CSAP<an annual rite of spring
31-2-3-4, let1s raise our CSAP scores, says a flyer attached to the back of Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Jerry Santoro.These days, as students in Eagle County take tests for the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, Santoro walks through the school with the flyer, which also is plastered all over the walls.3We1re trying to give the kids a team mentality, Santoro says.More students than ever are expected to take the CSAP in the next few weeks. This year, schools must administer the tests before April 12.The CSAP evaluates how well schools and students meet Colorado standards for proficiency in reading, writing, math and science. Colorado is among 16 states that have a federally approved test that measures those standards.While only students in a handful of grades have participated in the program since its inception in 1997, this year all students in grades 3 to 10 will be tested in reading and writing. Those in grades 5 through 10 also will take math tests, says Carolyn Houg, assessment director for the Colorado Department of Education. Eighth-graders also will be required to take a science test. Third-graders took their reading tests in February because another law requires teachers to get the results by May so they can evaluate whether students need any extra help.3The test is useful in indicating areas of low performance, says Eagle County Schools Superintendent Mel Preusser. 3It help us focus on our training needs and the needs to prepare students.Last year1s tests results showed half of Colorado fifth-graders were not proficient in writing; 70 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in science; and only 14 percent of 10th-graders could pass the math test.Scores in the valleyHow did the schools in the valley fare in 2001?3We were average in most things and above average in lower-grade reading, says District Curriculum Director Gary Rito. 3Although our middle school scores are above the state1s average, they1re not terrific. Our high school scores weren1t above the state in anything.The school district, Rito says, scored above the state average on fifth-grade math, fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade writing. It scored the same as the state in fifth-grade reading.Middle school scores placed the district above the state average in eighth-grade math, seventh-grade reading, seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade science.High school scores were discouraging, however. The school district scored the the state average in 10th-grade writing, below in everything else, Rito says.3We got some challenges in the high-school and middle-school levels, he says.3Our kids are doing well in basic things, but when it comes to applying higher thinking skills and problem-solving analytical thinking, these are areas we need to work on. And we need to start working on these things early on. You can1t start working at a higher level.Test dayThe sound of pencils scribbling on paper and sixth-graders restlessly moving on their seats were the only things one could hear as students took the CSAP math test at Eagle Valley Middle School on Wednesday.On their desks, besides the tests sheets, were apples and oranges the school provided for breakfast.3Every morning of testing we give apples and oranges to the kids, Santoro says. 3On test days, we like them to have sugar that lasts for a while.Although Santoro says the school has plenty of work ahead, it has made gains in each of the years it has administered the tests.3The weakest area is in math scores, he says. 3The tests are very difficult. When we give it to parents, they struggle.Sixth-grader Rachel Sibley says the CSAP reading test is easier than the math test.3The questions were confusing. In math you have to solve problems, but there also are a lot of written responses, she says.The math tests are difficult to understand, Santoro says, because of the language used.3If a student isn1t a good decoder of the language, he will also have trouble with the math part, she says.Making the math test even more difficult is the fact that students are tested on the whole year1s curriculum having studied only three-quarters of the year1s curriculum, says Polly Fitzgerald, Eagle Valley Middle School sixth-grade math and science teacher.Striving to improveWith last year1s CSAP scores, the school district did an analysis on a district-wide basis, as well as on individual schools, Rito says.3First thing we looked at is what areas we are strong and what areas we are making progress on, Rito said. 3For example, we are pleased with third-grade reading.Rito says he believes one of the reasons for that success<CSAP scores show that more than 80 percent of third-grade students in the district are proficient or advanced in reading<is that there have been elementary literacy coaches in every elementary school building for three years.3We have also being using the same kind of reading material and strategies for three years, he adds.Since it got last year1s results, the school district got funding for a math coach in every school, too.3We1re trying to replicate what we did for reading, Rito says. 3Hopefully we1ll start seeing results. But this will take time to change, maybe three years. The last CSAP tests show that only 13 percent of 10th-grade students are proficient in math.Under a new law signed by President Bush in January called 3No Child Left Behind, Colorado has about 20 years for getting every student to proficiency. The federal goal is 12.The school district also plans to train teachers this summer to teach abstract-thinking and problem-solving skills at all levels.3The test scores help teachers and principals to identify patterns of achievement, says Preusser. 3Also, they help review individual student performance.If a student does poorly in a particular area, he or she will be placed in smaller class, Fitzgerald says.3If I notice there1s a part of the curriculum that students do poorly, she says, 3I can tweak the curriculum and change the ways I teach that part.Getting the scores earlier<currently the state department of education releases them in September<would help to organize all these aspects, she says.Spanish optionCSAP tests are also offered in Spanish for third grade-reading and fourth-grade reading and writing. Almost half of the students in these classes in the valley last year took the tests in Spanish. The scores of the tests taken in Spanish are combined with those taken in English.3The results of these tests were higher than the state1s average, Rito said.The school district reported in January that an error took place in the description of the information sent out to parents regarding the State of Colorado School Accountability Report for Edwards Elementary School.A 3corrections sheet sent out by Principal Linda Schreiner, Rito says, included only the scores of students who took the test in English. However, the information contained in the School Accountability Report issued by the state reported scores for students who took the test in English and Spanish.3The directive from the state requires that for the School Accountability Report, all students who take the CSAP, regardless of which version, be included in all calculations, he says.Preparing for the testTests are not taken on Mondays, Preusser says, because students are coming back from the weekend.3Monday is not a good day for a test. Kids need to be alert, he says.CSAP day at Red Sandstone Elementary in February included a one-and-a-half hour reading test, followed by breakfast and a 45-minute yoga session.This was the third year third-grade teachers Tiffany Willis and Tara Moriarty have organized the yoga. Gaye Steinke and Jeff Weddle, both yoga instructors from the Allegria Spa, volunteered to lead the classes.3We do this so the children will come to the exam excited for the day, Willis says. 3It makes it more relaxed if they know they have more than just a test waiting ahead of them.Also, during CSAP weeks, students don1t have homework.3We want the kids to go home and relax and get a good night of sleep, Rito said.On the Net: http://www.cde.state.co.us/index_assess.htmVeronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.