RFSD faces familiar challenge in improving CSAP scores | PostIndependent.com

RFSD faces familiar challenge in improving CSAP scores

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A test designed as a measuring stick of student achievement against state standards shows the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 trails state averages for students scoring proficient or advanced in most categories and grade levels.However, students who speak English as a first language continue to perform well above the state average for nearly all subjects and grade levels.Those students’ scores rank among the higher-scoring school districts in Colorado.Scores of students taking the test not fluent in English usually fall far short of the state averages.”Our students who come to us speaking English continue to do very well on the CSAP tests,” Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said. “It is those students who come to us with no ability to speak, read or write English who provide us our biggest challenge.”

The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) is a test given each spring in most subjects to measure students’ reading, writing, math and science skills as they move from third through 10th grades. Results from the 2006-07 school year were released Tuesday. CSAPs are also used in determining if a school made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.Scores are designated unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient or advanced. Many students who score partially proficient are “demonstrating considerable academic skills and abilities; however, their performance on CSAP was not consistently high enough to meet the CSAP rigorous standards,” according to the state Department of Education.The RFSD, operating public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, was about 45 percent Latino and 53 percent white in the fall of 2006.The Latino population in the schools has grown every year for the last 10 years, a trend which will likely continue, Haptonstall said. Crystal River Elementary School (CRES) in Carbondale was about 80 percent Latino.At CRES, Latino students’ reading and writing scores increased significantly in grades three and five, while they dropped dramatically in grade four. In one of the lowest figures, only 4 percent of Latino fourth-grade students at the school scored proficient or advanced for the 2006-07 school year in writing. The number of white students scoring proficient or advanced in reading, writing and math dropped at the school for grades three and four, but increased in grade five.CRES made a big gain in third-grade reading. It went up from 42 percent to 47 percent proficient or advanced for the 2006-07 school year overall, while Latino students’ scores jumped from 10 percent to 26 percent proficient or advanced in third-grade reading at the school.Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the district has made progress in closing this achievement gap, but that it’s an ongoing challenge. It’s generally recognized that it takes students about seven years of learning a new language to get to the point where they are fluent enough that language won’t affect test scores. Tests in reading and writing are available in Spanish for third- and fourth-grade reading and writing, but less than 1 percent of the district’s English language learners are eligible to take the test in Spanish, she added.”Performing at a high academic level three short years after coming to this country is a requirement that flies in the face of any research anywhere regarding acquisition of a second language, but that is what the state requires that we do,” Haptonstall said.She said the district continues to take steps to try to deal with continuing influx of Latinos who aren’t scoring well on tests in large part due to language issues. The district hired an English Language Learner specialist last year who has a Ph.D. in linguistic differences. This year the district will be implementing a newcomer welcome program. That will include a bilingual assessment of new students who come in. The assessment should be more effective, since previously assessments at the school level were done by an ELL staff with a typically high rate of turnover, Haptonstall said.Among other initiatives, there are also results teams that analyze test results and implement planning. And there is an “Even Start” program to show interested Latino parents successful models for encouraging children’s learning, Haptonstall said.She was optimistic about the CSAP results and the direction of the district in the future.”Given the academic growth we have seen in our students from the spring of 2006 CSAP test to the ones completed in the spring of 2007, we have much to celebrate,” she said.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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