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More Cesar Chavez test questions in ’09

The number of students at a high-performing charter school who received extra time on state reading and math tests continued to exceed statewide student averages in 2009, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

Cesar Chavez Academy in Pueblo, the original campus of a charter network with schools in Denver and Colorado Springs, is now undergoing a state testing audit at the urging of Pueblo City Schools.

Nearly a third – or 32 percent – of students in grades 3 through 8 at the school received special accommodations on state reading tests this spring, compared to 15 percent of third to eighth-graders statewide.

And more than one in four CCA students – or 28.5 percent – in grades 3 through 8 received special accommodations on the spring math tests, compared to 14.7 percent of their classmates statewide.

Lawrence Hernandez, the founder of the Cesar Chavez Schools Network, did not return requests for comment left by phone and email on Thursday.

On Friday, Hernandez said the Pueblo campus was simply following the Pueblo school district’s announced goal of creating an individualized learning plan for every student to ensure they succeed.

He pointed out the campus’ sister high school, Dolores Huerta, had fewer accommodations because his staff strives to support younger students in their learning goals early to build their skills and then gradually ease their need for that extra support.

Colorado Department of Education officials supplied the testing accommodations data on CCA in response to an open records request by Education News Colorado.

Other CCA campuses – including the Pueblo high school, Dolores Huerta, and the Colorado Springs campus – have accommodation levels more closely aligned to state averages.

The most common accommodation received by CCA’s Pueblo students this spring was extra time to complete their exams, the state data shows.

For example, 22.5 percent of CCA students in grades 3 through 8 received extra time on their reading tests, compared to a statewide average of 7.4 percent of test-takers in those grades.

State officials have declined to discuss the testing audit, which is being conducted by Caveon, a Utah-based testing security firm, at a cost not to exceed $25,000.

Earlier this month, Hernandez appeared to be balking at requests for data for the audit, telling state Education Commissioner Dwight Jones in an email that it was “completely unreasonable” to require he produce employee lists for 2006 through 2008.

Thursday, CDE spokesman Mark Stevens said Caveon is in charge of gathering the information needed for the audit.

“We expect all the information we need as part of that will be supplied,” he said.

In July, Ed News reported more than half the students at CCA’s Pueblo campus received extra time or other accommodations when they took state reading and math tests in 2007 and 2008.

The 2009 numbers reflect a decline in students receiving the accommodations from the two prior years. Hernandez last month blamed Pueblo testing director Robert Vise for the higher accommodation levels, saying Vice incorrectly told the CCA testing director how to code the student exams.

And Hernandez predicted the 2009 accommodation numbers would be lower – as they are.

In addition to the testing audit, state officials are planning a financial audit of the Cesar Chavez Network.

A request for bids for the work was issued by the CDE this week, including a scope of work that calls for a review of financial activities by “Dr. Lawrence P. Hernandez and relatives, Annette Hernandez and relatives, and Jason T. Guerrero and relatives.”

Lawrence Hernandez, the CEO and founder, is married to Annette Hernandez, who co-founded the school and serves as its chief operating officer. Guerrero is the school’s chief finance officer.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at nmitchell@pebc.org or 303-478-4573.
To read Ed News’ prior coverage of the testing issue, click on “Testing questions surface at Chavez.”

To read a 2005 report on testing questions, click on Pueblo City Schools’ investigation of Chavez.
2009 Colorado Student Assessment Program – Reading

Cesar Chavez Academy – Pueblo, Grades 3 – 8
32 percent of students received accommodations:
22.5 percent received extra time
7.3 percent had a teacher read directions to them
2.1 percent had a scribe write down their answers

Statewide comparison, Grades 3 – 8, Reading
15 percent of students received accommodations, including:
7.4 percent received extra time
6.2 percent had a teacher read directions to them
1.2 percent had a scribe write down their answers

2009 Colorado Student Assessment Program – Math

Cesar Chavez Academy – Pueblo, Grades 3 – 8
28.5 percent of students received accommodations:
22.3 percent received extra time
2.8 percent had the tests read aloud to them
1.6 percent had a scribe write down their answers
1.3 percent had a teacher read directions to them
.4 percent used manipulatives or tools during the test

Statewide comparison, Grades 3 – 8
14.7 percent of students received accommodations, including:
6.8 percent had the tests read aloud to them
4 percent received extra time
2.2 percent had a teacher read directions to them
.8 percent had a scribe write down their answers
.07 percent used manipulatives or tools during the test

Source: Colorado Department of Education

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