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Local school districts pleased with state scholastic test results

Dennis Webb

While acknowledging there is still plenty of room for improvement, area school districts are cheering the progress their students are showing in scholastic testing.

Both the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District and Garfield County Re-2 School District indicated the 2002 Colorado Student Assessment Program results released Wednesday suggest they have turned the corner academically and the results of their efforts to improve test scores are beginning to show.

The Roaring Fork Re-1 School District “is very pleased with our 2002 results,” Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said in a statement accompanying the district’s release of its CSAP scores.

“Finally we’re starting to see some changes – some huge,” she said.

The district made “impressive gains” in proficiency levels achieved by students in the majority of areas tested, she said.

Ava Lanes, assistant superintendent in the Garfield County Re-2 School District, also looked upon her district’s results favorably.

“I would say as a school district we’re making steady progress,” she said.

“For the first time, this year we’re really pleased because we had some grade levels and some areas that actually are above the state percentage for proficient and above” test results.

Still, both districts ranked behind state averages in a lot of areas.

“We’d like all of us to be up there in the 90th and above percentile (for proficiency), and that’s what you have to keep working for,” said Haptonstall. “At least we’re going in the right direction finally.”

For now, few of the state averages top 70 percent, with quite a few being around the 50 percent mark. And though many of the local results still lag behind the state, officials are excited because they are closing the gap in many cases, and exceeding state averages in a growing number.

The tests cover subjects such as reading, writing and math, and have grown over the years to cover individual grade levels from third to 10th grade. Results are broken down by subject and individual school.

Haptonstall found much to like in Re-1’s results.

“While the state as a whole is reporting very little gains statewide in the area of writing, the Roaring Fork School District is showing a 22 percentage point increase at fourth grade, a 10 percent increase at seventh grade and a 6 percentage point increase at 10th grade,” she said.

She said writing was another focal point across the district last school year, “and the hard work of the teachers and students really paid off.”

Glenwood Springs Elementary school showed a whopping 43 percent improvement in its fourth-grade writing results, with 67 percent of students now at proficient levels or above, compared to 59 percent statewide.

Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood showed a 37 percent gain in the same category, reaching 68 percent proficiency. Basalt Elementary School increased 12 percent, to 45 percent; and Carbondale Elementary School grew from 21 percent to 28 percent proficiency.

GSES also showed a 22 percent increase in fourth-grade reading tests, reaching 89 percent proficiency, compared to 61 percent statewide. Proficiency among fourth-graders grew at SES to 81 percent from 69 percent, but fell from 71 percent to 54 percent at BES and from 47 percent to 37 percent at CES.

“Our fifth-grade math scores are some of the most exciting,” Haptonstall said. CES proficiency increased 19 percent, to 48 percent, compared to 55 percent statewide. Proficiency grew at BMS from 33 percent to 42 percent, at SES from 45 percent to 52 percent, and at GSES from 42 percent to 62 percent.

Tenth-grade math proficiency in the district showed a 16 percent increase, led by Roaring Fork High School with 19-point growth. Still, only 23 percent of tenth-grade students there showed math proficiency, compared to 27 percent statewide. Glenwood Springs High School’s proficiency grew to 32 percent from 13 percent, and Basalt High School’s proficiency was only 19 percent, but that was up from 11 percent.

Haptonstall said the addition of direct reading instruction in the high schools is paying off.

In the past, it was assumed that students entering high school knew how to read, so reading wasn’t taught as a specific subject.

“Of course, we found over time that that doesn’t work very well,” said Haptonstall.

For many of the district’s growing number of Latino students, the problem comes from not knowing how to read English. But some Anglo students remain far below high school levels in reading proficiency.

The new emphasis on reading instruction resulted in the district 10th-graders achieving 76 percent efficiency, up from 65 percent last year, and compared to 66 percent statewide. The students also showed 51 percent proficiency in writing, compared to 50 percent statewide.

Lanes said Re-2 was disappointed in the past, particularly last year, with its 10th-grade math scores. “But now we have some positive indicators in math,” she said.

Tenth-grade math proficiency at Rifle High School grew from a paltry 5 percent in 2001 to 27 percent last year, to reach the same level as the state average.

Districtwide, Re-2 math proficiency at the fifth-grade level grew from 42 to 52 percent, which is 3 percent below the state average.

Lanes attributed the district’s improvements to new math programs and additional teacher training.

She also hesitated to draw any broad conclusions from the one-year improvement in the 10th-grade scores, saying there needs to be a comparison over a longer period of time. Still, “it’s promising,” she said.

She also took heart in the district’s fourth-grade writing results.

Re-2’s proficiency there grew from 34 to 41 percent, compared to a statewide average of 50 percent. Roy Moore Elementary boosted its proficiency from 34 to 62 percent, while Riverside dropped from 57 to 52 percent and Esma Lewis Elementary grew from 23 to 34 percent.

Riverside seventh-graders showed a huge increase in writing proficiency, which grew from 34 to 60 percent, compared to a 50 percent state average. Rifle Middle School grew from 35 to 38 percent proficiency.

Math proficiency soared from 39 to 55 percent among Riverside fifth-graders.

Likewise, reading scores among Riverside sixth-graders grew from 56 to 75 percent proficiency, Roy Moore Elementary grew from 60 to 71 percent, and RMS grew from 58 to 62 percent, compared to a 65 percent state average.

Districtwide, however, seventh-grade math scores in Re-2 showed 30 percent to be proficient, compared to 39 percent statewide. Eighth-grade writing scores revealed 40 percent proficiency compared to 50 percent statewide, and eighth-grade reading scores dropped from 66 to 60 percent, compared to 65 percent statewide.

Eighth-grade math scores grew from 35 to 40 percent, while the statewide average was 39 percent.

Ninth-grade math proficiency was 25 percent at Rifle High School, compared to 31 percent statewide.

Even with the improvements Re-1 has been showing, every one of its elementary schools faces the possibility of financial sanctions in another year based on their scores, Haptonstall said. But she said the state has yet to align its accountability and accreditation goals with the federal directive to leave no child behind. Districts are confronting different guidelines and expectations, and constantly changing ones.

“Every year when we think that we’re meeting this we find out we’re not because they’re changing the rules again,” she said.

“We hope that this will come out in the wash, that someone will come to their sense at the state level.”

The latest federal expectations are for schools to reach 100 percent proficiency within 12 years, said Haptonstall. She sees that as a virtually impossible task, and said districts can feel hopeless even as their scores are going up.

Still, she praised what the CSAPs have done in terms of improving schools.

“The whole assessment system, I think, is one of the best things that ever happened to us. It showed what we need to do, and we made improvements. We still have work to do.”


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