Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs fourth- and seventh-graders scored above the state average in reading and writing last spring, according to the latest standardized test results released Wednesday.
Local fifth-graders also bested the Colorado average in math.
The bad news for Steamboat, however, was that seventh-grade reading and writing scores went down compared to the 1999 results.
In reading, 85 percent of local fourth-graders scored at the advanced or proficient levels, compared to a state average of 62 percent. Local seventh-graders reached 76 percent on the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, compared to the state's 58 percent. The local fourth-graders' reading scores increased 3 percent over last year, but seventh-grade reading scores dropped by 3 percent.
"Our reading scores are very credible, but our real push is in increasing our writing," said Judy Harris, the director of content standards for the Steamboat Springs RE-2 School District.
Fifty-five percent of fourth-graders scored at the either the advanced or proficient level. That was an improvement over last year when 52 percent scored that high. The state average in fourth-grade writing this spring was 36 percent.
No Steamboat seventh-graders scored in the advanced category, but 62 percent were proficient in writing, compared to the state average of 42 percent scoring either advanced or proficient.
Like the reading scores, the percentage of seventh-graders in at least the proficient group decreased, by 2 percent, compared to last year. No Steamboat seventh-grader has reached the advanced level in the two years the test has been given. However, Harris said that even the proficient bar is a high one to clear.
"This is not comparing students with each other, but it compares students with proficiency of a standard," she said.
In math tests, 68 percent of fifth-graders scored at the advanced or proficient level, compared to the state's 47 percent.
Harris credits the above-average scores in all three subjects to students' hard work as well as the dedication of teachers and principals in the district and the support from the community. Students take the CSAP tests once a year. The tests include multiple-choice questions and extended tasks such as writing an essay.
"These tests are really created to reduce the chance of guessing," Harris said.
As part of its focus on increasing students' proficiency in reading and writing, the school district has implemented new techniques in teaching. Every teacher in the district this year was trained in the "Six Trait" writing assessment and instruction model, which breaks writing down into six specific traits, Harris said. Additionally, teachers are using the "Read-Write Connection" program at the elementary and middle-school levels.
"We're looking at these as tools to try to meet all kids' needs," Harris said. "We're trying to build writing into every subject."
The school district is beginning to be able to use the test results in a longitudinal manner, Harris said. The fourth-graders that were first tested in 1997 are now being tested again as seventh-graders.
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