Our View: CSAP results show ups and downs

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— By no means should Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores be the sole determining factor in how we judge our public schools and the quality of education they provide our children. But, last week's release of CSAP results for all three Routt County school districts provides valuable insight into areas worthy of commendation and concern.

CSAP standardized tests are administered each year to students in all state public schools. Students in grades three through 10 are tested in reading, writing and math, while fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders also are tested in science. School districts use CSAP results to evaluate individual and group student achievement, and the scores are used to rate schools via the state's annual School Accountability Reports.

Steamboat Springs School District students once again exceeded state averages in every subject at every grade level. Often, the number of Steamboat students testing at an advanced or proficient level outpaced their peers from around the state by 20 or more percentage points.

However, there were a number of instances in which students performed worse this year than they did last year.

Many school officials analyze CSAP results by tracking classes of students as they move through grades. As an example, the test scores of this year's seventh-graders are compared to their scores as sixth-graders last year. Officials say the method is preferable because it compares apples to apples.

Based on that method, student scores declined year-over-year in 17 of 27 categories. Scores increased in eight categories, and they remained the same in two categories. It should be noted that many of the declining scores in Steamboat schools mirrored declines in the state averages.

Areas worthy of particular commendation are fifth (Strawberry Park), eighth and 10th grade science results, which came in well above state averages. Steamboat Springs High School also was recognized by the state for three years of consecutive improvement in reading.

CSAP results were more discouraging in South Routt and Hayden schools. Soroco students tested below the state average in reading in five of eight grade levels. They tested below the state average in writing in six of eight grade levels, and below the state average in math in two of eight grade levels. Fifth-graders scored below the state average in science.

Areas of marked year-over-year improvement include fourth, eighth and ninth grade reading; fourth grade writing; and fourth and eighth grade math.

In Hayden, elementary school students performed well in reading, writing and math when compared to both state averages and year-over-year growth. Results at the middle and high schools were less stellar, with scores in many subjects and grade levels hovering at or below the state average.

While school officials correctly point out that CSAP results in smaller schools can be skewed by the performance of one or two students, that argument goes both ways - a few high scores or low scores can alter averages in either direction.

Our hope is that district administrators in all three Routt County public school systems use the CSAP data for its most valuable purpose: to identify specific areas of instruction that should be addressed to increase student achievement. Ultimately, CSAP scores paint only part of the picture of the success of our schools. But the value of hard data should not be overlooked or underestimated.

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