DOE growth metrics for Aurora schools mirror overall testing results

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AURORA | Just as district-level state test results released at the beginning of the month showed gaps between Aurora’s two school districts, so, too, do district growth reports released last week by the Colorado Department of Education.

PARCC results released Sept. 1 showed Cherry Creek students topping or matching state averages at every grade level in language arts and math — often besting those averages significantly. On the other hand, APS — outside a small sample size — failed to better or match those same averages.

Now, new growth summary information — the Colorado Growth Model, released Sept. 20 through the 2016 Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS — shows a similar disparity in comparing each district’s growth to the general 50-percentile state median growth mark.

Per individual grade levels, four of Cherry Creek School District’s were above the state median growth percentile in English language arts (50 percentile), while all grades — fourth-through-ninth — bested state median growth in math.

“Overall, we were pleased with our baseline growth results,” said Judy Skupa, associate superintendent of performance improvement.

By comparison, Aurora Public Schools’ seventh- and eighth-graders showed modest, respective 2- and 3-point growths above median average in English. Meanwhile, APS students failed to beat state median averages in math at any grade level, though ninth-graders were in line with state growth percentiles.

The two districts did share one similarity, according to the growth model: Sixth-grade students struggled in English language arts across the board. Cherry Creek sixth-graders were in the 45th percentile in English; APS sixth-graders had an even poorer showing, in the 42nd percentile. Cherry Creek sixth-graders fared considerably better in math (51st percentile), but APS sixth-graders showed equally deficient growth there, finishing even below English language growth, in the 41st percentile.

“We also know that growth especially needs to be accelerated at the sixth-grade level, so this year, we have implemented a pilot at some of our middle schools to accelerate learning,” APS spokeswoman Patti Moon said in an email. “We hope to see more accelerated growth and increases in achievement at all levels.”

Skupa said CCSD is analyzing the data to develop a strategy to improve growth in that area.

The growth model also showed a gap between the two districts in terms of progress for black students. In Cherry Creek, black students were in line with state averages in growth in English language arts and up 1 percentile over the 46th percentile median growth in math. In APS, both English and math percentiles were 5 points below state growth medians for black students.

Moon said the district is specifically addressing those gaps.

“We are committed to closing achievement gaps through our focus on equity work. In fact, we have made that a priority in our Division of Equity in Learning,” she said.

There was one more similarity in growth rates between the two neighboring districts: Girls are showing improved growth rates. Female students of Cherry Creek edged out the state average in English by 1 percentile but topped the state average in math by 5 percentile points, beating out the boys growth medians by 10 and 5 percentile points respectively. Girls in APS fell short of state medians by 2 percentile points in English and 4 in math. Still, they bettered the boys by 3 percentile points in math growth metrics and a whopping 11 percentile points in English.

Skupa said CCSD is pleased with the results — even if they’re a bit premature.

“Again, this data is viewed as baseline data,” said Skupa, referring to the fact that the growth model is based on testing modified just two years ago, with results delivered later than originally anticipated both in 2015 and again this year. “As additional years of CMAS/PARCC data are accumulated, we will be able to interpret results based on trends over time.”