Reading marks slip for second straight year |

Reading marks slip for second straight year

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – Barbara Collins is one of the few really happy elementary school principals in Eagle County this week.Collins, the principal at Avon Elementary School, is thrilled at the preliminary scores for third grade reading from the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. About 10 percent more students at Avon scored “advanced or proficient” on the third grade reading test this year than last. Avon posted the biggest gain in Eagle County for third graders this year, and was one of only three of the district’s eight elementary schools to post gains from last year.The Eagle County Charter Academy, which is a public school but isn’t really counted as part of the district, maintained a high standard, posting virtually the same score – 94 percent advance or proficient – this year and last.The five other elementary schools in the district dropped between a little and a lot. The biggest drop was at Gypsum Elementary School, where the number of students scoring highest on the state test dropped from 90 to 60 percent.Overall, the district’s third grade reading scores dropped about 4 percent from last year.Why the drop? “I have that question into the district office right now,” said Scott Green, president of the Eagle County School Board. Meanwhile, district officials are still mulling over the numbers from the state. School principals only received the numbers from the state Monday, and those numbers aren’t complete.The state released only “unofficial preliminary” results last week. The rest of the numbers – most of which have been broken into several smaller categories – will be released in July along with numbers from all other grades tested”There are many variables involved,” Edwards Elementary School Principal Cyndy Secrist said. “You will see swings from year to year.”The main variable is the kids. While test scores for third graders from year to year invite comparisons, it is, in fact, different kids taking the tests.”We ought to be looking at the same group of kids, who have been in the building, from year to year,” Secrist said.Looking at those kids would paint a different picture, said Carolyn Neff, the district’s curriculum director for elementary education.”Kids we’ve had 12 months or more still score pretty high,” Neff said.And only a few new kids can represent some big numbers when it’s time to figure percentages. For instance, five new kids in Edwards would represent almost 20 percent of the students who took this year’s test.Another wild card is English skills. A lot of kids who don’t speak English fluently are taking the English tests in third grade, which can drop averages.Collins has done that at Avon the past two years, the better to get kids prepared for fifth grade, when there is no Spanish version of the state tests, she said. As the scores for those taking the test in English have risen, the scores on the Spanish version have dropped slightly. “We stop teaching in Spanish in second grade,” Collins said. “So our performance on that test is pretty high, considering.”But as district officials talk about reasons for their students’ performance on the tests, they’re also quick to add that those variables don’t really matter.”We’ll start digging in when the actual reports come,” Neff said. “We’ll spend a lot of time doing that.”And, while administrators say the state test is a “snapshot” of student achievement, that’s the one that matters. “We ought to be doing darn well,” Neff said.”Our baseline scores should be coming up every year,” Green added.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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