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The Bright & Not-So-Bright Spots of Colorado’s Latest 3rd Grade Reading Scores

Can you believe it? Last week I didn’t write anything about the release of the CSAP TCAP results for 3rd grade reading. The state’s overall share of proficient 3rd grade readers (74 percent) is slightly better than the previous year. Colorado can still do better. To me, this is one of the most fundamental measures of how our schools are doing. If you can’t read well by the end of 3rd grade, future prospects look a lot different.

So I’m not the only one who likes to see what kind of progress we’re making on the CSAP TCAP. In the past five years, 3rd grade reading scores in most of the state’s 10 largest districts have been flat with very slight upticks. The notable exceptions are from the lower performers with greater student poverty. Aurora Public Schools improved from 46 percent proficient in 2007 to 51.5 percent in the latest round.

Even more remarkable, Denver Public Schools has made the leap from 50 percent proficient to 59 percent over the same five-year span. As DPS superintendent appropriately noted in his email announcement:

As pleased as we are with the growth, it is clear that we have much more work in front of us to continue to improve our elementary literacy.

Likely sharing the same attitude is one of DPS’ exceptional improvements, my friends at the Cole Arts and Science Academy innovation school. In this school with a 96 percent student poverty rate, 3rd grade reading proficiency more than doubled from 22 to 48 percent on the CSAP TCAP. Hooray! A DPS turnaround school that made an even bigger improvement, Greenlee Elementary, earned a feature on 9 News for boosting the success rate from 21 to 55 percent.

On the opposite end, the highly-touted recent success of high-poverty Beach Court Elementary has taken the plunge from 85 percent proficient 2 years ago and 78 percent in 2011 to only 40 percent this time around. Ongoing success is not guaranteed. What exactly has changed deserves a closer look.

To a lesser extent, Harrison School District’s Wildflower Elementary — which last year proudly claimed 100 percent proficiency with three-fourths of its student population in poverty — came in above average at only 84 percent on this year’s CSAP TCAP.

Wildflower was one of eight elementary schools statewide last year to register a perfect mark in 3rd grade reading proficiency. (Please note that some schools might be omitted because the sample size, or number of students in the grade, was too small.) This year there were 11, including rural Valley Re-1’s Caliche Elementary with a 47 percent poverty rate. One school repeated the feat in consecutive years, Cherry Creek’s Challenge School. The other nine 100-percenters on the 3rd grade reading CSAP TCAP are as follows:

  • Aurora Quest K-8
  • Carbondale Community Charter School
  • Liberty Common Charter School (Fort Collins)
  • New Emerson School at Columbus (Grand Junction)
  • Polaris at Ebert Elementary (Denver)
  • Steck Elementary (Denver)
  • Swink Elementary
  • University Hill Elementary (Boulder)
  • Wilder Elementary (Littleton)

Onward and upward for next year’s batch of Colorado 3rd grade reading scores!