Our View: Math mess

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The rancor in the Steamboat Springs School District had little impact on Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores.

There were slight drops in the scores at Strawberry Park Elementary School, whose Principal John DeVincentis was embroiled in a well-chronicled personnel dispute with former Superintendent Cyndy Simms much of last year. Still, at nearly every grade level in every category, the percentage of Strawberry Park students who are proficient or advanced is at least 20 points higher than the state average.

Soda Creek Elementary School's CSAP scores have lagged behind Strawberry Park's since the tests began in 2000. But with significant gains by Soda Creek this year, the difference between the two schools' test scores is negligible. Only in fourth-grade writing, in which 65 percent of Soda Creek students were proficient or better compared with 85 percent at Strawberry Park, was there an appreciable difference.

Scores rose at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Eighty percent of Steamboat sixth-graders were proficient or better in math, compared with just 50 percent statewide, and 71 percent of Steamboat seventh-graders were proficient or better in math compared with 41 percent statewide.

Soroco posted the best third-grade reading scores in the county. Ninety-three percent of the school's third-graders were proficient or better in reading.

Steamboat's students scored better than the state average in every category. Soroco topped the state average in 16 of 23 categories, while Hayden students beat the state average in 13 of 22 categories.

Math remains the Achilles' heel for all county schools, particularly at higher grade levels. In Hayden, fewer than 20 percent of the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders scored proficient or better in math. In Soroco, 22 percent of eighth-graders, 21 percent of ninth-graders and 31 percent of 10th-graders are proficient in math.

Even Steamboat's math results show disturbing trends. In 2002, 55 percent of the ninth-graders scored proficient or better in math, but only 41 percent of those same students scored proficient or better on this year's 10th-grade math test.

The math portion of the CSAP remains a statewide problem. Sadly, even though nearly 60 percent of Steamboat's 10th-graders could not demonstrate proficiency in all sections of the test, the school's scores ranked it in the top 10 percent in the state -- 32nd out of 375 schools.

Statewide, just 27 percent of all 10th-graders were proficient in all areas of the test.

Colorado schools can do better. Among steps schools can take are ensuring math curriculum is aligned to the standards tested, providing incentives to students and sharing resources and ideas.

Routt County schools already are taking such steps. The Hayden School Board has approved a new math curriculum that includes a blueprint for teachers to follow. The blueprint addresses state standards for each grade level. In Steamboat, students have to pass a math proficiency test to graduate. But this year, students who demonstrate proficiency in all sections of the math CSAP are exempt from the graduation requirement.

Local schools have largely performed well on the CSAP in comparison to their peers across the state. But there is room for improvement. Only by raising the expectations for students will they demonstrate that improvement.

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