Eagle County schools hit and miss with test scores
July 29, 2008
EAGLE COUNTY ” Standardized test scores released Tuesday show that Eagle County School District is meeting several of its own goals, missing quite a few, improving dramatically in several areas, especially reading, and still struggling with an overwhelming number of students who aren’t proficient in English.
Eagle County’s scores on the Colorado Student Achievement Program, known as CSAP, are competitive with state averages ” sometimes higher, more often lower.
Complicating the scores is the fact that 33 percent of students in the district know little or no English, a number that grows every year. Eagle County has the seventh highest percentage of students learning English in the state.
This is why when examining test scores and setting goals, school officials look to the English speaking students, believing it’s a better reflection of how teachers and students are progressing.
“It isn’t enough to be able to speak English in order to perform on the test; you must be able to read and write in English as well,” said Heather Eberts, director of elementary education and curriculum.
So, if you look just at English-speaking students, they beat state averages in every grade and every subject.
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The district’s top CSAP goal is ensuring that students fluent in English score at least 80 percent proficiency in all areas of the test. Looking at that goal alone, English proficient students excelled in reading at the elementary and middle school grades. English proficient elementary students also met the district’s goal in math.
Everywhere else, though, you’ll find results that might be an improvement over last year but still fall far below the district’s goal of 80 percent proficiency.
English proficient fifth graders were the only grade to meet the district’s goal in writing. While making improvements in some grades, students in elementary, middle school and high school didn’t meet school district goals in science, and middle school and high school students fell far below the district’s goals in math.
If you factor in students who aren’t proficient in English, scores take a dip.
Except for grades five, eight and 10, Eagle County scored lower than statewide averages in reading, while coming within a couple points in several other grades.
About 70 percent of fifth-graders are proficient or advanced in reading, matching the state exactly.
In math, Eagle County students outperformed state averages in only fifth grade, but were below state averages in all other grades.
In writing, Eagle County outdid state scores in fifth and eighth grade but lagged in others.
In science, however, the district scored above state averages in all grades.
While the school district was hit or miss with its own goals, there were several places where major improvements were made.
Probably the most dramatic increase was at Avon Elementary, which improved its third grade reading scores from 21 percent proficient or advanced last year to 55 percent this year. With the exception of fourth grade writing and math, Avon Elementary improved in every subject and grade level.
This is especially significant because Avon Elementary has the highest percentage of non-English speaking students in the district, and usually has the lowest scores in the county.
Improving reading scores this year was a big goal for the district “something teachers focused a lot of energy on ” and the work paid off, Eberts said.
Five out of eight grades taking the test improved their reading scores from the previous year. English proficient students in six out of eight grades met the district’s goal of 80 percent proficient or advanced in reading. The two grades falling short ” ninth grade and 10th grade ” missed the goal by seven points and one point, respectively.
Edwards Elementary, which also has a high number of Spanish-speaking students, improved its reading scores at every grade level.
The school district is also seeing students dramatically improve in scores as they move from one grade level to the next, a fact that’s easy to miss while sorting through the pages of raw test scores.
For instance, fifth graders at Avon Elementary scored 47 percent proficiency this year on the reading test, while those same students scored only 24 percent proficiency as fourth-graders. About 76 percent of 10th graders at Eagle Valley High School were proficient in reading this year, while those same students scored 70 percent proficiency when they were ninth-graders.
Grade to grade jumps like these were seen across the district, which is a good indication that when kids stay in the school district, they’ll make big improvements, Gass said.
“When you look at kids who have been in our district three years or longer, they continue to do well,” Gass said.
The top performing schools in the school district were Brush Creek Elementary and the Eagle County Charter Academy. Both schools blew away state-level scores in reading, writing, math and science this year and overall performed better than all other Eagle County Schools. However, both schools have the highest percentage of English-proficient students in the district.
One hundred percent of English proficient fifth-graders at Eagle Valley Elementary School scored proficient or advanced on the reading test.
Fourth graders at Red Hill Elementary improved reading scores from 53 percent to 73 percent proficient or advanced, and fifth-graders improved from 61 percent to 73 percent. Fourth-graders at Red Hill also improved their writing scores by 17 points.
Middle school students made a big jump in reading. Last year, only 59 percent of sixth, seventh- and eighth-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading. This year, it was 70 percent, three points better than the state average.
English-proficient sixth-graders at Eagle Valley Middle School as well as English-proficient seventh-graders at Gypsum Creek Middle School scored 90 percent proficient or advanced in reading. Berry Creek Middle School English-proficient sixth-graders scored 85 percent proficient or advanced in reading.
In addition, Eagle Valley High School and Battle Mountain High School English-proficient 10th-graders scored 81 and 80 percent, respectively.
Students at the county and state level have always performed poorly at middle school and high school math, and this year was no different.
An example: only 32 percent of 10th-graders and 37 percent of English proficient 10th-graders met the district’s goal ” a slight improvement over last year but still far below the district’s goal.
The likely reasons students across the board perform poorly on the math test is that it’s a rigorous and difficult test, for one, but it also tests a student’s ability to read and understand the problems, Gass said.
Students typically struggle with the writing portion of the CSAP as well. Only fifth-graders proficient in English met the district’s goal.
Eberts said the school district would be working hard this year to figure out new ways of incorporating writing into other lessons. It’s difficult enough for adults to explain themselves on paper, and it’s difficult for kids as well, she said. The more practice they get, the better they’ll be.
For instance, instead of assigning 20 algebra problems to a student, a teacher could assign two and then ask the student to write about how they solved them.
Generally, the poorest performing schools also have the highest percentage of students with limited English skills. Schools with excellent scores generally have very low percentages of students with limited English skills.
Low scores all around were seen at Avon Elementary, Edwards Elementary, Meadow Mountain Elementary and Gypsum Elementary, which all have close to or more than 50 percent of their students struggling with English.
At the same time, all those schools showed improvements this year over last year.
Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.