A careful reading of latest CSAP scores

In perusing the School District 51 scores from the most recent Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, one doesn’t have to read between the lines to spot a few issues.

✔ Students in District 51 are good readers. At every grade level measured by the CSAPs — third through 10th — the district’s average reading proficiency was close to or above the statewide average. In the upper grades it was above the statewide average.

District 51 implemented a new, unified reading curriculum for all grade levels in 2007, and it appears to be having an impact. The solid reading scores can’t be attributed exclusively to the new curriculum. After all, students in middle school and high school, where proficiency is above state averages, learned their basic reading skills long before the curriculum was in place.

Still, having a curriculum that offers consistent instruction from grade to grade is certainly sensible. And concentrating on reading skills is necessary, because all other academic disciplines are dependent on an ability to read and comprehend.

✔ Students in District 51 aren’t performing as well in math. Their proficiency levels across the board are below statewide averages, and the statewide proficiency levels are themselves much lower than reading proficiency.

The math scores are particularly worrisome because, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics, U.S. students in fourth and eighth grades, as well as 15-year-olds, continue to perform below the level of their counterparts in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, the Russian Federation and other, primarily Asian, educational systems.

To compete well in the modern world, competent math and science skills are a necessity. District 51 implemented a new, unified math curriculum in the last school year. We hope that, after it has been in place for a number of years, the district’s math scores will show significant improvement.

✔ The district performs near the state level in science proficiency, and 10th-graders were well above the statewide average, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

✔ Writing proficiency is very low, even though in the upper grades, District 51 scores are slightly above the state averages. Superintendent of Schools Steve Schultz said the district will begin a new concentration to improve writing in the upcoming school year. Such an emphasis is clearly needed, and welcome.

We recognize that CSAP scores aren’t the only measure of how successful a district or school is in meeting student needs. But they are important measures that give parents, students and the community one vivid indication of how their schools are doing.

Schultz and the District 51 Board of Education recognize this, and they have continued to work at improving CSAP scores, along with other aspects of students’ education. We hope they don’t ease up now, even though some educators and state lawmakers want to significantly diminish the importance of the CSAPs.


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