State denies Colorado student test is easy
October 7, 2007
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” The tests Colorado administers to its students are among the nation’s easiest, according to a Washington, D.C., think tank, which recommended the state tighten up its marks.
The Thomas Fordham Institute’s report, “The Proficiency Illusion,” however, understated the difficulty of earning a proficient score on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test, said an official with the Colorado Department of Education.
“We were chagrined,” Jo O’Brien, deputy commissioner of assessment, said of the report from the Thomas Fordham Institute, which counts among its trustees former Education Secretary Rod Paige.
The way the institute interpreted passing scores on the test made it appear as though 88 percent of the students who took it achieved scores that marked them as proficient, O’Brien said.
“It’s easier to pass Colorado’s (Student Assessment Program) test than those of almost all other states,” the institute said in the report, which took into account the tests of 26 states.
In fact, about 56 percent of students get proficient ratings on the CSAP tests, but the institute reached further down into the data and identified as proficient students whose scores were deemed “partially proficient” in Colorado.
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“Schools in Mesa County or Gunnison don’t get to have partial proficiency as OK,” O’Brien said. “We really don’t have low cut (proficiency) points.”
The 26 states used by the institute are the states that also use the Northwest Evaluation Association examination.
The NWEA test is compared to national norms, as opposed to the CSAP, which is applied only to Colorado school districts.
In the NWEA, School District 51 Superintendent Tim Mills said, Grand Valley students fared better against national competition than they did against Colorado students.
In spring 2007 testing, third graders scored the same as the national mean in the reading test. District 51 fourth- through 10th-graders, however, all marked up mean scores higher than the national average.
On the NWEA math scores, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders put up mean scores just below the national means, but sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders all marked up higher mean scores than the national one, according to district figures.
In another test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, O’Brien said the state ranks 10th in math, 12th in science and 25th in reading.
“We’re in the middle of the pack or slightly above average,” O’Brien said.