CSAP snafu slams school’s scores

       Midland Elementary Principal Barbara Bishop would like a “time-out” on last year's Colorado Student Achievement Program (CSAP).
       The school's scores were down in some cases, but only because of a bizarre situation in which eight students who had never attended Midland were penalized for not taking the test - with the penalty applied to Midland because they lived in the school's attendance area.
       “There was nothing we could do about this,” Bishop said in an interview this week. “It was like getting accused when you were nowhere near the scene of the crime.”
       Because Midland is a smaller elementary (about 170 students last year), Bishop said the impact was huge. For the fifth grade alone, “it took us down 20 percent,” she said. “Our scores are totally inaccurate.”
       The students were all enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Bristol Elementary. Bishop does not blame the school or the students. She said they wanted to take the CSAPs last spring - and could have done so using the Spanish-language version that's available - but state officials at the time told the students not to test and, significantly, that their no-tests would not be counted.
       However, for reasons she has yet to ascertain, the state reversed its position this summer. The penalty in such cases is worse than a student taking the test and doing poorly, according to David Thomas, director of assessments for District 11. “If a student's score is unsatisfactory, it counts as plus one half,” he said. “If a test is not counted for some reason, then it's minus one half.”
       The reason for this harsh stance is to prevent situations where schools might theoretically tell students who would score poorly, “Why not stay home tomorrow?” he pointed out.
       Thomas, who is new to the district this year, did not know the state's rationale on the Midland issue. However, he noted, from past experience with CSAPs in Denver-area school systems, there can be situations where test scores get hurt despite rules that are intended to keep testing fair.
       This is no comfort to Bishop, whose school is entering its fourth year with an all-school International Baccalaureate program - which is expected to produce better students. “We were very disheartened to see this happen,” she said. “It affects what the public thinks.”
       Looking to the future, Bishop has been able to convince the district - as a result of the incident - to let Midland have a half-time ESL teacher this year. The teacher will handle ESL students from Midland, as well as Howbert, Hunt, Whittier and Buena Vista elementaries, according to ESL teacher Jennie Steele.
       But the main thing for Bishop is that there won't be a repeat of last year's problem… because the ESL students from her attendance area will get to take their CSAPs, and they'll take them at Midland.
       “If we're going to be accountable, OK, but put them right here on my campus,” Bishop said. “Then there won't be any hard feelings.”

Westside Pioneer article