Back to School: Colorado’s Academic Performance 2022

While schools largely returned to in-person learning according to the recommended health safety measures and other COVID-era precautions in the 2021-22 school year, data nationwide demonstrates that our students need more support than ever. This report details the first robust data set available in three years and the student achievement scores should be of great concern to parents, community and policy makers.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nationally-comparable standard for measuring student achievement, suggests that 9-year-old students are academically performing at levels lower than anytime over the last 20 years. Since early 2020 the average reading score fell by five points, the largest drop since 1990, and math scores dropped seven points, the first decline of any kind in the history of the test. The pandemic had a significant impact on student learning but it was uneven as students from different demographics and settings—urban, suburban and rural—were impacted differently from each other.

Results in Colorado on 2022 academic assessments generally mirrored these nationwide trends, though some schools and districts have bucked this trend, and academic performance bounced back to near pre-pandemic performance for some cohorts of students across the state.

Back to School: Colorado’s Academic Performance 2022 provides a deeper look into student academic performance in response to several key questions while providing some considerations for community and policy makers. Those key questions include:

  1. What can state academic assessments from spring 2022 tell us?
  2. How did Colorado students do on the academic assessments? How did this performance compare to prior years?
  3. How variable was student performance across the state?
  4. What variation in performance do we see across different student groups?
  5. What type of variation exists in performance at the school level? What about variation at the school level?

Back to School: Colorado’s Charter School Academic Performance 2022

The Keystone Policy Center also examined data and analyzed how students in charter schools performed compared to students in district-managed schools across Colorado as the state emerged from pandemic shutdowns and interruptions to in-person learning. There are currently 265 charter schools serving about 134,000 students in Colorado (15% of Colorado’s K-12 public school student population), making it a non-trivial proportion of students that is important to learn from.

Keystone Policy Center examined the data and analyzed how students in charter schools performed compared to students in district-managed schools across Colorado Among the key findings included in the report are:

  • Charter schools outperformed district-managed schools on the state School Performance Framework.
  • The gap was wider when looking only at schools serving large numbers of students from low-income families.
  • Charter school students in grades 3-8 outperformed their peers in district-managed schools on both literacy and math tests.
  • Critically, fewer than half of all students, regardless of school governance type, are meeting grade level expectations in either subject.
  • It is also important to note that in charters and district-managed schools alike, troubling academic gaps persist between lower- and higher-income students.
  • Charter schools serving grades 3-8 also showed more academic growth than their district-managed counterparts.
  • Charter high schools performed less well, according to SAT data, running even with or lagging behind district-run schools on status measures in both ELA and math.
  • On growth measures, charter schools significantly out-performed high-schoolers in district-managed schools

While this report looks at statewide trends, there is wide variation in charter performance across the state, as well as in the demographics of students served. For example, less than 40% of charter high school students in Aurora are at or above benchmarks in literacy compared to over 80% in Jefferson County. In order to understand the lessons to take away from charter performance this must be further explored.

Colorado Academic Performance Interactive Maps

Keystone has also published a set of interactive maps to accompany the report, which allow a user to explore student enrollment, participation rate, and whether they met or exceeded expectations by region or even by individual school district across the state. Click the images below to access the interactive maps.  

PK-12 Student Enrollment

Percentage of Students Who Meet/Exceed Expectations

Statewide Student Participation Rate