New guidelines welcome

Changes in school accountability aligns with district, leaders say

Changes in ways the state evaluates Colorado Student Assessment Program tests won't change how the Moffat County School District does business, but officials say the Legislature has taken a meaningful step.

House Bill 1433, signed earlier this month by Gov. Bill Owens, creates a system for measuring the academic growth of students from one year to the next instead of, for example, comparing one third grade class to the next year's third-graders.

"To have any kind of valid comparison, you have to compare the same set of kids as opposed to a different set every year," Superintendent of Schools Pete Bergmann said. "This aligns accountability reports with what we evaluate as a district anyway."

The new method, known as "longitudinal measuring" will allow teachers and parents to know not only how much academic growth each student makes from one year to the next, but also, whether the amount of growth is sufficient for them to score proficient on the Colorado State Standardized test by the time they leave 10th grade.

"This new system will help educators identify students' academic needs and tell them if a student is showing growth," said the bill's co-sponsor Keith King, D-Denver.

For example, Moffat County's fourth-grade reading scores increased from 47 percent proficient and advanced in 2001 to 54 percent in 2002, but measuring longitudinally, the fourth-grade class that scored 47 percent in 2001 fell to 36 percent in reading in 2002. That class increased to 46 percent in 2003.

Student ratings will be based on the new measuring system. The academic growth rating for each school will indicate whether it achieved "significant improvement," "improvement," remained "stable," "declined," or showed a "significant decline."

Stable indicates a year's worth of academic growth in a year's time.

"There will now be a greater reason for concern or a greater reason for celebration," Bergmann said.

Bergmann said the new measuring system spotlights comparisons the Moffat County School District already makes.

"Any good school district is already doing comparisons of cohort groups," he said.

He does have concerns about how the data is compared when not all the students are tested in the same subject matter.

Math skills aren't tested until fifth grade, and science skills are tested at the eighth-grade level.

In addition, rankings are given by school, which becomes confusing when students change schools -- from elementary to intermediate school, for example.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com

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