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Third-grade CSAP scores decline

The percentage of Colorado third-graders reading at grade level on state exams declined this spring while the numbers of those reading at the lowest level was up.

Results of the Colorado Student Assessment Program released at noon today show 70 percent of test-takers achieving proficient or advanced on the CSAP while 11 percent scored unsatisfactory. That is a 3 percentage point drop in those considered “passing” the exam and a 2 percentage point increase in those reading at the lowest level.

Among large school districts, Denver, Douglas County and Cherry Creek maintained their proficiency rates at last year’s levels but all three saw increases in their lowest-performing students. Denver Public Schools, for example, has reported a 51 percent proficiency rate in third-grade reading for three years but its number of unsatisfactory readers increased to 24 percent, up 5 points from last year.

“Where the state dropped by three points, we did not,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “But nevertheless, we’re disappointed. We would certainly like to see significantly greater growth in third-grade reading since third-grade reading is such an important predictor of future academic success.”

Several other large districts saw declines in their proficiency rates, including Jefferson County, the state’s largest district, which reported a 4 percentage point drop in students scoring proficient and advanced. It is the first decline the sprawling district of 86,000 students has reported since 2006.

Other districts – Adams Five Star, Aurora, Boulder and St. Vrain – also saw declines in the percentages of their students reading at grade level and all four also saw increases in students scoring unsatisfactory. In fact, 14 of the 15 metro-area school districts reported more students at the lowest reading level with the exception of Englewood, which stayed flat.

Last year’s CSAP results marked a six-year high, with 73 percent of third-graders reading at grade level and only 9 percent unsatisfactory. Five-year trend data shows this year’s state figures mirror those of 2006.

That longer look is particularly troubling for the metro-area districts of Adams 14 Commerce City and Sheridan Public Schools. Both districts are reporting double-digit drops in proficiency levels over five years, combined with double-digit increases in students reading at the unsatisfactory level.

This year alone, Sheridan saw a drop in its third-grade reading proficiency rate of 19 points, from 64 to 45 percent of students scoring proficient and advanced. The district of 1,600 students at Denver’s southwest corner has a poverty rate of 83 percent, tying with Adams 14 for the highest poverty rates in the metro area.

Most metro-area school districts this year reported increases in poverty levels, a reflection of the ailing economy. Every district except Boulder and Douglas County saw their poverty rates rise in fall 2009.

Littleton Public Schools was the rare district in the metro area to report an increase in proficiency rates. This spring, 82 percent of Littleton students were reading at grade level, up one percentage point.

Click here to see the Colorado Department of Education CSAP results.

This chart shows five years’ worth of third-grade results for 15-metro area districts and the state.

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