DENVER — Results from standardized tests taken by third- through eighth-graders in the spring of 2021 show a widening achievement gap between white students and students of color in Colorado.
Overall, fewer students took the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test and scores showed significant decreases in performance from all student groups and subject areas, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
But the scores show even larger decreases among Black and Hispanic students.
In the English language assessment, Black and Hispanic student scored about 25% to 33% lower than white students.
In math, Black and Hispanic students scored 21% to 26% lower than white than students across all grade levels.
“There should not have been testing in 2021. What the focus should have been on was on mental health and social-emotional needs,” said Tanaka Shipp, executive director of Education for Collaborative Healing Initiatives within Communities (CHIC). “The focus should be how we get back to a little piece of normalcy instead of testing. Where is the compassion after everything that we’ve gone through this last year?”
Shipp said the state should take into consideration all the additional challenges that students faced this year due to the pandemic.
“We're talking about students, parents and families and some educators who went through a traumatic school year. I know students who went through at least four different hybrid ways of learning,” Shipp said.
Savinay Nathan Chandrasekhar, CEO of Minds Matter Colorado, an organization that mentors high achieving students from low-income neighborhoods, said this is an opportunity to look at long-term solutions to the achievement gap.
“Systemic inequities were just exacerbated during the pandemic. This includes access to technology and internet, parents who are working multiple jobs with high risks of exposure to COVID-19… lack of infrastructure and support systems. All of those things existed before the pandemic. The pandemic just made them all worse,” Chandrasekhar said. “The pandemic just showed us how much work we have to do and emphasized the need for systemic change.”
According to state leaders, CMAS scores will be used to decide how to use school funding to help schools and students make learning gains during the pandemic.