Achievement gap widening

Low-performing students show little growth on CSAP

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— One of the top goals for the Steamboat Springs School District in the coming school year is to bring low-performing math students up to state standards, JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler said.

Hilton-Gabeler, the district's director of curriculum, instruction and development, was responding to a growth model released by the Colorado Department of Education that shows Steamboat's low-performing students are not on track to meet state standards, especially in high school math.

"High school math needs adjustment and redirection," Hilton-Gabeler wrote in an e-mail. "Members of the high school math team have already met with me, and we have reviewed the trends and patterns the data is showing. Some of the difficulties the students are having with the (Colorado Student Assessment Program) lie in instructional alignment in the lower grades, and we are working to solve that puzzle."

The data released last week by the state education department showed only 8.2 percent of high school students who scored below proficient on this year's tests are on track to meet standards within three years, or by 10th grade.

In the high school, 18.6 percent of students were on track to catch up in writing and 27.5 percent in reading.

Hilton-Gabeler said there always will be some kind of gap between the high-performing students and those who struggle, but the district is making efforts to "pull all students into the performing group."

She also pointed out there were far fewer students in the unsatisfactory group than in the top two levels. In high school math, 40 students failed to meet standards while 169 students scored in the top two levels.

When the initial CSAP scores came out earlier this summer, High School Principal Kevin Taulman said he does not think the students struggle at math, but the curriculum between what is taught in the high school and younger grades does not always lend itself to high test scores.

"I think it's just a matter of that the standards are not aligned with what's being taught in the classroom," he said.

The growth model summary also showed many strengths of the district. Since the district fared so well on the CSAP scores in general, most of the students are "on track to keep up."

In the group of students who scored in the proficient or advanced categories, between 70 and 90 percent are on track to keep those scores throughout the course of three years in every category tested except for high school math.

In Steamboat Springs Middle School, 87 percent of high-performing students are showing enough growth to stay on track in reading. Similarly, 90 percent of elementary students and 93 percent of high school students in the top categories in reading are expected to maintain high scores.

The summary also includes a measure of how Steamboat students are growing compared to students statewide. Overall, students scored near average, ranging from a low of the 40th percentile of growth in high school math to the 67th percentile in eighth grade math.

That meant that of all the students whose scores were measured year-to-year, eighth graders' scores gained more than 67 percent of the rest of the students in their age group across Colorado.

Scores for reading and writing all maintained the same range as well. The high school's median growth for reading was in the 55th percentile and in the 57th for writing.

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