Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Columbine audit calls for change

Priscilla Guttierez

Columbine Situation Is a Tragedy

Can someone please explain to me and to the
community of Boulder what happened to the
concept of a Body of Evidence when determining
if a student is making progress with their
literacy development? The Colorado Basic
Literacy Act mandated that several measures be
used when assessing a child’s skills in
literacy. No one single measure could be
considered a valid indicator of said
development. When I worked as a literacy coach
for Boulder Valley Schools, the district had
embraced this concept and became a leader in
looking beyond CSAP scores to determine

At Columbine, under Lynn Widger’s guidance, the
school had a long collaboration with the Public
Education and Business Coalition (PEBC) that
became a model for other programs. This
collaboration enabled students, including
English Language Learners, to actively
comprehend text at increasingly deeper levels;
to think critically about their learning; and
to understand how what they were learning
related to their own lives . In fact, Anne
Goudvis’ well-respected book, Strategies That
Work, was based on her work with the Columbine

Assessment should always be in the service of
learning and students should be at the heart of
every educational decision that is made.
Learning should never become the servant of
testing. Asking educators to analyze CSAP data
to enhance performance in short means asking
them to analyze how to enhance test scores, not
how to enhance learning. A body of evidence
means collecting a variety of data from
authentic literacy contexts over time.
Standardized tests such as CSAP cannot
accurately measure learning across all of the
cognitive domains, especially a student’s
reasoning skills and their ability to
demonstrate they know what to do with the
information and skills they’ve learned.

It would seem that the concept of a Body of
Evidence, thanks to No Child Left Behind, has
fallen completely by the wayside in Boulder
Valley Schools. What a tragedy, not just for
the demoralized staff at Columbine, but for the
whole community.

Note that the State seems to
equate walkie-talkies with learning

State says teachers aren’t using CSAPs to
improve performance

By Vanessa Miller

Many teachers at Columbine Elementary consider
Colorado’s standardized tests "biased" and
aren’t using them adequately to improve student
performance, according to a state audit made
public Tuesday.

A "school support team" report from the state
Department of Education analyzed nine areas of
the Boulder school’s operations including
curriculum, instruction, school culture,
leadership, organizational structure and

The team rated Columbine on a scale of one to
four — one being the worst. The school received
mostly “two” ratings, which indicate "limited
development or partial implementation."

The school had five "one" ratings — indicating
struggles in areas such as sustaining a shared
vision, designing assessment tasks and using an
evaluation process to improve staff

The state evaluation was prompted by
Columbine’s failure for two years to make
adequate progress on state standardized tests.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the
audit is one of many courses of corrective
action a district can take for schools that
have fallen behind.

Other options to improve a school’s performance
include revamping curriculum, making program
changes, offering professional development or
replacing personnel.

State education officials met with the
Columbine staff Tuesday to report the audit
findings and make recommendations for
improvements. Although the audit was made
public Tuesday, Boulder Valley Superintendent
Chris King had a chance to review it before the
holidays and use it, in part, to revamp the
planning process for the school.

"That was not the only document he looked at,
but it was a piece of what he looked at," said
Boulder Valley spokesman Briggs Gamblin. "It
was an important piece."

As part of King’s revised plan for Columbine,
he hired a new principal for the next school
year and told the staff members they’ll have to
reapply for their jobs. That was met with
outrage from teachers and parents, and King has
since said he’ll consider other options.

King will meet with the Columbine staff and a
state facilitator Wednesday to discuss methods
for improving the school.

Recommendations made in the audit include
creating a standards-based focus in all
classrooms and using assessments to improve

"Many staff expressed the belief that most data
came from tests that are culturally and
linguistically biased and that they prefer to
use informal observation to determine student
needs and guide instruction," according to the
state report.

The analysis also reported: "Some parents and
students feel that some of the teachers do not
believe that all students can achieve at high
levels. ... It was observed and reported that
there are some populations of students held to
higher standards than others."

Judy Skupa, assistant superintendent of
curriculum and instruction, said Boulder’s
University Hill and Lafayette’s Pioneer
Elementary also have gone through an audit
process and have seen their Colorado Student
Assessment Program test scores improve. She
said it’s difficult to compare school audits
because each focuses on different areas.

"In each one, they identified what they felt
would make it a stronger school," she said.

Columbine’s audit also mentioned teacher
evaluations as an area for improvement.

"Some staff have not been formally evaluated in
several years," according to the audit.
"Teachers do not express a concern about not
being evaluated, and many only remembered
vaguely when they were last evaluated."

The report highlighted some things the school
does well. Teachers “care deeply” about
students; they honor diverse cultures; the
staff and principal respect one another;
teachers are trained well in second-language
instruction; and class sizes are small.

Columbine recommendations

Develop into a stronger learning community that
effectively uses assessments and student
achievement data to improve instruction in all
academic areas.

Create a standards-based focus in all

Build a climate of openness and teamwork with
the school district and the public. Collaborate
with them to increase student proficiency on
Colorado standards as tested by CSAP and other

Consider having teachers annually develop
professional growth goals that are aligned with
the school’s program improvement efforts.

Develop a plan to provide all classified staff
with professional development.

Ensure that all doors in the school are locked
during the day (except the front door) and that
doors are locked in a timely manner after

Ensure that teachers who are on duty outside
have walkie-talkies at all times.

Source: The Colorado Department of Education’s
"school support team" report

— Vanessa Miller, with comment by Priscilla Guttierez
Daily Camera


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.