Schools receive their report cards |

Schools receive their report cards

Scott N. Miller
NWS Account Report BH 12-6

EAGLE ” Report cards are supposed to be sharp snapshots of progress. Then there are the latest state-issued report cards for local schools.

The latest report cards ” called “accountability reports” ” for local schools are crammed with information.

The forms parents will get ” either in younger kids’ backpacks or through the mail or in newsletters sent to families of older students ” have plenty of data about how children performed on state tests as well as enrollment figures and the number of teachers and staff in individual schools. But the snapshot “grades” could be confusing.

For instance the students at Red Canyon High School ” the Eagle County School District’s “alternative” school ” are apparently doing better on their state tests, jumping from “low” to “average.”

Those same students, though, are apparently not keeping up their work from ninth to 10th grade, resulting in an “academic growth” score of “declining.”

Avon Elementary School’s score dropped from “average” last year to “low” in the most recent rankings. Student achievement, though, remained “stable.” How does that work?

For one thing, the state has changed its evaluation methods. It now follows a formula tied only to results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, tests. Students’ performance on those tests determines how a school is rated, as well as whether that school is improving, declining or stable.

To determine whether kids are growing scholastically or not, the state now compares CSAP test scores from one year to the next for every child who has taken the test more than once.

If a student scored in the 75th percentile ” or the top 25 percent ” of all kids who have taken, say, fourth grade reading, that child needs to score at least that high in fifth grade reading to get a “stable” score. Students whose test scores fall from one year to the next are put in the “declining” category.

In the case of Red Canyon High School ” which has only a few dozen students ” a couple of kids slipped a few points from ninth to 10th grade ” the only grades tested in high school ” on their reading tests.

That put the kids who took that test into the “declining” category. Ultimately, enough kids slipped to earn the school its “declining” rating.

Good news, old news

Looking at the results from all of the district’s 16 schools, there’s some good news. Most of the district’s schools hit either all, or most of their targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

And all of the district’s middle schools scored “high” or better in their state rankings, with the Eagle County Charter Academy again earning an “excellent” rating.

“We’ve got high-performing middle schools,” said Mike Gass, the district’s curriculum director for the secondary grades. “Kids are getting programs that are working in middle school.”

At Eagle Valley Middle School, for instance, kids who have difficulty with the state tests are put into programs that concentrate on getting students better in those subjects.

“They’re showing growth in their at-risk students,” Gass said.

Six of the district’s nine elementary schools ” counting the charter school ” earned a “high” rating or better. The charter school’s scores for younger students were “excellent.”

The schools at which the ratings were “average” or worse is where the district knows it has problems: the schools with a lot of kids who come into school not speaking English.

Many of those students take their state tests in English before they’re really ready for them, Gass said.

“We know it affects scores in the short term,” said Carolyn Neff, the district’s curriculum director for elementary schools. But the long-term results for kids who stay in the district are worth the lower scores on the early tests, she said.

No real surprises

While the good performance of the district’s middle schools was good news for administrators, the news from lower-performing schools wasn’t a shock.

“The state is now using a measure almost identical to ours,” Superintendent John Brendza said. “And we know that the schools with the most at-risk kids aren’t getting the results, and there are a significant number of at-risk kids we need to address.”

How to better educate those kids is a continuing problem. Besides language, a large number of kids in the district change schools at least once a year. And that’s where district officials would like better, or at least more timely, information from the state.

“We’re starting to talk about budgets and staffing for the 2006-07 school year, and we’re just now getting this information,” Brendza said. “We’ll use this information as we plan, but we should have had it earlier.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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