Gap remains wide on state tests |

Gap remains wide on state tests

EAGLE ” It’s the same old story ” English-speaking students are making the grade, but their Spanish speaking counterparts aren’t faring as well.

Preliminary results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program ” or CSAP ” reading tests are in for third graders across the state. Eagle County third graders who speak English beat state averages as well as the Eagle County School Board’s higher goal of 80 percent of scores being “proficient” or “advanced.”

But the school board’s goal was for the entire school district, not just the English-speakers, to score at 80 percent ” and they didn’t reach that standard.

In fact, for the first time ever, Eagle County third-graders scored below the state average, averaging 69 percent “proficient” or “advanced” scores compared to the state’s 70 percent.

While school officials aren’t thrilled with the score, they say it mirrors the ratio of fluent English speakers to children who have limited or no English knowledge.

“It is pretty difficult to score well on an English test when you don’t speak, read or write in that language,” said Carolyn Neff, director of elementary curriculum for the district.

Among Eagle County third-graders, 62 percent of them are fluent in English, while the remaining 38 percent speak some or no English. Scoring 69 percent “proficient” or “advanced” means even some of the kids who can’t speak much English are able to perform adequately on the CSAP test.

Avon Elementary School has the highest percentage of students who speak little or no English ” a whopping 82 percent. The Avon third graders managed to score 38 percent “proficient” or “advanced,” but still ended up with the lowest scores in the district.

“It’s the first time we’ve been below the average, but compared to the concentration of non-English speakers, I think we did very, very well,” said Melinda Gladitsch, spokeswoman for the district.

Compared with the rest of the state, which averages about 10 percent limited- or non-English speakers, Eagle County has nearly four times at many.

“These scores are further evidence of how the language gap in our schools leads to an achievement gap,” Superintendent John Brendza said. “We clearly have a lot of work to do in order to bring our non-English and limited-English students to the level of our English speakers.”

Something else that likely brought down scores was the absence of Lectura, the CSAP reading test in Spanish available to third and fourth graders. In the past, schools could give these reading tests in Spanish if they thought students would do better in that language.

Historically, scores were higher in third and fourth grade, but would then nosedive in the fifth grade when all the tests were given in English.

So the school district said, “no more,” and this year, all but one school took the test in English. And as was to be expected, scores dropped ” from an average of 74 “proficient” or “advanced” in the 2004/2005 school year to 69 percent this year.

“Because the ultimate measure of success is in English, the majority of our schools had all children, regardless of language proficiency, take the test in English,” Gladitsch said in a press release.

But language wasn’t the only factor in decreasing scores.

Edwards Elementary, a dual-language school, was the only school permitted to take Lectura. Eighty-four percent of students at Edwards opted for the Spanish version of CSAP, but only 63 percent scored “proficient” or “advanced” in either language on the test.

At the Eagle County Charter Academy, an completely English-fluent school, scores dropped 10 percent from last year, but still stayed well above state and district averages at 84 percent “proficient” or “advanced.”

“That’s a great score,” said Jay Cerny, principal of the charter academy. “Those teachers at my school, I’m very proud of them. We take the test, but we’ve never taught to this test. And classes change year to year. It’s wonderful data.”

Other school principals did not return Vail Daily phone calls by deadline, and district officials didn’t speculate on the decreased scores except to say not all third-grade classes are created equal.

There was also good news in the mix. Red Sandstone and Meadow Mountain elementary schools improved by 2 percent each, but the begin jumps were made by students at downvalley schools.

Eagle Valley Elementary had the highest scores in the district, with an increase of 8 percent of “proficient” or “advanced” scores, and Gypsum Elementary School’s score grew 21 percent.

“We’ve been working really, really hard in reading and writing this year,” said Gypsum Elementary master teacher Sherri Nelson. “As a school, that’s been our focus. We’ve done strategies schoolwide, and really involved our specialists ” our art, PE, and music specialists ” to find ways they can work to help the kids be better readers and writers. We’re just thrilled.”

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or

Vail, Colorado

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