Local CSAP scores released; results mixed | VailDaily.com

Local CSAP scores released; results mixed

Scott N. Miller

Eagle County’s students are about the same as other students in the state: Still lagging in math, and making slow, occasionally up-and-down progress in reading and writing.The latest results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP tests, has local school administrators pondering the results, and officials throughout the state are pondering how to make better progress, especially with new federal mandates looming.”The good news is that in almost all categories, we’re seeing a steady advance,” Colorado Education Bill Moloney said.Given the current rate of progress, it will take until 2018 to get all the state’s public school students to be 80 percent proficient and advanced in the core education areas — and longer than that to reach the 100 percent that will eventually be required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. While elementary education is making progress, middle school and high school scores continue to lag.”What we’re seeing is that our kids are close in achievement with other industrialized countries in elementary school,” Moloney said. “The gap appears in middle school, and becomes a chasm by high school.” Moloney said in Colorado, there have been five state and/or private task forces that have “discovered” high schools as a place where basic learning seems to fall apart.Statewide and in Eagle County scores drop from middle school to high school, and high school math scores have a long way to go, with barely one-third of local 10th graders scoring “proficient” or “advanced” in math.One of the problems with reading is the fact it isn’t taught as a high school subject, Moloney said. “We wring our hands that one-third of kids don’t read at grade level, but we stop teaching reading in the eighth grade,” Moloney said.That’s because of a long-standing assumption, said Mike Gass, director of curriculum for middle school and high school students in Eagle County.”We assume that you’re learning to read in elementary school, and reading to learn in middle school and high school,” Gass said.Eagle Valley High School will start a new program to build language and math skills this coming school year, Gass said. With the high school in Gypsum moving to a new schedule to accommodate the Teacher Advancement Program, also known as TAP, permanent substitute teachers will be busy throughout the day while regular teachers are off in meetings.Those substitutes will use lesson plans left for them, but, Gass said, a half-hour of each period those teachers are in classes will be dedicated to either language arts or math.”They’ll integrate math or language arts into the lesson plans they have,” Gass said.’Achievement gap’More concerning to state and local education officials is a pronounced “achievement gap” between white and minority students.In Eagle County, that means Spanish-speaking kids, who lag far, far behind their white counterparts. In 10th grade math, for instance, only 8 percent of Hispanic students score at the proficient or advanced levels; 49 percent of their white counterparts hit test’s top two tiers.”It’s a challenge. We’re trying to identify how we’re going to change to improve that,” district Elementary School Curriculum Director Carolyn Neff said. “It’s going to take a community effort.”That effort, Gass said, will have to involve educators, kids, and their families.”A lot of kids aren’t attached to the culture of school,” Gass said. “Why would a kid produce if they don’t like where they are? We need to find how to get kids excited.”Those answers will have to be found, for a couple of reasons. First, the federal No Child Left Behind Act, demands it. Schools can no longer rest on the accomplishment of teaching one part of the population well at the expense of others.”Poor performance among the poor and kids of color is a tragedy without villains,” Moloney said. “We’ve got to do better.”Answers also have to be found to meet state standards. Despite continuing complaints from teachers and administrators over the years, CSAP isn’t going anywhere.”Our test is the oldest in the country,” Moloney said, adding that the CSAP program was started by former Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat, and has been championed by the current governor, Republican Bill Owens. “We have a commitment by people in both parties to stay the course.” That commitment is local, as well. Eagle County School District Superintendent John Brendza said the TAP program, which combines performance pay and on-the-job training, is the district’s way to boost student performance.”We identify our weaknesses, then set goals and directions,” Brendza said. “That’s something we’ve enabled principals and teachers to do to improve our efforts, to ensure that kids aren’t just given a chance, but actually learn what we teach.”

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