Volume 4 Issue 1

50% of Jeffco Students Don’t Meet Grade-Level Expectations

Caucasian Students Far Underperform Their Peers in Denver

by Susan Wheeler

No one believes student success can be measured by one number. It is widely reported that Einstein was not a good student and yet he became one of the most famous scientists of all time. So while test scores for one student can’t be the sole measure of success, when determining the degree to which a public education system is fulfilling its duties, we can look at achievement numbers for the entire system. In Jeffco, the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture.

According to the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), only half of students in grades three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine are meeting grade-level standards in English Language Arts or Math.


from Jeffco Schools Achievement Presentation, Sept. 7, 2017

In fact, in math, for students taking grade- level classes, the percent of students meeting expectations is closer to 40 percent. The percent of students varies from a high of 47 percent of third graders meeting grade-level expectations in math to a low of 20 percent for eighth graders. It seems the longer students stay in Jeffco schools, the lower the percent of them remain performing at grade level.


from Jeffco Schools Achievement Presentation, Sept. 7, 2017

Despite less-than-stellar results, English and math look like bright spots when compared to student achievement levels in science. Assessments are given in fifth, eighth, and 11th grade for science. For the year 2017 only 42 percent of fifth grade students met grade level expectations, 40 percent of eighth graders, and by 11th grade only 35 percent of students met grade-level expectations in science. That means only slightly more than one-third of students who are just a year away from graduation have the necessary science skills to be considered proficient.


from Jeffco Schools Achievement Presentation, Sept. 7, 2017

Colorado did adopt tougher academic standards in 2010 which are now being measured on state assessments. But even those tougher standards aren’t as rigorous as standards in other countries. According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 26 pecent of US students were low performers in math compared to 23 percent from other countries. Saying that students in Jeffco are doing better than in other districts across Colorado is clearly not good enough.

The correct question is whether or not Jeffco students will be ready for college and careers. According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s “2014 Skills for Jobs Summary,” experts project that 74 percent of jobs in Colorado will require post-secondary education or training. Colorado ranks third in the nation in the percent of jobs that will require post-secondary education. Yet, fewer than 50 percent of Jeffco students meet the college readiness benchmarks on the SAT for both Reading/Writing and Math. That means one in two students ready to graduate from a Jeffco high school are not adequately prepared for college-level work.


from Jeffco Schools Achievement Presentation, Sept. 7, 2017

Many say the problem in Jeffco is the percent of students who live in poverty or the number who speak English as a second language. The reality is, only about one-third of Jeffco’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is a measure of the number of students living in poverty. And only 24 percent of Jeffco students are Hispanic. It doesn’t take great math skills to figure out the lack of student achievement is not just among Hispanic students or those from poorer families.

A Chalkbeat article from October 4, 2017, included data that reveals that white students in Denver far out-perform white students in Jeffco. In Denver, 70 percent of white fourth graders met the state level expectations in English, while in Jeffco that figure is 59 percent. Stated differently, 2,400 Jeffco fourth graders do not meet grade-level expectations in English, enough to fill six elementary schools. (www.chalkbeat.org)


from Chalkbeat article dated October 4, 2017

In fourth grade math, the percentage point difference between Denver fourth graders and Jeffco fourth graders is even worse. Sixty percent of Denver’s white students meet expectations in math, while in Jeffco that number is only 47 percent.


from Chalkbeat article dated October 4, 2017

And the scores aren’t any better for Jeffco’s seventh graders. While Denver improved from 70 percent of their white fourth graders meeting expectations in English to 77 percent of seventh graders, Jeffco stayed at 59 percent of seventh graders meeting grade-level


from Chalkbeat article dated October 4, 2017

expectations. In math, Denver jumped from 60 percent of fourth graders meeting expectations to 64 percent in the seventh grade. Jeffco actually fell from 47 percent of fourth graders to only 41 percent of seventh graders meeting math expectations.

One student’s performance on one day, on one test should never be taken as the totality of that student’s success. But in Jeffco, measure after measure after measure indicates that 50


from Chalkbeat article dated October 4, 2017

percent of our students aren’t meeting grade level expectations even after spending increases each year.

Jeffco residents need to admit there is a problem and it is not just a problem among poor or Hispanic students. It is time to demand to know how effective each program in Jeffco is at improving student achievement. It is time to stop doing things that don’t work, start understanding what does work, and spread best practices. Our children deserve the very best opportunities.