Schools hit and miss state testing targets
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” The school district has a lot to be proud of ” and has a lot to work on ” when it comes to meeting its goals with the Colorado School Assessment Program, or CSAP.
Further examination of test scores released Tuesday shows a school district that is meeting several of its own standards, missing quite a few, struggling with an overwhelming Spanish-speaking population and still managing to compete with state averages.
The district’s biggest CSAP goal is making sure that students fluent in English score at least 80 percent proficiency in all areas of the test.
Looking at that 80 percent goal alone, English proficient students excelled in reading and elementary math at most grade levels while falling well below that goal in science, writing and middle school and high school math.
And while it’s not an official goal, the district aims to stay well ahead of state scores. This too was a hit and miss achievement.
Among all students in Eagle County, only 56 percent are fluent in English, and the rest speak only some or no English. That’s why when talking about test scores, and setting goals, school officials look to the English-speaking students, believing it’s a better reflection of how teachers and students are progressing.
“The CSAP test results are very informative in allowing us to explore the strengths and challenges that exist in Eagle County Schools,” said Mike Gass, Director of Secondary Education and Curriculum. “We are proud of the success that we continue to have, however we realize that there is always room for improvement.”
Here’s a closer look at where Eagle County students made strides in testing and where they’re falling behind.
By far the top scoring schools in the school district were Brush Creek Elementary and the Eagle County Charter Academy.
Both schools blew away state-level scores in reading, writing, math and science this year and overall performed better than all other Eagle County Schools.
However, both schools have the highest percentage of English-proficient students in the district. Eagle County Charter Academy actually has no students with limited English skills, and only 13 percent of Brush Creek students struggle with English, as opposed to about 75 percent at Avon Elementary.
Stone Creek Elementary, a charter school working outside Eagle County School District, also had very high scores and beat out all state averages. Fourth-graders at Stone Creek scored 100 percent proficiency in reading, 94 percent in math and 89 percent in writing, beating out even the best Eagle County schools. Stone Creek also has a very low percentage of non-English proficient students taking tests. This was the school’s first year of testing.
Red Sandstone Elementary, which has the third lowest number of non-English proficient students, also performed quite well against state scores. Except for fourth grade reading, which fell behind the state score by one point, Red Sandstone beat all other state scores.
Also, students from Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School exceeded state scores in all grades and subject with the exception of third-grade math and eight-grade reading and math, respectively.
Reading turned out to be the district’s best subject. Six out of the eight grade levels met or exceeded the district goal of 80 percent proficiency or higher on the test in reading. Fourth-graders overall fell short one point at 79 percent, and eight graders scored 77 percent proficiency.
Eagle County’s overall scores, while competitive with state averages, weren’t as good.
Except for grades seven and 10, Eagle County scored lower than statewide averages in reading. Third-graders here scored eight points below the state average.
In math, Eagle County students outperformed state averages in fourth, seventh and ninth grade. In all other grades, Eagle County fell below state averages in math.
In writing, Eagle County outdid state scores in fifth and seventh grade but lagged in others. In science, the district scored below state averages in fifth and eighth grade but tied in 10th. However, six out of the eight elementary school students showed an improvement in science scores.
When looking at overall scores, the district does point out the Eagle County has the fifth highest percentage in the state of Spanish-speaking students.
Students at the county and state level have always performed poorly at middle school and high school math, and this year was no different. Only 27 percent of 10th-graders in Eagle County scored proficient or higher in math, and only 38 percent of ninth-graders scored proficient or higher.
Even when you look at only English-proficient students, math scores fall far below the district’s goal. Only third-graders and fourth-graders fluent in English met the 80 percent goal. Meanwhile, only 33 percent of English-proficient 10th-graders met the district’s goal.
The likely reason students across the board perform poorly on the math test is that, really, it’s probably the toughest one, Gass said.
“The Colorado math test is one of the most rigorous tests I know of,” Gass said.
“You’re testing a kid’s math ability in that rigorous format, and you’re testing their ability to understand the test.”
The district, as well as the state, also struggled quite a bit in writing. Only seventh graders fluent in English met the district’s 80 percent proficiency standard. It’s quite common for students to feel locked up and inhibited when they are asked to express themselves on the spot, Gass said.
“When you write in class, they take off and create wonderful works,” Gass said.
“When you put them in the testing box, they kind of put themselves in a safer zone.”
The way to improve this is to get students writing more so they gain confidence as writers, Gass said. This goal has been often discussed in all district classrooms.
Avon Elementary had the overall lowest scores in the district, but it also has the largest number of students who speak little or no English.
“CSAP is a test given in English. It isn’t enough to be able to speak English in order to perform on the test. You must be able to read and write in English as well,” said Heather Eberts, director of elementary education and curriculum. “Attaining this level of proficiency takes from three to five years but once students are there, they do very well.”
Low scores all around were seen in Edwards Elementary, Meadow Mountain Elementary and Gypsum Elementary, which all have close to or more than 50 percent of their students struggling with English.
Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.