It’s Time Again for State Assessment Turkey Bingo!

Tom Coyne
2 min readAug 15, 2022

With Colorado’s annual CMAS state assessment results being released this week, it’s time again for Turkey Bingo! How many of these spins will your district leaders use?

1) “Our district performed better than the state.” If your district has a lower percentage of at-risk students than the state, you bloody well should have better achievement proficiency results. But if you have a higher percentage, this really is something to celebrate — and for other districts to learn from.

2) “Our Median Growth Percentile is above 50, so our students got more than a year’s worth of learning.” This is a perennial favorite for district leaders, because so few parents understand the Colorado Growth Model (and so few district staff too).

MGP is a RELATIVE not an absolute measure. A student’s growth percentile reflects their achievement performance relative to other student who had the same starting score. A growth percentile > 50 does not mean that a student met the state proficiency standard. If a student is in a group of other students who ended 2021 with the same low CMAS score (say in Math), scoring in the 60th percentile does not mean they got more than a year of growth. It only means that their CMAS results improved by more than half the students in their starting group. It does not mean they received “more than a year’s worth of learning.”

The Median Growth Percentile (MGP) is the Growth Percentile for the student in the middle of a given group (e.g., a grade or a school or the district). As this document shows, there are lots of examples of schools with MGP >50 where the percent of proficient students actually declines.

3) “You should trust your student’s grades, not their standardized test scores.” No, exactly the opposite. Why? Because grade inflation has increased over the past decade, and got much worse during COVID. For example, see this analysis of grade inflation by ACT Inc.

4) “Our CMAS results show our learning losses were small.” Pure spin. In many districts, students who had low scores in 2019 did not take the 2022 CMAS. This imparted an upward bias to 2022 scores, and hid the true size of learning losses relative to 2019.

5) “We’re spending enough to recover our learning losses.” Your district almost certainly is not. Georgetown’s @EdunomicsLab has estimated how much your district needs to spend to get achievement results back to their 2019 level (when many students weren’t proficient). Most districts are spending much less than this on initiatives to recover students’ learning losses. In fact, most district leaders cannot quantitatively explain why their mix of initiatives will recover students’ COVID learning losses, much less catch up to proficiency, which, as ACT research has shown, is extremely difficult.

From what I’ve seen so far this year, I’m afraid that a depressing number of districts will score a five out of five on this assessment of their transparency.



Tom Coyne

Co-Founder, K12 Accountability Inc. New book: "K-12 On the Brink: Why America's Education System Fails to Improve, and Only Business Leadership Can Fix It"