Grade gap targeted in Eagle County schools |

Grade gap targeted in Eagle County schools

Sandra Smyser

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Closing so called “achievement gaps” ” those disparities in performance between students who don’t speak English and Caucasian students and between the poor and the well off ” will be superintendent Sandra Smyser’s big focus for schools in Eagle County, Colorado over the next few years.

Smyser, who replaced interim superintendent John Pacheco four months ago, says she has had time to settle in and really learn how all the schools here work.

Her initial impressions and vision for the school district have pretty much stuck: improving the performance of every student should be every teacher’s mission, and technology and innovation will be big parts of that.

“We have two groups of students, high achieving students and low achieving students, but they’re both moving along and improving at the same rate, so we need to reach them all,” Smyser said. “I really want to see all kids being pushed.”

There will be an intense focus on closing achievement gaps, and over the next three years, the “Closing the Achievement Gap” pilot program sponsored by the state will be driving the school district, she said.

Eagle County happens to have one of the highest percentages of non-English speaking students in the state and a high number of students on free and reduced lunch ” both reasons the Colorado Department of Education chose the school district for this pilot program.

The district has already begun working with consultants, paid for by the state, to develop new programs to reach kids that have been falling through the cracks.

“Are we teaching them in the most effective way?” Smyser said. “There are other districts with similar demographics to ours, but they’re doing a better job of reaching those students.”

The achievement gap program will likely involve another level of testing ” quick, once-a-month assessments that will give schools a better idea of how students are progressing, Smyser said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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