By Sandy Barnes
As he reviewed results of the School Accountability Report recently released by the state, Principal Leonard Sherman examined reasons for the low academic growth rating for Berthoud High School.
“It seems to me, we’ve got good kids and teachers — and we should have good growth,” he said.
Among factors in the low rating could be a lack of motivation on the part of older students regarding CSAP tests on which the report primarily is based, Sherman noted. There is no consequence to students for not doing well on the state required tests, and consequently some may not take them seriously, he added.
He also pointed out that elementary level students have the same teacher all day and are focused on the core areas of reading, writing and math, the same areas on which they are tested.
By the time students reach high school, the time spent teaching subject related to CSAP becomes less and less. The high academic growth ratings of elementary schools in Berthoud and the decline to a typical growth rating at the middle school level in the report possibly reflects the lack of correlation between what is being taught in classrooms and material on CSAP, Sherman remarked.
Another factor to be considered is that students who don’t want to take the tests can be exempted from them with permission from their parents, Sherman added. However, students who do opt out are given zeros which are factored into the overall scores for a school.
The accountability report contains both good and bad news, the principal noted. Berthoud High had a high rating for overall academic performance and is the top performing school in the district.
Of the four high schools in the Thompson School District, BHS ninth and 10th grade students were in the top percentages of proficiency in the areas of reading, writing, math and science. Nearly 80 percent of these students attained proficiency in reading, as compared with the state average of 66 percent.
Berthoud high students also ranked significantly higher in proficiency compared with state averages in the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores.
Writing test scores reflected somewhat lower performance at the high school, with 62 percent of ninth graders and 51 percent of 10th graders attaining proficiency. However, the scores were well above state averages, which were 49 and 47 percent at these grade levels.
Berthoud students also topped the state average of 47 percent proficiency in science with a ranking of 59 percent.
While higher than the state average of 38 and 30 percent, tests revealed that 51 percent of ninth graders and 41 percent of tenth graders were proficient in math.
Looking at the relatively low math scores, Sherman said that recent changes to the high school graduation requirements would eventually help students become more proficient in this area. While it will take time to accomplish, moving Algebra I to the eighth grade is a good idea, he added.
The Thompson School District Board of Education recently approved Algebra I classes at the eighth grade level in order to add an advanced math course for eleventh grade students.
The advanced math is not appropriate for all students, Sherman remarked. A personal finance class would make a lot more sense for students not planning to attend college, he said.
“I believe that every kid ought to have a good personal finance class,” he added.