Students begin their CSAP run |

Students begin their CSAP run

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

No. 2 pencils are getting a real workout in the Roaring Fork and Garfield school districts starting this week.

Throughout the state, Colorado’s third- through 10th-grade public school students are in the midst of Colorado Student Assessment Program testing.

At Roy Moore Elementary School in Silt, kids are doing breathing exercises with their teachers before plunking down at their desks and taking one of six reading and writing tests. Elementary school students have three weeks to complete all their tests.

At Rifle High School, the schedule is a lot tighter.

“We’re CSAPing, if you will, March 11th, 12th and 13th,” said principal Dave Smucker.

Students at Rifle High are tackling three 65-minute testing sessions each day. Local businesses like City Market are providing snacks to keep students’ energy up and their minds focused, he said.

“The mood at school is quite serious,” Smucker said. “The hallways are much quieter than usual.”

Doing well on the CSAP is a matter of pride, said Smucker.

“I told our students over the P.A. yesterday this is an opportunity for them to show what they know,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “They’ll be pooped by tomorrow.”

The tests – in reading and writing, plus mathematics and science for older grades, are designed to measure how well students are learning and understanding academic standards as determined by the Colorado State Board of Education.

But Robin Garvik of Carbondale, school board president of Roaring Fork School District Re-1, believes CSAP scores are only one way to measure a student, or a school.

“The CSAP is a valuable tool,” Garvik said, “but I do have concerns about the high-stakes nature of those test scores.”

Garvik said the state Board of Education uses the CSAP as its sole means of determining whether a school is improving, maintaining or failing based on student test scores. Using test scores, the state Legislature can decide the future of a school in terms of its management and funding.

“CSAP is a snapshot,” said Garvik, “but it’s not an accurate picture. What if the child didn’t eat breakfast that day? What if a student is tired? What if a student knows the material but doesn’t test well? There are so many factors that go into a single testing. There’s too much emphasis on this one type of test.”

Garvik said Re-1 gives its own tests from the Northwest Education Association. Students are tested, once at the beginning and again at the end of the school year.

“This way, we can measure growth, and not just what a student can do on a given day,” she said.

The state started administering CSAP tests seven years ago, according to Mark MacHale, principal at Roy Moore Elementary School. He thinks the CSAP gives “valid, reliable information” on how most kids are doing.

“Kids can’t cram for the CSAP,” he said. “This isn’t about regurgitating material. Our kids have to be able to problem solve and have critical thinking skills to do well on this test.”

RHS principal Smucker agrees that CSAP gives “great feedback” about what kids are learning, but said the tests do fall short on measuring all aspects of a school.

“Our kids learn so much more here – moral, ethical kinds of things – than what is on that test,” Smucker said. “They learn about relationships, about conflict resolution, and how to get along with each other. The test doesn’t score for that.”

Despite those challenges, Smucker has goals for the school and his students. Rifle High received an average overall rating last year, and a stable rating for overall academic improvement.

“I want us to do better,” he said of his school’s scores. “We have excellent teachers and excellent students. I would like us to show improvement.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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