(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Colorado students still have not caught up to their pre-pandemic test performance, according to the latest release of data form the Colorado Department of Education.

Source: Colorado Department of Education

The state is still bouncing back from learning losses sustained during the global COVID-19 pandemic, when school interruptions and remote learning shifts took a big toll on students nationwide.

Source: Colorado Department of Education

However, Colorado Springs School District 11 (D11) is one of two school districts in El Paso County that showed improvements in both english and math.

The department released the results of the academic tests known as CMAS for 2023 on Thursday, Aug. 17, along with PSAT and SAT data. Overall, the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations dropped in 2023 from the 2019 testing averages, though testing has improved in most cases since 2022.

The state will evalute data district by district to see which ones were exceeding in digging out of the pandemic academically and how they went about doing it.

“Children are still suffering from what their COVID-19 experience was,” explained Superintendent Michael Gaal, with D11. “Many of us may have suffered from COVID, many of us have lost loved ones from COVID. It is going to be the thing that we talk about for well into the next generation.”

The finalized results of the CMAS test is scheduled to be released next week. In the meantime, D11 is celebrating positive preliminary results, but said the work isn’t done yet.

“Coming out of the pandemic a year and a half back, District 11 was ranked 158, 158 out of 178 school districts in the state of Colorado,” said Dr. Parth Melpakam, Board President of D11.

Today, D11 is ranked 79.

“Several changes were implemented along the way,” Dr. Melpakam explained. “Clear focus was placed on the priorities of student sucess, staff investment, and parent engagement. Resourcses were aligned and directed closest to the students in the classrooms.”

This time last year, D11 had 17 of its schools on the state’s watch list for priority improvement, but that’s about to change.

“Those 17 schools we were tracking, half of them will come off the state watch list,” Dr. Melpakam said.

The administration said in order to get this kind of movement, they took five schools that were on a turnaround status and moved all of them up at least one level.

“Most specifically, Mitchell High School is no longer a turnaround high school,” Superintendent Gaal said.

Meanwhile, Academy School District 20 (D20) outperformed Colorado state growth and achievement averages in every content area and grade level.

“Our positive results stem from our talented and dedicated staff who focus on educating the whole child through robust systems of support, our engaged parent community, and recent changes to district-wide Professional Learning Communities (PLCs),” said Superintendent of D20, Jinger Haberer. “We are elated our expanded learning opportunities for students and teachers resulted in increased district-wide academic growth. It is affirming the work we’re doing is making a direct impact on students.” 

Both D20 and D11 expanded learning opportunities for students and teachers. D11 partially attributes the growth to increasing teacher’s salaries from $41,000 to $50,000.

“We know to get student achievement we’ve got to be able to support our staff and that started by recognizing and rewarding them for all the hard work they put in and increasing teacher starting salary,” Dr. Melpakam said.

FOX21 also reached out to school districts in Pueblo for comment. In Pueblo School District 60 (D60), administration said across the district they saw growth in high school math and English.

“While we are pleased with the fact that most of our schools continue to maintain or increase their growth, we are aware that challenges remain due to lost learning opportunities during the pandemic,” said D60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso. “As we enter the new school year, we do so with a sense of optimism that a solid year of instruction will lead to even more schools meeting or exceeding state expectations following testing in Spring 2024.”

Pueblo School District 70 (D70) is also reported growth.

“We are pleased to report the remarkable growth and achievement of many of our schools following the release of the state assessments taken in the spring of 2023,” said Lynnette Bonfiglio, Public Information Officer with D70. “Meeting and exceeding statewide Median Growth Percentile Benchmarks in math and English Language Arts are a testament to the dedication and hard work of both our students and educators.”