By Debbie Bruell
Sopris Sun Correspondent
The Colorado Department of Education released third grade reading scores on the TCAP, Colorado’s mandated standardized test.
In the Re-1 district, 360 third graders were tested and 74 percent scored proficient or advanced, which is 2 percentage points higher than the state average.
The one Re-1 elementary school to show a decline in third grade reading scores was Crystal River Elementary School. Superintendent Diana Sirko emphasized that these results are “just one data point with one group of students” and other preliminary data suggest significant gains among CRES students overall.
The declining score could be related to the fact that there is a significantly higher percentage of second language learners and students from low-income families in this year’s CRES third grade class compared to last year’s.
Although 88 percent of Anglo third graders at CRES this year scored proficient or above, Sirko was reluctant to discuss the disaggregated data, emphasizing instead the importance of academic achievement for all students regardless of their background.
“There is a distinct correlation between poverty rates and achievement,” said Chief Academic Officer Rob Stein, “but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Through his involvement in the Aspen Community Foundation’s Cradle to Career initiative, Stein has been examining high schools that are getting “game-changing scores” with low-income kids.
Stein told The Sopris Sun that these schools focus on the whole child; they emphasize character development; they have “a strong identity and a strong mission;” and they use student data very thoughtfully.
While these schools are not narrowly focused on increasing students’ test scores, high test scores is an “ancillary effect” of these other elements.
“We have to move from an either/or to a both/and kind of thinking,” Stein said. According to Stein, the community can have schools that are engaging and inspiring students (a desire which was voiced strongly at the district’s visioning meetings) while also providing academic rigor and ensuring that all students are gaining fundamental academic skills.
The district will conduct a comprehensive review of CRES this month, evaluating everything from the sense of community to the social/emotional support provided for each child.