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CSAP results hard to get a read on

Tamie Meck

Local school administrators are scratching their heads at why two schools in the same district could have such a wide gap in reading test scores.

In the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District, Sopris Elementary School scored highest in third-grade Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) reading test scores, with 82 percent of students scoring at or above proficiency in reading and comprehension skills, while Carbondale Elementary School in Carbondale scored 54 percent at or above proficiency.

For Sopris, that score was down two percent from 2001, but still far above state average, noted assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall. And Carbondale Elementary School’s score was up over 2001.

Sounding a bit befuddled, Haptonstall compared keeping up with reading test scores to the man who keeps a whole slew of plates spinning on top of skinny poles.

“I think (the teachers) are running and spinning the plates as fast as they can, and when a plate falls down, we have to ask, `Why?'”

The Colorado Department of Education released the state’s 2002 CSAP scores Thursday.

Statewide, 72 percent of students scored at or above reading proficiency skills. That number remained even with 2001 test scores.

“We’re pleased with our results,” said Bill Zambelli, Principal at Kathryn Senor Elementary in Rifle, where 77 percent of third-graders scored at or above proficiency levels.

Compare that to the state average, and Zambelli isn’t complaining.

Other schools in the Garfield Re-2 School District, including Rifle, New Castle and Silt, fared well, with a district average of 69 percent at or above proficiency, up from an average of 67 percent in 2001.

Roy Moore Elementary in Silt scored 76 percent, or 9 percentage points above last year’s average of 67 percent. Students at Kathryn Senor in New Castle fared slightly better, topping last year’s average of 67 by 10 points, for 77 percent at or above proficiency levels. The average for Esma Lewis Elementary in Rifle dropped from a 2001 average of 67 percent to 63 percent in 2002.

Garfield County School District 16’s Bea Underwood Elementary School in Parachute did a flip-flop, dropping to 63 percent from 76 percent in 2001. This year’s average is still up from the 2000 average of 51 percent.

So, how do schools consistently bring their scores up from year to year?

Zambelli offered some insights.

Four years ago, said Zambelli, only 56 percent of students at Kathryn Senor scored in the proficient range. “We weren’t happy with that, obviously,” he said. Neither, he suspected, were parents.

The school set a three-year goal of 80 percent proficiency. It took one year to plan and implement strategies to meet that goal, he said.

Over the past three years, which includes this year, the reading at proficiency scores averaged 79 percent.

“Being one percent below that goal is good,” Zambelli said. “We would probably not be that close if we didn’t set those goals.”

Part of the strategy included implementing the “Success for All” reading program, he said. The program groups children in classes according to reading skills and tests abilities on a monthly basis.

Bringing up test scores, whether they are in reading, science or math, requires participation from everyone, including teachers, parents and students, Zambelli said. Consistently bringing scores up at Kathryn Senor “has been a team effort. A lot of people pulled together for this.”

In the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District, which encompasses Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, an average of 68 percent of students scored at or above proficiency.

The district will take a hard look at why 17 percent of its third-grade readers scored in the unsatisfactory range. At Carbondale Elementary School, only 54 percent of students were proficient, up from 48 percent in 2001. Of Glenwood Springs Elementary School’s students, 61 percent were proficient, down from 76 percent in 2001.

GSES Principal Jim Phillips expressed dismay over the score.

We just have to continue to adjust the needs of our students,” he said. “We think that we have a lot of strategies that are working.” They include the Project Star program, which offers after-school enrichment classes for students who need additional instruction time. Star was implemented at the start of the 2001-02 school year.

There are many factors to consider in tracking each year’s average, Phillips said, not the least of which is that a different group is students is tested each year. One key to bringing up test scores lies in tracking teaching methods used from kindergarten on, and sorting what works from what doesn’t.

Phillips wants parents of children who aren’t meeting state requirements in reading and other areas to look into Star participation for their children, and become more involved in learning activities at home.

Basalt Elementary came in at 77 percent reading at or above the proficiency level, up from 71 percent in 2001.

At 82 percent, Sopris Elementary School had the highest average in the district. That average is down from 88 percent in 2001.

“Still, that’s pretty good,” said Howard Jay, principal.

Statewide, scores for minority and Title I students rose for the third year in a row and climbed for the fourth year in a row for students with disabilities.

At Sopris, Laurie Strong, literary specialist, said eight of her 11 special-needs students scored at the proficient level. “That’s probably the best that I’ve seen,” said Strong.

Jay said the school will continue to use test scores and other data to “zero in on the needs of each individual.” Of the nine third-graders who scored at the unsatisfactory level, said Jay, seven progressed more than a year in ability during this school year, and are on their way to catching up. CSAP reading tests were administered in February.

Governor Bill Owens praised educators and parents for helping schools show improvement. He said the latest results underscore that Colorado’s standards and accountability system are making solid gains. But, he added, “We have a lot more ground to cover.”

“If we could get all schools up to the 82 percent like Sopris is,” said Haptonstall, “we would be happy. Still, we would prefer 100 percent.”


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