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State third grade reading scores stagnate

Colorado’s third grade TCAP reading scores remained flat in 2013 for the third year in a row, according to TCAP results released Tuesday.

According to the state, 73 percent of the state’s third-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading in 2013. That’s down roughly a percentage point from last year and roughly equal to scores from two years ago.

Among the highlights of this year’s results: Just over three-quarters of girls and 70 percent of boys scored at proficient and above. Some 83 percent of white third-graders scored at that level, compared to 58 percent of Hispanic students and 59 percent of black students. For students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch, 59 percent scored at proficient and above.

The percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced in third grade reading in Jeffco remained flat, dropping slightly from 80 to 79.5 percent. At the same time, the percentage of students in the district qualifying for free and reduced price lunch rose 1 percentage point to 34.4 percent.

Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson believes there may be a correlation since poverty among children is rising in Colorado and scores dipped in most metro area districts – except Denver.

“I don’t  use that as an excuse,” Stevenson said. “I do look at, what are the drivers? I don’t question what teachers are doing.”

Stevenson said the district has been crunching data and monitoring student progress. She said she likes to see schools hit 80 percent of its students at grade level. Right now, 50 elementary schools hit that benchmark in third grade reading, and 25 are at 70 percent proficient and above. Stevenson said she’d like to examine how summer literacy programs and the presence of AmeriCorps volunteers in schools affect results.

“Scores are staying steady even though poverty among little children is increasing,” Stevenson said. “As we get more and more data we’ll really look at it.”

Denver scores increase in 2013

Denver Public Schools celebrated its upward trend in reading scores, which grew from 59 to 61 percent reading at proficient and above over the past year. That figure has grown 10 points since 2010 and represents 800 additional third-graders who are reading at grade level, district officials said.

“This is encouraging news, especially given that elementary literacy is such a critical foundation for academic success,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg in a statement. “I am very grateful to the work of our elementary teachers for these gains. At the same time, it is clear that we have much work to do to increase the literacy levels in our elementary schools.”

Boasberg said he believed that plans to increase full-day preschool and kindergarten opportunities, strengthen academic programs for English-Language Learners and to provide more support and tutoring for struggling readers would help boost test scores even more.

In addition to the gains on the TCAP reading assessment, DPS had a 10-percentage point gain over last year on the TCAP Lectura exam taken by 600 Spanish-speaking students, bringing the percentage of third-grade Spanish-speaking students who are proficient or above in reading to 57 percent.

In Douglas County, the percentage of third-graders scoring at proficient and advanced dipped from 82.8 to 81.5 percent.

“The third grade TCAP reading scores capture a small snapshot of overall DCSD student achievement,” said Dougco Superintendent Liz Fagen. “Of course, we aspire to have all of our students proficient or advanced in reading.  However, we are very pleased that DCSD schools consistently rank among the best in the state.”

The percentage of students scoring of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading in Aurora Public Schools dropped from 51 percent in 2012 to 49 percent this year.

Aurora’s Chief Academic Officer Tammy Clementi said the dip was no surprise. She said district staff figured out in November that there were gaps in the district’s approach to teaching basic reading skills at the lower grades, such as phonemic awareness. The district now has a plan in place to address those deficiencies.

“We recognized we weren’t going to see gains this year,” Clementi said. “We anticipate a much different story next year.”

However, there were bright spots in Aurora, Clementi said, noting that the percentage of third-graders at reading level – based on the TCAPs – at Vaughn Elementary rose from 28.9 to 46.5 percent.

“A lot of our schools you look at the leadership – the instructional expertise and their ability to drive through instructional practice that needs to be happening on a consistent basis.”

In Adams County School District 50, which last year moved up from “turnaround” status to “priority improvement” in the state’s accountability system, 50 percent of third-graders scored at proficient or advanced in reading, up from 39 percent in 2010.

“The results show that our hard work and commitment to proficiency for all students is making a difference,” said Adams 50 Superintendent Pamela Swanson.  “We still have a long way to go, but I believe the upward trajectory is a very positive indicator.”

Scores rise in Greeley-Evans

Scores for Greeley-Evans District 6 third-graders rose two points this year, with six schools seeing double digit gains in the number of students reading at advanced or proficient levels.

This year, 66 percent of Greeley-Evans third-graders scored advanced or proficient on TCAP reading assessments, up from 64 percent in 2012 and 63 percent in 2011. Twenty percent of third-graders scored partially proficient and 14 percent scored unsatisfactory on the reading assessment.

More than 60 percent, or nearly 12,000, of District 6 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty. And about 26 percent, or more than 5,100 students, are English language learners.

“We are beating the odds, and that is great news for our students,” said District 6 Superintendent Ranelle Lang. “Teachers and administrators have been working hard on strategies to help our students learn to read proficiently, and this helps show our efforts are working.”

The TCAP, or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, is an interim test designed to replace CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) as the state moves to full implementation of the new Colorado Academic Standards.

The Colorado Department of Education published preliminary third grade reading results this week, but results from other grade levels and content areas will be released in August. Math, reading and writing are tested in third through 10th grades. Science is assessed in fifth, eighth and 10th grades.