The academic performance of Durango School District 9-R students last year often was above the state average, but nothing to write home about, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said this week.
On Thursday, results from the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, standardized tests administered to Colorado’s public school students, were made public for the 2013-14 school year.
“While we had some positive gains in a number of areas, we know that we have areas in which we have opportunities for improvement,” Snowberger said.
Snowberger cited the 37 percent of Durango High School sophomores proficient in math. It’s better than the state average of 33 percent for the same cohort, but not great, he said.
School District 9-R high school scores include Durango High School, Big Picture High School, the Durango Education Center (adult education) and DeNier Youth Center.
In reading, 79 percent of Durango High School sophomores were rated proficient in 2014, a 6 percent improvement compared with the year before and 10 percent better than the state average.
“We celebrate the achievements,” Snowberger said. “We expect a lot from our students, and we know they can do better.”
Statewide performance results are available on the Department of Education website (www.cde.state.co.us). Click School View/Data & Accountability and then Data Resources.
“The assessment data show that the district has made gains in closing the achievement gap (bringing underachievers closer to the norm),” Snowberger said.
The school district set high standards for ethnic minorities, students with special needs and poverty-level students who tend to underperform across the state, Snowberger said.
The result of the effort was evident.
“The district saw significant growth in writing for poverty-level students and high growth in reading and writing for minority students,” Snowberger said.
Students with special needs showed significant progress, Snowberger said. But the district is going to push for even higher gains for these students. Additional classroom support will be available for them, he said.
“Overall, proficiency was a mixed bag, very similar to state results. Elementary and high school students improved in reading and writing,” Snowberger said. “There are declines in proficiency at the middle school level across all subject areas.”
In an effort to get math scores back on track, a new math curriculum that costs $285,000 will be introduced at the elementary level this year.
Scores from 2014 will be the last time that 9-R student performance is measured by the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program.
Starting this fall, the standard will be the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which makes more rigorous demands. It tracks students in grades 3 through 11.
Many Colorado educators have said TCAP tests whether students can parrot what they heard in class. PARCC, however, requires them to apply knowledge to solve problems.
Under PARCC, students entering sixth-grade this fall must prove themselves proficient in the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – by the time they graduate high school.
A companion assessment tool, Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), looks at performance in science in grades 5, 8 and 12, and social studies in grades 4, 7 and 12. It was developed by the Colorado Department of Education and teachers. Students must be proficient in those fields, too, by senior year.
If they don’t pass the two litmus tests, they won’t be sporting a gown and mortar board along with classmates at the graduation ceremony.
A national consortium of teachers in 14 states, including Colorado, developed PARCC standards. A similar program, Smarter Balance, has been adopted by an equal number of states.
PARCC results go online, allowing school officials to see results in time to introduce countermeasures before the school year ends.
TCAP results became available in the summer, too late to take remedial action.