CSAP improvements may hinge on attendance

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Educators in the Moffat County School District want students to do well on the upcoming Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP) tests so they're brainstorming some new techniques to make that happen.

The state-required accountability reports rate students' proficiency levels in core subject areas of reading, writing, science and math.

Schools are issued overall academic performance ratings of "unsatisfactory," "low," "average," "high," or "excellent." Students are tested in the spring and schools receive results in the fall.

Moffat County Schools were considered "average" compared to all Colorado schools on the 2002-03 accountability reports.

Moffat County students will take the tests up until April 9. Educators can roughly coordinate testing dates around individual school schedules.

But local schools can't increase test scores if students are absent on testing days or aren't motivated to put in their best effort, a group of Moffat County High School educators Tuesday.

About 15 faculty and a few students gathered to talk about incentives for increasing student achievement on the tests.

"If we just get every kid to take the test, then we can make a big difference in our scores," said woodshop teacher Craig Conrad.

Only freshman and sophomores high school students take the CSAP test.

Last year 27 students were absent on testing day, some because parents opted out of sending their children to school to take the tests, said Principal Jane Krogman.

Schools are docked a half-percent for each student not tested on testing days.

For example, if 20 or more students are absent for CSAP testing this year, the school will be unable to improve from last year's "average" rating, Krogman said.

"If all students take the test, we will dramatically improve our scores," she said.

Teachers discussed ways of increasing students' enthusiasm for CSAP tests. Some ideas are offering an extended lunch period, providing breakfast and snacks during testing days or raffling off prizes for students who were noticed diligently answering questions.

Some colleges require students' CSAP scores for admission requirements, but a majority of colleges rely on test scores from ACT or SAT tests that upperclassmen take.

A lack of reward may be why some students hastily fill in multiple choice sections of the test without even reading the questions, Conrad said.

Teachers are allowed to actively proctor the test but can't give away answers.

Krogman said high school teachers are encouraged to proctor or offer guidance to students taking the test, yet many teachers don't.

Teachers can ask students if they've filled in all the questions or direct students to take the test more efficiently.

"It's important that we recognize this as way to improve not only our CSAP scores but our students' achievement as a whole," Krogman said.

Morris Danielson of the Colorado Department of Education said the CSAP tests are designed to present a clear picture of students' progress.

"What kills a district is if students don't take it seriously," said Danielson.

He reports on progress of Northwest Colorado school districts to the state department.

Ultimately school districts should aim for "reasonable progress over time," he said.

Large leaps in improvement or sharp declines on CSAP tests on a year-to-year basis are uncommon, Danielson said.

Schools that bridge the gap from "unsatisfactory" to "excellent" in one year are honored by the governor, he said. Districts that perform "unsatisfactory" for a few years in a row are usually turned into charter schools.

"You really have to work to get an unsatisfactory rating," he said. "On the other hand it is clearly possible to bump up to an excellent rating. The key to doing well is moving a large number of students from partially proficient to proficient (in the tested areas)."

The Moffat County School District aims to increase schools' "average" scores to "high" and "excellent" marks, said Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan.

"We're paying attention to results, but we're not going to get too excited if the scores sound too good or too bad," he said.

"What we don't want is average and that's what we have for the most part "average" and "stable growth," Sheridan said of last year's tests. "I think we have a lot of goals that will take us to the "high" level."

Last year's accountability reports stated a "significant decline" in improvement at Ridgeview Elementary School and a "decline" in improvement at Maybell School.

However the CSAP ratings for those two schools in 2001-02 were the district's highest.

Maybell received the district's only overall rating of "excellent" for the last two years. Ridgeview received one of the district's only "high" ratings in 2001-02.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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