New CSAP Scores Tell Colorado It's Time to Advance in School Reform

There’s a big hubbub today about CSAP results being announced. For those of you who don’t know, CSAP stands for Colorado Student Assessment Program – it’s the battery of tests in reading, writing, math, and science that help people to see how well schools and students are performing. The folks in the Education Policy Center and others like them get really excited on days like this, because of all the new information and what story it might tell. I guess this year is really special, because a new “growth model” has been introduced that allows for better measurement of individual student and school progress from year to year.

Me? I haven’t had to take any CSAPs yet – frankly, I could do without tests altogether. But I understand why many people might think they are important.

Anyway, the Rocky Mountain News has the basic rundown on the latest CSAP scores, and once again, hoped-for progress is not being achieved:

Results were up in 11 of the 24 tests given in reading, writing and math in grades 3 through 10. Scores were down in seven tests and unchanged in six.

Reading and math scores were generally up, with more grades seeing declines in writing.

Combining all grades, 67.8 percent of test-takers achieved proficiency in reading — considered grade level. In writing, 53.4 percent were proficient or above and, in math, 53.2 percent achieve proficiency.

On the state science exams, given only in grades 5, 8 and 10, 45.8 percent of students scored proficient or above.

Older grades continued to produce the lowest scores. Fewer than half of the state’s ninth- and tenth-graders were proficient in writing and math.

Not so good. The Republicans in the state senate are saying this is all the more reason for advancing education reform, and not taking any steps back:

Senator Nancy Spence

[Assistant minority leader Nancy] Spence, a veteran voice for education reform at the Capitol, also denounced repeated attempts by some legislative Democrats to gut the hotly debated CSAP testing program.

“They don’t like getting bad news. Well, neither do I,” she said. “Just because kids aren’t making significant gains on the test doesn’t mean you throw it out. You don’t shoot the messenger, you fix the problem.”

I can’t help but agree with Senator Spence. Colorado took a small step forward in school autonomy and innovation this year, but it isn’t time to give up on accountability and it’s definitely time to move forward on empowering parents through school choice.