Midland, West schools improve to ‘high’ in ‘07 CSAP testing results
Holmes, Howbert both up their ‘excellent’ scores

       Highlighting several bright showings by Westside schools in the 2007 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing last spring, Midland Elementary and West Middle School moved up from “average” to “high” in the Academic Performance area, and Holmes Middle School - improving on the “excellent” status it first attained in '06 - posted the best cumulative scores of any public middle school in the region.
       The rankings and levels of improvement appear in the recently released Colorado School Accountability Reports (SARs), based on the '07 CSAP data.
       “We're very happy about it. We're thrilled,” said Midland Principal Barbara Bishop, noting that this is the first time the school has made it to “high” (it actually scored “low” in 2001, the first year of CSAP testing, and “average” ever since). “It's been a long time coming. We've had our ups and downs. I hope we're on the right track, that this will be sustainable and can continue.”
       West also is a “high” first-timer, having been average till '07. The principal last year was Joe Torrez, who left last summer to become an elementary school principal in District 12. Clay Gómez, who replaced Torrez, termed the upgrade “very significant” and expressed the hope of even rising to “excellent” one day. Anticipating that some say the difference has been West's growing gifted-and-talented program (SAIL, whose students now comprise nearly one-third of the 355 enrolled at the school), Gómez said, “That helps, but it's not the whole story, because to make this kind of progress you need people achieving across the board.”
       The Holmes scores, because they were among the top 8 percent in Colorado (28th out of 481 middle schools, including charters), were stellar enough to qualify it for a second straight year as a John J. Irwin School of Excellence. First-year Principal Rob Utter, who for several years was assistant principal to Brenda LeBrasse - now the head of the district's RTI program - lauded the school's “dedicated” and “hard-working” staff, but noted that in the end it was “the kids working and applying themselves… they're the ones.”
       The SARs contain two basic types of benchmarks in grades 3 to 10 for each public school in the state: Academic Performance rankings based on all its students who took the CSAPs and Academic Growth based on comparing students' scores with the previous year. The more students who score proficient or advanced (reflecting a solid grasp of math, reading and writing for their grade level), the better a school does. Schools rank lower if they have more students who score partly proficient or unsatisfactory. A school's performance ranking possibilities are low, average, high and excellent. The growth possibilities are significant improvement, improvement, stable, decline and sigificant decline.
       Another Westside gainer was Howbert Elementary, which, like Holmes, had first risen to “excellent” in '06. Also like Holmes, the Pleasant Valley school improved within that category in '07. Howbert's proficient/advanced results were 83 percent in reading (compared with 80 percent in '06), 85 percent in writing (68 percent in '06), and 86 percent in math (83 percent in '06).
       Also, Ivywild Elementary lifted itself for the first time from the SARS status of low to average with a “significant improvement” - its second in three years under Principal Libby Bailey.
       One fact about Ivywild will surprise people who expect poor scores from low-income students: About 90 percent of Ivywild's 155 students qualify for free or reduced lunches based on family income.
       She's using no particular type of academic method, Bailey said. “It's just consistency and sticking with what's working - making sure we're working with every kiddo where they're at.”
       Other notable testing performances were turned in by Jackson, which improved within the “high” performance status it has had for the past three years; and Bristol, which also was credited with improvement though staying in the “average” category.
       Even the Westside schools that did not show gains at least avoided significant declines. These were: Buena Vista (average/decline), Pike (average/stable), Washington (average/decline), and Whittier (average/stable).
       In setting the academic pace for the Westside, Holmes students had 87 percent proficient/advanced in reading (compared with 85 percent in '06), 79 percent in writing (also 79 percent in '06) and 77 percent in math (74 percent in '06).
       In 2006, the school was first in the state on CSAP scores for schools with 24 and 34 percent Title 1 (lower-income) students. Utter said he did not have this year's results yet in that regard, but expects they should show Holmes at or near the top again. In the region, only three middle schools scored higher, and each is a charter academy that gets to select its enrollment, Utter pointed out.
       At West, the best CSAP performers were the school's sixth-graders, Gómez said. One of the tools that helped was a computer opportunity called “Study Island,” which has been expanded to all grade levels this year. He also credited the district-supported Response to Intervention (RTI) program for helping focus on individual students' academic needs.
       One of the big differences at Midland, according to Bishop, was a careful collection of data charting each student's performance, with the help of RTI. “So we knew what we needed to target,” she said. “It wasn't a guessing game.” A particular focus was math, where an effective tool was a new lab using the SuccessMaker program, she said.
       The SARS report shows Midland's proficient/ advanced for '07 as 73 percent in reading, 72 percent in writing and 89 percent in math. This compares with the school's '06 test scores of 67 percent in reading, 51 percent in writing and 63 percent in math.

Westside Pioneer article