Beach Court kids’ scores plunge after move

A large number of Beach Court Elementary School students who scored proficient in fifth grade over a three-year period saw their scores drop out of the proficient category in sixth grade, an analysis conducted for Education News Colorado by I-News shows.

Beach Court Elementary students, shown in a photo from the school's website.

In 2009, for example, 76 percent of Beach Court fifth-graders scored proficient on state math tests. Just 29 percent of those same students scored proficient in math the following year when they entered sixth grade in a variety of middle schools.

By contrast, in Denver Public Schools overall, sixth-graders in 2009 scored 1 percentage point higher in math then they did fifth grade the year before – 47 to 46 percent.

In conducting the analysis, I-News studied student test score records obtained from the Colorado Department of Education. DPS has declined to provide any data or other information until after the state wraps up its investigation.

Earlier this week, Education News Colorado reported that Beach Court Principal Frank Roti has been placed on administrative leave while the state investigates testing anomalies at the school. Hallett Fundamental Academy is also being investigated. The I-News analysis of test scores did not find test score drops at Hallett similar to those at Beach Court.

Sources confirmed the district’s analysis of Colorado Student Assessment Program results included an examination of erasure marks on student answer sheets. Results showed the two schools far exceeded district averages in the number of wrong answers erased and replaced with correct responses.

The I-News analysis of Beach Court scores found that:

  • Between half and three quarters of fifth-grade students in 2007 through 2009 saw their math scores drop at least one level when they left the school and tested in sixth grade.
  • Between a third and almost half of fifth graders dropped a level in reading  over three years of testing  and a level in writing over two years of testing after leaving the school.

As a result, the percentage of fifth-grade students at Beach Court achieving proficiency in math, reading and writing dropped by a half or more between 2009 and 2010 when they were sixth graders in a different school

I-News looked at how fifth graders who took the tests at Beach Court in 2007 through 2009 fared on the CSAP tests the next year when they entered a new school in sixth grade.   The analysis compared how the same students scored – unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient or advanced. Between one and three fifth graders each year did not have scores the next year as sixth graders.

The biggest declines took place between 2009 testing at Beach Court and 2010 tests in sixth grade.  Thirty-seven of the 49 fifth graders, or 75 percent, fell at least one level in math.  The biggest drop was from proficient to partially proficient. Twenty of the 21 fifth graders fell below proficiency when they took the math test in sixth grade.  In addition, 13 of the 17 fifth graders who scored advanced on math at Beach Court fell to proficient  or lower after they left the school.

For reading in 2009, 22 of 49 students dropped a level the next year and 25 of 49 dropped a level in writing. As with math,  the biggest declines were from scoring proficient at Beach Court to scoring partially proficient in sixth grade.

The declines bucked the districtwide trends.

For all DPS schools, 46 percent of fifth graders scored proficient or better in 2009 in math, rising to 47 percent when they became sixth graders in 2010.

For all of DPS, the percent scoring proficient or advanced in reading rose from 48 percent in fifth grade in 2009 to 54 percent in sixth grade in 2010. In writing, the scores were the same in fifth grade in 2009 as they were in sixth grade for 2010 – 41 percent proficient or advanced.

Earlier years

About half of the fifth graders who took math tests at Beach Court in 2008 dropped a level the next year. For reading and writing, it was about 30 percent of fifth graders who lost ground the next year.

Just under half of the fifth graders dropped a level after taking reading and math tests in 2007 at Beach Court. A break down on proficiency levels was not available for writing. Only scale scores were used in the data base analyzed by I-News.

I-News also  analyzed scores for Hallet Fundamental School, but the database used by I-News did not include scores to compare the 2010 and 2011 years that are the focus of the investigation. The analysis found that most scores stayed the same or rose between fifth and sixth grades.

Reflections of a former Beach Court teacher

Bernadette Lopez taught third grade at Beach Court from 2005 to 2008, when she left to join the teacher-led Math and Science Leadership Academy. Lopez has since left teaching to enroll in law school.

During her three years at the school, Lopez said CSAP tests were closely monitored. Teachers picked up their boxes of tests in the morning before testing and the boxes were immediately picked up after testing was over.

She also pointed out that no teacher had access to the tests for all of their students. That’s because of testing accommodations allowed under state testing rules. So students who qualified for extra time, for example, or other special circumstances would be under the supervision of a different proctor.

“I never had access to 100 percent of my students’ tests,” she said.

Lopez said she heard about the cheating investigation and “felt really bad for the teachers who have worked so hard … it tarnishes what we did.”

“When I was there, things were on the up and up,” she said. “I never saw anything that would be suspect.”

But she also noted, “I don’t know what happens after someone picks up the boxes” of tests – “you turn in your box … you never see it again.”

“It’s almost too bad the district made such a big deal out of the school – it felt like there was so much pressure to keep scores up,” she said.

Lopez said the second year she taught at Beach Court, 89 percent of her third-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading; the next year, the figure was 100 percent. “I didn’t even think it was possible for all of my students to do so well.”

Still, if someone were trying to cheat, why falsely create 100 percent proficiency, which could create suspicion, she asked.

Lopez and other teachers pointed out that Frank Roti, the Beach Court principal, did not always have the best relationships with teachers.

“If teachers were aware of cheating going on, it probably would have been reported,” she said. On the other hand, if teachers felt nothing would really happen to a principal, they may not have felt it would make a difference.

“You’re going to have different kids every year, your scores are going to fluctuate,” she said. “If there is something to it, the pressure got to somebody.”

By the numbers

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call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”