School district makes its grades |

School district makes its grades

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Students in the Aspen School District again outscored their peers in standardized state tests, according to data released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Education.

Results from the 2011 Colorado Student Assessment Program show Aspen students were 86 percent proficient or above in reading, compared to 68 percent statewide. In writing, 73 percent of Aspen students were proficient or above, compared to 56 percent across the state; the stats were similar in math, with 73 percent of Aspen students proficient or above, compared to 55 percent of their peers. The gap in science was slightly greater at 22 percent, as 69 percent of Aspen students scored proficient or above compared to 47 percent statewide.

“We are pleased with – and proud of – the results,” said Aspen Assistant Superintendent Julia Roark. “But we always want to do better; we are always looking for ways we can improve.”

Students from third to 10th grade take the CSAP tests every spring, a requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind law and its goal of having all students proficient at reading and mathematics by 2014.

While that’s the federal mandate, the issue is more complex than just a test score, Aspen school administrators say.

In fact, the Aspen School District – which comprises Aspen elementary, middle and high schools, as well as Aspen Community School – is as focused on an individual student’s growth as it is on overall test scores and comparisons to students across the state, Roark said. It is an aspect of the CSAP called the “Colorado Growth Model.”

“This is where we can really look at students individually,” explained Roark. “We as a district, and individual schools and teams, delve into what is happening with the growth of students from year to year. We have historically done well in this area also.”

For example, Roark noted “a positive pattern” through the middle school grades, as students have shown steady improvement in most subject matters year after year; in fact, some tests scores, such as sixth-grade writing, improved by close to 10 percentage points from 2010 to 2011.

“This is what we want to see,” said Roark. “This really shows us that the school is doing some great things, and that kids are benefiting from it.”

Other groups that seem to be improving as a whole include students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the district’s Latino population. According to Roark, IEP students had improved scores in reading, writing and math; Latino students improved in reading, writing and science.

Of course not all scores were as encouraging. In fact, 10th-grade math scores raised a huge red flag for district administrators, having dropped from 55 percent proficient or above in 2010 to 39 percent proficient or above in 2011, a number far below the state average.

“This is definitely an area of concern, and one that we will be looking into further,” said Roark, adding that the district has spent the last two years revamping its math programs, with the new curriculum to be put in place this year. “You don’t want to make excuses, but there are a lot of variables when it comes to analyzing test scores. Our job now is to figure out what those variables were and how to adjust.”

In the end, though, Roark stressed the fact that CSAP scores alone are not an indicator of a student’s or the district’s success.

“On the one hand, we do want to be successful and maintain our accreditation level and awards of distinction,” she said. “But, the bottom line is, these tests are just one point in time; one piece of information in a much larger puzzle.”

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