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The Colorado Student Assessment Program: An Overview

State standards and achievement tests are the twin pillars that drive educational reform efforts in Colorado.

By GreatSchools Staff

In 1993 the state of Colorado began developing content standards. The state determined what Colorado students needed to know in the areas of reading, writing, math, science and social science, and initiated the state assessment program to drive school improvement in the state.

What is the Colorado Student Assessment Program?

The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP), pronounced "see-sap," is a test given annually to all students in grades 3 through 10 that measures student achievement based on the state's content standards for each grade level.

What types of questions are on the CSAP tests?

The questions on the CSAP include both multiple choice and open-ended written responses. They are based on Colorado's content standards and grade-level expectations for math, reading and writing skills in grades 3 through 10 and science in grades 5, 8 and 10.

When are the tests given and how long do they take?

The CSAP is given in March or April and takes approximately 12 hours of classroom time each year for third through tenth graders. Each subject area of the test (reading, writing, math and science) takes three, one-hour testing sessions. Third grade reading and writing are the exception, which take two, one-hour testing sessions.

How are the tests scored?

Each test is given a proficiency level score: advanced, proficient, partially proficient or unsatisfactory. Colorado teachers from different parts of the state developed these performance levels. Multiple-choice questions are scored by machines; trained and certified scorers score the open-ended written responses.

Why do test scores matter?

Although the school with the highest test scores is not necessarily the best school for your child, test scores can help parents make decisions about where their child goes to school. Since Colorado teachers are required to review individual test scores with parents, test results can help parents assess what their child needs to learn and inspire them to become more involved in their child's education.

CSAP scores have the highest consequence in grade 3 reading. A below-level CSAP reading score can contribute to a student being held back in reading instruction or given an individual literacy plan. Each individual school and district decides how the CSAP results will affect a student's grade and promotion.

How are the test results reported and used?

The Colorado Department of Education uses test results to assess how well schools are teaching and to reform education in the state for all students. They present a yardstick to measure how well students of different backgrounds and at different schools are performing statewide against the Colorado Model Content Standards.

The Colorado Department of Education releases test results every summer. They are required to report CSAP results for the state and for all local school districts. The state uses the tests to look at each district, while districts look at the results of their schools and recommend measures, such as better teacher preparation, to improve student performance.

Individual student scores are released to the individual school and school district. Schools and teachers are required by law to share the full test results for each child with his or her parents.

How can I prepare my child for the CSAP?

Ask your child's teacher for information about activities that you can do at home to help your child learn the appropriate academic content.

Ask your child to read the directions and each test question carefully. Remind your child to tackle each question one at a time and to skip a question if he or she does not know the answer. She can come back to skipped questions if she has time at the end. Remind her to double-check her answers.

Plan ahead so your child is ready for the testing days with enough rest and breakfast to be able to concentrate, since hunger and fatigue can lower test performance.