Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores are not the be-all, end-all they often are made out to be. But the state standardized tests administered every spring do provide an objective tool for measuring the performance of our public schools and students.
Students in grades three through 10 are tested in reading, writing and math. Fifth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students also are tested in science. In addition to providing student-specific achievement data, CSAP results also are the primary factor in the state-issued School Accountability Reports, which essentially are report cards that annually grade the performance of every Colorado public school.
The 2006 CSAP tests results were released last week, and although Steamboat Springs School District students continue to score well above state averages, the data revealed a concerning decrease in scores. CSAP troubles continued in Hayden, and students in South Routt experienced mixed results after several years of noteworthy improvements and high scores.
Most school officials prefer to analyze CSAP results by tracking classes of students as they move through grades. For example, the test scores of fifth-graders are compared with how they scored the year before as fourth-graders. That method, officials say, allows them to compare apples to apples.
This year, Steamboat students improved their CSAP scores in six of 27 testing areas, and only Soda Creek Elementary School fourth-graders maintained the same level of proficiency in a testing area. That means scores dropped in the other 20 areas.
Indeed, there are many reasons why students may perform poorly on a given test on a given day, including lack of sleep or food, illness and external distractions. But such an across-the-board decrease in scores is concerning.
One thing to consider - the district had new principals at two of its four campuses and a new director of curriculum and instruction last year.
Although we must remember that one year does not make a trend, we urge Steamboat Springs School District officials to analyze carefully the results of 2006 CSAP tests and work to identify the reasons for the lower results - and then address those reasons.
Hayden School District students scored below the state average in 15 of 27 test areas. Bright spots could be found in the third grade, where 100 percent of the students were proficient or advanced in reading and 96 percent were proficient or advanced in math. But the scores of the district's middle and high school students hovered at or below the state average in most tests.
The South Routt School District, which has performed well in recent years, had mixed results on the 2006 CSAP. Marked improvements by the school's ninth-graders were tempered by 10th-grade scores that were double-digit percentage points below the state average. Only 11 percent of the district's 10th-graders tested proficient or advanced in math, compared with a state average of 31 percent.
Overall, Routt County schools, particularly those in Steamboat Springs, continue to score above state averages. Teachers, students, administrators and parents deserve to be commended. But it's important that the scores are used for what they were intended - to address problem areas and raise the achievement of all local students.