Aspen students above state average for reading skills |

Aspen students above state average for reading skills

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Third-graders at Aspen Elementary School scored well above the state average on a recent state reading test, as they have for each of the past few years.

Eighty-seven percent of Aspen third-graders who took the Colorado Student Assessment Program Grade 3 Reading Assessment scored “proficient and advanced,” compared to 72 percent of students in the state. A total of 54,306 students in the state were tested – 74 from Aspen Elementary.

School principal Barb Pitchford credits the heavy emphasis Aspen Elementary places on reading skills in the success of local students.

“It’s our focus and our number one priority,” she said. “We really excel at teaching reading, and we have so many components of our comprehensive reading program.”

Although, last year, 96 percent of AES third-graders scored above the state average (which remained at 72 percent), Pitchford said comparing the two groups is like comparing apples and oranges. She said this year’s class of third-graders has a higher number of students who are “at risk for reading problems.”

“We have a number with learning disabilities and some second-language learners,” she said, “and I am thrilled that they are doing as well as they are doing. It’s a very good score overall, and a direct result of intervention and the quality teachers we have.”

Pitchford said kindergarten through fourth-grade teachers not only teach in the classroom, they also hold special interventions with kids and have before-school programs for extra help. In Aspen’s home incentive programs, teachers meet with parents to help them help their kids read.

Pitchford said the program began seven years ago when she and others noticed students being sent into middle school while still struggling with reading.

“There was a belief across the whole nation that if a student still doesn’t read well by the third grade, then you do something,” she said. “We decided that wasn’t working well, and we began early intervention with our kids.”

Aspen Elementary fourth-graders took the CSAP reading test in mid-March, and Pitchford said she’ll expect to see those scores sometime this summer.

Pitchford said the assessment test is a part of the school’s instruction process, although they have other means of assessing students’ abilities.

“Do we hang out our hat on this score? No, but there are ongoing assessments, and we ask if this score aligns with those. The test is a fairly good indicator of how we’re doing,” she said. “Sometimes there are kids with test anxiety, or who have attentional issues, and this test isn’t going to give us a good picture of them. They need a different type of assessment environment, and we work with them to determine that.”

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