Aurora Public Schools: State testing scores skewed due to pandemic disruption


AURORA | State testing scores were down last year in Aurora Public Schools in part due to the disruption of the pandemic, according to a presentation given to school board members on Tuesday.

However, school officials say that the unique circumstances of the past school year make it difficult to rely on the tests as accurate measures of student performance.

The Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests, known as CMAS, cover English, math and science skills, with students in different grades taking different subjects. The tests were canceled in the spring of 2020 due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tests given in spring 2021 were significantly scaled back from 2019. 

The district had about one-third of the participation that it usually does, with only 11,000 students taking the tests compared to 34,000 during the 2018-2019 school year. That was partially because the state decreased the number of grades of students that took the tests, but many students simply opted out.

The decrease was not proportional to the student body as a whole. According to a report compiled by APS, Native American, Black and Hispanic students saw a larger decrease in participation.

Because the students who took the test are not a reflective sample of the district’s population, the results “really cannot be expanded out,” said APS director of accountability and research DJ Loerzel.

Loerzel presented the report to the board at its September meeting, where he said that though school and district-level analysis of the results is limited they can still be used to provide targeted support to the students that did take the test.

The results showed that there was a larger decrease in math skills than in English language arts. According to the report, only 22.5% of test takers exceeded or met expectations in English, and only 12.2% exceeded or met expectations in math.

The percentage of students who did not meet expectations in English rose 4 percentage points to 30.1%, and rose 10.6 percentage points to 38.6% in math.

Hispanic students had the largest increase in “did not meet expectations” scores for English. In math, white and Asian students had the highest percentage of met or exceeded expectations scores, but also experienced the largest declines from the previous testing year.

The district has struggled with low test scores for years before the pandemic. However, district officials say that the disruption of the pandemic and the low number of test takers make this year’s results an unreliable barometer for student progress.

“Given the notable decline in participation and lack of overall representation of the APS student population, school- and district-level analysis is meaningless,” APS spokesperson Corey Christiansen told the Sentinel earlier in an email. “However, CMAS results still possess value for use in smaller groups such as monitoring the progress of individual students and some limited analysis of grade-level or subject-matter performance.”

At the meeting, superintendent Rico Munn said the district is “trying to use this data for what we can and not pretend it’s anything other than what it is.”

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1 month ago

And yet, reports are that APS graduation rates increased while students were only virtually attending classes if attending at all. It all makes me wonder.