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Third-grade reading scores at all-time high

Heather McGregor Post IndependentReading scores for third-graders have climbed steadily upward in most elementary schools in Garfield County. The red bars represent the newest scores from this school year. School and school district scores were released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Education.
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State reading test scores for third-grade students reached an all-time high this school year in two Garfield County school districts, according to a preliminary report from the Colorado Department of Education released Wednesday.

In the Roaring Fork School District Re-1, which includes schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, the number of third-graders scoring proficient or advanced in their reading ability increased from 73 percent in 2011 to 74.4 percent this year.

Garfield District Re-2, including New Castle, Silt and Rifle schools, saw reading scores increase from 73 percent to 75.2 percent proficient/advanced for this year’s third-grade students compared to last year’s third-graders.



The increases mark the highest scores for the two school districts since Colorado’s standards testing began in 1998.

For Re-2, this year’s scores also signify the first time the district has surpassed the state average. The statewide score for third-grade reading for this year was 74 percent.



The smallest of the three county school districts, Garfield District 16 in Parachute/Battlement Mesa, saw a decrease in the percentage of its third-graders scoring proficient and advanced, from 60 percent last year to 57 percent this year, according to the state report.

Preliminary scores for the youngest group of students to take the state’s standardized tests are released in early May every year.

A full report of test scores covering all four assessment areas, reading, writing, math and science, and including third through 10th grades, will be released in August.

Testing this year shifted from the former Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests to the renamed Transitional Colorado Assessment (TCAP) tests. The new tests reflect the state’s transition to a new set of more rigorous standards.

Future testing will eventually cover the new standards, while the interim tests include a mix of the old and the new, Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall explained in a press release.

“We are seeing many more students scoring in the advanced range (7.7 percent districtwide) and fewer students scoring unsatisfactory (6 percent),” Haptonstall said.

The number of third-grade students in Re-1 taking the tests also increased significantly over last year, from 362 in 2011 to 453 this year.

Performance of individual schools within the district was mixed. Basalt Elementary School, for instance, had a gain of 13 percentage points, from 69 percent proficient/advanced last year to 82 percent this year.

Glenwood Springs Elementary School saw a third straight year of improvement in its third-grade reading scores, from 62 percent in 2011 to 64.1 percent this year. Both years were up significantly from 2010, when only 46 percent of GSES third-graders scored proficient or advanced.

Sopris Elementary in Glenwood Springs continues to be the top performing traditional elementary school in Re-1. However, the number of third-graders at SES scoring proficient/advanced fell slightly, from 83 percent in 2011 to 80 percent this year.

The district’s only charter school, Carbondale Community School, which had 17 third-grade students take the test, again scored 100 percent proficient/advanced.

The only school in the district that saw a significant decline in its third-grade reading performance was Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale.

The percentage of CRES third-graders scoring proficient/advanced decreased from 76 percent last year to 61.7 percent this year. Out of the 94 third-graders at CRES who took the test, 13.8 percent scored unsatisfactory and 24.5 percent were partially proficient, according to the state’s testing results.

Carbondale’s Ross Montessori School, which is part of the state of Colorado Charter School Institute, had scored 100 percent of its third-graders as proficient or advanced last year. That percentage dropped this year to 84.4 percent, while 12.5 percent of the school’s 32 third-graders who took the test were partially proficient.

“We are thrilled with our third-grade reading results,” Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey said in a press release. “The results are good and the trend is moving upward, but we realize that we still have work to do.”

The district saw significant gains at four of its six elementary schools.

Cactus Valley Elementary in Silt was up almost six points from 82 percent to 87.5 percent, and Graham Mesa Elementary in Rifle was up eight points from 57 percent to 65.2 percent.

Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle was up nine points, from 77 percent to 86.2 percent, and New Castle’s Elk Creek Elementary also saw improvement of two percentage points, from 87 percent to 89 percent.

Rifle’s Wamsley and Highland elementary schools saw declines, however. Wamsley fell from 63 percent to 57.1 percent proficient/advanced, while Highland’s scores dropped from 71 percent to 58.5 percent.

Three years ago, Garfield Re-2 implemented a uniform reading program, called Success For All, which Birdsey credited for improving test scores.

“The students in Garfield Re-2 continue to grow,” Birdsey said. “They continue to build upon the systems we have put in place to support learning for all students. We are pleased to see the district moving in the right direction.”

jstroud@postindependent.com


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