Eagle County Schools improving, according to standardized testing results

Statewide standardized test scores put local schools in second-highest category

Eagle County schools are up 5.1% overall, as measured by statewide standardized testing, and climbed to the Colorado's second highest category.
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EAGLE — Whatever it is that standardized testing is supposed to measure, local public schools are getting better at it.

State educrats call it district and school performance frameworks, sort of a grade card for Colorado’s 178 school districts. It’s based largely on the Colorado Measure of Academic Success tests, the statewide standard.

Eagle County Schools’ grades are up 5.1% year-over-year, which placed the district in the performance category, the second-highest classification — the equivalent of a B on the report card.

“We’re very proud of the work of our students, parents and staff,” Superintendent Phil Qualman said.

Like any motivated student, the school district’s goal is the highest classification, known as accreditation with distinction. Eagle County Schools could be there in four years, Qualman said.

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School district officials are proud of the improvement but noted in a release that the CMAS tests do not measure everything.

“The school district considers an achievement test a one-point-in-time snapshot of vibrant and multi-faceted people,” the district said in a statement.

The tests are ostensibly designed to help schools improve, not to sort and label kids, the school district said.

What CMAS tests do not measure

CMAS tests do not account for a school district’s percentage of English language learners. The statewide average is 14%. Eagle County schools enroll 36% English language learners, two and a half times the state average.

“Yet we thrive as performance schools,” Qualman said.

District officials argue that the classification of “English language learners” is simplistic. Younger students whose native language is Spanish or French are learning that native language at the same time they’re learning English.

The CMAS testing is timed and computerized. An English language learner has to translate on the fly to come up with their answer, school district officials say.

Most schools in the district are already in the performance category, the highest category for individual schools.

Among the good news: June Creek Elementary in Edwards missed the performance category by one-tenth of one percent, according to the state data.

The better news is that June Creek improved by 8% over the past year, far ahead of the districtwide gains.

By CMAS measures, middle schools saw gains in English language arts, math and science. Elementary schools saw improvements of three points in ELA and math, and 15 points in science. High schools dropped three points in reading and writing, stayed even in math and were up 31.9 points in science.

Measuring those who measure

Besides CMAS tests, the state department of education’s equation also includes graduation rates, dropout rates, college entrance exams and college enrollment rates.

The school district’s dropout rate declined 1% while the four-year graduation jumped from 70.8% to 74.9%.

However, the district’s four-year graduation rates are kept artificially high because of a program through Colorado Mountain College. The school district picks up the tab for the first two years of college, while the student remains enrolled as part of the school district – essentially a 13th and 14th year of school.

When those early college students and Red Canyon students are rolled into the equation, the school district’s graduation rate jumps up to 89.5%, according to school district data.

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