LPS scores high on state tests, as usual

District well above state average, but tests don't show whole picture

Posted 9/7/18

Standardized test scores at Littleton Public Schools were well above the state average again in 2018, but still below where district officials would like them to be. Littleton's scores on the …

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LPS scores high on state tests, as usual

District well above state average, but tests don't show whole picture

Posted

Standardized test scores at Littleton Public Schools were well above the state average again in 2018, but still below where district officials would like them to be.

Littleton's scores on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS tests, showed students far outperforming their peers statewide in English, math and science, though the proportion of kids who met or exceeded state standards is still largely hovering mid-range.

LPS students' scores on the SAT — which can be a determining factor in college acceptance — were also well above average.

By and large, students' scores didn't move much from last year, with most grades showing only minor fluctuations from 2017.

Despite state laws allowing parents to opt their children out of CMAS testing, participation rates were largely in the 90s in most grades. The largest exception was high school science, which saw only a 36.7 percent participation rate.

By far the biggest improvements in LPS's scores were in eighth-grade English and math, both of which saw their scores jump by more than 8 percentage points. Students meeting or exceeding the English standard in eighth grade were at 69.3 percent this year, and eighth-graders meeting or exceeding the math standard were at 41.9 percent.

Though those numbers may sound low, they are well above their peers statewide, where 43.8 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded the English standard, and only 28.2 percent met or exceeded the eighth-grade math standard.

LPS would like to improve those numbers and see far greater proportions meeting or exceeding expectations, said Patti Turner, the district's director of learning services.

“We still have work to do with implementing the academic standards and making sure students know what do and what's expected of them,” Turner said. The district is still working to meet new standards implemented by the state Department of Education in 2010, Turner said.

“We're moving in the right direction, but it takes time,” Turner said. “We have elementary teachers who aren't experts at science. We need to build their capacity.”

The very nature of CMAS tests may render them inadequate gauges of student performance, said Amanda Crosby, a social studies teacher at Arapahoe High School and president of the Littleton Education Association — the teachers' union.

“There's no particular reward for doing well on the test, or drawback for doing less than their full effort,” Crosby said. She said she asked one of her honors classes how many students slack off on the test, and all but one student raised their hands.

While Crosby said she understands the data from CMAS tests can be useful at the state level to help determine where to prioritize resources, at the classroom level it's largely unnecessary.

“The CMAS just gives you a one-moment snapshot,” Crosby said. “Many educators don't think the CMAS is worth the time and energy, or the anxiety and lost instructional time for students.”

Crosby said she also worries about a general overreliance on the data gathered from the CMAS.

“Does it tell you what you want about a school, or about students?” Crosby asked. “We put a lot more emphasis on social and emotional wellness these days. Are students safe? Are they well adjusted? Are they prepared to pursue opportunities after high school? The test scores give a poor picture of the whole child.”

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