Our View: CSAP test provides important assessment

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With the arrival of the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing period, Moffat County School District students are getting some interesting offers to take the test seriously.

Elementary school students have been treated to breakfast from McDonalds to get their day off on the right foot, while freshmen and sophomores were invited to a pep rally yesterday aimed at whipping them into an academic frenzy. Underclassmen who show diligence while taking the test today and next week will be given the opportunity to take a rare off-campus lunch.

What to make of all these inducements? One might think that the test is somehow tied to school funding or teacher pay. But that's not exactly the case.

The district is simply employing creative approaches to maximizing scores.

Each school has the latitude to offer its own incentives, said Joel Sheridan, assistant superintendent of the Moffat County School District.

It's unfortunate that the schools have to resort to offering carrots to encourage students to perform well. Some parents and students seem to think there's nothing at stake because the tests don't factor into classroom grades or GPAs.

But every parent should establish that CSAP testing is an important part of their children's education. Why?

Teachers know that good assessment is a critical part of good instruction. The data provided by this assessment gives both teachers and parents valuable feedback on how our children are doing and also what is needed to promote their future growth.

But the information is only as good as the effort students put into the test.

"We do use these assessments like CSAP and some other tests as a body of evidence ... to determine students needs. If students choose not to perform, it's going to give a bad read -- an inaccurate interpretation -- and we're going to turn around and say the student needs remediation," Sheridan said.

"Whether it's a state push or whether we think it's simply the right thing to do, there is more accountability on every angle."

The district emphasizes that CSAP tests are only one indicator of student academic success and they don't try to make too much or too little of the scores in any given year. It's looking at scores over time that really helps the district map out a strategy for improvement. But the CSAP is the only measure the state uses in assigning grades to schools.

Parents, we urge you to tell your kids you expect them to do their best on the CSAP tests when you send them off to school.

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