Third-grade reading CSAP scores slip a bit |

Third-grade reading CSAP scores slip a bit

Scott N. Miller

For principals, the mantra of test scores is, “Don’t get too high; don’t get too low.”

Results are in from the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests were released Monday, this one covering third grade reading. As a group, district third graders are reading a bit better than their fellow students across the state. Eagle County’s raw numbers, though, slipped a bit below the state goal of getting 80 percent of all students to earn scores of “proficient” or “advanced” on their tests.

This year, 78.2 percent of the district’s third graders earned proficient or advanced scores, versus 83 percent of last year’s third grade class. Statewide, 74 percent of third graders hit the “proficient or above” mark on their state reading tests.

The shining star schools in the district this year were Gypsum Elementary (90.1 percent); the Eagle County Charter Academy and Brush Creek Elementary both had 94 percent of their students performing at the test’s highest levels. Gypsum saw the biggest gain. Last year, 74 percent of the third graders earned the test’s highest scores.

Gypsum Elementary Principal Mike Gass says he’s excited for both the kids and teachers this year. He knows, though, that next year’s scores could rise or drop, depending largely on the kids taking the test.

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“It’s great for this group of kids,” Gass said. “But it’s one test. We still have other pieces out there for other students. We just hope this group kind of sets the bar for the rest.”

Gass is a little reserved because he says he knows what might happen. While schools are graded on tests, teachers and administrators don’t take them, students do. And every group of kids is different.

Edwards Elementary, for instance, has 75 third graders and three teachers this year, compared to a class of 52 with four teachers last year. Of that group, this year’s third graders have fewer native English-speakers and more native Spanish-speakers taking the tests.

With those changes, Edwards Principal Cindy Secrist said “I’m not unhappy with the scores,” which dropped a bit from 2003. The performance of the Edwards third graders closely mirrors districtwide performance. Of this year’s third graders, 78 percent scored at proficient or above, while 81 percent of last year’s group earned the highest marks.

Avon Elementary’s scores dipped slightly as well, but principal Barbara Collins expected a drop. This year, teachers and administrators decided to move nine of the school’s 36 native Spanish speakers in the third grade into English-only classes. Those students took their tests in English.

“I’m told students need three to five years in their second language to become academically proficient,” Collins said. “We decided to make the transition earlier with these students to give them an opportunity to succeed on next year’s tests.”

And it’s next year that’s crucial for this year’s third graders. The fourth grade test is reportedly quite a bit harder than the third grade exam, which is the first of several CSAP tests students will take in their academic careers.

Because of that, educators view the third grade test as one of many pieces of information.

Meadow Mountain Elementary Principal Kim Walter said in addition to CSAP tests, students also take tests from the Northwest Evaluation Association twice or three times a year. The district also gives students writing assessment tests.

“We have software that takes those pieces so we can see exactly where kids are and what are their needs,” Walter said. “There’s a lot of analysis involved.”

That analysis, though, enables teachers to address the needs of individual students, Walter said. With all the assessment and analysis, the bottom line is how kids grow from year to year. “We’re looking for a year’s growth from the students,” Walter said.

That’s why principals in the district are waiting anxiously for August, when the results from the fourth-grade CSAPs come in. Then, said Secrist, teachers and administrators will have a better idea of how last year’s third graders have responded.

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