A new way of analyzing test scores | VailDaily.com

A new way of analyzing test scores

Matt Terrell

EAGLE COUNTY ” Colorado educators have found a new way to pick apart standardized test scores that will give schools a better idea of how much students are improving, and if enough is being done to help them grow.

The new approach is called the Colorado Growth Model. It examines how much students improve from one year to the next on the Colorado Student Assessment Program, known as CSAP, instead of displaying the blanket, grade-by-grade scores the public is used to seeing.

For instance, instead of focusing on whether the fourth-graders this year did better than the fourth-graders last year, or the number of students who are proficient and advanced, the new data focuses on whether every student is performing better than they did in previous years.

Eagle County School District sees this is a good way of analyzing data. The district’s new CSAP data will be released this week.

“Philosophically, the idea of measuring success by how high students score, but also by how much students are improving, is a large step in the right direction for the state,” said Superintendent Sandra Smyser.

If you judge schools simply by who has the highest scores on standardized tests, you’re usually not seeing the entire picture. What if students at high scoring schools aren’t really improving that much from year to year?

“On the other hand, a school can have low scores, but these low achieving students are making large improvements over time. That school might actually be considered to be highly effective,” Smyser said.

The Growth Model compares each student’s performance to students in the same grade throughout Colorado who had similar test scores in past years. This allows educators to see better “apple-to-apple” comparisons ” to see how much low level students at one school are improving compared to low-level students at another school.

The new growth model also shows teachers if these students are improving enough to someday get to the “proficient” or “advanced” level on tests.

“This approach not only puts student achievement data in a whole new light, it provides a new prism to analyze the history of achievement for each student, school and district,” said Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones in a press release.

Smyser said the school district has been using this type of data for some time, but the growth model provided by the state will be one more useful piece of information to help students.

“This model demonstrates a strong commitment on the part of the CDE (Colorado Department of Education) to measure the effectiveness of schools and districts by scores, but also by the growth that students make,” Smyser said. “Educators in general support this type of model, because it values and takes into account the wide variety of achievement that students bring with them at the beginning of each year.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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