The Steamboat Springs School District continued its routine run of above-average Colorado Student Assessment Program test results, though scores dropped from last year in several areas, according to CSAP test results released Wednesday.
The CSAP tests evaluate state public school third- through 10th-graders in reading, writing, math and science, though some grade levels are not subject to exams in every discipline. The tests are designed to measure student and school achievement in relationship to state content standards -- expectations of what students should know at particular points in their education, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Steamboat students scored significantly higher than the state average across all grade levels and subjects. The percentage of students who scored in the advanced or proficient range in two testing categories -- sixth-grade math and ninth-grade writing -- was 30 percent above the state average.
The district's biggest gain was in seventh-grade math, with the percentage of advanced or proficient students jumping from 44 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2003.
Significant gains also were made by seventh-graders in reading and writing -- CSAP test subjects in which the percentage of students at a proficient or advanced level rose 9 percent from 2002 results.
The writing test scores of Soda Creek Elementary School third-graders improved dramatically, as did the writing scores of Steamboat Springs High School ninth-graders.
"Steamboat's schools traditionally perform above state averages on CSAP," Steamboat Director of Content Standards Kelly Stanford said in a statement released Wednesday. "Although scores for some groups of students fell from last year's levels, students at all of our schools performed well."
The areas that showed decline included fourth-grade writing, where the number of students scoring advanced or proficient fell by 4 percent overall, despite a 3-percent gain by Strawberry Park Elementary School students. Sixty-five percent of Soda Creek fourth-graders scored advanced or proficient, a drop of 11 percent from 2002 results.
Fifth-grade writing scores also fell across the district, with Strawberry Park scores 10 percent lower than last year's results. Eighth-grade writing, math and science scores also dropped this year.
Stanford warned against comparing CSAP scores of like grades from year to year, saying a better indication of improvement is to evaluate scores of a particular class from year to year. For example, Stanford said she compared this year's fourth-grade results to last year's third-grade results to see how the performance of that group of students has changed, rather than comparing two completely different groups of students by looking at this year's third-graders compared with last year's third-graders.
"We think we need to look at groups of students longitudinally over time," Stanford said.
Evaluating the scores in that manner similarly reveals gains and losses by Steamboat students. For example, ninth-grade writing results were 12 percent better than the same group's eighth-grade results last year; while Strawberry Park's fifth-grade writing scores dropped 9 percent from last year's fourth-grade scores.
School district CSAP scores are a major factor in the state's determination of school ratings in the annual School Accountability Reports, which rank public schools.
CSAP test results provide educators surface-level indication of the success of district programs and groups of students, Stanford said.
"(Colorado Student Assess-ment Program) scores are indicators," she said. "They give us indications that we need to look at either our programs or a group of students. These scores, to us, are very surface level. We need to go in and analyze them."
Stanford also applauded district staff, students and parents.
"I would like to congratulate all of the students, teachers, staff, principals and families that continually work together as a team focused on the academic growth of all students," she said. "The district's solid record of performance on CSAP is a strong indication of the strength and consistency of our educational programs."