Students up individual CSAP scores at most Westside schools

       Four Westside schools showed “significant improvement” in the Academic Growth column of the recently released Student Accountability Reports (SARs).
       Culled from Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test data, the SAR ratings are a reflection of how the same students fared from one year to the next on the CSAPs. The four schools - Howbert, Ivywild, Pike and Washington elementaries - earned their Academic Growth gains by having at least 15 percent of their students do better in last spring's CSAPs than they had done in 2004 .
       In District 11 as a whole, only seven other schools managed that feat. A fifth Westside school - the former Ivywild middle school - also showed “significant improvement,” but Ivywild has elementary grades only this year.
       The SAR possibilities in the Academic Growth column range from significant improvement to improvement to stable to decline to sigificant decline. The SARs also have a column for Academic Performance. The possibilities are low, average, high and excellent.
       Before 2005, the only West-side schools with high performance ratings were Coronado High, Holmes Middle School and Howbert. This year, they have been joined by Jackson and Buena Vista elementaries.
       Holmes, Jackson and Buena Vista also showed improvement this year, although less than 15 percent.
       The CSAPs have become a major force in Colorado public schools, with the whip of eventual closure hanging over schools that consistently under-achieve.
       Howbert's strong upswing this year puts it close to the excellent level, Principal Rick Gallegos said. He credited the stability of the neighborhood (Pleasant Valley), which eases Howbert educators' efforts to work with students. “It boils down to individual work, looking in depth at each student's gaps,” Gallegos said. “We have a strong understanding of where they're at and where we can help.”
       As examples, he said he has had some students who in one year improved their individual CSAP scores two levels - from “unsatisfactory” to “proficient” (“partly proficient” is the level in between). “Advanced” is the highest level an individual student can score on the CSAPs.
       At Pike, Principal Manuel Ramsey said he believed his school's gains resulted from “more focused instruction and more time teaching essential skills students are supposed to learn.” Although Pike is not a “magnet” school advertising a particular educational strategy, he said the basic style is the approach attributed to educator Madeline Hunter: “We try to make sure when we start the lesson that the kids know exactly what they're supposed to be learning and we present it in a way that they can see it, hear it and do it; and, at the end of the lesson, we check to be sure they got it,” he explained.
       Of the 58 students who qualified for the SAR (by being at Pike for both the 2004 and 2005 CSAPS), Ramsey reported that 6 showed declines, 20 were stable and 32 improved. “If we get significant improvement again next year, we score well enough to get to high,” he enthused.
       For Ivywild, the upturn is welcome news for a school that has been suggested for closure each of the past two years. Principal Libby Bailey, who was hired in fall 2004, was able to convince the Board of Education last spring to at least show what kinds of CSAP scores could be produced under her watch. A school with low-income levels and high turnover, it has perennially been among the lowest scoring schools in the district. This can be seen in that, even with significant improvement, its academic performance rating is still in the “low” category.
       Washington's principal during last spring's CSAPs was Pete Cicatelli, who retired after the year. In an interview last summer, he talked about efforts by his staff, using the school's Core Knowledge magnet program, to improve academic performance among low-income students, many of whom had never opened a book before coming to Washington. Terry Martinez, also a supporter of Core Knowledge, is the current Washington principal.
       Holmes stayed at the high Academic Perfor-mance level, where it has been since 2003, but improved within that range. Jackson and Buena Vista, whose respective performances continue to be rated average, both went up slightly: Their Academic Growth ratings were stable, but spiked upwards just enough to move them into the high range.
       Westside schools holding steady in the SARs were Midland, Whittier and West (each of which was rated at stable and average). Coronado High stayed at a high performance level of performance, albeit with a decline in the growth column. Bristol Elementary dropped from average to low in performance, showing a significant decline.

Westside Pioneer article