Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2009-2010 Colorado used the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) to test students in reading, writing and mathematics in grades 3 through 10, and in science in grades 5, 8 and 10. The CSAP is a standards-based test, which means it measures specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Colorado. Colorado also requires that all grade 11 students take the American College Test (ACT).

Although test results can be an indicator of what’s happening in the classroom, they don’t tell you everything about the quality of a school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school quality and visit in person before making any final determination.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles for the CSAP is for the 2009-2010 school year.

Tests in Colorado

The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP, pronounced “SEE-sap”) is used to test students in reading, writing and math in grades 3 through 10, and in science in grades 5, 8 and 10. The CSAP is a standards-based assessment that tests specific skills defined by the state. Additionally, the Colorado Student Assessment Program-Alternate (CSAP-A) is given to a small group of students with significant cognitive difficulties who are unable to take the CSAP.

Colorado also requires that all grade 11 students take the American College Test (ACT), a college entrance exam, though no particular passing score has been established.

When is the CSAP given and how long does it 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) is given over three, one-hour testing sessions. Third-grade reading and writing are exceptions, given in two, one-hour testing sessions.

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.

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.

The more informed you are as parent about the CSAP and standardized tests, the better able you will be to help your children have confidence and understand how the testing fits into their learning.

Are some students given special consideration?

It is up to each individual school district to determine when it is not appropriate to administer the CSAP to special needs students. In the spring of 2000, the Colorado Department of Education created an alternate assessment program called CSAP-A for special needs students who are unable to participate in the CSAP because of the severity of their disability.

Is the CSAP available in Spanish?

The CSAP tests are available in Spanish for the grades 3 and 4 reading and writing tests only. The state of Colorado exempts students from taking the CSAP until they have studied English for three years.

What is an accommodation?

Accommodations can be made for students who are not proficient in English, for example, by providing them with translators for the math section of the CSAP. In addition, teachers can read math problems to students who are also native speakers of English. This accommodation is allowed for math because the student is not being tested on his or her reading ability. The accommodation is not allowed for the reading section of the test.

How are the tests scored?

CSAP results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four performance levels: advanced, proficient, partially proficient or unsatisfactory. The goal is for all students to perform at or above the proficient level.

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.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject on the CSAP, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays CSAP subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the Colorado Department of Education; if there are fewer than 16 students in a particular group, the state doesn’t report data for that group.

Does Colorado have a high school exit exam?

No, Colorado does not currently have a high school exit exam but does require that all grade 11 students take the ACT Assessment, a national examination. However, no particular score is needed for graduation.

Why do the test results matter?

Although the school with the highest test results is not necessarily the best school for your child, test results can help parents make decisions about where their child goes to school. Since Colorado teachers are required to review individual test results 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.

Colorado test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards, and some districts may use test results as a means of determining promotion from one grade to the next. CSAP scores have the highest consequences in grade 3. A below-level CSAP reading score in grade 3 can contribute to a student either being held back in reading instruction or given an individualized literacy plan.

ACT results are reported on each student’s transcript. ACT results can also be reported to colleges when applying for admission or scholarships.

Test results are important to schools because Colorado rates schools on the basis of CSAP and ACT results. These ratings can have substantial consequences. While excellent schools are eligible to receive additional funds, chronically under-performing schools are given three years to improve, during which time they receive additional state resources to encourage improvement. If they continue to perform inadequately, they may be converted to charter schools.

It is important to be aware of both your child’s score on the assessments and the overall scores for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child’s learning at home. If the school’s overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help.

What are my options if my child is in a school with a low rating and low test results?

Under Colorado’s Open Enrollment Plan, Colorado students have the option to enroll in a different school. Open enrollment policies may vary according to the district your school is in. Generally, students can enroll in another school in the district, as long as there is space available. Students also have the option to enroll in magnet or charter schools.

What happens to schools with low ratings and test results?

Beginning in 2001-2002, Colorado began rating schools on the basis of test results, making schools rated “excellent” eligible for additional funds and monitoring the progress of under-performing schools. In addition, in July 2004, an education reform plan – Colorado Senate Bill 186 – was signed into law requiring the state of Colorado to assign a letter grade to every school based on students’ performance on the CSAP. Low-performing schools can obtain assistance from the Colorado Department of Education in the development of a School Improvement Plan. After three years, consistently low-performing schools will be turned into charter schools.

According to the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools must demonstrate “adequate yearly progress” towards meeting state standards for all students. Schools that consistently fail to comply risk losing federal Title I funding. Schools that are rated at the unsatisfactory level on the CSAP for three years in a row will have to submit to intervention by the state. Children in failing or unsatisfactory schools have the right to transfer to a better-performing school in the district, and obtain tutoring and other supplemental services.

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