District aims to lower test score gaps
November 4, 2008
Steamboat Springs School District officials have set a goal to lower the CSAP achievement gap between minority and white students – and students living in poverty and those who aren’t – at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
In a report to the Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler said there was a 38.2 percent achievement gap between minority and white students in Colorado Standards Assessment Program, or CSAP, reading scores from the 2007-08 school year. The gap between students living in poverty and those who aren’t was 49 percent in reading.
The percentages reflect the difference in the number of students testing at proficient and advanced levels on the statewide standardized tests.
In math, the gap was 20.9 percent between minority and white students and 32.1 percent between poverty-stricken and more affluent students.
Hilton-Gabeler set a goal for the district to decrease the gap between both sets of groups to 10 percent. Because of the relatively low number of minority and poverty-stricken students in Steamboat, Hilton-Gabeler said even small gains could make a significant difference in the scores. Last year, there were 38 minority students at the middle school, and 34 students living in poverty.
Hilton-Gabeler also set a goal to increase the growth in test scores for all students in the middle school by 4 percent a year until the district reaches 95 percent proficiency in each of the CSAP test areas: reading, writing and math.
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“Four percentage points is justified because it is a statistically significant amount, indicating that any change is likely not random but due to the sustainable accomplishments of staff and administration,” she stated in her report.
Because of new “growth models” being used by the Colorado Department of Education, schools are expected to show growth in student scores every year. That means it is not enough to maintain a score in the proficient or advanced categories. Students of all groups must actively improve.
That can prove to be a difficult goal to meet, middle school Principal Tim Bishop said.
“I’m a baseball guy, and I can teach a kid how to throw a 70 mile per hour fastball pretty easily. But if I try to teach them how to increase from 70 to 80 miles per hour, it is much harder,” he said.
Results from last year’s tests show a majority of students demonstrated a year’s worth of educational growth in a year’s worth of time – the former standard to meet. The new goal, however, is to show growth from one year to the next based on the students’ peers, as determined by test scores.
That means that if a student scores a baseline of 80 percent, the next year he or she will be measured against all other students who scored 80 percent. If that group scores an average increase of 4 percent, so that the next school year the average score is 84 percent, it would not be enough for the student to remain at 80 percent, even though the content of the test has adjusted for the new grade level.
The district has set a goal of reducing negative growth by 5 percent each year as well.
At the middle school, from the fifth to sixth grade in reading, 13 percent of the students made positive growth, 72 percent scored similar to the previous year, and 15 percent scored lower. That means that 85 percent of the students were stable or improved, and the district has set a goal of only 10 percent of students showing negative growth in next year’s testing.
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