CSAP analysis: Aspen girls match boys in math " until high school
August 25, 2008
ASPEN ” An analysis of Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores for the Aspen School District show Aspen girls to be much more highly skilled in writing than their male counterparts.
And in math, girls and boys are neck-and-neck until high school, when the boys take the lead.
Those conclusions were part of an Alpine Achievement Systems’ analysis of Aspen’s CSAP scores.
The statistical gender divide around math and writing is a long-standing, nationwide trend, said the school district’s assistant superintendent, John Maloy. And while he attributed some of the divide to inherent problems with standardized tests, such as exam prompts that don’t engage boys, he acknowledged that the gap clearly exists.
The district is responding to the gender gap primarily by making teachers aware of it, he said. For example, the district encourages teachers to pay attention to research on strategies for engaging boys and girls differently, he said. The district also invites stereotype-busting speakers ” such as female scientists ” to visit the schools.
The report also documented a vast divide between white and Latino students at Aspen schools. White students scored higher than Latino students in all grade-level content areas from third to 10th grade. In seven grade-level content areas, white students scored, on average, more than twice as high as Latino students.
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English-language learners (ELL) consistently scored below the district average, and that gap widened as the students grew older.
Maloy noted that while the district has ELL teachers and resources in each building, the number of Latino students in the district continues to increase, and it simply takes time for those students to catch up with their English-speaking counterparts. He added that some students who arrive in Aspen did not attend school in their homeland.
“Some … are not fluent in their native language,” he explained.
Across the board, math proved to be Aspen students’ hardest subject. Between this year and last year, six of the seven grades experienced a decline in their math scores, according to the analysis.
Maloy noted that many of those declines were minor and within the standard error of measurement. However, he acknowledged that when teachers do their “item analysis,” they’ll be encouraged to pay attention to whether the students, in general, are lacking certain math skills.
“Is something left out of the curriculum? Is it something the students just didn’t get? Those are some of the things we need to think about,” he said.
For the first time this year, the state released longitudinal data that is designed to help educators measure student growth from one CSAP test to the next. In general, Aspen students are above the state average for both scores and growth.
However, while local pupils who are at or above grade level are statistically likely to “keep up,” students who are below grade level have a much lower chance of actually catching up.
At the elementary level, 87 percent of students were on track to keep up in reading, 80 percent were on track to keep up in writing, and 72 percent were on track to keep up in math.
However, only 45 percent of below-average elementary students were on track to catch up with their peers in reading by the 10th grade, 53 percent were on track to catch up in writing, and 49 percent were on track to catch up in math.
By high school, the gap widens further. In 2008, 94 percent of “proficient or advanced” high school students were on track to keep up in reading, 87 percent were on track in writing, and 62 percent were on track in math.
But 45 percent on below-average high school students were on track to catch up in reading, and 39 percent were on track to catch up in writing. Only 10 percent were on track to catch up in math.
Maloy noted that to be considered “on track,” a student must be growing enough each year to be considered proficient by 10th grade. But some students are so behind when they begin in the school district that they would have to be growing by an almost-impossible amount each year to be considered “on track,” he said.
The district has tried to stress to children and teachers alike that not being “on track” doesn’t necessarily indicate a student isn’t growing, he said.