South Routt board sees test breakdown

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— Soroco Middle School and High School Principal James Chamberlin presented a breakdown of how the South Routt School District assesses its students annually at Thursday's South Routt School Board meeting.

Chamberlin started by testing board members on their acronym knowledge, writing CSAP, MAPS and ACT on the dry erase board.

CSAP stands for Colorado Student Assessment Program - the series of reading, writing and math tests administered annually to students in grades three through 12. Fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders also take a science test.

Chamberlin broke down how Soroco's students did, highlighting the increase in math scores for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders compared to how those same groups of students scored in 2005.

He also pointed out how impressed he was with the 2005-06 freshman class, which improved its CSAP scores in reading, writing and math. He told the board those students won a trip to Elitch Gardens in Denver.

"We throw that out as an incentive to have goals," Chamberlin said. "It is difficult for a cohort (group) to improve their scores in all three areas."

In general, however, Soroco's CSAP scores dropped during the 2005-06 school year when compared to the results from 2004-05.

Board member Willie Smith questioned the decline in scores at Yampa Valley Elementary School, asking whether class size could be a factor in the decline of scores.

Chamberlin said he did not believe one year indicated a trend of decline.

But Smith pointed to declining scores almost across the board as a trend.

In general, Chamberlin cautioned against putting too much stock in "high-stakes testing" such as the CSAPs, despite the fact CSAP results are the primary indicator the Colorado Department of Education uses in measuring school achievement.

John Condie, the Colorado Department of Education's Northwest Regional Manager, attended Thursday's board meeting and reminded the board that CSAPs were created by teachers. He also complimented the district before Chamberlin presented his results.

"You are doing a lot of wonderful things," Condie said. "You are known for taking a good hard look at data. I commend the superintendent and principals for the hard work that you do. I also will commend the board, in making tough academic decisions, you have to make tough personnel decisions."

"It's nice to know people in Denver haven't forgotten about us," School Board President Tim Corrigan said after Condie's remarks.

Chamberlin provided MAPS, or Measure of Academic Progress reports, as well as ACT, or American College Testing, results.

MAPS tests are administered throughout the district, but Chamberlin called them "low-stakes testing" because scores are not sent home.

"It's more used diagnostically to see where individual students are compared to other kids across the nation," he said. "We use it electronically to help us see diagnostically where our kids are throughout the year before they take the CSAPs."

The MAPS are administered three times a year. They are different from CSAPS in that each student takes a different test. Questions increase with difficulty if a student gets a question right on the MAPS test. Questions get easier if a student gets a question wrong.

In CSAP and ACT tests, all students receive the same test.

"The beauty is, it gives a teacher an individual snapshot of that individual student," Corrigan said.

At the sixth-grade level, the district continues to improve its math MAPS scores, results indicate. Its reading and language usage scores also climbed since fall 2005.

In eighth grade, students dropped their scores in math districtwide but improved their reading and language-usage scores. However, district eighth-graders tested below the national average.

The ACT scores for juniors averaged 19.5, which was higher than in 2005 and is above the state average.

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

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