Getting used to CSAPs |

Getting used to CSAPs

Local schools are in their seventh year of dealing with the Colorado Student Assessment Program. They are not seasoned high-schoolers when it comes to school testing, but no wet-behind-the-ears first-graders, either.

With every year, schools are becoming increasingly comfortable with the expectations of the once-dreaded CSAPs, and showing themselves more able to meet its demands.

Though they have much more work to do, the Re-1, Re-2 and Grand Valley school districts are justifiably happy with the improvements they have been showing in CSAP testing. In numerous categories, schools are boosting how their students perform compared to the state average. This reflects a concerted effort to adjust their curricula and teaching methods to reflect the knowledge and thinking being tested by CSAPs.

Schools initially approached CSAPs with only minimal enthusiasm and a fair amount of skepticism. They had good reason. There was a lot of fear about being forced to teach to the test. And there was even greater concern about all the threats of consequences for schools whose students aren’t performing.

These concerns remain. But thanks in part to improvements in the testing program, and growing experience with it, schools are also recognizing the positives.

The CSAPs have focused educators on making sure students are learning. Schools are picking apart every aspect of the educational process to see how it can better serve the ends of strong performances by students on CSAPs. And as the testing program has been tweaked over the years, it more accurately represents academic ability, and thus has become a test more worth teaching to.

State testing programs have proven themselves to have a place in terms of public accountability. Parents and taxpayers now rely on them to get some sense of how local schools are preparing children.

Still, testing has its limits. Test results can be influenced by language limitations among immigrant students, and the ability levels of individual students.

The public understands that testing results serve only as a guide to how a school is doing, and aren’t a black-and-white measure. Yet at state and federal levels, there remains the threat of taking over schools or otherwise sanctioning them for failing to meet expectations set by lawmakers and bureaucrats rather than local communities.

Testing has accomplished plenty by holding schools up to the light of public scrutiny. Schools are making dramatic improvements because a sense of pride and accountability demands it. The politically driven threats of sanctions may do more to distract from this effort than to enhance it.

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