Results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Progress or CMAS show Denver Public Schools students continue to outpace their classmates across Colorado in academic growth on the state English language arts and math exams in grades 3-8.
In 2018, for the eighth year in a row, DPS students posted stronger academic growth than the rest of the state. The result of this sustained growth is that Denver students are now virtually on par with their Colorado classmates in meeting and exceeding grade-level expectations in literacy and math.
Academic gaps between DPS students and their Colorado classmates have nearly closed: A 25-point literacy gap in 2005 between Denver and Colorado students has narrowed to a 3-point gap in 2018. And a 22-point gap in math skills in 2005 has narrowed to a 2-point gap this year.
“In 2005, DPS was last among the state’s largest 12 districts in academic growth in English language arts and math,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “Through the focus of the Denver Plan and the incredibly hard work of our teachers, students and families, DPS has gone from last to first in academic growth.
“Strikingly, in grade 8, the last year in which our students take CMAS, our students outperformed students in the rest of the state in both English language arts and math this year,” Boasberg said. “In 2005, DPS 8th-graders were 30 points behind in reading and 29 points behind in math.”
One school’s story: Celebration at Knapp
Board members Jennifer Bacon, Angela Cobian and Lisa Flores, Superintendent Tom Boasberg and DPS educators celebrated CMAS gains in Southwest Denver. Knapp Elementary serves 560 students in preschool through grade 5; more than 90% are eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, an indicator of poverty.
Students at the school posted academic growth rates of 70 in English language arts and 74 in math, surpassing the state’s average growth rate of 50 in both subjects.
“We have incredible kids and families,” said Knapp Principal Shane Knight, “and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to help unlock their strengths and help them open windows of opportunity through strong academic gains.”
Knapp was once ranked red, or the lowest possible rating, on the district’s School Performance Framework. But the school improved to green, or “Meets Expectations,” in 2008 and has maintained that higher rating.
The principal said keys to Knapp’s success include an unyielding focus on literacy and commitment to biliteracy (about half the students speak Spanish at home), continuous professional development by the school’s teacher leaders, and “incredibly dedicated and highly skilled teachers.”
“The teachers at Knapp have an uncommon commitment to their students’ success,” Knight said. “They invest themselves deeply in each and every child and will not rest until every student has reached their full potential.”
Results reveal areas of growth
For the first time this spring, DPS students took the full slate of the state’s new high school exams, including the PSAT in grades 9 and 10 and the SAT in grade 11. As with CMAS, to provide an understanding of student progress, the state is calculating growth rates for PSAT/SAT tests.
Boasberg described results of the new high school exams as disappointing.
“On the eighth-grade CMAS, our students outpace their classmates statewide. Our ninth-graders on this year’s new PSAT 9, however, significantly underperformed their peers statewide in terms of both status and growth,” he said. “We are studying these results carefully to determine what happened and what we need to do to drive higher growth.”
And while students from all DPS demographic groups have been making sustained academic progress –for example, students of color gained seven points in English language arts proficiency over the past three years and DPS English language learners now significantly outperform their peers statewide – gaps in performance persist.
“Continuing to drive growth for our historically underserved students remains our overarching goal,” Boasberg said. “While we are pleased to see continued progress among those students, the gaps remind us of the work in front of us.”
More information about DPS results on the 2018 CMAS/PSAT/SAT exams can be found here.