District 51 CSAP scores up; grade-level work still lags


What is CSAP?

Colorado Student Assessment Program tests are given each spring to Colorado’s third- through 10th-graders.

Each student is tested in reading, writing and math, and fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders are tested in science.

A student’s score determines whether he or she is proficient, meaning that student demonstrates proper knowledge for their grade level. Students who score above grade-level are labeled advanced, and students who perform below grade-level expectations are either partially proficient or unsatisfactory.

State assessments are required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

New growth model
measures year-over-year progress

School District 51 students improved their Colorado Student Assessment Program scores at a better rate than the state average this year, but they did not achieve grade-level proficiency as often as the average Colorado student in most categories.

The district’s middle and high school students improved their CSAP scores year-over-year as much or more than the average Colorado student in 2011, and local elementary school students improved their scores at or slightly below the state average, according to CSAP results released Wednesday.

But when it comes to scoring at grade level, local students were outdone by the state average in all but seven of 27 categories. District 51 had a higher percentage of proficiency than the state average in ninth-grade reading and writing and 10th-grade reading and tied the state in fifth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade science.

“When we look at the proficiency scores raw, we’re not satisfied,” Superintendent Steve Schultz said. “When you look at growth, which is the bulk of how we’re measured by the state, that’s showing that we are in fact making progress and are on a track to catch up over time.”

The state grades schools annually based on CSAP scores, growth, graduation rates and how well-prepared graduates are for college or a job. Growth accounts for 75 percent of an elementary or middle school’s grade and 50 percent of a high school’s grade.

This year’s CSAP results had some low points, including 12 percent proficiency in fifth-grade science at Rocky Mountain Elementary and 7 percent proficiency in 10th-grade math at R-5 High School.

There were also high points, including 100 percent proficiency for New Emerson’s third-graders in reading and 100 percent proficiency for its fifth-graders in reading and math. The three 100 percent scores in a single year are a record for the elementary school, which had 100 percent proficiency in third-grade reading in 2000 and 2002 and 100 percent proficiency in reading in fourth-grade in 2002.

Clifton Elementary School received a three-year grant from the state in 2010–11 that will give the school $800,000 each year through 2012–13 to make improvements. That money paid for teacher bonuses to reduce turnover; teacher coaches to observe classes and make suggestions for instruction; more interventions for struggling students; and an aligned curriculum.

The changes led to more than 70 percent of third- and fifth-grade students scoring proficient or better in math this year, a feat also accomplished in reading for the school’s third-graders. In previous years, less than half of students at the school routinely scored proficient.

District 51 Assistant Director of Elementary Schools Lesley Rose said the district always has used CSAP data to help assign students to interventions so they can receive more assistance in the subjects they struggle to understand. Schools with high percentages of students on free or reduced lunch, such as Clifton, also focused this year on writing, a subject the district struggled with this year and last year.

Curriculum and teachers

Doing more to help other schools see the improvements Clifton has seen won’t be easy, Rose said. After all, not every school has grant funding to pay for coaches and bonuses. But Rose said a new, aligned curriculum system for the whole district debuting this month will allow all teachers to teach the same units at the same time in the same way and should help students, especially if they move between schools.

A reorganized curriculum department, headed by former Fruita Monument High School Principal Jody Mimmack, will help teachers learn how to use the new curriculum and help coach them when needed.

“I do believe (an aligned curriculum) will have an impact,” Mimmack said. “The number one impact in a classroom is human resources: the teachers, the interventionists. We’re really thinking this will maximize human resources.”

Schultz said strategies like the ones at Clifton are worth modeling at other schools when possible. He added that new reading and math curricula implemented in the past few years are beginning to take hold and make a difference in scores.

“I’m not saying it’s good enough, but it is evidence curriculum changes are starting to have an effect,” he said.

New state test

Schultz said future budget cuts could minimize those effects and may not allow certain efforts that have shown promise to continue.

If the school board moves forward with a possible mill levy override on this November’s ballot, Schultz said, he understands some people may base their vote on CSAP scores. But, he said, he hopes people will invest in the exercises that have helped improve some CSAP scores.

“I’m not saying we should throw money at it, but we should support what’s working,” Schultz said.

Colorado schools will enter the next phase in CSAP testing next year when students take the transitional TCAP, a test students will take until 2014, when a new state assessment will be implemented. The 2014 test will have a social studies and a finance section, test 11th-graders and include more “hands-on problem-solving,” according to Mimmack. But none of that will debut with TCAP.

“The only difference will be it says TCAP on the cover,” she said.


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