If you’re a parent in Colorado, you might be feeling pretty good for making it through the first week back to school. Maybe you were five minutes early to the bus stop every day. You’re already on a first name basis with all the teachers. And just a few days in, your kid’s smile is still as big as it was the day you posted the annual first day of school photo on Facebook.
Your kid is gonna crush it this year! I mean, they were part of the 44 percent, right?
That’s the 44.5 percent of kids in third through eighth grade who met or exceeded expectations on the state test for English language arts last spring. Or maybe they fall into the 34.1 percent of all kids who met or exceeded expectations in math. The reality is that more than half of Colorado’s kids are entering a new school year already behind in reading, writing and or math.
And for students who have traditionally been underserved, the news is even worse. In third through seventh grade, the percentage of Black and Hispanic students who did not meet expectations in English language arts or math is more than double the percentage of White students who did not meet expectations. Unfortunately across all grades and subjects, students who qualify for free and reduced priced lunch lag behind their more privileged peers by double digits. And many of the largest gaps exist between students with and without disabilities. In some grades, the gap between students with and without disabilities who met or exceeded expectations is more than 40 points.
Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes is right. “As a society and a state, this is unacceptable.”
But just because this is where many kids are starting out in 2018, it doesn’t mean that’s where they have to end up. We know our kids deserve better and most of us believe they can do better. So parents and students shouldn’t enter the new year feeling defeated. Parents should look to see how their individual child performed and use the start of school as an opportunity to set them up for success.
Here are five ways parents can help their kids crush the school year despite the state’s abysmal test results.
Get to know the test (s)
In Colorado, students take the Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS to give parents an idea of how well their kids are meeting the Colorado Academic Standards in English language arts, math, science and social studies. Kids in third through eighth grade took the test last spring and we’re just now learning how they performed. Kids in grades five, eight and eleven took CMAS science tests, while fourth- and seventh-graders in select schools took CMAS social studies tests.
Check your kid’s score
While the Colorado Department of Education has just released statewide data on how kids performed, a score report is also created for every kid who took the CMAS test. Parents will receive their child’s individual score report from their district any day now. Be sure to check out the state’s guide to understanding your child’s report before it arrives. In the meantime, you can see how students at your child’s school performed compared to other schools as well as the state.
Remember it’s just a test
Really, it’s just one test, which means it’s one way to show how well your child is learning in school. So regardless of whether your child aced it or didn’t do as well as you’d hoped, use the information as a benchmark to compare against other measures of success this year such as weekly progress reports, teacher feedback and semester report cards.
Partner with your teacher
Remember those teachers you’re on a first name basis with? Put them on speed dial. Seriously, you don’t have to wait until parent-teacher conferences to see how your child is doing. In fact, once you receive your kid’s CMAS score report, you’ll know how they’re doing, and so will their teacher. Together you can talk about how your child did on the test and partner on different ways to make sure your kid stays ahead of the curve or catches up throughout the year. Familiarize yourself with what your child is supposed to know by the end of this year and check in with the teacher to see how your child is progressing toward that goal. Stay up to date with the teacher’s lesson plans and talk with them about ways to help your child increase their understanding of class subjects at home.
Every day your child goes to school is an opportunity for you to check-in with them. My dad used to tell me the best part of his day was in the 15 minutes it took to pick me up from school and take me home. Why? Because it was 15 uninterrupted minutes for me to “school” him on my day. In 15 minutes he could tell if I’d had a bad day or a good day, and why. Fifteen minutes can tell you a lot about your child’s experience at school. They might not tell you exactly what you need to know, but you’ll probably learn what you need to know more about.
Knowledge really is power, so use it to crush it this school year.