Steamboat Schools will not rest on its testing laurels
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — News this month that Steamboat Springs School District is receiving more accolades for academic excellence was worth celebrating, but five days before the fall semester began, school principals, faculty and staff were taking the news in stride and wasting no time scrutinizing the latest round of student test scores to identify where the district can do better.
“We look at the data from our results, that’s what’s going on today (Aug. 17) in all the buildings. Teachers and principals are meeting right now,” school district Director of Teaching and Learning Marty Lamansky said. “They’ll dig down into item analysis (to determine) which category of academic subjects they did the best or worst in. They’ll make determinations on, ‘What do we adjust in our teaching to move forward?’”
The school district learned Aug. 17 that the scores of Steamboat students in third through ninth grades, on a test currently being used in eight states to gauge college readiness, placed Steamboat between seven and 64 points above their peers in the other states.
However, the test, called the PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers — also showed that local ninth-grade students in the Integrated I math class have some ground to make up. And that’s an example of the work undertaken last Friday during the local schools’ team meetings.
Breaking down the numbers, students’ scores in the Steamboat district were between 16 to 36 points above the Colorado average in English language arts and from 14 to 32 points above the state average in mathematics courses.
“In this global age, the Steamboat Springs School District continues to raise the educational bar that enables our students to compete on a state, national and international scale, while pursuing their dreams and opportunities,” Superintendent Brad Meeks said in a news release. “This year, our students and staff have once again shown us that if you work with a focus, you can do exceptional things.”
In addition, for the first time, in 2016, Steamboat Springs High School juniors were tested with a rigorous exam that is traditionally reserved for college-bound high school seniors who take the SAT in the fall semester before submitting applications to universities and colleges.
On the Colorado SAT test administered as part of the state assessment system, Steamboat students had an overall mean score of 1072, which was 57 points above the state average and 65 points above the national average. Eleventh-grade students also scored well on meeting college readiness benchmarks, scoring 14 points above the state average in reading and writing and 10 points above the state average in mathematics.
Steamboat 10th-graders tackled the PSAT and had an overall mean score of 1013, which was 65 points above the state average of 948 and 79 points above the national average of 934.
Lamansky agreed that use of the SAT test to gauge the progress of younger high school students could create some confusion among parents and the general public. It’s a natural inclination to compare the aggregate scores of Steamboat 11th-graders to the scores needed for individual students to gain admission to top universities. But they are two different animals, Lamansky said.
It’s difficult for the public to discern whether Steamboat’s aggregate scores are a result of local students in the bottom 50 percent out-performing their cohorts in other school districts, or students in the upper half pulling up the score of their classmates, or both of the above.
“People want numbers,” Lamansky said. “Parents, legislators, school board members want numbers to quantify the progress of students.”
In this case, he said, the Colorado Department of Education’s contract with the PARCC test had come up for renewal, combined with the trend of Colorado high school students persuading their parents to allow them to opt out of the test, the shift to the SAT was made state-wide. It’s a change that is growing around the country in the never-ending quest to set national standards for teacher achievement.
But the SAT is designed specifically to challenge college students, and that isn’t necessarily ideal for all motivated high school students.
“Not everybody goes to college, and there are a lot of valuable career paths that are not just about going to a four-year college,” Lamansky pointed out. “The military, a trade, driving heavy equipment, those people are making good money.”
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