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Mixed CSAP results have middle school principals exploring ways to improve

Donna Gray

Mixed results in 2003-04 Colorado State Assessment Program test scores have principals of Roaring Fork School District fine-tuning instruction in order to meet the mandates of state accreditation.Middle school principals presented the findings of last year’s round of CSAP scores at the Re-1 school board meeting last week, and explained the steps they’re taking to make improvements.Carbondale Middle School”Last year our goal was to reduce unsatisfactory scores,” Carbondale Middle School principal Cliff Colia said. The reading target for the school was to have 74 percent of students deemed partially proficient (PP), proficient (P) and advanced (A). All Anglo students met the target, Colia said. Among Latino students the target was not reached, but significant gains were made. For example, in sixth grade, 65 percent of students were found to be partially proficient, proficient and advanced, up from 43 percent a year earlier.The target for math was to have 60 percent of students attain PP, P and A scores. Again, all Anglo students met the goal. Latino students in sixth and seventh grade exceeded the target, and those in eighth grade did not, Colia said. CMS also looked at reducing unsatisfactory scores in reading, writing and math. That goal was not achieved. The numbers of students with unsatisfactory scores increased from sixth to seventh grade in both reading and writing, although sixth-graders saw a reduction of that number from 24 to 14 students.In math, the numbers of students with unsatisfactory scores increased markedly from one grade to the next.Colia said students’ weakest areas as revealed by testing were in literal comprehension, vocabulary, paragraph writing, math, computation and number sense. “If second-language kids have vocabulary issues, it affects their comprehension. We’ll have more focus on vocabulary this year,” he said.”Math was our No. 1 weak area,” he said. “The issue I see in our school is what I call math facts, the basic ability to do addition and multiply.”He said it used to be a given that students entering middle school had that ability, but it isn’t anymore.”For some reason that is just a lost skill for a large group of students.”While the Latino students are making progress at CMS, Anglo students are scoring below the district average, Colia said. He sees a lack of motivation among those kids. “It’s something we have to figure out.”Basalt Middle SchoolBasalt Middle School principal Christian Kingsbury reported similar results in his school. His goal last year was to reduce the achievement gap between Anglo and Latino students through 10 percent growth in reading and writing and 6 percent in math. Again, CSAP results showed a mix of gains and losses.He attributed the failure to meet that goal to too much focus on math and not enough on reading and writing. “This year we’re focused on reading,” he said.He also said math tests for sixth and seventh grades focused on reading problems, and that may account for lower scores because students have reading issues.Glenwood Springs Middle SchoolGlenwood Springs Middle School’s goal was to achieve a 3 percent gain in CSAP scores at each grade in reading, writing and math, said principal Robert Faris.The sixth grade decreased unsatisfactory scores in all areas, but showed a negative trend in writing; seventh and eighth grades showed mixed gains in proficient and advanced achievement, and a decrease in unsatisfactory results in eighth-grade reading only.”GSMS has always been seen as a model school because we haven’t had the demographic changes like the other schools in the district,” Faris said. But times are changing. GSMS now has a Latino student population of 28 percent. “There’s had to be a real change in thinking for a lot of teachers. … We should not be a school for the average white kid,” he said.Annual yearly progress in CSAP results is not being achieved, and the student group with the least support is the limited English group, Faris said. Two new teachers have been hired to address the issue and are doing remedial work with those students.InterventionAll three principals have taken similar steps to try to bring CSAP scores up to target levels. A formula of extra class time for reading, writing and math, as well as small class size of seven to 10 students, has been adopted at all three schools. Other steps include more training for teachers and new curricula, especially in math. What seemed to make a marked difference in bringing up scores was special math classes for low-scoring students as well as English learners. Basalt Middle School established an after-school tutoring program that Kingsbury said made a big impact on the CSAP scores.BMS also created Zero Hour Program between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. for kids to complete unfinished homework assignments.Of paramount importance is that kids “continue to be turned on by learning,” Colia said, because it is in middle school that some students make the decision to drop out of high school.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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