In her office at Steamboat Springs High School, Carole Buelter has a stack of papers covered in pen marks, cross-outs and arrows. It's messier than an NCAA tournament bracket.
The papers aren't tests, essays or pop quizzes. They are schedules determining when more than 300 high school students will take the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, which begin for most middle and high school students Tuesday.
For Buelter, in her first year as the high school's learning support specialist, administering the tests may mean the hardest part of CSAPs is over. The standardized, state-mandated annual tests help determine a school's accountability rating and the academic progress of students in grades three through 10. The tests come wrapped in cellophane and piled in enough boxes to cover a conference-size table. There are individual name tags for each student and separate tests for reading, writing, math and science.
Sorting it out is not easy, teachers and school district administrators said this week.
"A lot of it on the administrative end is just getting the test books ready -- it's a huge organizational endeavor," high school Principal Mike Knezevich said. "The tests almost become secondary to the organizational piece."
At Steamboat Springs Middle School, learning support specialist Kandise Gil--bertson enlisted the aid of six parent volunteers to help collate the test books, and she still felt a time crunch.
"There's just so much -- it's overwhelming," Gilbertson said. "We've been working on the schedule now since about the first week in March, but it's kind of a throughout-the-year process."
Ann Sims, director of curriculum and instruction for the school district, oversees CSAP testing in Steamboat. In addition to making sure the tests are administered properly as dictated by the Colorado Department of Education, Sims also must coordinate the CSAP-Alternate for special education students and the CELA, or Colorado English Language Assessment, a new test for the state's growing number of students who speak English as a second language.
"We have five different testing windows going on at once," Sims said, referring to different age groups taking the tests.
Superintendent Donna Howell said this week that the complex coordination creates a new kind of "March Madness," a kind not associated with college basketball.
"The phrase takes on a whole new meaning in the educational setting," Howell said.
Before school began Thursday morning, Knezevich pondered the difficulties of testing freshmen and sophomores in his school. Juniors and seniors do not take CSAPs.
"You've got to run normal school and then pull out 325 kids to run CSAP," he said. "I can't even tell you how many hours it's taken just to get the schedule and the rooms going."
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