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Test results trouble educators

Christine Ina Casillas

Eagle County school officials say they are somewhat unhappy with students’ performance on the latest state assessment tests.

The concern comes despite scores from the 2003 Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, that show Eagle County School District students ranked slightly above average when compared to the rest of the state.

“Overall, compared with the state, we’re above average,” said Gary Rito, the School District’s director of secondary curriculum, instruction and staff development.



“But we’re not satisfied with the results. We’re better than those results,” Rito said. “Our teachers are better, our students are better, our staff and the parents – we’re all better than that.”

The testing results show an overall increase over last year, but they also reveal areas that need improvement, Rito said.



Eagle County students scored above average in all areas but four, said Carolyn Neff, the School District’s director of elementary education.

“But we’re never happy with the results,” Neff said. “We’re always looking to do better.”

Results for the 2003 testing program were released Wednesday for grades four through 10. Third grade writing results also were released Wednesday, although the third grade reading results were announced in May.



“We are seeing indications that our focus in the areas of reading, writing and math are yielding results,” said John Brendza, Eagle County School District superintendent. “But these scores continue to place Eagle County schools in the “average’ category. We don’t believe they reflect the ability of our students or the capabilities of our staff.”

Flaw in the system?

The goal for the school district is to be at 80 percent proficiency or higher, Rito said. The results from the 2003 exams, therefore, are “nothing to write home about,” he said.

Eagle County third-graders significantly outscored their counterparts across the state in reading, with 83 percent of the students scoring at or above the “proficient” level.

Despite their performance, Rito said, either the students or the curriculum aren’t meeting expectations.

“There must be something wrong with the curriculum in the district and across the state,” Rito said. “We don’t know what’s wrong.”

The fifth-grade students also outperformed their counterparts statewide in reading, writing and mathematics.

“We’re moving in the right direction in math,” Rito said. “It’s become a trend for us, and we’re doing all right but we still believe we can do better.”

But mathematics is an area of concern for the school district, especially for the sixth-graders. The scores in eighth-grade classes also has the school district a little worried, Rito said.

“The math in grade eight is still poor,” Rito said. “But how do we look at counterparts across the state compared to our results? We’re still moving in the right direction and continuing to make improvements.”

High school gains

County 10th graders outperformed their state counterparts in mathematics, scoring at 34 percent of proficiency compared to 27 percent statewide. But tenth-graders scored slightly lower in the areas of reading and writing.

“The 10th grade was the most abysmal,” Rito said. “But we’ve had three years in a row of decent gains, and it’s nice to see those trends moving up.”

The school district analyzes the results by comparing them to those in other Colorado schools. Officials also look at the growth of the School District and last year’s scores to gauge progress made from one class to another, Rito said.

“At the high school level, we work hard to get the math concepts across in the beginning for the information to stick better,” he said. “Those tests are extremely difficult, but that’s what we’re supposed to be teaching these kids.”

But does Eagle County hold its own with the state, school district officials asked. The answer is “yes,” they say.

“This year’s scores will be used to improve how we teach kids, and that is the most important aspect of the CSAP testing each year,” Brendza said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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