Raising the bar | VailDaily.com

Raising the bar

Veronica Whitney

The Eagle County School District is looking to have 80 percent of its students scoring at the “proficient” and “advanced” levels in three years, says Assistant Superintendent John Brendza.

“The 2002 CSAP scores were average – and that’s not enough,” Brendza says. “We’re not an average school district.”

That would mean a 50 percent boost in some cases. This year only 28 percent of 10th-grade students scored in the “proficient plus” category (a combination of proficient and advanced) in math, and only 42 percent of third-grade students scored in that category for writing.

The gap in other subjects, however, isn’t that wide: 70 percent of students in third, sixth and eighth grades were proficient plus in reading; 79 percent of third-grade students scored proficient and advanced in reading.

Most of the scores, however, varied between 40 and 60 percent.

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“Eighty percent is achievable,” Brendza says. “But not until we do some changes. It’s going to take time and effort from all of us.”

This year’s scores, in some instances below state averages, aren’t representative of how well district students can do, says Eagle County School District Curriculum Director Gary Rito.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but there are several factors that influence

our performance, and those are: the high mobility of students in our school district; and the number of ESL (English as a second language) students we have,” Rito says.

Gypsum Elementary School and Red Sandstone Elementary, for example, have a mobility rate of 60 percent, he added.

“It’s difficult when you don’t have kids for a long period of time,” he said.

“We have to find a way to assess students as they get into our schools.”

Rito said every child in the district will be tested in the fall and spring for language usage, reading and math. These tests will also be given to incoming kids from other school districts.

Tools to improve

The CSAP evaluates how well schools and students meet Colorado standards.

While only students in a handful of grades have participated in the program since its inception in 1997, this year all students in grades three through 10 were tested in reading and writing.

Students in grades five through 10 also took math tests; and eighth-graders were required to take an additional science test.

“We need to target the needs of minority students,” Brendza says.

Hispanics account for 38 percent of the students in the district, Rito adds, and about 15 percent of those are ESL students.

“We have some pockets we’re happy about, like middle school reading,” Rito says. “Berry Creek Middle School didn’t do as good as the other schools, however, because they have a big number of ESL students.”

Although the school district had some shining points in the CSAP results – for example, reading in middle school, and science scores that are improving at a significantly faster rate than state scores – Brendza said there are sufficient resources to become a premier district, including:

– Good and caring teachers.

– Small class sizes – less than 20 students in many elementary schools.

– Support of the community.

– New schools.

– Staff development.

“We have all the tools in the tool box,” Rito says. “Even before the CSAP scores announcement, the district had developed improvement strategies for writing and math.”

Writing scores in third, seventh and 10 grades are below the state average and scores in fifth and seventh grades have dropped in the past two years.

“The literacy coaches, however, are impacting the quality of instruction,” Brendza said.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series on Eagle County School District strategies to improve CSAP scores.

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