This year’s results for reading, writing and math from Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) standardized tests show progress in the Roaring Fork School District and slippage in Garfield County Re-2.
“RFSD saw enormous gains with English language learners, as well as strong improvements in third-grade reading — two areas where the district placed special emphasis last year,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko.
Said Garfield Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey, “There are definitely some bright spots in the data. Over the last five years, our students have shown continued improvement on the state assessments and shown great growth. While one year’s worth of data does not make a trend, the TCAP data for this year was not what we had hoped for.”
Although many question the utility of standardized testing to measure student and teacher performance, schools use the data to track their growth and determine what needs work.
TCAP was designed to bridge the gap between the Colorado Student Assessment Program, which served the state from 1997 to 2011, and the Partnerships for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which debuts in the upcoming school year.
PARCC will continue raising the bar on rigor and is likely to shuffle some standards between grades, so many are anticipating a drop in scores next year. PARCC will need to establish a baseline before its results have any meaning.
It’s the last chance for local districts to use the same measuring stick to compare their numbers until 2016. Science and social studies TCAP results are due later this year.
ROARING FORK SCHOOL DISTRICT
RFSD, which encompasses Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, is making steady progress in areas selected for emphasis last year and showed early wins in areas identified through the community-wide visioning process. In some grades RFSD received the highest scores in district history.
The 1,475 Roaring Fork students taking the Colorado ACCESS test in 2014 scored in the 67th percentile, a significant improvement on last year’s scores. The test gives students who are new to English the chance to test in their native language for third- and fourth-grade reading and writing.
“It is gratifying that, even as the numbers of English language learners being served by the Roaring Fork School District increases, the district is doing better than ever at providing them the English language learning skills to succeed in school,” said chief academic officer Rob Stein.
The district also saw increases in overall growth in writing from 48 to 50 and in math from 51 to 54. The overall growth percentile in reading decreased slightly from 49 to 48. On the median growth percentile scale, a standard score is 50, and few points up or down isn’t much cause for alarm.
“We are seeing very similar performance on TCAP results from last year to this year, and RFSD continues to perform similarly to the state,” said Sirko.
On a smaller scale, Glenwood Springs Elementary continued to show improvement in the midst of an ambitious change effort with the adoption of Expeditionary Learning.
Three RFSD school exceeded state median growth in all three tested areas: Basalt Middle School, Carbondale Middle School and Roaring Fork High School. Fourth-grade math scores at Crystal River Elementary School went from 56 percent to 75 percent proficient – the highest proficiency rate of any school in the district and above the state score of 72 percent.
In the end, keeping up with the state is generally counted as a victory for a rural district with high proportions of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches and a significant percentage of students new to English — both of which are generally associated with poorer scores.
“We really are exceeding the statistical predictions of our performance,” said Stein.
RFSD isn’t willing to count someone out because of their background or settle for mediocrity.
“Until 100 percent of our kids are proficient, our work isn’t done,” Sirko said.
GARFIELD COUNTY RE-2
Despite a few wins in fourth-grade reading; eighth-grade writing; and sixth-, eighth- and ninth-grade math, the district that includes Rifle, Silt and New Castle saw a decrease in achievement scores in many grade levels.
Overall, Garfield Re-2 was down in six of eight grade levels in reading, six of eight grade levels in writing, and five of eight grade levels in math.
The district began digging into the root causes for the assessment score slippage after the release of the third-grade reading scores this past spring. Student assessment data – both state and local – has been evaluated, and conversations with principals on both an individual and group level have led the district to take the steps for the upcoming school year, including improving professional development districtwide, improving reading programs, and re-evaluating resources based upon student’s needs.
Math continues to be the focus of the Garfield Re-2 Unified Improvement Plan. The district received a $580,000 Math and Science partnership grant to support math professional development specifically in the secondary schools. The grant works in collaboration with Colorado Mesa University and creates the opportunity for math teachers to have access to nearly 200 hours of professional development in math content and best teaching strategies over two years.
Superintendent Birdsey indicated that the focus is preparing teachers and students to be successful in the Colorado Academic Standards, the new Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessments that begin this fall, and more importantly, as productive citizens in the next phase of their life – academic or otherwise.
“Our staff has made the commitment to each and every student to do whatever it takes to help them succeed — through extra time, through intervention classes, or by providing more challenging work to our advanced students,” Birdsey said. “It is going to take the dedication and focus of our staff to make those improvements. We are helping our teachers increase their skills, continually monitoring our curriculum and improving the rigor and expectations in the classroom.“
Re-2 students go back to school Aug. 18. RFSD high schoolers start on Aug. 25, and elementary and middle schoolers begin on the Aug. 27.