CSAP test results mixed

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— The Steamboat Springs School District traditionally outperforms others schools from across the state when it comes to Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

The same held true in 2006, according to CSAP results relea-sed Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Education.

Steamboat surpassed state averages -- in some cases significantly -- in the proficient and advanced category at every grade level and in every CSAP subject -- reading, writing, math and science.

With the exception of a couple of results, Steamboat students scored lower on this year's CSAPs than they did last year.

"We have some mixed results," Superintendent Donna Howell said. "What we are waiting to do is dig deeper into the data of individual students and see how they are progressing."

Students in grades three through 12 took the CSAP reading, writing and math tests, and students in the fifth, eighth and 10th grades also took the science test. The science test was new to fifth- and 10th-graders in 2006.

The CSAP tests, designed to measure and monitor student and school achievement in relation to the state's content standards, are a primary component of state-issued School Accountability Reports.

Steamboat is in no danger of losing accreditation based on its consistently high level of performance, but district administrators are far from satisfied, particularly because scores dropped almost across the board when compared with last year's results.

District officials prefer to compare students scores from year to year rather than by grade level. For example, the reading scores of fourth-graders are compared to their scores last year as third-graders.

Using that method of comparison, CSAP scores dropped in most categories. The three testing categories in which students improved their performance over last year were eighth grade reading and math and seventh grade writing.

"The thought that not every student is achieving at his or her potential is very troubling," Straw-berry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale said. "When we get the data back that is broken down by individual students, the teachers and I will be making very comprehensive plans to increase student achievement for every student."

Strawberry Park remains one of the district's highest-performing schools -- 97 percent of the school's third-graders scored proficient or advanced in math.

Math scores across the state and district increased from last year when looking at grade-level comparisons. For example, Steamboat's sophomores tested at 48 percent proficient or advanced in math on the 2006 test, while last year's sophomores tested at 39 percent proficient or advanced. Steamboat also saw math score increases in the sixth, seventh and ninth grades.

"We are particularly happy with our math results," Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop said. "Nearly half of all middle school students performed at the advanced level in math."

Although comparing grade levels is not the district's preferred method of analysis, school officials say such comparisons do have value.

Even more valuable for school districts is the ability to track individual student performance. CSAP results are broken down by individual students, giving administrators and teachers the chance to track a student's progress through the years rather than simply track an entire class.

District officials also stressed that although CSAP results are important, the tests are not the only assessment the district uses to evaluate the progress of its students.

"We have district assessment scores for reading, writing and basic math computation that we will add to the CSAP information and then determine each student's strengths and needs for planning," Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris said.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com.

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