There is good news out of Denver for some Moffat County third graders and their teachers. The reading results of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) are in, and area students and teachers continue to see steady improvements.
The CSAP evaluates students in kindergarten through twelfth grades, however, only the third-grade results have been tabulated. Results from other grade levels will not be available until mid-July.
CSAP tests assess students' progress in reading, writing, and math levels in all Colorado public schools.
"We've been nudging up ever since the first year  that we began to take the tests," said Janet Bohart, director of curriculum and staff development for the Moffat County School District (MCSD). "It is a slow, continuous process that we are undertaking, but it is also shows that we are doing something that is working to better educate the students here in Moffat County."
This year, Moffat County elementary students showed a 2 percent jump in the proficiency of its third-grade readers. More than 80 percent of third-grade students in the Moffat County School District (MCSD) now read at a level deemed proficiently advanced.
When the program began in 1998, MCSD had only 65% of its third-grade students reading at a proficiently-advanced level. In 1999, that figure was 68 percent, and in 2000, MCSD third-graders had improved a dramatic 10 percent, bringing the number of proficiently advanced readers to 78 percent.
"We have tried to do what we can to improve children's access to reading," Bohart said. "We have enacted after-school programs, and had the children spend more time working in a literacy block."
A literacy block equates to time students spend in the classroom working in small or individual group to develop and strengthen their reading and literary skills.
MCSD has also implemented "Family Literacy Night," a program that designates one night a month for parents and students to learn new ways of incorporating reading into their everyday life.
"There is a lot that parents can do to get involved with their child's reading and educational growth," Bohart said. "They can attend parent-teacher conferences, be active with the teacher and their child's progress in the classroom, and ask the teacher what types of things they can do at home. One of the most important things in developing young readers is that the children see the parents themselves reading in their spare time.
"Everything that we do comes back to the ability to read," she said. "If you want to attain goals in life, you are going to have to be able to attain information, which without reading, cannot be done."
2001 is the inaugural year that the state of Colorado begins grading not only students, but the schools as well.
State officials will take the results from CSAP tests and weigh them with the progress the school has made over the last year to determine how their curriculum and classroom instruction ranks among other schools.
"I think that it is important that schools take accountability for what they are teaching students," Bohart said. "I know for us, we didn't have a lot of happy teachers or administrators when the results came out in 1998. Since we have made a more directed effort, we are really starting to really get in line with where we want to be."