Oak Creek After members of the Friends of the Soroco Parent-Teacher Organization, administrators, teachers and a few parents returned from their respected classrooms at Soroco Middle School holding completed Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, the group that took the freshman- and sophomore-level sample test was a little overwhelmed.
"This was pretty hard," South Routt Superintendent Steve Jones said, who took the test.
Remembering how to figure out the high-level math questions was the biggest challenge, said most who took the test.
Through the PTO, parents had a chance to take a sample CSAP test Tuesday night to see what their children were having to do.
They chose between elementary-, middle- and high school-level tests and had 25 minutes to take them.
The high school-level test took the full 25 minutes to complete, while the other people taking the lower-level exam were done in no time.
"It was real tough," parent John Denning said.
After taking the test, Denning concluded that some Soroco students will have trouble doing well enough to be "proficient" by the state's standards.
That reality has some teachers concerned.
The idea of CSAP's standardized tests is to set a bar for students and teachers to shoot for when it comes to education. In four years, schools most get 80 percent of the students to score proficient marks on the tests, which cover math, reading, writing and science.
If not, the school would be at risk of being taken over by the state.
"In reality, that's not going to happen," Soroco special education teacher Joe Mauch said of the 80 percent of the students reaching the state's proficiency level.
Mauch said a combination of the test being too difficult, some students not being good test takers and others not caring enough to try will always be more than the number of students who score well.
"There is a danger of pointing out failure instead of rewarding achievement," Mauch said.
Soroco High School Principal Rich Coleman also said the test was very difficult.
"There are some introduction trigonometry questions on there," he said.
Mauch is concerned that setting a precedent of standardize testing to determine whether a student is proficient and holding schools strictly accountable for that can lead to some problems.
For one, teachers could start teaching to the test to ensure high marks.
If each teacher begins teaching to the same test, using the same techniques, Mauch said the diversity of teaching styles will no longer benefit the students.
Also, he said he fears that students who consistently score in the D or C range will be labeled as not proficient and feel discouraged from pursuing post-high school education opportunities or see dropping out as a better option because they don't have the confidence to do it.
In a worse-case scenario, schools could stop detouring students from dropping out of school because one less student not proficient brings the school's average up.
"That doesn't happen to be my perception of things," Jones said.
He said teachers can get "at least" 80 percent of the students to proficiency.
That is a significant challenge for Soroco and most schools in the state.
In 16 different reading, writing, math and science tests taken by numerous grade levels from March 2000 to March 1998, none of the classes reached proficiency.
The state average on each test was not proficient either. In nine of the tests, Soroco scored better than the state average.
"The CSAP can be a tool that can alert students, teachers and parents that a student is not achieving and then we can do something about it," Jones said.
Using the tests statewide and having the strict measure to perform does have its downsides, "like everything else does," Jones said.
The responsibility then lies with the teachers and administrators to take the test scores for what they are and use them to positively find ways to improve students' skills.
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