Aspen schools still succeed on tests |

Aspen schools still succeed on tests

John Colson

An analysis of new standardized test scores for Aspen’s elementary, middle and high schools shows that the schools continue to earn high marks in the areas of reading, writing, science and math – with exceptions.The Colorado Department of Education on Wednesday released the latest results of Colorado Student Assessment Program tests administered in the 2005-06 school year. The tests gauge the number of students performing at one of four levels – advanced, proficient, partially proficient or unsatisfactory.Aspen Elementary School’s third- and fourth-graders, for instance, are reading better than the same grade did last year, although the third-graders’ performance fell considerably in terms of its writing scores in standardized state tests, from 80 percent proficient or better last year to 66 percent this year.The AES writing scores also dropped by 5 percent in the fourth grade, from 72 percent to 67 percent, although the AES fourth-grade math class did much better than its predecessor last year – 90 percent of the fourth-graders tested were “proficient or advanced” in the subject, compared to 77 percent last year.And in the fourth-grade reading test, 93 percent were advanced or proficient, compared to 84 percent last year.In the upper grades, the tests yielded a mixed bag of results. The sixth- and eighth-graders saw higher reading scores, while those scores fell in the seventh, ninth and 10th grades. In math, grades 5, 6, 8 and 10 all saw significant improvement, while grade 7 fell somewhat and the ninth grade stayed exactly the same as last year.But an Aspen School District official indicated Wednesday, when the Colorado Department of Education released the Colorado Student Assessment Program scores, that the Aspen School District is happy with the results.”Overall,” ASD Assistant Superintendent Bev Tarpley said in a written statement, “we are pleased with the results of the 2006 CSAP administration. There are some wonderful gains in some grades, some stable numbers in various grades and some drops from last year to this year in some grades/subjects.”She said that in those subjects and grades where scores dropped “will be studied carefully so we can be assured that our instructional programs are on target for maximizing student achievement.”In a telephone interview from an educational conference, Tarpley said, “You’d better believe that today those principals are going, ‘Let’s take a deeper look at this,'” regarding the steeper drops in test scores.Tarpley noted that the CSAP scores as the state tabulated reflect each grade as a static entity, showing how the kids in that grade did but not indicating how the same kids did when they took the CSAP tests the year before and one grade level lower.”This view does not take into account the unique characteristics of particular groups of students,” she continued. “A more useful way to view the data is to compare how a grade of students performs year after year as they move through the system.” Calling this kind of analysis the “longitudinal” approach to the statistics, she said the ASD will be conducting that very kind of analysis in the coming weeks and months, and then using the results to tailor instructional plans to meet the needs of the students.”It’s a new era of data analysis,” she said.Tarpley also remarked that “fluctuations of a few points in the percentages are not statistically significant,” especially in the upper ranges of the percentage numbers at the “proficiency” level.”CSAP is one measure of student achievement in an entire body of evidence our staff uses to determine the success of our instructional programs, the success of individual students, and the actions we must continually take to meet the needs of all students,” Tarpley said. “Our district is performing well, and we have a great deal to be proud of in the accomplishments of our staff and students.”Tarpley said she and Superintendent Diana Sirko will report to the school board on Aug. 21 regarding a “data mining” analysis of the CSAP scores, and including a look at how the Aspen schools are doing when compared to other, similar districts around Colorado and the United States.The Aspen Times will continue to follow the CSAP test results issue in future editions, reporting in greater detail as information becomes available. For more details about the CSAP scores, go to the Colorado Department of Education website, Colson’s e-mail address is