Testing, testing

Local CSAP scores show Moffat County keeping up with state averages in all subjects except math

According to state test scores released Wednesday, Moffat County students are proficient in reading and writing, but are still scoring below the state proficiency average in math.

The results of the 2002 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test scores released Wednesday showed improvements in areas where improvement was expected, said Superintendent Pete Bergmann.

"Although our CSAP scores indicate we are near the state average in most areas assessed, our progress and growth in the areas we have addressed is very encouraging," he said. "The district focus for the past couple of years has been improving reading and writing at the elementary level, and we have seen a corresponding return with substantial gains in achievement in these areas."

In Moffat County, 77 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or advanced in reading, well above the state average of 61 percent.

At all grade levels in reading students were near if not right at the state average for scoring proficient or above average.

The same went for writing in which students scored right at the state average.

But like each year since the inception of the CSAP in 1997, math scores across the state fell below the state proficiency standard, but were even lower in Moffat County.

Only 11 percent of 10th graders at Moffat County High School scored proficient compared to 27 percent statewide.

Twelve percent of ninth graders scored proficient or advanced compared to 31 percent statewide.

Scores showed 51 percent of ninth graders scored unsatisfactory and 45 percent of tenth graders scored unsatisfactory.

The reason for the low scores at the high school level, Bergmann said, is because many students are being tested on material they've yet to learn.

"It's not as much of an instructional issue as it is a curriculum issue," Bergmann said. "Since all students don't take algebra as ninth graders they get tested over stuff they haven't been taught."

The other issue surrounding math, which has been discussed at numerous school board meetings, involves how math should be taught.

A math task force created last year to assess the math curriculum in the Moffat County School District has recommended that the district shift to conceptual-based methods of teaching compared to procedural-based instruction, which is what is currently done in the district.

With conceptual-based instruction, students are asked to explain the process of how they get their answers, as compared to just being drilled in the process of how to get an answer.

"A teacher should say 'Today I'm going to explain what it means to find the square root,'" said Curriculum Director Janet Bohart when making recommendations to the school board at its June meeting. "Next they say 'This is the procedure on how you find the square root.'"

Bergmann said students aren't just asked to give an answer on CSAPs, but instead are asked to explain how they got the answer.

"The CSAP test is 90 percent conceptually based," he said. "They simply do not ask computational questions."

But that brings up the philosophical question of whether the district should teach to a test, Bergmann said.

"Do we create a curriculum and program that shifts to conceptual-based teaching in order to improve CSAP scores?" he asked. "Or do we maintain a procedural method of instruction? If we choose that direction, the CSAP scores will always reflect that."

Using the recommendations set forth by the math task force would result in improved test scores, Bergmann said.

The reason reading and writing scores have continued to improve each year is because the district has concentrated on those areas, he said.

"Moffat County schools have shown significant improvements in areas where we have concentrated time, professional training, program development and resources," he said. "We are not satisfied with where we are, but we are satisfied with our progress and feel we are on track."

The same goes for the math curriculum, he said.

"As we begin to implement some of the recommendations made by the task force, we will see improvements," he said. "It won't happen over night, but it will happen in time."

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