Edwards students top the testing world | VailDaily.com

Edwards students top the testing world

Special to the DailyTheo Moritz is in kindergarten at St. Clare of Assisi. Students knocked the top out of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The eighth-graders scored above the top of the range in every category, and every grade ranked at least a year and a half above grade level.

EDWARDS, Colorado – Walk into the immaculate St. Clare of Assisi lobby and you notice art on the ceiling. You have to look up to see it.

Keep looking up; it’s a lesson they live at the local Catholic school.

“Our expectations are high. We continually call forth the highest they are able to perform,” said Sister Rita Rae Schneider, the principal now in her third year.

St. Clare is in its 11th year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and these people are having a ball.

St. Clare of Assisi is part of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic schools. Every year, every archdiocese student in second through eighth grade takes the Iowa Test of Basic Skills – the one you took when you were in school, before testing became an industry.

St. Clare students knocked it out of the park.

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St. Clare’s eighth-graders put up scores higher than the test is designed to measure. It goes to 13.2 at the top of the scale, a grade level indicator that means St. Clare eighth-graders are performing at the same level as most college sophomores. St. Clare seventh-graders are performing like high school sophomores.

Every grade ranked at least a grade level and a half higher than their grade. Those eighth-graders are five and a half grade levels ahead.

“While we’re proud of our scores, we want to make sure they stay up there,” Rita Rae said.

They don’t teach to the test and they don’t teach strictly from textbooks. They teach to life and the tests take care of themselves, Rita Rae said.

It’s not complicated; it just takes work. Parental involvement is a big part of it. Rita Rae is effusive about the quality of their faculty. Monsignor Bob Kinkel is totally supportive, as is the entire parish team.

The curriculum helps, centering on religious education and the Three R’s: respect, responsibility and reverence, along with those other Three R’s, and continue through the eighth grade, where the entire grade knocked the top out of one of education’s longest-running and most prestigious standardized tests.

Phonics and math start in kindergarten, where it should. Students soon learn that everything in life is integrated into everything else.

“We teach critical thinking, not just that things are, but why they are,” Rita Rae said. “If students don’t ask why, their teachers will.”

Speaking of life, the student council morphed into a student leadership organization focusing on school leadership. Every eighth grader is part of it, tutoring at the Family Life Center next door and teaching first-graders to read.

Everyone needs sisters. At St. Clare they have some.

Along with Sister Rita Rae is Sister Mary Andrea, who teaches music (go ahead and make a wise crack about soul music. She’s heard most of them) and religious education. They’re with the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich. Their order believes in comprehensive health care, and to teach that they need to be at least as well educated as those they serve. So their numbers include doctors, surgeons, attorneys and educators.

“We realized where the world was headed, and we knew that before we could educate them, we needed to be able to meet the secular world where it is. It’s a distinctive part of our community,” Rita Rae said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com