Statistical Data and Standardized Test Scores
§ First of all I would like to say that I am NOT a fan of the Colorado standardized tests, a sentiment shared by most educators I know. As one teacher put it, "CMAS is a joke!"
§ Unfortunately, Colorado law, through the Department of Education, mandates that schools give the CMAS, a Colorado developed test -not a nationally normed test like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. They then use the results to evaluate how well the schools are doing - it is sort of a report card for schools. The data is often misleading because of the parameters of the test itself. Parents can opt their students out of the test, the test has no bearing on the students' grades or placement in school, and some students see no relevance to the test so they do not take it seriously and under-perform.
§ However, you can use the results to ask questions and make comparisons to search for solutions.
o Are we impacted by the loss of high-achieving students to alternative school choices, thus lowering the testing average?
o If you consider the longitudinal data, is there one class that seems to have more difficulty than others – if so, why? Is there something that happened with this class early on that has impacted their learning each year?
o Is there one particular grade that always seems to have lower scores – if so, why? Is it the curriculum, the teaching strategies, the testing procedures at that grade, or is it the age/attitude of the students taking the test?
o How does the culture of our community impact our schools?
o What are other similar districts doing well that we might duplicate?
§ There are much better instruments to use to evaluate individual students and learn where their strengths and weaknesses are in order to address any learning deficits they may have and find solutions to help them. Two of them come to mind:
o DIBELS - a reading assessment that is given to individual students by a teacher. It assesses phoneme fluency, correct letter sounds, fluency, sight word fluency, etc. Cañon City Schools currently use DIBELS reading assessments,
o Differential aptitude tests that give information about a student's ability to learn subjects taught in school. Some the things measured are: verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, abstract reasoning, perceptual speed and accuracy, mechanical reasoning, spatial relations, and language usage. The SAT is a differential aptitude test that is designed to predict how successful a student might be in college.