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CSAP tests to be discontinued in 2012

The state of Colorado’s Department of Education will be adopting new assessment standards for standardized testing, making CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) obsolete within the next two years.

As such, CSAP testing will likewise end in the Archuleta School District 50 Joint by spring 2012 when the new test has been introduced.

According to District Superintendent Mark DeVoti, the revised standards testing would more closely reflect student mastery of subjects as opposed (as many have complained, regarding CSAP methods) test-taking ability.

“It will be very similar to some of the cutting edge assessments that are out there,” DeVoti added, “and we need that.”

The new test is modeled after tests already being used in Virginia and Massachusetts, as well as Finland and Singapore.

According to officials at the CDE, the test will examine several “big ideas” across several subjects, with an emphasis on checking to see if students comprehend those ideas. On top of that, the test will ask students to reason and problem solve as an indication of mastery in those subject areas.

That format contrasts with current CSAP structure, which uses multiple choice questions for about 15-30 big ideas in 13 “content areas” such as geography, civics, math, economics, reading, writing, health and science.

The new test will also focus on 13 content areas, which are English language development, writing and communication, writing, history, math, music, science, visual art and world languages, economics, geography, health and physical education, civics, theater and dance.

Furthermore, instead of just selecting from a list of multiple choices (often involving mere guesswork), as the CSAP currently demands, the new standards-based testing would, among other things, require students to apply questions to real-world scenarios.

After two years of cooperative work between parents and teachers working with school and community leaders, the standards were developed and delivered to the CDE.

Locally, former district assistant superintendent Bill Esterbrook, junior high language arts teacher Pam Monteferrante and high school math teacher Alicia O’Brien worked on the development of the new test.

According to DeVoti, another advantage to the new test is that the turnaround for test results will be 24 hours — as opposed to four months, which had been the case with CSAP results. What that will do, DeVoti said, is allow teachers to get an instant picture of each students performance and progress in the content areas and that, “Instead of using an autopsy, we’ve turned it into a physical.”

The turnaround time for CSAP scores has not been the only criticism leveled at the CSAP, however. Many parents and teachers have complained that curriculum has been directed to maximize CSAP scores; since provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act use CSAP scores as a determination for funding, school districts have a compelling reason to try and boost test scores. In light of the undue emphasis placed on CSAP scores, another criticism has been that undue instructional time has been spent on preparation for the CSAP — classroom time that would have otherwise been devoted to actual learning.

Presumably, the new test will not require preparation time, as it emphasizes what students have actually learned about various subjects, as opposed to just knowing how to answer a predetermined set of questions.

Regarding the new standardized test, DeVoti said, “This is exciting, to be able to see what the students actually know.

“This is really about testing students for the skills they need to succeed in the twenty-first century.”

jim@pagosasun.com