RFSD student test scores mixed compared to state
Students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools performed close to the state average in English language arts and math, with some grade levels lagging behind and others exceeding state averages, according to district-level testing results released by the state of Colorado today.
As was the case with the statewide results that came out last month, Roaring Fork School District students fell short of where the new, more rigorous Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests say they should be in the two subject areas.
Across the board, less than half of RFSD students who were tested met or exceeded the new English and math standards.
That was “no big surprise,” Rob Stein, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for the district, said.
“Overall, our performance was very similar to the state, and there were no big surprises in the data,” Stein said. “This is a very different assessment from what we have been doing. It raises the bar, and we are asking our kids to rise to that challenge.
“It’s really a new beginning for us, and a new foundation on which to build,” he said.
The first round of PARCC testing for grades three through 11 was done last spring. The new tests were developed in collaboration with multiple states based on more rigorous standards, and replaced the former state-specific tests conducted by the Colorado Department of Education.
In English language arts testing, RFSD results ranged from a low of 29 percent of fifth graders who met or exceeded expectations, compared to the state average of 40 percent, to a high of 46 percent of seventh graders meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 41 percent statewide.
RFSD students tended to test worse against the new math standards compared to the statewide scores. Just 18 percent of district fourth graders met or exceeded the expectations, compared to 30 percent statewide for that grade level.
Middle school students in the district tended to do as well or better in math compared to the state average. Eighth graders in particular did well, with 31 percent meeting or exceeding expectations locally compared to just 19 percent statewide.
One reason may be that the new test design allows districts to test students based on the math course they are actually taking from eighth grade up through 11th grade, rather than a set grade-level standard.
“There are several different courses a student may be taking, so just a grade-level analysis of the eighth grade is not accurate,” RFSD Superintendent Diana Sirko said. “This means we must adjust how we have traditionally evaluated the scores.”
As an example, for the students who took the regular eighth-grade exam, only 13 percent met the new standard, she said.
“But if you look at the remainder of the eighth-grade students who took an advanced course of study, such as Integrated Math, 87 percent of those students met expectations,” Sirko said.
Sirko added that the district embraces the more rigorous standards.
“But we must recognize that there is a natural transition period that is needed to adjust all of our instructional programs to match those higher standards,” she said. “Looking at these results within that context is an important mindset as we use these as a baseline and celebrate the possibilities for our students in the future.”
Sirko also said it will take time to dig into the data and determine what each component means.
“The data can certainly be used to inform instruction, which is one of the main purposes for any assessment,” she said.
The smaller state charter schools in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale tended to do slightly better on the tests compared to the state average.
Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood saw an average of 53.4 percent of its students in grades three through seven meeting or exceeding expectations in English language arts. Likewise, 46 percent of Two Rivers students met or exceeded expectations on the math tests.
Similar percentages of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English and math at Ross Montessori School in Carbondale were recorded.
Colorado Department of Education officials also advised that the new state tests should be considered as a new baseline and cannot be compared to the former test results.
“Colorado made a huge shift in 2010 toward higher standards designed to ensure students are truly ready for college or the workforce when they graduate from high school,” Elliott Asp, interim education commissioner, said in a news release announcing the individual school and district-level results.
“As parents get their first look at how their student and school performed on last spring’s tests, they need to remember that the bar has been raised, and although scores may look different, I’m confident they will rise as teachers and students gain more experience with the standards and the new tests,” Asp said.
Participation rates due to an opt-out provision in the new testing as well as technical glitches that prevented some students from completing the tests online also need to be considered in looking at the results, he said.
While participation was strong in the elementary school levels, some high schools had less than half of their sophomores and juniors take the test. That was true in RFSD schools as well.
Participation rates for third through eighth grade locally ranged from 88 percent to 97 percent. Participation at the high school level dropped to between 42 percent and 82 percent.
A new state law passed last spring provides that students in grades 10 and 11 will no longer be required to take the tests in English language arts and math, due to conflicts with other testing that is done at those grade levels and the dual requirement that high school juniors take college entry exams.
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The family of Rosie Ferrin has worked to clean up and make safe again the old schoolhouse in downtown New Castle. Ferrin died this summer and had owned the building that included classrooms turned into apartments for years.