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Two opposing Views of CSAP

Colorado Department of Education

Commissioner Robert Hammond Reaffirms Importance Of CSAP In Student Learning

As schools across Colorado begin administering the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) this week, Commissioner Robert Hammond today encouraged students to do their best on the statewide exams.

“Colorado students have shown tremendous commitment to CSAP for years and we encourage all students to show what they know on this important assessment,” said Commissioner Hammond. “CSAP generates gold nuggets of information for parents, teachers, schools and students to clearly understand their progress toward being prepared for higher education or a career. CSAP paints a clear picture of what students have learned and provides valuable insight into academic areas that need additional attention.”

CSAP is administered in all public schools in grades three through 10 in reading, writing and mathematics and in grades five, eight and 10 in science.

“When we all participate in this effort, we are growing our own ability to learn what is working for our young people and helping policymakers get a clearer picture of how well our schools and districts are  educating students across the state,” noted Commissioner Hammond.

Facts about CSAP:

For more information, contact Mark Stevens, 303-866-3898, or Megan McDermott, 303-866-2334, in the CDE Office of Communications.


An opposing view from

The Coalition for Better Education


Colorado Student Assessment Program, CSAP

Fact Sheet

1997 – The Colorado Student Assessment Program, CSAP, first administered to fourth graders throughout Colorado.

2000 – Senate Bill 191 instituted testing in grades 3-10. CSAP would be the measurement tool used as the indicator of student achievement and school quality

2002 – No Child Left Behind, federally mandated high-stakes testing. Schools not making 100% proficiency by 2014 are deemed to be failing.

Although CSAP is the measurement tool for school accountability, the tool has never been independently audited or evaluated for validity and reliability.

CSAP open-ended test items are judged by temporary workers contracted through temp. agencies such as KellyServices. Temp workers often are workers unable to secure permanent employment. No credentials are required except a bachelor’s degree of some kind, not necessarily in a related field. These temporary employees receive little training before going on to grade hundreds of responses during a single shift.

CSAP scores based on the subjective judgments of these graders determine of student achievement, school quality, and now under the passage of SB191, teacher compensation. Many schools have been shut down on the basis of these scores.

Highest correlation to performance on these standardized measurement tools is income. Lisa Piscopo in her Ph.D. thesis developed an equation to predict CSAP scores. Using the indicator of “number of children on free and reduced lunch”, she predicted CSAP scores in 240 DPS elementary, middle and high schools with 81% accuracy.[i] [1]

Colorado has spent on average $50 million annually for the distribution, administration, scoring, and reporting from these measurement tools.

CSAP has not improved education in Colorado. The achievement gap has not been narrowed. Today’s high-school graduates were the first group of third graders who begin the era of high-stakes testing in 2001. Half will have to take college remediation. High-school drop-out rates have been increasing since the passage of NCLB.[ii] [2]

The number of children under the age of 18 who live below the poverty line in the United States increased by 9% between 2000 and 2006. In Colorado, the number of children living in poverty grew by 72%, the highest rate increase in the nation.[iii] [3] Almost all of these children can be expected to perform below the pre-determined criteria, based on Dr Piscopo’s findings.

[i] Lisa Piscopo, Doctoral thesis: Explaining Variability in the CSAP Scores: A Geographic Perspective, University of Denver 2005.

[ii] Colorado Department of Education, http://www.angelaengel.com/images/stories/docs/caa/03-caa-education.pdf [4]

[iii] Denver Post, December 31, 2009: http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2009/12/31/childhood-poverty-in-colorado/602/ [5]


Additional reading:

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools; [6]

Joanne Barkan [7], Dissent Magazine, Winter 2011



Colorado Parents Refusing Student Participation in CSAP

March 3, 2011, Colo.


COLORADO – More parents questioning CSAP and opting out of state test

Sylvia Martinez of Weld County learned that her son had been placed in remedial math despite the fact that he had always received high grades and excelled in the subject. When she called for a school meeting, the counselor explained he’d been placed in the remedial course because of his CSAP scores. That was the last year either of her two children took the state test, CSAP. “I soon learned that the test is not a diagnostic assessment. It is graded by temporary workers with no classroom experience. “I trust my children’s teachers – those evaluations are based on multiple assessments over the course of a semester or a year.”

Some schools have resorted to coercion to get students to comply on state tests. In addition to parties and prizes many schools including Doherty High School in D11 and Rocky Mountain Classical Academy in D49 are giving away free elective credit to those who score proficiently on the CSAP exam. Aubrey Bishop, an 8th grader was placed with 11th grade students and publicly criticized as a “slacker” when she declined to take the test. Aubrey has a 504 plan under the American with Disabilities Act. Punishments and bribes associated with the high-stakes of CSAP unfairly penalize children with disabilities, second-language learners, and children from poor families. Research has proven that income has the highest correlation to test scores.

Kelley Coffman-Lee, mother of 3, Littleton Academy (LPS), is in her 4th year of opting out (3rd and 7th graders). She is handing out CSAP flyers directly to parents at school to inform them of the limitations of the measurement tool and their rights to refuse the test.”Despite the reality that accurate information concerning CSAP testing is available, too many parents continue to garner biased and inaccurate information. Before we demand integrity in our teachers and our tests, we must first demand it of ourselves.  Parents are kids’ first line of defense, and it is our job to advocate for quality education and meaningful assessment.”

“When you have a flawed measurement tool, you can bet the decisions being made from the results of that tool will be flawed too,” stated Angela Engel, author of the book Seeds of Tomorrow; Solutions for Improving our Children’s Education. “When the absurdity of high-stakes testing is finally challenged, I want my daughters to be able to say, I helped lead the way back to democracy.”


Sample Test Question

You can see that a student can get the answer correct and still be deducted a point. Egrets are birds very few children in Colorado have seen. An understanding of context is always important when assessing children. More importantly, poetry is interpretive. There are no right answers. Education experts agree that when the variables are predetermined critical thinking is diminished. Multiple choice tests and questions such as these are the antithesis of intellectual thought which explains why more students need remediation when they enter college. The model of improving education through measurement translates to the pedagogy of non-thinking. Real learning begins with inquiry and that requires that students not only figure out the right answer but also the right questions too.