Reading scores up among Vail Valley students |

Reading scores up among Vail Valley students

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Almost three-fourths of Eagle County’s third-graders are proficient readers, according to CSAP scores released Tuesday afternoon.

The standardized tests found that 74 percent are proficient or advanced readers, up from 69 percent last year. Statewide, 73 percent of third-graders were proficient or advanced readers.

Avon Elementary saw the most local improvement. Last year, 39 percent of the school’s third graders were proficient readers. This year, 70 percent were.

No one changed the test for Avon Elementary’s students, and their student population didn’t change, said Heather Eberts, the school district’s executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Just 16 percent of the school’s students are native English speakers.

Of the 39 Avon Elementary kids who took the CSAP, only four were native English speakers. One of those scores didn’t count because the student wasn’t with them long enough, said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, Avon Elementary’s principal.

Even though CSAP offers a Spanish version, Avon Elementary didn’t use it. They took the test in English, and 73 percent scored as proficient or advanced.

“We’re very excited. This group of kids has had a lot of help from the community, as well as what we’ve been doing in the school,” Rewold-Thuon said.

The Youth Foundation provides tutoring and after-school athletic programs, and the Vail Valley Foundation put together music and dance programs, Rewold-Thuon said.

“We’re not taking things away. We’re giving them more and more,” Rewold-Thuon said. “They’re giving it back to us through improved reading scores and academic performance.”

The last time Avon Elementary’s CSAP scores were that high, the student body’s ethnic makeup was almost the exact opposite of what it is now, she said.

Districtwide, 91 percent of English-speaking third graders are reading at proficient or advanced levels. Those are native English speakers, as well as non-English speakers who have become fluent in English.

Across all grade levels, 63 percent of Eagle County Schools’ students are English-speaking, while 37 percent are English Language learners. Statewide, 14 percent of students are English-language learners.

Fifty percent of Eagle County’s English language learners scored proficient or advanced in reading, up from 40 percent last year.

“It was a combination of focusing on high expectations across the board, and accepting no excuses,” Eberts said.

Each school keeps a database on each student, and tracks whether they’re making the progress they should. If not, teachers step in to help using that type of real-time data, Eberts said.

“We are extremely proud of what all our schools have accomplished,” Eberts said.

The Colorado Student Assessment Program tests student performance across the state. Tuesday’s test results report on third graders’ reading ability.

Scores will put students into one of four categories: unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient and advanced

This year, 348 local students took the CSAP test this year. Of those, 33 students (7 percent) scored in the unsatisfactory range, down from 45 students last year.

“This is our first look at how this particular group of students performs,” said Dr. Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County’s schools.

Third-graders who don’t read proficiently are four times more likely to drop out or flunk out of high school, studies say.

“Some states use these test scores as one of the ways to determine how many prisons they’ll need to build in the future,” Eberts said. “It’s an early indicator and speaks to the importance of early education.”

One in six children who do not read proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than for proficient readers, according the report “Double Jeopardy: How Poverty and Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation” commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Once children fall behind in school, they tend to keep falling further and further behind until they drop out, the study found.

The study followed 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989, most of whom finished high school by age 19. Dropout numbers were highest among those who didn’t read well in third grade and had lived in poverty. black and Hispanic students were disproportionately represented in both categories, the study found. They were twice as likely as white children not to graduate on time.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or