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Officials and educators discuss statewide CMAS test results

Results specific to school districts are expected to be released within the next month.

DENVER — The statewide test results for the standardized test known as Colorado Measures for Academic Success (CMAS) serves as a new glimpse at the hard year that students in Colorado faced. 

"The pandemic did have huge impacts and it did have disproportionate impacts on our students who may have already been struggling," Colorado Commissioner for Education Katy Anthes told 9NEWS Thursday. 

The state released a wide variety of data for the test results. Among others, the math scores saw a decline in 2021 compared to 2019. 

4th and 6th graders saw a 5% drop in 2021 for the amount of students that met or exceeded expectations compared to 2019. 

It was a nearly 7% drop for 8th graders. 

Results specific to school districts are expected to be released within the next month, and it's important to note that there was a 20 to 30 percent drop in the number of students who took the test. 

While there is a call for accelerated learning to get testing levels back to normal, other educators say that more needs to be taken into account when actually assessing the students. 

Credit: FILE

Applying more help

While the comparison in the state's report is to 2019, Anthes explained that the test scores are actually the lowest since 2017. 

"I think what they tell us is that we need to have an extraordinary amount of urgency to support our students from the opportunities that they may have lost during the pandemic," she said. "We know that students still learned different skills during the pandemic. But we also know from our state assessments, which are our only common measure across the state, that our students did lose a lot of ground on the subject of math and English language arts."

As a result, it could lead to more investment in different types of help for those particular subjects. 

"And so we really are going to look at our discretionary resources to support, for example, math, possibly math instructional materials, possibly math tutors, possibly other afterschool academic enrichment programs that support development in those areas. So the assessments that we just released will help us apply those dollars to the areas that are needed most," she said. "But the local districts also have their own assessments that they can use to make their local decisions on the money that they have allocated to them."

While she acknowledges that the test is just a snapshot assessment of where students currently stand, she also says the scores shared Thursday are valid. 

"You can look at them and you could say that really happened," said Anthes. "But when you get to a local level, you really do have to look carefully at how many of your students participated. Was that representative of your student population and then what did those specific scores tell you? So we do have to do more careful analysis and more cautious analysis this year than other years."

Credit: FILE

Looking at more than just the test

Others in education explain that more needs to be taken into account with these test scores when it comes to assessing the students after the year of learning they had. 

"You know, this really is just one data point in a multitude of information that we need to look at," said Amie Baca-Oehlert, the president of the Colorado Education Association. "So while it tells us a bit of the picture, it certainly does not tell the full picture of what we need to know."

She explains that teachers will likely be looking at more than just academic needs of the students. 

"We will most certainly be looking at what are their social emotional needs, what are their mental health needs. All of that plays into their ability to learn and move forward. So there is going to be a lot of time spent just figuring out where our students are at and how we can support them moving forward," she said. "We're very interested in the opportunity to utilize the federal stimulus dollars that will be coming to Colorado to support student learning as we move forward. We are extremely underfunded as a state when it comes to looking at our fiscal picture."

Lisa Altemuller, the associate dean of the School of Education at MSU Denver, adds that the test scores considering what learning has been like this past year shouldn't be a cause for concern, but also not ignored. 

I think what's important to keep in mind is that it's one test score from one point in time. And what really gives us a better understanding of how students are performing is to look at a body of evidence. So how did they do across the school year? How did they do on classroom assignments, in class discussions," she said. "I wouldn't want to dismiss them. Of course we want to look at them and I think we want to look at them as one piece of information."

RELATED: State standardized tests show low participation, decline 'across the board' during pandemic

RELATED: DPS on stopping the COVID academic slide: 'It's not going to be easy'

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