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Rallies, games prepare students for academic Super Bowl

The headline could read Rallies, games prepare students to become obedient servants of the State.

Chris Casey

The slogan that came out of Greeley Central High School during last year's standardized tests -- "Show What You Know" -- has spread across Greeley-Evans as schools move into the heart of the testing season.

Pep talks, rallies, banners and games are among the strategies schools in Greeley-Evans School District 6 are using to build enthusiasm for the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. At Chappelow K-8 Arts and Literacy Magnet, for example, test-takers earn "CSAP bucks" they can use in a CSAP store and raffle.

The district likes the Central-generated campaign because it helps turn the view of CSAPs from a dreaded mandate to being an academic exercise to "show what you know," said Larry Kleiber, director of assessment.

"This is our academic Super Bowl," he said. "This is where we really need to shine."

For a second year, the district has set a common schedule for CSAP tests, meaning each grade level takes the tests on the same days at the same times. The idea is to get the schedule publicized ahead of time so parents can avoid setting doctor, dentist and other out-of-school appointments during those times.

The district continues to work to turn the tide in Greeley, which in past years has been a bastion of anti-CSAP sentiment in Colorado. Chronically low CSAP scores were the main reason District 6 landed on state accreditation watch in 2005.

When parents express concerns and want their child to skip the test, the district asks them to meet with their school's principal. They are told that CSAP is a statutory requirement and that every test skipped by a student counts against the school. Central got a "low" rating from the state after the 2005 tests; the school has since raised its ranking to "average."

"Really, kids were pretty angry last year about our 'low' (rating)," said Mary Lauer, Central principal. "They don't believe that about our school."

She said the key has been to inform students that the CSAP tests generate data about each school, which help administrators and teachers make better educational decisions in the building.

"The taxpayers expect schools to educate kids, and that's a realistic expectation," Lauer said. "I found that if you talk to teenage kids, they're pretty responsive."

Kleiber said the tests are used to help shape the direction of the entire district.

"The better and more valid our results are, the more usable the data is to help us grow," he said.

Kleiber asks each school to develop a plan to ensure the most students possible arrive on test day ready to take the exams.

"The approaches are as unique as our schools are," he said. "That's what's fun about reading through these" CSAP plans.

Chris Casey

— Chris Casey
Greeley Tribune


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