Local CSAP scores look strong, but Spanish-speakers struggle | SummitDaily.com

Local CSAP scores look strong, but Spanish-speakers struggle

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Summit County students generally performed above average on the state’s primary assessement tests, but elementary schools with high numbers of Spanish-speaking students produced dramatically lower scores, according to results released Tuesday.

At Dillon Valley Elementary School, for example, only 22 percent of third graders scored at or above the state’s standards for reading in the 2008 Colorado Student Assessment Program test. The state average was 70 percent.

But about 80 percent of Dillon Valley’s 37-student third-grade class, which struggled similarly in writing and math, are not native-English speakers, according to the district.

“(As) they’re learning English, they do better on the test,” said Karen Strakbein, assistant superintendent for business services.

As for fifth graders at Dillon Valley, 65 percent met or exceeded the reading standards.

Silverthorne Elementary, which also has a high number of Spanish-speaking students, performed poorly in third-grade reading, writing and math tests.

However, the scores of fourth- and fifth-graders there also reflected significant improvement, with numbers much closer to the state average.

Superintendent Millie Hamner suggested the improvement by fifth grade is in part because the district has created smaller, intimate classrooms in those schools to allow teachers to learn the students’ individual strengths and weaknessess.

“It’s a sign that our small elementary schools (are) working,” she said.

Results in Summit County’s other elementary schools greatly exceeded state averages: Some 97 percent of Upper Blue Elementary third-graders met or exceeded the state’s math proficiency standards, compared with a 70-percent state average.

The CSAP covers grades three through 10 and was conducted in March.

Compared with 2007, this year’s district-wide numbers were slightly lower; however, they exceeded statewide averages.

Hamner said the district’s yearly student turnover rate is about 14 percent, and about 25 percent of students are English learners.

This year, the Colorado Department of Education selected Summit for a pilot program for closing the achievement gap between Hispanics and their classmates.

The program will provide about $200,000 to $300,000 per year for the next three years in helping the district reach out to English-learners, Hamner said.

In an even broader effort to improve statewide education, the state is re-vamping its assessment program. State Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, co-sponsored a bill to examine and revise standards and tests.

“We’re going to overhaul the entire CSAP system,” said Scanlan, who is also the school-board president. “Our thinking is: ‘Let’s make these assessments meaningful.'”

The Colorado departments of education and higher education are reviewing standards and should have an assessment complete in early 2009, she said.

“We don’t gauge the value of our schools by CSAP,” Scanlan said, adding that individual students’ success is more important.

The statewide average for 10th-grade students meeting or exceeding CSAP math standards is the lowest of all, at 30 percent, according to the 2008 results.

“Sophomores in high school don’t value the test and don’t take it seriously,” Scanlan said.

The CSAP isn’t reported on transcripts and doesn’t affect students’ grade-point averages.

Also troubling, the state and district math scores consistently fell from sixth through 10th grade. Hamner said this could be because of a misalignment of what’s being

taught, learned and assessed.

“Math is a very abstract kind of subject ” it takes a lot of diverse strategies and materials for students to understand at a very deep and conceptual level,” she said.

She also suggested that schools may be trying to address too many standards, rather than digging deeper into fewer areas.

“We want so much for our kids; it’s very hard to narrow the focus,” she said

The Colorado standards ” off which the CSAP is based ” were adopted by educators statewide in 1993.

The district aims to balance assessments with many other goals the school board considers central to education. Hamner said the CSAP is “important but not everything.”

She said there are too many tests, noting that the district administers a number of other assessments in addition to CSAP.

“It’s like going to a scale when you want to lose weight,” Hamner said, adding that there needs to be time between weigh-ins for development.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.

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