In less than three weeks, students will be getting their report cards and heading into summer break. Schools are already getting their "grades" back with preliminary and unofficial TCAP results for third grade reading.
This was the first year of the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, or TCAP, after replacing the Colorado State Assessment Program.
As a whole, the proficiency rate in District 51 grew 2 percent. It's still slightly below the state average, but it's closing the gap and that has the district excited. Some D51 schools' proficiency levels dropped, but the district is still pleased to see its students are growing.
Since opening six years ago, Pear Park Elementary has seen its students grow.
"We have continued to make great strides in improvement," principal Cheri Taylor said. "It just goes back to how hard our kids work and the level of expectation we have for all of our students."
It's efforts have not gone unnoticed. Pear Park's third grade teachers and students are celebrating a growth in reading proficiency according to the unofficial 2012 TCAP scores released on Wednesday.
"We had 87 percent of our students proficient or advanced and that is up 8 percent from last year," Taylor said.
School District 51 as a whole also saw improvement. One school, New Emerson Elementary, had 100 percent of its third grade students test proficient in reading with a 9 percent increase from last year.
"We're closing the gap of the state. We're not there yet. The state improved one percent, we went two percent up this year," School District 51 executive director of elementary schools Andy Laase said.
Seventy-two percent of its third grade readers tested proficient, something it credits partially to its new curriculum.
"Our teachers [are] working really hard to understand and implement and use their own individual knowledge and expertise," Laase said.
Teachers spent time over the summer and school year learning the new state standards. This way, they could ensure their classroom curriculums would cover what students need to learn and better prep them for the state test.
"[The TCAP] really has a lot of higher level thinking skills, much more about application and knowledge rather than just knowledge [on the CSAP]," Laase said.
Despite 16 schools improving their third grade proficiency levels, two schools made no changes and six saw a decrease in proficient reading levels.
"We had 80 percent of our students proficient in third grade reading last year, and it decreased this year to 71 percent," Shelledy Elementary School principal Steve States said of his school's 9 percent drop in proficient third grade reading levels.
States said this could be accounted for a number of reasons. This year's third grade class is smaller than years past, meaning a bigger percentage drop when students don't test proficient. He also says it could be partially due to the new curriculum or the group of students tested.
"Every group of kids come with their own challenges," States said.
But even these schools have reason to be optimistic. The district says 22 of its 24 elementary schools showed growth in learning from the three Star Assessments its students take every year.
"They may not have been proficient when they started and they may not be proficient now, but they've grown a lot," States said. "We want to see our kids grow more than a year when they're not proficient, and that appears to be happening."
District 51 expects these third grade reading scores to continue to improve in the near future. It also says the new curriculum is beneficial because it ensures teachers will be doing similar things at the same time in the year. This will help keep students who transfer on track with their peers.
The official TCAP scores for all grades and subjects will be announced in late July or early August.