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Eagle Co. high schoolers prefer college tests

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” What relevance does the Colorado Student Assessment Program, known as CSAP, have for a high school student?

Not much at all, says Kaleigh Armitage, a senior at Battle Mountain High School.

“Once you get into high school, it’s hard to motivate people to want to take it if it doesn’t do anything for them,” Armitage said.

Her thoughts are shared by many educators across the state who are trying to throw out the CSAP for high school students and instead focus on the ACT, a widely recognized and respected standardized test for college admissions.

Unlike the CSAP, the ACT specifically measures how prepared a student is for college and life after high school, which are the district’s biggest concerns for its high school students.

While the CSAP can provide useful information for teachers and can help rate school performance, the test does little good for a student, said superintendent John Pacheco.

The ACT though can provide teachers with helpful information, like the CSAP, while also helping students get into good schools, said Mark Strakbein, principal at Eagle Valley High School.

“There’s no checkbox on your college application where you can say, ‘During my ninth grade CSAP math test, I was advanced,'” Strakbein said. “But if you’re applying for a college, and you score well on the ACT, that looks good.”

Such a change at the state level would most directly effect ninth and 10th graders. Instead of taking the CSAP, they would take the PLAN, a preparation test leading up to the ACT. Even students in eighth grade would have the option of taking an ACT prep test.

High school juniors are already required to take the ACT and don’t take the CSAP. And because it’s a required test, many students who never really considered college start applying after seeing their scores, Strakbein said.

“Kids who thought they would not have scored well enough to get in to a college see that they did score well enough, and they say, ‘Maybe I should be one of those college kids,'” Strakbein said. “Its’ a vote of confidence for them.”

From a student’s perspective ” the CSAP is just another test.

“There were some people who didn’t try at all and some who did, but there was no incentive for you to do well,” Armitage said.

Quite the opposite is true with the ACT. For one, students who score well enough on the ACT as a junior get to leave campus for lunch as seniors.

Many students are enrolled, voluntarily, in ACT preparation courses at Battle Mountain High School to boost their scores. Aside from special lunch privileges, students realize the ACT can help them get into college and work hard to get better scores, Armitage said.

Brian Hester, principal at Battle Mountain, said he would support putting more focus on preparing for the ACT, as long as the district still has quality standardized tests, like the NWEA, that give them quick feedback on how well a student is performing and make sure they’re up to standards.

“How do you know within your school or district how students are doing?” he said.

For now, the school district will just be watching closely to see what happens at the state level.

“I think there’s a lot of momentum to get this changed. It has an awful lot of benefit for students,” Pacheco said.

As for when legislation will actually be proposed and voted on, Pacheco said it’s too early to say. Right now, it’s just a lot of talk, speculation and study.

If the state does change testing for high school students, Pacheco wants to make sure they give school districts the money to do it.

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


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