Board votes for CSAP class credit

— Thom Schnellinger, Moffat County High School assistant principal, said he thinks his students should be personally vested in the Colorado Student Assessment Program. The program is a series of annual tests mandated by the state to evaluate students' - and schools' - academic progress.

Unfortunately, Schnellinger believes this hasn't been the case in years past.

Students "see it as our test, a test of our school," he said.

In an attempt to remedy that situation, Schnellinger and Jane Harmon, Moffat County High School principal, brought a proposal to the Moffat County School Board last night that would give students elective credits for scoring proficient and advanced on the annual standardized test.

The proposal grants half of an elective credit to freshman and sophomores who earn a proficient or advancing scoring on their reading, writing and math CSAP tests, according to the school district.

The credits would apply to courses within and beyond CSAP test subjects. Although the half-credits will contribute to students' graduation requirements, they cannot replace required courses, including English I and II and consumer mathematics.

The CSAP science test, which is given solely to 10th-grade students, also will yield half a credit in that subject if students perform at or above state proficiency levels but will not replace required science courses, including Biology I.

Principal Jane Harmon said her staff "has been talking about this for over a year now.

"We thought we would like to do something to motivate students to perform (their best) on CSAP" tests, she added.

She, like Schnellinger, believes the state standardized test doesn't have much buy-in with her students.

"We think many students : don't see the benefit" of CSAP testing, she said.

The School Board passed the proposal after one of its members, Jo Ann Baxter, motioned the group approve the proposal under the stipulation that it would review it in a year's time.

Baxter said she suggested reviewing the program next year to gauge its effectiveness.

She also considered Colorado lawmakers' recent proposals about the test when casting her vote, she said.

According to a March 16 Denver Post article, two state lawmakers recently proposed eliminating the CSAP tests altogether. Instead, the state would use scores from the ACT - a test colleges look at when enrolling new students - to gauge students' high school progress instead, the Post reported.

The state must receive Federal permission for the substitution, according to the Post.

Re-evaluating the program next year will give the board, and lawmakers, enough time to gauge whether CSAP "is a success or something that's no longer" in effect, she said.

Baxter and four other members approved the plan to give students class credit for CSAP scores. Two members disapproved the proposal.

School Board Member Sandie Johns was among the latter group.

A former high school counselor who worked primarily with graduating seniors, Johns said she is a firm proponent in students' taking as much "solid coursework" as they can, especially in the language arts.

"If students get half a credit" in reading or writing for CSAP scores, she said, "is that going to keep them from taking that writing course they need?"

That question was enough to prevent her from casting her vote in favor of the proposal, she said.

Still, she added that the program could have merit, if the students who opt out of the reading and writing electives aren't also the students who need those courses the most.

"I want to see where we are in a year," she said.

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