Steamboat Springs Hayden and Yampa school district officials said that staff work and well-designed literacy programs were responsible for the highest third-grade Colorado Student Assessment Program reading scores the districts have ever seen.
Hayden Valley Elementary School had 74 percent of its third-graders at or above proficient levels of reading; South Routt Elementary School had 82 percent in that category. The state average was 72 percent.
"I think it's because our teachers have worked very hard on literacy, and they've really worked on how they teach reading," said Yampa Superintendent Steve Jones. "They've made some curricular and instructional changes."
Jones was particularly impressed with having 21 percent of the students at an advanced reading level, more than double the state average.
"We're satisfied with these numbers," said Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader. "I think we would have been excited if we had hit the 80th percentile, but we can't complain. This is the highest we've been."
The all-time high scores do not imply sub-par performance in years past. In fact, the schools have been consistently placing 70 percent or more of their students in proficient and advanced proficiency levels.
The scores are returned early to determine if any students require Individual Learning or Individual Literacy Plans to help accelerate them to the appropriate level during the following year.
Hayden Elementary's school year ends today, South Routt's on May 31. Both have K-5 literacy programs.
Hayden Principal Mike Luppes said that several students scored within five points of a proficient rating, which could have resulted in another 10 percentage points of students at or above a proficient reading level. Hayden Valley has 42 third-graders, while South Routt has 39, making individual student progress a tremendous factor in the percentages.
"Overall we were pleased with it, this is the highest the third-graders have scored," Luppes said. "But we could always see improvement."
Several Hayden students will receive individual tutoring that will help them move up to a proficient reading level, thanks to a Ready To Achieve Grant, Luppes said.
South Routt Principal Troy Zabel warned against being overly focused on getting high CSAP scores.
"I think it's just a lot of evidence of the hard work staff puts in to meet achievement goals," Zabel said. "But they've spent a lot of time looking at what's best for kids, and having a program built around everything not just CSAP, not having a CSAP-driven program."
However, South Routt students will have an additional challenge to deal with in the coming school year. South Routt voters passed a $9 million bond in November to renovate area schools.
This includes the addition of a 7,000-square-foot, six-classroom wing to the elementary school beginning June 1 with a tentative finish date of Dec. 19. Instead of starting in late August, students will begin Sept. 10.
"We're going to lose some instructional days, but we will make up those days at the end of the year," Jones said. "There may be some impact on the testing, but not so much on the learning."
Principal Troy Zabel said that steps have been taken to minimize the impact on students. A bulk of the interior work will be done during the summer months, which means that most of the construction will be taking place outside when school is in session.
But for the time being, this year's test scores have been an encouraging sign.
"I think we're really doing the job down there in the primary," Jones said.