Teachers and officials in the Hayden School District are defending standardized-test-driven changes in curriculum under criticism from parents that the district is becoming too focused on such tests.
School staff and committee members say parents are asking why such changes are being made to improve scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. Some say part of the questioning is because of a lack of understanding about the tests.
The tests are indicators of schools' performances, which is why some parents think it is to make the school look good, School Board member and School Improvement Team member Patty Bruchez said.
"Some parents, teachers and students just don't understand the importance of these tests," Bruchez said. "They are questioning or challenging the schools' emphasis on CSAP scores because the schools are doing some specific things because of CSAP."
CSAP tests are designed for grades three through 10 to measure student achievement in relationship to state standards, according to a pamphlet from the Colorado Department of Education. The standards represent what students are expected to know at particular points in their education.
The CSAP tests will be administered in Hayden next week.
Hayden School Board members, teachers and officials say that when classroom instruction is modified to emphasize particular subjects in response to CSAP scores, the resulting improvement is directly related to improving students' knowledge of the subjects.
The standardized tests are designed to indicate to teachers, students and parents what a student needs to meet the state standards. If students are failing or achieving below-average scores in subjects, that is all the more reason to focus more on those subjects so the students are not left behind, Bruchez said.
Hayden High School Principal Nick Schafer said some parents mistakenly think CSAP test results determine how much money the school gets from the state and federal government.
"Some have asked why we put so much emphasis on it if the only reason we do it is for more money," Schafer said. "That's a fallacy. The score we get doesn't affect how much money we get one way or another."
School Improvement Team member Holly Blake said she had heard some parents saying that a high school class was canceled because of the school putting more emphasis on CSAP tests. The vocational class was canceled to allow its teachers to instruct additional math and social studies classes, she said, but that was because of a large eighth-grade class coming into the high school.
"Since it's a statewide issue, more parents are asking what the importance is," Blake said. "But instead of calling the school principal, parents are talking to each other, and there's a lot of parents who don't have the right answers.
"There needs to be more parent involvement, but the problem here is most parents work and don't have time for committees."
Hayden School Board President Kurt Frentress said proving a school's performance as good or bad is ultimately a good thing.
"I think CSAPs, overall, are pretty good," Frentress said. "They let the community know how their district is doing, and if it's not up to task, they can choose who to elect to the school board and what they want to do for their children's education. That's exactly why the Legislature did what it did. It wanted a report card for the schools.
"I think most of the concerns are because there's not enough information out there."
Another difficulty encountered by Hayden students on CSAP tests is that the format requires written responses rather than traditional multiple choice or true/false. And while students say this aspect is difficult, district officials say taking the time to teach these skills eases the difficulty and teaches the ability to express oneself.
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