pandemic has exasperated the difference in achievement between many of our students,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez observed in a statement issued Friday. “Our work is to narrow that difference in achievement, as well as to elevate the achievement of every single one of our students.”

Colorado returned to routine, student-assessment testing this past spring after testing was scaled back in 2021 and canceled altogether in spring 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Academic Success tests are used to assess grade-level performance in English Language Arts and mathematics for grades 3-8 and in science for fifth and eighth grades only.

Results released by the Colorado Department of Education indicated that just 32.7% of Roaring Fork School District students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt met or exceeded grade-level expectations — a 6.3% decrease from 2019, which was the last year that full testing occurred. 

That percentage is also well below the state average of 42.2% for students across grades 3-8 meeting or exceeding expectations in English language skills.

Statewide, that average fell from 45.8% in 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Education report.

There were some gains last school year in individual student growth in English proficiency compared to 2020-21, when only grades 4, 6 and 8 were tested, the district said in a news release.

In math, Roaring Fork District students declined 4.9% in their proficiency, down to 23.7% across the primary grade levels — also well below the state average of 31.5%, according to the test scores report.  

Growth data in math also demonstrated a slight decline compared to the state average and 2019 results, district officials said.

The Roaring Fork Schools, similar to the statewide trend, also experienced a widening performance gap between native English-speaking students and those just learning English, testing results revealed. 

For instance, on the English Language Arts tests, only 15.9% of students categorized as “economically disadvantaged” met or exceeded grade-level expectations, as compared to 40.8% of noneconomically-disadvantaged students, the district said in its report. 

“We have a clear opportunity here to address not only the overall performance of our students but especially the gaps in performance between our student subgroups,” said Stacey Park, the district’s newly-named chief academic officer.

Meanwhile, students in grades 9-11 take the SAT Suite of Assessments. The tests are the same ones used for college admission purposes for juniors (grade 11) but are tailored for freshmen (grade 9) and sophomores (grade 10).

For last year’s freshmen at Roaring Fork School District high schools, 61.4% met or exceeded standards in reading and writing, compared to 67% in 2019, according to the spring 2022 results.  

For juniors, 56.3% of students met or exceeded grade-level expectations in reading and writing, and 38.2% in mathematics. That was a slight decline from 2019 when 59.1% of students met or exceeded grade-level expectations in reading and writing, and 44.7% in mathematics.

Growth from year-to-year for those same students aligned with the state median for grades 9 and 11 but declined for grade 10, according to the report.

“Our staff have worked tirelessly during the last 2 1/2 years, and we will continue to work just as hard with the aim of fulfilling our mission,” Rodriguez said in the release. “I know that our team is up for the challenge, and that it will take all of us.” 

A full report of the state testing scores was on the agenda for presentation to the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education on Wednesday.