Moffat County School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice motions to a PowerPoint presentation regarding the district's 2013 TCAP scores. MCSD attained new levels of growth in some subjects but also saw some percentages of proficiency drop drastically.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Moffat County School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice motions to a PowerPoint presentation regarding the district's 2013 TCAP scores. MCSD attained new levels of growth in some subjects but also saw some percentages of proficiency drop drastically.

Moffat County TCAP scores show growth, decline

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This graph illustrates the test results of the students in last year’s 10th grade class at Moffat County High School from the time they were in 5th grade in 2008 through last school year’s tests in 2013. Results from 2008 through 2011 were from the Colorado Student Assessment Program. Colorado switched to the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program for the 2012 and 2013 tests. Students were tested for science only in 5th, 8th and 10th grades.

— For a full assessment of Moffat County School District's TCAP and CSAP scores since 2008, as well as those of other schools, visit the Colorado Department of Education.

Growth and achievement.

Ideally, these measures go hand in hand when determining the potential of K-12 students. But, making sure kids are at their best and brightest involves a lot of analysis and collaboration, which the Moffat County School District aims to keep a priority this year and in years to come.

The results of the 2013 Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, recently released by the Colorado Department of Education, show Moffat County School District is all over the grid in test scores for reading, writing, math and science, showing significant improvement in some areas and significant slides in others.

Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice gave a PowerPoint presentation to the members of the Moffat County Board of Education at their last meeting, noting “pockets” of positive and negative changes in the results.

Overall, the district’s students, from third- through 10th-grade, tested below the state average — with deficits ranging from 3 to 20 percent — in nearly every subject, with the exception of the fourth-grade math results, which was about on par with the state average of 72 percent of proficient or advanced scores.

The result, a leap from the 62 percent the previous year’s fourth-graders received and the highest the grade level has received since 2009, was one of the pluses. Likewise, the 10th-grade math scores rose from 2012’s 19 percent proficient/advanced numbers to 29 percent.

However, the results also indicate last year’s 10th-graders, the Class of 2015, have shown a steady decline in the TCAP math tests and its predecessor, the Colorado Student Assessment Program, each year since 2008. The trend is recurrent in several neighboring school districts, with scores dropping at the high school age compared to younger students in writing and math in Steamboat Springs, Meeker and Hayden.

With 1,286 test-takers to Steamboat’s 1,450, Moffat County came up short in each subject to its size-comparable neighbor, with the greatest gap being the eighth-grade math scores with Craig’s 32nd percentile score next to Steamboat’s 83, a difference of 51 percent.

Curtice pointed to the Colorado Growth Model as a gauge for how to determine where the district’s schools need to improve. The graph shows the amount of adequate growth each school experiences in each subject each year while also displaying the level of overall achievement.

The chart shows most Moffat County schools experiencing higher achievement but low growth in their TCAP reading tests, with only Ridgeview Elementary School experiencing high achievement and high growth. Results are varied for math, but all MCSD schools showed low achievement and low growth for writing.

Curtice said the goal should be to have all schools make it to the upper-right quadrant of high achievement and high growth and stay there.

“I think we need to grow in every area,” Curtice said. “I think we’re not satisfied with the achievement we have for our kids in Moffat County. I believe our teachers want to get better and our students want to get better.”

MCSD already has strategies in mind for combating falling scores, one of which is to align the curriculum districtwide.

“Aligning means making sure that kids of all ages are getting the same information and the teachers above and below the grade are all working together,” Curtice said. “When you have something like that, it means your resources and interventions are aligned so that you can better study your gaps in achievement.”

Colorado school districts will receive finalized performance frameworks later in the coming months. MCSD board member JB Chapman said he would like to see the analysis from the state before weighing in on the TCAP results and their impact on the district.

“Our job is mostly policy governance,” Chapman said. “As we talk through things, converse and study numbers to try to get to the right place, it does come through the admin building and we’ll be looking at those.”

The 2013-14 school will be the final year for TCAP, which was intended as a placeholder between the CSAP and the forthcoming test model PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Curtice said he prefers the format of PARCC to the current option.

“It’s a very concept-based test,” he said. “You have to compare, contrast and defend your answers, versus TCAP, which is check the box either A, B, C or D. It’s electronic, too, so there are a lot of differences.”

As PARCC’s name indicates, it is designed to ascertain where K-12 students stand as they move toward adulthood, be it higher education or a job right after graduation. MCSD’s initial performance framework, found at DOE resource site www.schoolview.org, indicates the district meets the requirements for postsecondary and workforce readiness.

Even so, some employers in Northwest Colorado have had scattered outcomes hiring recent graduates.

Janiene Mattern, performance management coordinator for Tri-State, said only about 30 to 50 percent of new applicants to the company pass a prerequisite test designed to determine basic math skills. Although she does not have an accurate count for how many applicants are straight out of MCHS, Mattern said the list is varied from those who can’t pass the test to those who pass it, get a job and quickly excel.

The question remains what to do with recent grads who can’t find work. Mattern said the local group Maximum Commitment to Excellence was formed to counter this problem, among others.

“A lot of businesses around town were really frustrated with the kids coming out of school, but also because they didn’t have a lot of opportunities because of funding,” she said.

Whether it’s their test scores in school or their career prospects later in life, Mattern said she thinks a student’s potential depends on a number of different things, one of them being the level of support at home.

“The bottom line is you can complain all day long about the school system, but if the parents aren’t backing them, is it because of the school?” Mattern said. “There’s a lot more factors than just saying, ‘The schools are failing.’”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com.

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