CSAP testing starts today for fourth, fifth grades

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— Sharpen your pencils. It's testing time.

Beginning today, Strawberry Park Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders will take the reading portion of the Colorado Student Assessment Program test, or CSAP. Soda Creek Elementary School fifth-graders will also begin CSAP testing today.

The CSAP is designed to provide a snapshot of student achievement in reading, writing, science and math as students progress through grades three to 10.

State law mandates CSAP testing for Colorado public schools as part of an effort to hold schools accountable for student achievement.

Once CSAP results are calculated, public schools are ranked based on scores, and a School Accountability Report, or school report card, is issued to each school. Last year, based on its students' high CSAP scores, Strawberry Park earned an excellent rating on its report card. Soda Creek Elementary School received a high rating, one step below excellent.

Despite his school's outstanding rating, Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis questioned school rankings based solely on a standardized test.

"Last year we did well, but I still don't like how they use these one-time tests to rank your school," DeVincentis said. "You kind of end up living and dying by the scores instead of how your kids are learning. Of course, with an excellent rating, you can criticize it a little."

Based on grade level, students are subjected to at least six hours of CSAP testing, DeVincentis said.

The state Department of Education recommends students eat nourishing meals the morning of CSAP tests and get a good sleep the night before CSAP tests.

Teachers and administrators worry about increased stress on students because of the test, and teachers often feel that stress, too, DeVincentis said.

"I don't want teachers to think (CSAP scores are) how I'm rating their teaching," he said.

Teachers are responsible for administering the test per state requirements.

CSAP administration is a by-the-books formula that seeks to ensure standardization across the state.

School rankings aside, the CSAP is a valuable tool when it comes to its emphasis on basic knowledge in subject areas, DeVincentis said.

"I like the CSAP test itself," he said. "It's challenging to the kids and the focus is on good reading, writing and math skills. The only thing I don't like is how they use the scores."

Last year, 90 percent of Strawberry Park and 85 percent of Soda Creek third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were either proficient or advanced readers based on the CSAP reading test. The state average was 65 percent.

Similar discrepancies were prevalent in writing and math scores, where Strawberry Park and Soda Creek students were significantly ahead of state averages. Steamboat Springs children are at an advantage because of the strong educational background of the community and the emphasis placed upon education, DeVincentis said.


-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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