Friday, October 8, 2010

JeffCo to Better Self-Assess

Music students from Parr Elementary School in Arvada perform before Thursday's Jefferson County Board of Education meeting. How well these students do on the state's assessment program exams could dictate the future of education reform in Colorado.

Golden, Colo., - The Jefferson County Board of Education took a hard look at their measuring stick Thursday evening. The board dedicated a special work session, as well as a sizable portion of their monthly public meeting in dialogue about the proper use of student achievement reflective data.

Results from the 2009-2010 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP), which tests students in the core areas of study (mathematics, science, reading and writing), were released in August. Now JeffCo is looking to use that information to better gauge their progress, as well as challenges.

With federal funding tied directly to student achievement as measured by state assessment programs, the stakes are high not only for Jefferson County, but for school districts nation-wide to find ways to improve their scores. Education reform garners a lot of attention in the fall, particularly during an election year. Exploring the root causes of American student achievement gaps can help push to the forefront real solutions.

"We need to be able to go the public and say, this is where we are, this is what we want to do, these are our challenges, this is what we need to do and how much we need to invest to do this," said board treasurer Paula Noonan.

The school board discussed ways in which they could combine strict number crunching with anecdotal evidence to give the full picture of the state of the district. "CSAP is one measure of (the district's primary achievement goal), but it certainly can’t be the only measure," said a representative of the district's monitoring committee. "We aren’t measuring students, we're measuring scores."

Superintendent Cindy Stevens suggested the board look to college remediation rates as another means of assessment. Remediation rates are determined by the amount of students from a given school who are forced to enroll in post-secondary courses focused on material taught in high schools. According to Stevens,
JeffCo saw a decrease in its remediation rate this year - one of the few districts in the state to see such progress.

"I believe we’re on the edge of some pretty great reform efforts in Colorado," said Stevens. "We need a systemic approach to measuring achievement. Then we'll be on the verge of pulling all the pieces together."

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